Over the past couple of weeks I have come across a number of articles proclaiming that “Microsoft is listening” and the majority of these relate to Robert Scoble and the new channel 9 wiki for IE. At first you may think that it is great to hear this, but then you hear “Microsoft” and it is only fair to have doubts. It’s easy to say that your company would like to work with your customers and it is a different thing to actually do it.
Whenever someone mentions a problem, or Scoble comes across an issue that someone has with Microsoft, he vehemently requests that he be given the chance to work with the individual. The issue is the problems that the customers encounter are on products that Scoble does not touch. In fact, Scoble develops none of the technologies at Microsoft — so placing him in the evangelist role requires that he work even harder to understand the technology. Does he pull it off? Well I think it will take him a little more time.
Scoble is the type of person who every day posts a large number of entries relating to Microsoft and other aspects of the technology world that interests him. He doesn’t hide why he talks about Microsoft since he is an employee for them and Longhorn evangelism is now his profession. Reaching out to his readers and asking them how he can help also shows there is a passion to make things better. Again though, he has a lot of work to do because he is working for the “Evil Empire”.
With such a large company quick fixes are not going to happen. So if I put in a request for a new feature in IE and the next release doesn’t come out for a number of years then I am going to feel as though I am not being listened to. I think Scoble would do well to track the changes that are implemented due to customer’s requests and make this information public. Many people become addicted to Open Source software because they see first hand how their request/bug fixes are handled.
You can talk till your face turns blue about how you wish to help out. About how you are extending a helping hand to make your company and its products better. However, until we see the results, how is our opinion going to change? Measuring the success of a evangelism blog is almost impossible so I can’t comment on whether or not Scoble’s style is successful. I do think though that showing us that Microsoft is listening would improve the chance of success. “Saying” will always be a completely different task than actually “doing”.
Placing a blog on your company site with comments and trackbacks does not show you are listening. It shows that you are willing to let your readers participate on your website. Listening to what your readers say and then showing them how their ideas are being implemented proves that you are listening. Blogs don’t take the work out of improving the image of your company. That part is still left up to you.