Mortal sin #2: Information hoarding

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Published Friday, February 6, 2004 2:26 AM by RoyOsherove
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Comments

Thursday, February 5, 2004 9:39 PM by Robert Scoble

# re: Mortal sin #2: Information hoarding

Interesting question!

But, there are always going to be exclusive groups that have access to information or experiences that the masses don't have.

I went to Steve Wozniak's superbowl party. Attending was everyone important to Woz. Folks who designed the Macs. etc.

Do I see those kinds of things opening up to the masses? No.

And, yes, it's about scalability. I can only help so many people. So, I help out the ones who have shown that they are willing to help others. Why? Because that scales my own efforts out further than would otherwise happen.
Thursday, February 5, 2004 9:45 PM by Roy Osherove

# re: Mortal sin #2: Information hoarding

Robert. What would happen if all the MVPs took your advice and decided they would rather spend their time only in the private lists rather than in the public ones since they "scale best" over there? who would help eveyone else? I'm not asking for an invitation to a party (though it was pretty slick how you managed to namedrop even here), I'm looking for access to information that would help both me and MS attain our goals.
Thursday, February 5, 2004 9:56 PM by Phil Weber

# re: Mortal sin #2: Information hoarding

Roy: If MVPs stop helping the public, then they won't be MVPs for long. That's WHY they're appointed MVPs. The idea is that the MVPs provide assistance to the public, via Web sites, mailing lists, newsgroups, etc., saving Microsoft money on additional tech support personnel. Microsoft, in turn, provides the MVPs with access to "inside" information and resources, which the MVPs are supposed to use to better assist the public. Ideally, everybody wins.
Thursday, February 5, 2004 9:57 PM by Roy Osherove

# re: Mortal sin #2: Information hoarding

Yes, There is a lot of stuff that non MVPs should not be exposed to (personal ties with MS, products and alphas and so on) but this is not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about wny info that would be considered a good a valid post on a public NG. And there's lots of it out there.
Thursday, February 5, 2004 9:58 PM by JosephCooney

# re: Mortal sin #2: Information hoarding

Robert: If "signal to noise" is the only issue then why not make this super-secret MVP-only information read only to the general public and read-write for the inner circle? Presumabley security is not an issues since MVPs (presumably) already have to authenticate themselves to participate anyway. IMHO there is a lifetime of good information on the internet, and plenty of smart people writing about stuff that are NOT MVPs, so it doesn't bother me a great deal either way.
Thursday, February 5, 2004 10:01 PM by Roy Osherove

# re: Mortal sin #2: Information hoarding

Phil: agreed. However, consider this: if the information (or the non secret stuff) that MS is sharing with the MVPs is then being shared with users anyway(but who knows if it really does. Maybe no one will ask the right question..) wouldn't it be grand if I could search that information as well?
Here's an idea: make a public readonly searchable archive of the "noisless" newsgroups. This way the MVPs still get the no noise, but everyone can share the knowledge. Does that make any sense? makes better sense to me than the current situation.
Thursday, February 5, 2004 10:02 PM by Roy Osherove

# re: Mortal sin #2: Information hoarding

Heh. Joseph, you read my mind :)
Thursday, February 5, 2004 10:06 PM by Robert McLaws

# re: Mortal sin #2: Information hoarding

Unfortunately Joseph that is not the case. A lot of NDA-type discussions happen there. We get information on things that are months and years down the pipe.\

Remember guys that .NET is still young. The resources are coming into play, you guys just might not know about it yet.
Thursday, February 5, 2004 10:11 PM by Roy Osherove

# re: Mortal sin #2: Information hoarding

Robert (M.) hmm. That's too bad. Even the aspAdvice lists? Still, I bet like 50% of the conversation would be considered totally legit for public consumption. Which is a shame IMHO.
Thursday, February 5, 2004 10:34 PM by Phil Weber

# re: Mortal sin #2: Information hoarding

> Wouldn't it be grand if I could search that information as well?

Roy: You can: Google. ;-) Most MVPs are authors or have blogs. They make their living by sharing what they know. I can't think of any non-NDA information available to MVPs that's not also readily available on the Web.
Thursday, February 5, 2004 10:40 PM by Mike Gunderloy

# re: Mortal sin #2: Information hoarding

'Scuse me while I get my waders on. It's getting pretty deep in here. The fact that Microsoft provides a couple of preferred support avenues (paid MSDN newsgroups, private MVP discussions) has nothing to do with scalability. It has to do with the fact that Microsoft used to provide free support to developers and it cost them too much money. This was way way back - say, Access 2.0 days. You used to be able to log on to CompuServe and get answers to all of your Access questions, not just from the original MVPs, but from a dozen or so dedicated PSS personnel.

