S. Somasegar is the corporate vice president of the Developer Division at Microsoft. Learn more about Somasegar.
Have you checked out the MSDN Forums lately?
Customers continually tell me the most important community feature is being able to find quick, accurate answers to technical questions - using online communities as a way to stay connected and leverage information. The MSDN Forums have already been a huge success for early adopters of Visual Studio 2005 who needed a place to post questions and get quick answers. The forums allow customers to search a growing archive of technical questions and answers and if you can’t find it via search--go ahead, ask a new question!
My favorite feature is the integration of the forums with the help system in Visual Studio .NET 2005 or SQL Server 2005 - there’s no need to leave the product to get help. To search the forums, go to Community > Ask a Question and search for your question.
Our goal is to have a healthy peer to peer developer support/answer ecosystem system in addition to the pay for support programs that we already sponsor. We measure health in the developer forum community with numbers that look at usage, answer rates, and time to answer. We also hold product teams in developer division accountable for the health of their communities. We encourage them strongly to make sure customers can leverage them to increase their level of success with our released and unreleased products.
Last I checked, my team told me we had about 40,000 users registered on the forums and 75% of their questions were being answered – over 20,000 answers since we launched the forums in April. Through the forums, the product teams are able to have conversations directly with our customers—allowing our product teams to see customer pain points more clearly--and often allowing our customers to learn why we made particular design decisions. A significant percentage of answers during our beta releases have come directly from Microsoft employees on the product teams. We still have a long way to go, but we are excited about the direction we are heading.
What's next? Stay tuned for additional products/technologies and non-English forums to be represented in the near future. Visit the forums and let us know what you think. You can post feedback directly in our Suggestions Forum.