Ed Lehman is the principle lead PM of community projects for SQL Server. He and his team run SQL Servers MVP program community source projects and customer feedback channels.
Greg Low: Introducing Show 28 with guest Ed Lehman.
Our guest today is Ed Lehman. He is the principle lead PM of community projects for SQL Server. He and his team run SQL Servers MVP program community source projects and customer feedback channels. Welcome Ed
Ed Lehman: Thanks.
Greg Low: How did you ever come to be involved with SQL Server?
Ed Lehman: Started a long time ago. At Microsoft I joined a SQL team about five years ago to run our first TAP program. These are Technology Adoption Programs. I’ve taken on the MVPs and newly samples development systems.
Greg Low: How long have you been at Microsoft?
Ed Lehman: Thirteen years started out there and spent a few years in support for premier.
Greg Low: That’s great. Seems to be a pretty dynamic time, especially this year with a release coming up fairly soon. Always stressed as important is the feedback channel. Has changed over the years; used to have SQL old e-mail list and didn’t hear that much. Moved into a more formal process now. How do people provide feedback?
Ed Lehman: I like to think back to the old SQL list days and compare to where we were back then. As to where we are now, over the life of SQL list we had 5,000 requests that came in, and being able to understand what we really did with those in knowledge exists in somebody’s e-mail or head. We are at a whole different world, people can go to the connect website, (www.connect.microsoft.com) where they can submit feedback on products that have been shipped or products that are in CTP phase. With everything submitted, they mark they have a suggestion, feedback etc. Regardless of which they choose it creates a work item. The team gets a blog directly for every time the customer has a problem. The developer side is embedded with the digital team, the digital team uses this to manage bugs. Developers can reverse back and forth so they can solve items and explain the resolution.
Greg Low: A lot of things that come up are suggestions more than bugs. Talk about the rating system?
Ed Lehman: It’s a type of voting system. Look at the top voted items on a weekly and monthly basis. Happy to say there are a lot more votes on suggestions than on bugs, this is good. More talk on what we should do with our product.
Greg Low: The voting is categorized by stars at the top left of the site section.
Ed Lehman: Get votes in the 100’s. 100’s of people will tell them what they want, doesn’t guarantee that it makes it into the product line. Guarantees that they will give it more attention. Can bet that the developer is going to have to explain the suggestion vs. one person who suggested something. Question of how much exposure it gets.
Greg Low: The feeling I get around voting is the fact of the small number of people who do the voting. Challenge is how do you get more people exposed to the suggestions to make sure there is a wider variety of voting happening?
Ed Lehman: I’ve heard people say that, don’t say that. That is a huge problem from our perspective.
Greg Low: That’s good. When people look at the writings and the numbers, things up around the 100’s are very high voted items. Things that get around the 40’s and 50’s are important as well. Some things that have been put up there are a natural tendency on votes staring to come in on those sort of things.
Ed Lehman: I should point out the different things between the suggestions and the bugs. A 20 count or higher is something that needs input or notice. More than 15 votes is probably in our top 10 list.
Greg Low: That’s great. With different phases of product cycle what is the point at which you can have most impact with suggestions?
Ed Lehman: Suggestions when you can have the most impact depends on the scope of the suggestion. On some level it’s independent. Look in CTP cycle the odds of a suggestion are lower than the options of making it in to SQL. A couple of CTP’s ago if you had a suggestion that was a small amount of work. There would be a chance if it was high voted that it would make it in. Anything larger than that is a cap my plus one.
Greg Low: That’s good. A recent podcast with David Campbell talked about how the new CTP build process is working. I get the feeling it will be a more consistent thing on an ongoing basis. Less emphasis on certain phases of the build.
Ed Lehman: In terms of suggestions?
Greg Low: In terms of when you make suggestions, lots of improvements that roll over long periods of time.
Ed Lehman: The time at which you make a suggestion doesn’t matter as much because we’re not looking for another five years until we have the release of the project.
Greg Low: Previously, there has been a planning phase, then hurried work. There is a continually progression of things that appear in the product slightly less emphasis on things.
