My job takes me around the world talking to both Developers and IT Professionals in order to resolve compatibility bugs with Windows 7 and Windows Vista. But you know what, I’m just one guy – so chances are I’m probably not going to have a chance to look at every piece of software that has ever been written for Windows (because after doing this for several years, I’m beginning to believe that every piece of software that has ever been written for Windows is still being used somewhere – yes, even including that Hello World program you wrote in college, they’re using that at Fabrikam Corp. for some reason).

We have long been experimenting with ways to scale out our ability to reach people and help them out getting software working on the current version of Windows, and (like application compatibility itself) there is no one silver bullet.

But here is one really good idea someone had: let’s take a bunch of the smartest people in the world (Escalation Engineers and Premiere Field Engineers), create a forum, and then bribe people to participate with … get this … a Microsoft branded shirt. That’s right – it turns out that even people who already have 5,000 Microsoft branded shirts in their closets will work for free if you increase their collection to 5,001. There’s something about SWAG that makes geeks’ hearts melt.

So, we created forums for developers:

http://social.msdn.microsoft.com/Forums/en-US/windowscompatibility/

and for IT Professionals:

http://social.technet.microsoft.com/Forums/en-US/w7itproappcompat/threads

(and for partner ISVs:

https://partner.microsoft.com/US/40014662)

If you post your application compatibility questions there, some crazy smart guy or gal will take a look at your question and help you out. Now, it’s not paid support with an SLA (though we’ll help you out with app compat questions there too – feel free to leverage that), but it’s the same people with the same huge brains. (OK, so I’m jealous of the size of their brains. What can I say.) And it’s free. As in beer.

Oh yeah, and eventually they did start giving utilization credit for that too. In addition to the free shirt. I thought it was way cooler when it was just a shirt, but maybe that’s just me. I know I got my shirt already.