Disclaimer: What I write in this post does not represent my company, the community, Microsoft, or its employees. These are my independent thoughts of the current state of the Microsoft community in Singapore ONLY based on my own observations.
Where do I even start? How about last week when I was speaking at the recent event at Microsoft? I observed the following:
- The entire event was handled by an events company.
- The host, a Microsoft employee, only appeared for 2 minutes to introduce me and did not return again.
- Evaluation forms and ratings were expressively indicated to be more important to Microsoft than actual interaction and getting direct feedback.
- The host even got the summary of my topic wrong.
- There was originally supposed to be a Wine and Discussion session after my presentation, but since nobody knew about it.
- The audience were quiet, unresponsive, but were very forthcoming for one-on-one questions.
Based on my observations, my conclusions are that Microsoft is not doing a good job at engaging the Microsoft community at large. Thus, corroding the entire community infrastructure to a bunch of zombie people just receiving content and being told what they should do, rather than passionate individuals with their souls and fire ignited to speak out and contribute to the discussions.
A lot of you might say that the developer community in Singapore are so jaded by the problems that they just lost all of that fire. Let me give a huge rebuttal that I’m one of the co-founders of HackerspaceSG and I do not see that at all. We have GeekCamp, UnConference, BarCamp, and various other user groups out there with many developers that are so passionate about what they do, what they want to share, the pains and difficulties, and even the pleasures of developing on a certain platform and technology. So don’t give me that crap about developers are jaded. Not all are.
So what is missing at Microsoft then? What is Microsoft doing that is wrong? Let me break it into various points.
No familiar face during community events
Where are the Microsoft employees? Are the developer evangelists supposed to be attending all these events and care for the community? Why are they always stuck at meetings after meetings? Come on, it is your job to grow the community, care for it, and show that you’re the person in charge for their needs.
Host not appearing at your own event
I don’t know, but doesn’t this sound like bad PR and marketing to me? Even appearing for just 2 minutes is NOT ENOUGH. I really have nothing else to say about this except good luck if you think you can continue doing this.
About your bonus, not the community
So here’s the problem I think is prominent with Microsoft Singapore. Everyone employed to cater for the community (aka developer evangelists) are troubled by Key Performance Indicators (KPI). This determines their performance in the company, thus affects their bonus or salary or re-contract. That’s why if you attend ANY Microsoft event, they always emphasize on filling up the feedback form and getting their metrics and numbers.
HELLO!! I agree you need that, but don’t you think that the basic requirements of a community like discussions and interactions is higher priority than feedback? You’re being paid to look after the community, NOT YOUR BONUS. Once you bring into focus the correct target, which is the community, everything will follow through.
Where’s the passion, Microsoft?
I always believe that there needs to be a catalyst in community building. Someone needs to be able to bring out that passion from each individual and keep the flame burning. If you’re a developer evangelist, I expect you to be the one since you’re being paid to do so. You just need a few people with the energy and passion to create the culture and vibe across the community and you’ll start to see individuals speak out. Where are these individuals? I know of only one, Dennis Chung.
Making use of Microsoft MVPs
I keep telling everyone this, that Microsoft MVPs are not Microsoft employees. To you Microsoft employees, we are not your BITCHES. The reason why we’re awarded as MVPs is NOT because we grovel and lick your feet, wag our tails at your every achievement, it is because we are an independent voice that is NOT Microsoft, providing an objective view to what is good and bad about Microsoft technologies, and providing alternative solutions to problems with Microsoft technologies. Despite all the failures and flaws, we care enough to want Microsoft to improve and create better products and technologies. If you think we’re just there to “evangelise” and you want to force us not to say anything bad about your technologies, THINK AGAIN. We’re not your BITCHES. You can very well threaten to take away my MVP award for all I care. I will still continue doing what I’m passionate about, which is to share my objective view towards what’s great and problems with Microsoft technologies. If you think you can make use of MVPs and treat them like that, I’m sorry but this is very degrading of what the entire MVP program is about.
One way transfer of knowledge
I realise that Microsoft Singapore’s events are so caught up in trying to get people excited about cool technologies, and their newest and greatest innovations that they forget about the 2 way knowledge transfer called discussions. Many developers out there still use the older technologies by Microsoft and they want to talk about their problems. Or maybe their cool solutions and workarounds. To grow a community, you need community engagement. IMHO, Microsoft Singapore has gotten the meaning of “engagement” wrong. Engagement is a 2 way flow of discussion where you need to encourage the community to voice out their displeasure with certain technologies, or talk about their experience with Microsoft technologies. It is much more convincing to get the community to talk about it, rather than Microsoft evangelists.
Your events are so passe
Hey, do you know the difference between barcamp, geekcamp, unconference, versus Microsoft Singapore’s own event? The biggest difference is user-created content. The people actually using the technologies come out to talk about it, express their feelings. I attend all these non-Microsoft events and I see a huge difference in the vibrancy of the community I am sad by the fact that Microsoft Singapore themselves are just killing themselves with their old thinking and KPI driven techniques. My advice to you? Rebuild the community again and show your social passion. Encourage community content rather than you providing the content.
Oh I’m sorry, but you concentrate on different types of developers? Yes I agree that there are different types, but neglecting any of them for a long period of time is really your loss. I stress again, developers are developers. You neglect some, you neglect all. Rethink your strategy, and not base everything on your KPI.
The current state of the Microsoft developer community?
I call them zombies. Jaded by the fact that they don’t have the power to influence or make a change at all. All these built into them by the consistent marketing propaganda that is being stuffed into them by Microsoft. Imagine taking away the voice of someone, forcing that person to listen to music he hates without the ability to voice out “STOP IT PLEASE!” Well, that’s exactly what I see the Microsoft developer community to be right now, and I’m very sadden by this fact. I look at other non-Microsoft developer communities congregating at HackerspaceSG and other places, and I continuously ask myself, why isn’t Microsoft doing what these other communities are doing with little or no money at all? Then I come back to reality that it isn’t about community, it is about numbers.
I know I’m going to get very screwed by a lot of people from Microsoft Singapore, but I feel they need a wake up call and realise the current state of the community. I care enough to voice out to the Microsoft community that you need to stand up again and be passionate! I was there back in 2004 when I co-founded SgDotNet and I saw the passion. I was there again in 2006 when Chewy Chong took over as Developer Evangelist and I saw the passion. Now that I’m back again in 2009, I see a dying community.
Where are you now?