Ed Lehman: That’s fair. As CTP process becomes more mature, the CTP process is the public phase of a whole new engineering process. Customer feedback into that through CAPMA. CAPMA plus one is much better. Think about a revolution, things that made it. Things that are going to CAPMA came out of the first evolution of Connect. Connect is going to be much more predictable and therefore the result of the problem.
Greg Low: Connect site, bugs, and suggestions do get feedback from developers and clients/customers involved. If submitted, invariably there’s always a process where it gets followed up and someone else gives you feedback.
Ed Lehman: Expectations of developers is to respond two times with a suggestion or a bug. First, to acknowledge feedback from the customer and tell them their take on it. Seen this before; it’s going to take a long time to work on that. At a minimum, is to explain again what we’ve done with that item after the feedback.
Greg Low: With the Connect site, what is the vision to where it’s heading or how it will evolve?
Ed Lehman: Vision for Connect is Microsoft Level vision. Vision for it is to expand the Connect experience to be more collaborative for deeper engagements that are had with customers. This is the future of what I see for Connect with us.
Greg Low: Leads us to the MVP program, also heavily involved within the SQL Server area. MVP program is more familiar in the developer areas. In SQL Server areas there are people that aren’t aware of it. What’s the role of program? Where does it fit in?
Ed Lehman: It’s a recognition program, used to recognize in SQLs case over 200 top people who give back to the community on a regular significant basis. What it does is provide them with a brand to leverage in their daily lives. A coveted brand people can use under web sites, training, or whatever business. On day to day basis, it gives SQL team more exposure to developers. Influence on interests and where we take the product, or deep technical consulting, face to face contact.
Greg Low: That’s interesting the program is based on previous contributions.
Ed Lehman: That is the most frequent confusion; it’s previous within a year. The award is good for a year. Once someone gets it look at the cycle and activities in the last year. If someone is busy on a project and can’t participate in community they can’t get MVP that year. People come in and out of the program all of the time. Doesn’t mean they are on the bad list, we recognize who are the top contributors in that year.
Greg Low: What are things to look at in terms of activity?
Ed Lehman: Second biggest mistake of program, selection criteria varies on forums, podcasts, speaking at user groups, publishing books, and a laundry list of other things. Any one thing done in a large volume could achieve the award. Doing a small number of things in a developing country could allow someone the award. Decision is made by a number of people at Microsoft
Technology, regional, and product team MVP leagues. Get consulting on the product teams. Complicated process.
Greg Low: Areas that aren’t covered well? What would those be?
Ed Lehman: Opportunities for MVPs are in our developing communities, forums and started a couple years ago before release of Yukon. Some MVPs are active on the forums, more room for MVP participation. Newest program around CodePlex has lots of opportunity for MVPs to differentiate themselves.
Greg Low: Wander through the different areas. Database community is not familiar with the news groups. Developer focus in years gone by. Talk briefly between news groups and forums?
Ed Lehman: News groups have been around for as long as can remember. They generally require that someone have a newsreader client. Talk to any number of services that cause posting back and forth between networks. Twenty SQL Server news groups, great ongoing community. Look for a self-sustaining community, SQL Server is like this. People can post questions and be confident in getting a response. Response has technical advice.
Greg Low: Existing news groups that need assistance?
Ed Lehman: All pretty well covered right now.
Greg Low: The forums, the different structure there?
Ed Lehman: The forums are new for us (www.Microsoft.com/msdn). Amongst hundreds of other forums, like SQL Server. Technology is all web based, tends to make it more approachable to less experienced users and news groups. Doesn’t have an offline experience which makes less productive for news producers. There are tradeoffs. Forums have a richer data model behind them, can see if a question has been responded to or answered. People have stronger identities; those who posted in a forum have a live Identification. In newsgroups you can say whoever you want to be. MVPs post to a forum they are identified that way, and newsgroups can be whoever you want.
Greg Low: Ironically years ago, people were impersonating somebody else to make them look silly.
Ed Lehman: More wild west than forums!
Greg Low: Adoption rate of forums versus the newsgroups, where is that heading?
Ed Lehman: Heading for SQL Server, the volume of questions being asked on the forum exceed volume of questions asked on the newsgroups. People will say SQL Server doesn’t care about newsgroups. Not true, news groups support 50 percent of things that go on out there.
Greg Low: Are all forums being covered effectively?
