Advocacy is improving. It will be a while before someone can release a positive report or write a positive article on Microsoft and not feel like they have painted a target on their back and walked out onto a firing range. But that doesnt mean that the number of advocates isnt increasing. To directly address this advocacy problem, Microsoft has rolled out an MVP program that identifies customers who stand out with regard to their successful use of Microsofts products. Such customers are put in contact with each other and rewarded for their participation in efforts to improve Microsoft products and services. The model is designed to be a more formal, and improved, version of what the open-source community enjoys in that it is designed to foster and improve upon the kind of peer-to-peer product development, support, advice and training enjoyed by open-source developers. Part of this resulted from a practice, begun by Microsoft some time ago, of hiring key customers as employees to help modify the company by both understanding the problems being experienced in the field and accurately addressing them. Often in a large company, even though the firm may intend to help customers, by the time the customer need arrives in the development organization, it is so contaminated by organizational interests that it bears little relation to the originating need.Next page: Microsofts culture is evolving.
At the Game Developers Conference in California this week, you will see a similar effort to capture the hearts and minds of that community.