Microsoft is a company that, until recent times, has not exactly been well known for being open or accessible to users of its products. The company has long had a policy of making no comments on its products apart from official news announcements.
One of the consequences of such a policy has been to add to any negative perceptions of the company that some individuals may possess. Another consequence has been to fuel rumour and speculation when it came to Microsoft and its products. Indeed MS watchers abound everywhere. In the mainstream IT press there would be more than a few people earning a living from watching MS. In forums, boards, and online communities, around the web MS watching, commentary and speculation is a major pastime.
People tend to get passionate, and indeed, at times fanatical or aggressive, about the computer software they own and use, regardless of publisher or software type, whether it be productivity software, graphics software or games. Product loyalty has to be commended, and should be encouraged by publishers, but sometimes people go that little bit too far.
Of course everyone has to have an opinion too, and there is no shortage of these in any given online community. And inevitably there are those who know – what they know no-one is really sure of, but they know and they certainly let others know that they know. Then there are those who not only know, but like to hint they have inside information. Hinting such adds to their status of being knowing, knowledgeable people. They may have been product beta testers in the past, some claim to know current or past employees of the company concerned. In a more conventional setting, this is analogous to receiving an authoritative race horse tip from the cousin of the hairdresser of the jockey’s wife’s sister. Sometimes these work out, mostly they do not. Occasionally one comes across someone who claims to be an actual beta tester but then tell us they are under a NDA and cannot divulge any details [in the process of doing so possibly violating the NDA for revealing they are under a NDA]. They frequently use such status to give opinions on a range of topics regardless of relevance to the alleged beta product. Lastly there are individuals who are always right….. you might be right too but they are more right than you are …. They are never wrong [on the rare occasions that they concede they are wrong they disappear from forums for a while…to recover]. We all know people like that.
[BTW I am not alluding to any particular individual(s). I have been a participant in various on-line communities and mailing lists since 1997 and have observed these characteristics in many people.]
Online communities are very essential. If run effectively, they are an enjoyable and valuable resource. On the negative side, online communities are a natural breeding ground for myths. If Jamie and Adam run out of myths to bust they need look no further than online communities.
Given the dynamics and processes briefly outlined above, large organisations such as Microsoft who have had a policy of minimal communication and dialogue with users of their products, were a sitting duck in the processes of distortion. No company or large organisation is perfect of free from criticism. However a policy of ‘no comment’ does little to dispel negative perceptions and indeed, given the processes above, would greatly encourage such.
Anyway times are a changing and MS employees are now being encouraged to join the blogging masses. We can now see them at work, rest or play via their blogs…. well sort of anyway… a little bit… just like anyone else who blogs. This new policy of openness is very refreshing.
As far as the ACES team goes we can see there is a new edition of the flight simulator franchise under development [I still encounter guys who speculate whether there will be one LOL…]. The guys provide insights into the creation of FS. They offer the occasional tip. The ACES team obviously browse and read various FS forums. The team share their observations on the community from time to time and give opinions on some of the issues that crop up. They also do all the normal bloggy things. All this and much more folks.
These blogs are certainly worth reading now and again, and I recommend checking them out if you have not already done so. I urge people to read them, first hand, for themselves.
These blogs have done much to dispel any myths and concerns which I may have harboured, as to the future evolution of Flight Simulator. [I’d still like to see CFS continued… that’s another topic though LOL]. Hopefully others have experienced this too.
What about the flight simulation communities has there been a change there? My personal observation is that there has been some change of attitude but some people like to cling to old habits.
There are still a few people suggesting that the new Flight Simulator Insider site is a hoax. This is not the first time, as this subject was mentioned in Mike Gilbert’s blog in September. Autodesk’s announcement that gmax will no longer be available as a standalone application and their later partial reprieve has fuelled no end of debate and speculation, which is quite understandable. The ACES team have made mention of the situation in their blogs and that they are looking at a number of options but again we have people in various forums telling us what MS are going to do, probably before MS themselves know. [here and here] I recently encountered a post by a CFS3 enthusiast authoritatively telling us that CFS4 was just around the corner and would focus on the Pacific war. This was most likely a rehash of an old rumour that may have had some some substance once upon a time.
[Stop Press: Just had a look at the evolving thread of the last link…… mmmmm????] [Note: these recent posts did not inspire this essay. This article was started before the posts were made. I use them to illustrate a point. It will be interesting and amusing if they transpire to be correct LOL]
Anyway hopefully the MS ACES team will continue to enlighten us, and MS continue with their policy of openness and indeed the process is further expanded.
[My first editorial type post... Hope there's not too much waffle?]