Ed Lehman: Across the board they are not covered as well as I want to see them covered. Self-sustaining question. SQL developer in the community have to make decisions and prioritize that set across the different development teams. Prioritizing positions in the forum higher than normal. More community participation on the forums won’t have to prioritize that quite so highly. Reporting services, is hugely popular in the forums. Reporting services development team is fairly small, it’s overwhelming for them. Participate in this forum for help.
Greg Low: Hiring somebody to help answer some of the things on that forum?
Ed Lehman: Have a vender working out of Shanghai who started posting on the services forum in November. December was the full month that person answered 60 questions in that month. Looking at it is as a different thing and is really a question of priorities in Microsoft.
Person reports through customer support services, they have done posting in news groups. Haven’t moved over into the forums, the hiring of this person represents what CSS has done in the newsgroups and doing it in the forums.
Greg Low: Is there some conflict of interest between offering paid support services and having them available for free?
Ed Lehman: Constant struggle within CSS.
Greg Low: I’ll talk to Bob Ward another day.
Ed Lehman: You are right; that’s a tough thing to find out. At the end of the day, what makes the best sense for Microsoft? Get a lot of leverage for people giving feedback on the forums, but when answering the phone only helping one person.
Greg Low: The expectation of the person dealing with it is higher in terms of relying on this being the Microsoft message that they are getting in response.
Ed Lehman: Talking on phone
Greg Low: No people on product support.
Ed Lehman: I see. That’s true. Same is true for any Microsoft development team person and for MVPs.
Greg Low: Indeed. That’s great, good point for us to take a break. We’ll talk about CodePlex community source projects and those areas when return.
Greg Low: Apart from the SQL Server life is there another life for Ed?
Ed Lehman: Yes of course, my other life is my family life. Been married to my wife for 20 years. Have two kids, son is 14 and daughter is nine. We’re involved in a number of things together. Son is sports oriented, family is involved in attending his sports events, and rooting for the Seattle Seahawks. Daughter and I have a musical side as well, both sing in choirs at church. Adult choir is 130 voices, and kids choir 50 voices. Passionate about barbequing.
Greg Low: What a great hobby
Ed Lehman: Got to have a hobby when you can eat. Buddy and I were Pacific Northwest champions of barbequing back in 2,000. Got fifteenth best ribs in the country back in Kansas.
Greg Low: King Richard Campbell is on with barbequing as well, but not in the competition sense.
Ed Lehman: A lot of fun and hard work. Real barbequing is not grilling, making baby back ribs and pork is.
Greg Low: That’s awesome. We lived in Brisbane; the barbequing and outdoor lifestyle is completely the normal there. Moved to Melbourne people don’t do a lot of outdoor things because flies are outrageous, so many of them. Unfortunate for when you want to do barbequing and things. Working on how to do it indoors!
Ed Lehman: Can’t get the flavors in indoors.
Greg Low: That’s great. You are really involved with the CodePlex project, I mentioned it to my wife and she said what is it? It’s a typical response from the database community into the development community. CodePlex Microsoft is open site, www.codeplex.com
On the site they take the code that was previously written for samples in SQL Server, cornerstone of the community projects on the CodePlex site. The landing page has a community menu, and on the site you will find the link. Here, there are product samples, which are released as an open source but developed by Microsoft. Can do anything you want to do with them. Included as 100 percent of it. Adventure Works database included.
Greg Low: Anyone loading Adventure Works, that’s where they go to get it.
Ed Lehman: Bringing a lot of database flavor to CodePlex.
Greg Low: People aren’t aware series of Adventure Works Flight.
Ed Lehman: There are various types.
Greg Low: What key differences with Adventure Works Flight?
Ed Lehman: Smaller number of cables, simpler to understand, if people don’t want to deal with highly normalized data.
Greg Low: Are there schemers?
Ed Lehman: I don’t know.
Greg Low: Must go back and have a look, Adventure works ties in with the extensive work of schemers. Reinforces multi part naming, people find it overwhelming at times.
Ed Lehman: If I had to bet, I’d bet they are in there
Greg Low: Apart from Microsoft Equipment, what else is there?
Ed Lehman: Two different categories of products:
1.) Community gallery project group by technologies. As community project, service broker, peace equal. People from Microsoft or MVPs will post something there that is not going to be a full grown community but has worth to the general community. General place for community.
