AKA "I’m not dead yet!"
Thanks to androidi for prompting action on one of my New Year’s Resolutions. See the end of this post for some introspective blather on why I haven’t posted since June. The real reason is that I’m lame.
I’m still at work on customer connection in DevDiv, and now in other parts of the company. Three quick highlights:
1) There’ve been recent conversations with Soma about how to do transparency right – what helps customers, what makes it harder for them, how do we make sure that in trying to shed “the light of transparency” we don’t unintentionally burn the house down (to mix some metaphors). I’m really excited about Soma’s active participation in the blogging community, and that’s prompted another conversation about whether more senior people in the division and company SHOULD have a blog. In the case of mgmt I'm more interested in blogs as a tool for customers to find and contact “whoever is in charge here”, although I’m sure our managers also have interesting things to say. When I checked about 8 months ago we weren’t doing so well here. This will be a focus in coming months.
2) Josh and I and others have recently spent time with others doing similar customer connection work in the community. It’s pretty obvious that if DevDiv does a better job of being open about features, status, etc., but there are not comparable efforts elsewhere in the company, it will be frustrating for customers at best. Stefan Weitz recently took a job similar to mine in Windows Server and it’s great having him help with these efforts, not only for the benefit of Windows Server customers, but also internally in rationalizing some of the chaos. It would be great if things like feedback mechanisms were relatively similar across products, in part so customers know what to expect but also in part so we can make one thing great vs. having several mediocre things.
3) I recently read this great post from Rick Strahl on his perceptions of CTPs, MSDN Product Feedback Center. Josh responded to many of the specific points but Rick’s post kind of woke me up about our need to do a better job explaining externally what we are doing. As Josh said, I don’t necessarily agree on some things but I do not disagree that Rick’s perceptions are 100% valid and reasonable based on what we’ve done and communicated. (One of the challenges I haven’t figured out how to handle it when people I work with here have done something badly and we’re actively working with them to change it, but don’t have a solution yet. It won’t help anyone to be open about that, and there are times where even I’m astonished at our inability to make what seems like a simple change. Silence is not a bad option, although maybe a quick "yep, we recognize we have issues and are working on them, stay tuned". The trick is what to do when I have no clue about the delivery date - I've made that mistake before.) Fundamentally things like CTPs and Product Feedback Center are all about giving people more control over their experience with Visual Studio and the .NET FX (and ultimately other products). I can see – based on our recent execution and our past history – how it would be easy to perceive otherwise (e.g. a marketing program) and I recognize that it will take time and good execution to change that. But the commitment is consistent from my team up to Soma and even beyond to Eric Rudder and Jim Allchin.
Enough for a Friday evening…
The Promised Introspection:
I love getting comments back from blog postings. Being public/visible is not my – uh – calling. I hated drama in grade school. But I think the real issue is that the energy I use for blogging seems to be the same energy I need with my kids and I haven’t quite figured out how to do both consistently and at the same time. I read an article or letter somewhere recently (Fast Company? Harvard Business Review?) where a dad said that it becomes exponentially harder to balance work and family as kids grow older. It’s hard to argue with that, at least based on my experience. Anyway, I’ll be the prodigal son here, admit to straying from the Blog Path, and get back on the straight and narrow in the weeks ahead.