How to Give Feedback on Microsoft Developer Products
Date Published: 09 March 2012
In the last few years, a number of Microsoft dev teams have started using online tools to manage how the community can offer feedback. If you’re a Microsoft developer, and especially if you’re a web developer, you should know about these tools and offer your feedback through these channels if you’d like Microsoft to respond to your needs. There are several ways you can offer this feedback, and different reasons why you might choose one channel or another.
By far the most effective way to get your ideas on the radar of the product teams is through the use of UserVoice forums for the appropriate product or feature. If the group in question has a UserVoice forum set up, then it’s a solid bet they’re looking at it when they are locking in the feature set of a new version of their product. Currently both the ASP.NET and Visual Studio teams have UserVoice forums set up, including separate categories for many of the sub-features of these two groups’ products. Below are some of the areas in which you can leave feedback for the teams:
- ASP.NET General Ideas
- ASP.NET MVC
- ASP.NET Webforms
- ASP.NET Single Page Applications
- WCF and Web Services
- Web API
- The ASP.NET website
- Visual Studio General Feedback
- Team Foundation Server
- Visual Studio LightSwitch
- Visual Studio Performance
While UserVoice is great for feature requests, bugs are better reported via Connect. The challenge with Connect is finding the right place to log the bug. In the case of developer tools, you’ll find them listed here:
Many of the products will also accept suggestions, in addition to bugs, via connect. If you’re really pushing for something, it wouldn’t hurt to post it to both UserVoice and Connect. Some of the specific Connect links for product feedback and bugs include:
- Visual Studio Lightswitch
- Windows Communication Foundation (WCF)
- Visual Studio and .NET Framework
- Windows Workflow Foundation
Unlike UserVoice, Connect can also grant access to private forums and resources. If you’re in a particular “insiders” or early adopters program, you’ll likely use Connect to get access to documentation and software, as well as to leave feedback on the product(s) you’re using.
Twitter has become a very popular way for software developers to communicate. Microsoft has a large presence on twitter, and you can use this medium as another way to reach our to Microsoft and provide feedback. Most of the actual developers and PMs working on developer tools for Microsoft are on twitter, and the various products have official twitter accounts as well. There are several ways you can have your voice heard, even if you’re completely new to twitter (if you are, the first step is to create an account – the rest of these assume you have one).
Follow the Conversation
If you’ve ever been a member of a mailing list or newsgroup, you probably know that it’s often best to “lurk” for a bit to get a feel for how the community interacts, who the main contributors are, etc. You’ll usually get a better reaction from the participants in the discussion if you understand how they interact and follow the often unwritten rules of the medium. Twitter has no private meeting rooms, but this notion of understanding who’s involved in the community still applies. Before you speak, it’s a good idea to listen. There are several ways to find the conversations of interest to you on twitter, including accounts, hash tags, and lists.
Follow Specific Accounts
Whatever tools and technology you’re using, there are most likely official twitter accounts for them and certainly individuals who are involved in creating, supporting, and using the technology. Here are some official twitter accounts for various products you might wish to follow. Once you follow them, you’ll be able to see which users they tend to interact with, and twitter itself will suggest other twitter accounts you may wish to follow.
In addition to product-specific accounts, which tend to mostly post announcements and occasional responses to tweets that reference them, you can also follow real people. For instance, if you’re interested in ASP.NET and/or Azure, then you’ll want to be sure to follow Scott Guthrie (VP of Azure) and Scott Hanselman (prolific community rep for ASP.NET). You can follow me, too, if you like, though I don’t have nearly the reach and influence of these two Scotts.
Once you’re following a few of these accounts, you can use Twitter’s “similar to” feature to find additional people you may be interested in following. For instance, here’s a list of accounts Twitter thinks are similar to mine.
Follow Hash Tags
In addition to following individuals, you can also follow hash tags. Hash tags are simply words you can include in a tweet to “tag” them as being related to a particular topic, and by convention these are prefixed with a hash (#) symbol. For instance, #aspnet would be used to indicate a tweet that maybe didn’t mention ASP.NET/ASPNET by name was related to this technology. Most twitter client applications offer support for saved searches that will let you follow a hash tag, or you can search for a hashtag on twitter’s web site. By following the hashtag, you’ll start to see who the major players are in the conversation, and you can add them to your list of people you follow if you find them interesting.
Twitter also has support for Lists, which any user can create. You can subscribe to a list, and viewing a particular list lets you see a stream of just that lists’ members’ tweets. This can be a great way to filter different interests you might have, and gives you a way to pseudo-follow individuals without actually following them and having their tweets in your main stream. There’s a good write-up on Twitter Lists here. As an example, you can see a List of all programmers Scott Hanselman follows (or did when he created the list) here.
Many of the projects currently under development for Microsoft developers are built in the open at sites like CodePlex and GitHub. You can find out more about projects, get access to source code, and report issues. You can even fork the code and submit a pull request for the owner to consider including in the project. Here are a few project hubs you might want to check out:
- NuGet (CodePlex)
- NuGet (GitHub)
- Orchard CMS
- Node for IIS
- Node for Azure
If you’re serious about getting your idea implemented, you can always create your own implementation of it, either from scratch or by forking an existing project. This can provide a great way to explain how you would approach the problem and what your idea of the solution looks like.
Don’t underestimate the power of your blog to express your ideas and get them heard by the community. Even if, like most of us, your blog doesn’t get inundated with traffic, it can provide you with a place to explain your thoughts in whatever way makes sense to you. Your blog can be a great way to support your feedback via other means, as you can link to a post that elaborates on an idea you couldn’t fully describe in 140 characters on twitter. The best ideas and feedback offer constructive criticism and reasons why the status quo causes you pain or slows you down. Try to avoid rants or simply complaining that a particular product of feature “sucks” if you’re hoping for someone to actually take action. You’ll also find that while sensational titles can work well as “link bait”, they’re also cliché enough at this point that whole articles have been written making fun of them. Try to craft a compelling and honest title, but try to avoid over-sensationalizing if you want to have a reasonable conversation with your readers.
Just like in real life, often the best way to explain yourself is through personal connections with real people. When you have the opportunity, go to a conference or user group and listen to the folks in your community of choice. Introduce yourself. Have a conversation. Ask questions and listen to what they’re working on right now, and let them know what you’re doing and how you could be doing it better. Shockingly this kind of interaction can be much higher value than any virtual electronic system, so don’t underestimate it.
What Works For You?
Hopefully you’ve found this useful, now it’s time to give something back. What have you found to be the most effective way to provide feedback on Microsoft developer tools? Post a comment with your story, and let us know.
Steve is an experienced software architect and trainer, focusing on code quality and Domain-Driven Design with .NET.