Unfortunately, this was not an economically sustainable model. PSS costs were skyrocketing faster than obscene profits. So, PSS had to find some way to rework its economic model. Hence, no free support for everyone.

And the most brilliant move of this was to discover that people would become Microsoft's unpaid support army if you just gave them access to the inside scoop and let them see Bill G. in person once a year.
Thursday, February 5, 2004 10:42 PM by Roy Osherove

# re: Mortal sin #2: Information hoarding

Phil: so if all this information is accessible via google why have these private newsgroups at all? I bet they are not just used for NDA stuff. Maybe, MAYBE some of the MS ones, but the ASPAdvice ones?
Thursday, February 5, 2004 11:05 PM by Alex Lowe

# re: Mortal sin #2: Information hoarding

I'm sorry Roy but I think you are off here.

The private lists that Jason is referring to rarely talk about things related to .NET (they talk about all kinds of things ranging from funny joke emails to who has the best hardware configuration). There are folks on those lists that encourage the development related discussions be moved to the public lists. Also, any information that is .NET related is often discussed in parallel by most of the same people in public lists (i.e. the person with the question asks on both lists). Finally, the great information on those threads is not hoarded - quite the opposite, the folks on those lists are the people who are answering all of the questions on the public lists so the knowledge is napsterized.

As for the private MVP information, you obviously don't understand the MVP program. The idea is that the MVPs have access to the private information because it a) encourages them to continue to answer thousands of questions and b) it ensures that they have the most accurate information when answering those thousands of questions. You don't know what it takes to run the MVP program so you cannot say that it is a simple as opening it up to everyone. Before I took my job with Microsoft, I was an MVP and was in those private groups. 95% of the discsussions those groups are either a) worthless to most people because they are of the recreation variety or b) folks conferring about a question on a public newsgroup.

As for the paid support, customers want an affordable support venue. The newsgroups give us a viable support offering for customers. As a shareholder, I want Microsoft to do what makes sense economically and what serves the customer. I think offering paid support via the "special" newsgroups is a great way to do that.
Thursday, February 5, 2004 11:12 PM by Roy Osherove

# re: Mortal sin #2: Information hoarding

Alex: Thanks for the useful input. I think me and many others don't understand fully how the MVP program works, but reading what jason wrote really made me think this was unfair. Reading all these inputs all you guys have put in makes me rethink my position on this. That's for the MVP groups.
As for the paid newsgroups, I understand the economics of it, but I find it hard to accept for the same reasons I've stated above. Maybe it's just the purist in me but I hate to pay for something Microsoft has a vested interest in just as much as I do if not more. Guess I'll have to learn to live with it, but I don't have to like it :)
Thursday, February 5, 2004 11:13 PM by Phil Weber

# re: Mortal sin #2: Information hoarding

> Why have these private newsgroups at all?

I can't comment on ASPAdvice, I don't subscribe and know very little about it. The private MS groups really do contain a significant amount of NDA info. They're also a "third place," like a private club, where MVPs and MS representatives can "hang out" without having to deal with the public and always behave professionally.
Thursday, February 5, 2004 11:50 PM by JosephCooney

# re: Mortal sin #2: Information hoarding

So according to Alex the signal to noise on the private lists is not that great either.....
Friday, February 6, 2004 12:19 AM by Jason Salas

# re: Mortal sin #2: Information hoarding

Sorry all...didn't mean to imply that the private lists were MVP-only things...there are actually several people in there without such status.
Friday, February 6, 2004 9:05 AM by Patrick Steele

# re: Mortal sin #2: Information hoarding

As an MVP for the past three years, I'll back up what Alex said: Most of the "private" microsoft lists (*not* ASPAdvice) have either nothing do to with technology or they contain conversations that stray in and out of NDA material -- you can't make that searchable (even in a read-only fasion).

I've never even heard of these "special" ASPAdvice lists, so I can't comment on what they are.

And if you're hearing stuff like "heard it in an internal group", than that person is talking too much. Most likely, thet got access to such an "internal group" because they signed an NDA and agreed not to talk about that stuff. I've heard that people have been booted out of the MVP program for disclosing NDA information. Microsoft doesn't take that lightly.
Friday, February 6, 2004 9:54 AM by AndrewSeven

# re: Mortal sin #2: Information hoarding

In my last Job, I had access to the private (but not MVP) newsgroups ( I probably have access here too).

I was given instructions that said I must use my "real" work email, so I did.

I posted a couple questions and guess what I got... spam, lots of spam.

