A Longhorn evangelist at Microsoft has asked for help nominating 20 bloggers who will form a group called Team 99. The team will provide feedback to the company during the Longhorn development. The move has some people in the Windows community wondering why Microsoft is seeking Longhorn feedback only now, at this late stage in the game. They also wonder what makes the company think that only bloggers, not die-hard Windows enthusiasts, can provide the most relevant feedback for the next major Windows OS.
Longhorn evangelist Robert Scoble announced the formation of Team 99 in a blog posting Sunday night, automatically limiting the announcement to the small group of bloggers who will presumably be culled to become part of Team 99. "Microsoft can't deal with millions of people all at once," Scoble wrote. "It's impossible to listen to that loud a crowd. So, let's start small. \[Twenty\] people to start with. Why 20? It's how many can fit into an average conference room at Microsoft."
His decision to limit the group to bloggers (a relatively small number of people with whom Scoble himself is familiar and friendly but don't necessarily represent the Windows enthusiast community) came under immediate fire from several onlookers, including JupiterResearch analyst and former News.com correspondent Joe Wilcox, who wrote in his own blog (ahem) that Team 99 is a mistake. "Real enthusiasts, not those put together in a Microsoft-controlled team, will offer \[the\] most useful feedback and \[the\] most believable and effective evangelism," he wrote.
I have to agree with Wilcox. As someone who is both a blogger and a Windows enthusiast, I believe that the original design of Team 99 (i.e., concentrating solely on bloggers) is a huge and potentially costly mistake. If Microsoft is serious about external feedback, the company should select a dedicated group of Windows enthusiasts--not necessarily bloggers--to help shape the next Windows version. I can think of several people who fall into this category; few of them are bloggers.
I like Robert Scoble--a lot--and appreciate that his job evangelizing Longhorn is difficult these days, given the recent steps Microsoft has taken that have squelched enthusiasm for the project. But turning to a comparatively low-profile group of bloggers with whom he's friends when a vibrant community of Windows enthusiasts exists that's just waiting to help is a mistake. Microsoft should be promoting Windows, not bloggers. And the best way to do that is to engage those people who, for all intents and purposes, are already supporting Windows and Windows users, day in and day out.