There were several people who posted replies to my “feedback” post.  I’m not sure how to make a reply a top-level post so I’m forking the original post into this post.

AndrewSeven ask a very legitimate question: “Does MS really want feedback?”  Yes, I think we want the feedback but the problem is getting the feedback to someone who 1) cares about it and 2) can make it actionable.  I am responsible for sales (on the technical side) for four of our major customers.  I get lots of feedback because I have this blog and “own” ten Microsoft related web sites that are forums for questions and whatnot.  The only reason I created them was because I hear from people all the time who think suggestions, feedback and “free advice” go into a black hole.  I apologize for past and future neglect.  It (your feedback) may have fallen into a well depending on how you provided it.  Responding to the various Microsoft employee’s blogs is a great place to start if you’ve found the functional/service owner.

I know quite a few people at our corporate campus but there are 20,000+ people I don’t know.  It’s sometimes very hard to find out who owns a certain component or service within a product.  I can relate to your frustration because even internally I feel that frustration just trying to find the right person.  Being outside the firewall adds even more distance between you and the likely owner.  All I can say is we’ll try to help.  If you find a person in an functional area (e.g. MSDN) then you’ll most likely get proper closure.  I don’t know anyone in that group so I don’t even know where to start.  If we don’t screw it up to badly you should be able to post a comment related to something on our web site with ease.  I’ll forewarn you that I’ve posted issues before and got what seems to be a boilerplate response (IMHO, MSN is the worst at that across all of the company).

I’m not sure there’s a lot of distinction between “free advice” and feedback other than one may start via a pull and one may be a push.  Like feedback, just because we ask for something (pull) doesn’t mean you have to provide it.  We have zero control over what feedback you provide us unless you’re contractually bound.  Example:  A Rapid Adopter Program, etc. has requirements of both the customer and Microsoft.  Even then, I can’t think of an instance where we’ve pressed a company to force them to provide feedback.  Holding someone hostage is going to give you worthless data (“feedback”) any way.  If you don’t want to have a say in version x or solution y even though we ask you then don’t provide it.  Just don’t be overly sensitive about the end result if you’re not happy with what was created.  

We survey my four customers twice a year.  Are they giving us “free advice” or feedback?  I think its both.  I nominated over 90 people (advocates and adversaries) in this last round.  We got ~8 responses.  That’s their prerogative.  Unfortunately, at least IMHO, it hurts us both.  We may not know what we’re doing wrong and the customer doesn’t get the behavior from us that they expect.  Does it take time to fill out the survey? Yes.  Is it worth it?  I see the feedback (anonymously if requested) within a business day and can take immediate action. I can reinvent myself but I have to know what they want to do so.  I wish I had a chance to provide more “free advice.”   

BTW, I’d be curious to know your viewpoint on open source software.  Isn’t most of the strength (real or otherwise) of open source based on “free advice:” the 7x24 newsgroups, quick fix turn around, etc.  I want to understand this from a different vantage point. I’m not baiting anyone—I promise.