Man there’s been a buzz around transparency lately…
I honestly don’t have any insight into some grand plan at Microsoft about blogging and transparency. I can only point to my own personal experieces, and I have a timely example:
Last week a member of my team posted to the Windows Home Server Team blog a post about the statistics of the bug reports and feature requests we have received. A reporter saw this post and decided it was worth sensationalizing. The reality, as anyone who has built software knows, is that the numbers in the blog post are meaningless outside of the development team.
Chris (the PM on my team who wrote the post) probably should have know that the stats and numbers would likely be mis-understood and mis-represented by someone. But he didn’t. He just thought the numbers showed an interesting aspect of “sausage making” and was justifiably proud of the team for the progress being made. So, in the spirit of transparency, he blogged about it.
And the article was written and posted as a result. The first real negative PR that Windows Home Server has gotten so far.
So what happened within MS as a result?
Was Chris discliplined? Did we pull the blog entry? Did we decide to change our stance on transparency?
No, No, and No.
Instead, in our team meeting yesterday I took about 10 minutes to tell the team the following:
- About every year or so, someone posts information about bug stats and a Microsoft product. Scary stories are written by the press and excited discussion ensues. And someone gets reminded that it’s generally a bad idea to talk about detailed bug statistics in public forums. We’re Microsoft and reporters will jump at a chance to sensationalize a topic.
- We have a spirt of transparency with our product. And even though we should be bummed that someone wrote an unjustified and negative article, we should not, and will not, change our stance. We will continue to be as open and forthcoming via our blogs, forums, and support tools as we can be. The benefits that come from being transparent far outweigh the risks.
- This will not be the last negative thing written about our product. When they come, make sure you look for any valid feedback contained therein, but don’t panic or let the experience be negative.
While I don’t have any insight into any (real or imagined) “Microsoft Master Plan for Transparency or the lack thereof” I can say with utter confidence that my product team is committed to transparency and we are unafraid of anyone telling us to be less transparent. We’ll make mistakes and we’ll deal with the publicity consequences if they arise. That’s actually part of being transparent!
If you are new to Windows Home Server and want more insight into the product, the team, or the product category we are creating check out these resources:
- My Channel9 video interview discussing the product and our strategy.
- CJ’s On10 interview video