I spend a lot of time on aspmessageboard , I answer questions about asp.Net, a lot of questions.
Most of them are simple, and require more typing than thinking.
People ask the same questions again and again, it would be nice to able to link to definitive answers on official newsgroups than linking back to my own posts.


Friday, February 6, 2004 10:03 AM by Casey Marshall

# re: Mortal sin #2: Information hoarding

That is why I prefer open technologies and open (not to be confused with shared) source whenever possible. There is none of that elistism and information hoarding. As long as an open project is well-maintained, you can share in the wealth of information.

Microsoft still doesn't get this completely, and until they do, I think are missing out on potential mindshare and marketshare.
Friday, February 6, 2004 12:42 PM by Frans Bouma

# re: Mortal sin #2: Information hoarding

Roy: spot on.

Alex: I've written a blog after reading your post. I think Microsoft in general doesn't understand what support really means. It doesn't mean releasing docs or examples. It also means that you understand what the quality of the product you sold to those developers really is, and if there are bugs, you should patch them and supply the developers, who are customers!, with that patch, a.s.a.p.

Microsoft doesnt' do that. It doesn't release patches for vs.net nor .NET. Why? Because we, developers, then are more eager to buy the next version? If that's not the reason what is?
Friday, February 6, 2004 1:57 PM by jeff

# re: Mortal sin #2: Information hoarding

Regardless of who is qualified to PARTICIPATE in a discussion, I think everyone is ENTITLED to READ those discussions. It's precisely the policy I've used in non-developer forums that I've run, and it benefits everyone while maintaining quality. Granted, some of that has to do with moderating such "open" forums, but people in certain circles hate to be moderated.
Friday, February 6, 2004 4:22 PM by Jason Salas

# re: Mortal sin #2: Information hoarding

I'd also like to point out that I forgot to mention that the content to which I was referring in my original thread wasn't exactly MS development-specific, but technical in consumer products, like plasma TVs and such. It's interesting to see people talk about things other than programming and have insight on them...but at the same time, they're conversations I'm sure the vast majority of people would ratrher do without.
Saturday, February 7, 2004 9:20 AM by Oleg Tkachenko

# re: Mortal sin #2: Information hoarding

In a ideal world all information is free, but in this real world there is such thing as NDA.
Private MVP newsgroups are not about user support. They are for discussing MVP deals and NDAed stuff. It's too naive to think they could be open.
Sunday, February 8, 2004 1:59 AM by Some Anonymous Coward

# re: Mortal sin #2: Information hoarding

YAH ROY!!!!

Information should be free!!!!


Give us your credit card number! And your billing address. Oh, and don't forget your mothers maiden name....
Sunday, February 8, 2004 2:06 AM by Another Anonymous Coward

# re: Mortal sin #2: Information hoarding

"Can it even make them available to higher level developers who are fairly skilled? NO. They rely on RDs, MVPs, and people like us to pass on that information to others as necessary. "

Not exactly, at least with regard to MVPs. They rely on people like us to pass the information along. Now, if people like us do pass information along, and help other people, then people like us become recipients of the MVP award. But, after that, we aren't relied upon as MVPs, we are still relied upon as people like us. If we stop doing it, we're still an MVP... at least for the year of the award. If we stop sharing information, then we aren't worthy of being an mvp. It's not about MVP, it's about community, and sharing information within the community. MVP is just the award we get for doing it. It should neither be a prod to make us do it, nor should it be the reason we want to do it. We want to do it because we *want* to do it. We want to help. We want to share information, we want other people to be smart too.
Sunday, February 8, 2004 9:17 AM by Karl Levinson

# re: Mortal sin #2: Information hoarding

You couldn't be more wrong about the MVP program etc.

First, most MVPs really aren't given access to as much private information as you think. Those private training sessions and newsgroups you mention mostly discuss publicly available information. You want to be invited to one of the private training sessions? When's the last time you or your affiliated organizations invited the general public to one of your training sessions? Can you imagine what would happen if you did?

Second, MVPs are chosen specifically because of the volume and quality of information they disseminate to the general public... no information hording going on there.

Third, you seem to be objecting to the existence of Microsoft fee-based support for developers. Of course support has to be fee-based. Anything else would be absurd. The term "developers" covers a wide range of people of varying skill. If Microsoft provided free support for all of them, the quality and response times of the support would be awful, and you'd never use it. In most cases the support consists of people who have read the publicly available documentation, so the fee is an "I didn't RTFM" fee. If you don't like fee-based support, you can use the free newsgroups, where you'll almost always receive an answer, whether there's a guarantee or not. Where's the problem? You take your chances with free support, or if you need better support, you kick in a donation to cover the salaries of the people that are helping you.

