January 9, 2004 spout

Surprised by Microsoft’s Openness

Friday, January 9th, 2004

I get a lot of emails from folks surprised about how open Microsoft is being lately, mostly due to all of the blogging we’ve been doing lately (some of us started long before we ever became employees). However, even I was surprised in an internal blogging meeting today filled with a bunch of MS bloggers. During the meeting, we talked about a bunch of the benefits to MS and to our customers. Sara talked about how blogs are driving more traffic to MSDN than our own headlines. Robert described his green, yellow, red” scale for determining whether to blog about something (believe it or not, he does decide not to sometimes : ).

And then Adam Sohn from marketing talked about the need to police ourselves, describing some of the downsides in regards to blowing some group’s launch plans or unconstructively criticizing another group. He preached caution when approaching the line between what was good for the customer and what was good for Microsoft. After listening to what I began to interpret as a message of self-censorship, I asked Adam a warm up, Isn’t it true that a lot of the stuff close to the line’ is what our customers find most valuable?” He agreed that it was. And then I asked Adam my real question, So, when we get close to that line, do we err on the side of our customer or ourselves?”

Now, you have to remember that I’ve been a contributing member of the Windows development community for a lot of years. I’ve seen how aggressive Microsoft is in everything it does to always be on top. So when I asked on what side of the line I should come down, I fully expected to be told to keep the shareholders in mind.

Of course, you know what his answer was or this story wouldn’t have made it into my blog until after my tenure at MS was complete (or just before : ). He said, without hesitation, Err on the side of the customer.”

That blew me away. Of course, I’ve been doing just that since before I became an MS employee and Robert rides the ragged edge all day long, but it was *very* nice to hear that guy with the PR and legal battle scars tell me to keep the customer first and foremost in my mind.

Thanks, Adam. You’ve confirmed my decision to work at Microsoft.