Mike Gunderloy writes in an article for SearchVB.Com about what he believes is more of a perception problem by developers regarding VS 2005 rather than an actual lower quality in the product.
"Every single version of Windows, Office, and Visual Studio (and any other product of similar size, for that matter) has shipped with bugs of the magnitude that people are reporting in VS2005. So why are we suddenly so hyper-aware of the VS2005 bugs? The difference is not in product quality, but in two other areas. First, the developers at Microsoft were incredibly open about the development process in this product cycle. For the first time multitudes of people got to see the realities of bugs being triaged to meet a ship schedule. I've seen some online expressions of shock that a bug-fix could be postponed to the next release of the product, but in fact this has always happened. If you don't stop fixing bugs and ship software at some point, you don't stay in the software business for long.
Second, the blogosphere makes it incredibly easy to find and publicize the people who are finding the bugs; previously you had to be in product support to hear those conversations..."
I started writing a reply and midway realized I agree with mike rather than disagree, but personally I arrive at a different conclusion than him. that conclusion is that the products were always this buggy, we're just now getting used to ask for better quality, using some new channels like blogs.
"First, the developers at Microsoft were incredibly open about the development process in this product cycle"
From my experience, the amount of opacity in a project toward the customer is inversely related to the amount of "shock" and "surprise" the customer experiences. The more the customer knows the things you've been facing in the project (assume you had a customer on site everyday), they know what you're going through, and they know the overall pace of the project and features that need to be cut. They might dislike that some features or bugs are left in, but that's different than expecting that the features that actually stay in the product work correctly. If anything, the amount of opacity on the side of Microsoft has helped to soften the blow for the "customer". Try to imagine what would happen if one day, out of the blue, you'd have gotten the final version of VS 2005 as-is. You wouldn't know what was cut, or why. You'd just see what's there and see that some of is is not working as well as you expect it to. You remember to yourself that the last time you got a product from Microsoft (VS 2003) it was pretty darn stable, albeit had several lacking features, but the things that worked, worked well. You're much more likely to be shocked and annoyed at something that you feel you had no control over rather than something you feel you were part of, which is what Microsoft was striving for with all of its community effort.
Now, just for the sake of argument, let's imagine the first point by Mike is true. The amount of exposure is directly related to the amount of annoyance. How many actual developers took the time to check which features were being cut, changed or anything else? less than 1% is my bet. Less than 100 blogs do direct coverage of this, and less than 50 that I know of actually participated in the product feedback from Microsoft.
The only thing that would make the general developer community believe that MS screwed up big time is the 2nd argument by Mike: that the widely read blogs basically set the public opinion against Microsoft's products. This is one thing I can't argue with. The media and the power of one are different than they were 2-3 years ago.
But these people usually know what they are talking about, and that usually means their complaints are based on some experience in he field. In other words, the complaints from the widely read blogs are usually justified, while complaints from the less read blogs are,well, less read. so even if they are not justified, they are eliminated by the power of "strongest survives" evolution. What you get is that the blogs that really tell you what's going on are being read, and the real problems surface. They just get more echo.
As an analogy, Mike could have been saying "The government is no more corrupt than it used to be, there is just better coverage of it in the papers". Taking this analogy back to where we came from, you could then say "Microsoft's products are no more buggier than they were before, there is just better coverage" which would mean that they were always this buggy, we just were more quiet as consumers.
My assumption has to be that as developers, and as a community that is more involved than ever in the process Microsoft is using to ship products, we care more, and we demand more. We want better quality than we used to. We want to be heard because we feel more involved. It's like a T-Shirt I saw somewhere. "I yell because I care".
If you ask me, that's a much better situation than it used to be. It puts me and MS in the same barrel where the relationship affects both sides for better and for worse.
That, my friends, is the new "techno-democracy" as I see it.