You can feel free to point out other companies who are doing tech support or information sharing cheaper and better than Microsoft, if there are any. Microsoft takes the knowledge base used by MS fee support technicians and put it on the web for free in their knowledgebase. Compare companies like, say, Checkpoint, where you have to pay a yearly fee to even search the knowledge base web page or get bug fixes, or other companies that don't even provide a free newsgroup, let alone spend money identifying and encouraging the more helpful volunteers to keep coming back.
Sunday, February 8, 2004 4:41 PM by Eric Vogel

# re: Mortal sin #2: Information hoarding

My most current post was, Cell Phone Advise. I wanted to get peer comments on a few Verizon phones I was looking at.

This is where my info is posted:
www.mvps.org/ecvogel
My mailing list with more FAQ's www.computertalkshop.com
My Blog www.msmvps.com/shelluser - Note this is not something I update all the time.
I belong to other mailing lists that I help in..
I You will even see me in the public newsgroups.

Thank you,
Eric Vogel
Sunday, February 8, 2004 5:34 PM by Roy Osherove

# re: Mortal sin #2: Information hoarding

Eric. Thanks for the ....spam?
Monday, February 9, 2004 8:28 AM by Jeff Cochran

# re: Mortal sin #2: Information hoarding

It's hard to disprove any of the comments in the article without allowing the author unfettered access to the private groups complained about, so I won't bother trying. Most of the comments appear as "sour grapes" anyway. There's a club to which the author doesn't belong, so there must be something secretive and sinister in its very existence.

But there's also a measure of truth in the article. There *are* pieces of information discussed in the private groups which may be applicable to public disclosure. Eventually, the relevant technical bits and pieces are disclosed, but the general "chatter" never is. And while it's not covered by NDA, it isn't really relevant to the general public either.

Some of the information in the groups and mailing lists is clearly covered by NDA. I'm sorry, but I signed the NDA and I won't be passing the info along. Even if it happens to leak out somewhere else. Some of the information may be borderline, such as technical discussions about upcoming patches or security fixes. Controlled releases of this information is appropriate.

Some information is discussed in the private groups simply because of the noise ratio. These groups allow MVP's access to Microsoft insiders, and we take difficult problems to the developers as appropriate, and when the discussion is complete we post the fixes or work arounds for the public. The general public doesn't belong in the discussion, but they aren't denied the needed information either.

But let's face it, we are an exclusive group. We got in by providing accurate help for various Microsoft technologies in a public forum, and in return we have been granted priveleged access to Microsoft resources. The general public can pay for such access, we earned it through our prior actions. There are perks for being in this club, and responsibilities as well. Outsiders will always have an opinion of us which varies from the truth. Some of the outsiders will bash the program due to their opinions. Most will accept the situation and be grateful that it eventually results in a resolution of their technical issues. A few will eventually be invited to join the ranks of the MVP.

The MVP's I personally know aren't in it for the perks, or exclusive access. In fact, if there were no MVP program at all, we'd still be out there helping people solve their problems. We'd just have more limited resources at our disposal to do so.

Jeff Cochran
Windows Server - IIS MVP
Thursday, February 12, 2004 1:18 PM by Eric Gunnerson

# re: Mortal sin #2: Information hoarding

Roy,

I've been involved a bit with some internal discussions related to this, and I'd like to share my perspective. Note that it's *my* perspective, and not necessarily the official MS line (if, in fact, such a line exists...)

There are really three classes of discussion you are talking about. There are internal MS aliases, there are private newsgroups for people with support contracts, and there are private MVP newsgroups.

The internal MS aliases do have some information that is of general interest, and in the ideal world, many of those discussions could be in a more public forum. The hard part is separating the stuff that could be public from the stuff that shouldn't be public, because of IP concerns, or because it's not presented in a way that we would like to have public (the way we talk internally is sometimes not clear enough or nice enough). We do have to figure out a way to fix this, because the internal aliases tend to take "expert time" that we should be spending where everybody can benefit. I should note, however, that some of the things showing up on external blogs are not coming from our established aliases, but from smaller discussions, either in email or in person, so at least in that case, we're getting some unique information out. But not well enough, yet.

The private newsgroups for people with support contracts is there for customers who want a guarantee that their concerns are addressed. While I think we should improve our free support, the resources required for a guaranteed response currently mean that we have to charge for it.

As for discussions with the MVPs, some of the thing we talk with MVPs about are NDA topics, and others are MVPs learning from each other.

I understand your frustration at not having a place to turn if you can't figure something out through the usual channels, and that is something we're working on.

Eric