We want to make better products.

One way of doing that would be to design a product that we would like to use and then hope that others outside of Microsoft would also like to use it. Sometimes that approach works, other times it doesn't. Not everybody writes the same kind of software that we do and not everybody likes to work the same way that we do. So it's likely that not everybody will like tools that we design for ourselves.

But the only way to learn if we need to design products differently is to understand how people work and how they use the tools that they use. One of the best ways to gain that understanding is to visit people at their work and observe what they do. Only then can we really understand what they do, how they do it and why they do it that way. Other approaches such as focus groups and lab studies are useful, but one thing that we've learned is that it's easier for somebody to really explain what they do by doing it rather than just talk about it.

So, we're trying to find people who are willing to have us come and visit them for a few hours to simply watch them work, and ask a few questions along the way. We're not asking people to take time out of their work. Instead, we'd like them to do whatever they would normally be doing, just with us watching them. If you'd be willing to participate, please let me know.

Obviously security concerns are an issue - we will not share any proprietary information that we learn about while visiting you.

What would you get out of it you ask? Well, in addition to having the opportunity to directly impact and influence the future of Visual Studio you'll also get your pick of free software from our gratuity list (there is no handy link to the list of software on the gratuity list but in the past this has included Visual Studio Professional).