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Microsoft is losing the community battle - against itself

in one of my earlier posts, about what a typical user group looks like, Paschal put in this bitter comment:

"Roy the problem is that usergroups are not all the same friendly and nice in every country !
In Ireland sadly until now the only existing .Net user group is managed by public relation people who cares more about their Seattle client and they have nothing so geeky here. Most of the rare meetings Microsoft organise here are dull.
Yes ok I see the point you can make saying something like 'stop moaning do your own user group'. Well honestly I don't have time !
So I prefer to join and talk to a community using the blog, maybe helping somebody somewhere. I know some people can find this lame, but maybe some day I will join a real Irish user group, independent and supportive of their community. "

If that's not a serious red flag, i don't know what is. I have no idea what's going on in MS Ireland's executives minds, but surely it's not enough to make the community there happy. I guess that's one of the most important things a company such as MS can do for itself - make its users and customers happy. That's definitely not happening over there.  So - if Anyone which is community oriented in MS is reading this post - please take this issue to heart. I don't know enough about the situation there but it definitely does not smell right. I'd say to anyone involved in those efforts over there to get their butts up and start doing something for the community - while there still is one.

To a more limited degree, however, there are things to be said from MS Israel as well. what do I mean?

In the recent year or so we've seen the big Redmond giant become much more transparent. It has been a remarkable change for the customers and end users. Much more information, much more sharing, much more attention to details. It's been amazing and I applaud MS for doing so. This process of transparency, mostly through employee weblogs, has done another thing: it has raised the bar for community involvement for all the other MS embassies in foreign countries. Places such as Israel, Ireland, Brazil, Spain, Italy and many more, now seem duller and more contained within themselves when compared to the Redmond machine. it can't be helped, really. Developers from all around the world are reading msdn blogs and and starting to wonder "why don't we have that as well?". That's a totally valid question.

MS embassies which could have lived forever on doing just enough to sell products and help support for their native speakers now should find themselves at a disadvantage, community wise, when faced and compared to Redmond, and most rightly so. It is embarrassing. The only analogy I can compare it to is to what happened several years ago in the telephony market in Israel.

Up until a few years ago the overseas telephony market in Israel was monopolised by the "Bezeq" company- to call abroad you would have to take out a small mortgage and still count the seconds each conversations you did so that you would still be left with your pants on. then the market suddenly opened for competitors and BEZEq's prices dropped by about 90% to stay competitive - thus showing off the huge amounts of profit they've made on the customers. This same situation - community wise, is now starting to appear for MS and its embassies. only this time MS Redmond is the competitor, showing how things "can be done right" making the developers ask for more.

The only problem right now is this: It doesn't feel like the foreign embassies are truly listening. I think people who are not from the US are losing out on things that could have been much better. Especially lack of communication with the local MS branch. MS Israel for example, still does not know how to listen to the community as well as its mother-ship does. For example, at the last user group meeting a nice lady stopped by before the meeting started and asked all attendees to fill out the paper reviews after the lecture - specifying things that are bothering us, things that could have been better and things that are missing. she would read them all, she said. to me - that's amazingly out of touch with today's online community. You can no longer(and should not) be able to get away with such things. why is the only weblog from a MS employee in Israel is Yosi Taguri's weblog?(and it's rarely updated since yossi is so busy) I know yossi is doing some great things for the community in Israel but one man is definitely not enough. the people who are supposedly in charge of community in MS Israel can do much more to listen to us. they should open weblogs, they should read weblogs, they should do more to unite the user groups in Israel today (I'm part of an effort to do just that these days). they should not hand out papers and pens and expect people to spill their guts out. at the end of the day people are tired and want to go home. heck - even I didn't write comments on that paper because I was tired and forgot, and you can't blame me for not speaking my mind, can you?

So - MS branches around the world - listen up. You need to take charge, you need to swipe you local community off its feet because I bet most of you are not doing enough. You should read weblogs and comment on stuff that matters. you should open your own weblogs and share what you're going through. you should share the community in the decision making process. You should stop living in a bubble. It just won't fly anymore.


An interesting Memory Leak problem.

A simple way to unit-test internal classes