I think Scoble is right to a certain degree. I personally think a lot of the problems boil down to what I'd define as process of information. In a way, it comes down to the way that Channel 9 and the like NEED to work.
At the start of this year, thanks to a VERY high level of student demand, there was a requirement at my place of work (a University) to install MSN Messenger 6.1 onto the lab workstations, which live in a pretty standard Active Directory environment.
Now, in Microsoft marketing speak, that's dead simple. Microsoft, by policy, produce installers as Microsoft Installer packages (MSI), you then assign that to a group policy in your active directory and then assign that group policy so that the workstations
get that MSI and, thus, install MSN Messenger on next restart.
Firstly, how many different teams does that simple process involve. At a rough count, 4-6 teams. From my experience, it would seem that if they want to make this simple Active Directory process to work, they need to realise that these 4-6 teams must work
together to make sure that this simple process goes without hitch.
Unfortunately, in this case, it didn't. The MSI just would not install. I debugged as much as I could, literally pulling apart the MSI file, but could not see it. Eventually, after seeing a similar message in a public Microsoft usenet group, I opted to take
my own findings there. Very soon, Carolyn Napier (the wonderfully fantastic Carolyn Napier!) of the Microsoft Installer team got me out of a very big hole by providing the solution. It was a shockingly acute problem, which was solved by adding into and editing
the darkest internals of the MSI. It worked, and I rejoiced. Its a prime example of the way that Microsoft should work with its community of developers, sysadmins and users.
Unfortunately, there's a kicker in the tail of this story. Can you guess what happened when MSN Messenger 6.2 was released?
Yes, the problem was still there.
WHY? If a member of the Microsoft Installer team had diagnosed a rather large problem with the MSN Messenger team's output, a problem which affected anyone trying to deploy MSN Messenger via Active Directory (two of Microsoft's major products), why was this
not flagged as important for the MSN Messenger team to fix in its next release?
See, this is where the biggest danger and opportunity for Microsoft's community based projects comes in.
The danger is that this community notion is being used in a shallow manner, failing to take the comments from this sort of place and make them available to the "right people". In which case, our comments are effectively worthless.
The opportunity, though, is immense. What is the open source community's greatest asset? The community itself. What is the open source community's greatest weakness? Ironically, the community itself. When dealing with common problems, easy workarounds,
common misunderstandings, the community is great. However, what happens when we get to the technical end of it all? To keep with the example above, what happens when you talk to the higher echelons of the open source community about packaging their Windows version
as MSI, giving the numerous advantages? Its talking to a brick wall.
It isn't so much about who is reading your blog, but more that the "right people" have the ability to make the changes possible on what they read. Real changes to a software product based on feedback? An opportunity for Microsoft, a pipe dream for the current
Open Source Community...