The products we release often have a cool things in them (and usually more cool ones than annoying ones ), but sometimes at Microsoft we're not connected enough with the real world to even explain these things to people adequately. Having a developer
come to me and ask me to help explain to his or her manager why Visual Studio is right for this or that project, and not being able to do so, is one of the most frustrating parts of my job.
What do you think about this solution? Is Channel 9 my saviour?
The products we release often have a cool things in them (and usually more cool ones than annoying ones ), but sometimes at Microsoft we're not connected enough with the real world to even explain these things to people adequately. Having a developer come to me and ask me to help explain to his or her manager why Visual Studio is right for this or that project, and not being able to do so, is one of the most frustrating parts of my job.
Wikis are good for collaborative projects... but they're not ideal as feedback aggregators, in my experience. The pages tend to get large and disorganized - you would probably be best served with a more granular content management system, such as a forum or a blog.
However, if you really want to extend this - some themeing ability for the Wiki pages would be nice. The ability to apply custom CSS sheets for each page, for example.
Thanks for the suggestion. Yeah, we argued about what the best way to do this was for a while. However, what I'm really hoping for is something that people can just print out and grok in one page. Kind of like a marketing datasheet, except useful and meaningful.
I like blogs too, but the above goal is kind of difficult if people need to click around a bunch of links to find the stuff.
Does that make sense? Know of any way we could accomplish this with another method?
I think the primary value is that people can come along (your "#2" type") and add reasons, customer stories, and tips.
I'd provide PDFs as well, if possible. Formatting does matter; it can save 2-7 seconds of "grok" time, which is huge.
But; that might not be worth the cost. *shrugs*
I agree, Wikis are not amazing feedback editiors. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don't.
I would try and get the person involved who you know has a specific business/user case for a particular feature. You have said yourself:
"More than once, I've hung up the phone after talking with one of the people in Class 2, and picked up the phone to talk to somebody in Class 1, only wishing I still had the person from Class 2 on the line. Every time I think to myself how bad a middle-man I can be in these conversations sometimes.".
You say that you have spoken to customer B, and tried to explain it to customer A. Why not direct customer A to B and let them talk and ask what the result was. You could then document the result and share it with everyone else (assuming that the legalities work out). I think even if they had commercial confident material there are still the major sections they can thrash about with each other. Just listnening help no end. I have found this in my job, if you listen, learn people will appreciate it. Even if you make a mistake people will normally correct you before criticise you!
I do not belive channel 9 on its own is your saviour, although some ideas that come from it may help (maybe including this post, I don't know ). But definatly listening, joining (channel 9) and private communication ( you directing class 1 to class 2 will help you no end).
Anyway, that is my opinion, I hope it helps. If it doesn't ah well, I have got something off my chest
To add further..... Anyway you can get people involved is great. You will work out your own ways: Wikis, Talking directly to clients, Talking directly to "Haters", getting them all to communicate (if it is possible!). I think listening is the most important thing; if you can respond with the reasons for and against certain ideas, methods, features (and be open and transparent about it) you will go a long way.
I think, it is amazing what the developer community has done at Microsoft in recent months. Blogs are just the start of things!
From a personal perspective, I enjoy reading about what is going on at MS and quite often I learn something in the process that I can share with my colleagues.
I can vouch for Microsoft not being connected to the real world. Sometime it might be interesting to review the public face Microsoft puts on its web site and decide whether it clearly and succinctly describes, in non-technical terms, the features and benefits of every product. Microsoft's public face is that of the ignorant flack (Public Relations Specialist) -- one who is adept at putting an acceptably competent, conservative and sober corporate face on a jumble of saleable stuff that does exactly we-don't-know-what for whom and under what circumstances nobody seems to know. I've been asked several times what good SharePoint server is and have been unable to give a good answer. I think I know (I'm not sure) that it is software that centralizes access to a bunch of disparate shared folders in a vast corporate universe. It solves the problem of keeping track of what is available and advertising its availability. However, does Microsoft explain it in such terms? Nope. SharePoint (the name), like so many nouns nowadays in the commerce of computing technology, is self-defining -- the meaning is well-known to everbody who ever touches the code, writes technical articles or writes what passes for documentation. Microsoft ends up believing, wrongly it turns out, that the entire world has got SharePoint (or any of 100s of other saleable entities) fully scoped out. If I go to my boss and tell her we should buy such-and-such a Microsoft product, what am I going to do? Point her at any of the 100s of fluff pieces whose subtext is "trust us" and whose core message is "pig in a poke" and "good for what?" I think not. But, it's such a sunshiney day. Good for a long swim in the crystal blue pool.