2.) Independent community projects project that people are trying to make into a successful community around a single application. A number of participants supporting project.
Greg Low: Give an example of what there is?
Ed Lehman: Goods helper: community based project add on for BIC that brings additional functionality for people who want to get more out of the studio. Extensions by the community who work well and seamlessly together.
Greg Low: Interesting you mention that. Talked to David Campbell about that in previous podcast. Frustrating I’ve found with the tool set, is the different types of conservative approaches. People use hacks is the irony. Turns out to be worse than the original plan. What I love about business attendance studio, people can use add in things and it all just works. SQL Server Management Studio. There is no way to build things to drop in there. In the SQL group, feel endlessly asking questions as to how correlates to the product. When have the extensibility, points are a lot richer about building around the community.
Ed Lehman: Fascinated to see David’s opinion.
Greg Low: From a conservative previous approach. Customers who only want Microsoft IP. Paul Randle said back up compression, even though third parties available in some shops simply won’t use them. Only what’s from the original project.
Ed Lehman: SQL Web Data Administrator. On management front, SQL Web Data Administrator, web tool, all the sources are there, completely extensible. Like to see more activity in, and people getting involved.
Greg Low: I see nice add-ins to Management Studio but it’s been frustrating not to be able to build those. For that reason turned to building add-ins to business intelligence studios. I would love to encourage them whenever I get a chance it’d be great to improve the ISP group. They build their own things to replace things, or add the things in. Immediately, entire little communities spring up around it.
Ed Lehman: Starting to see in a couple of areas in the BI front. Hopefully seen in other areas as well.
Greg Low: One of the discussions that comes up in that area. Where does SQL Server sit in the endless discussion, in probe space or DEB space? Tough when they are TechEd. Is there a preference as to which to attend?
Ed Lehman: Yeah, my team who is looking at the community projects, shares your frustration. Have to decide which one to go to. SQL Server historically has been challenge, hitting developer side. CodePlex is trying to bridge that even more. From developer, no one uses SQL Server by itself. Cool thing about CodePlex out there on a site that isn’t SQL Server.
Greg Low: That’s excellent. There is a challenge deciding what to attend there. How did it end up in Barcelona, and which one did the SQL Server people attended?
Ed Lehman: I don’t know.
Greg Low: I need to try and find that out because it poses a bit of a challenge. Community around SQL Service area has a lot of strengths but problems in the development side. Things that should work in SQL Server but not in development. What other areas do you want SQL Server to move in to?
Ed Lehman: I would say CodePlex is the biggest priority where I want to see people get involved. Difficulty for SQL Server is working with user groups. Don’t think it’s easy and I know we need a lot more help. What do you see happening not on the SQL side?
Greg Low: A few areas, particularly online audio visual and samples. There are not a lot in the SQL service area. Broadband is everywhere and there would be more use in the product themselves if short video clips etc., were included. Look at a product as simple as Microsoft Word. Talk with Rich Chaplain, when I look how someone learns Word. It is not through the manual but through physical examples. Strikes me that there is a hole that could be filled by a standard video viewer built into the product itself. You could say how do I do this? One, two video clips showing you how to do it. MVP community would love to build those videos where they are the person demonstrating it. Should be built into SQL Server and would like to right click off of databases and click show me how. On demand gives you a video to demonstrate. People learn by being shown something than by reading manuals.
Ed Lehman: Number of things that could be done. One is by books online. Have community extensions to the content, adding video content is a logical extension, great suggestion to put on the Connect site and get MVPs to vote for.
Greg Low: Didn’t put on Connect site. Meyers and I are working on building an extension video as an extension to goods. Convince to be built into Management Studio. So many opportunities because connects are a lot faster. People don’t want huge tutorials but 30 seconds is key. Like YouTube, same size videos in many cases, there is a standard resolution and way to do so. Could do it in multiple languages, etc.
Greg Low: That’s a pretty cool project; the gallery itself could become popular.
Ed Lehman: Could go on something called SQLTube!
Greg Low: What’s coming up?
Ed Lehman: Next couple months will be the MVP Summit. Take MVPs and stick in room with development teams, discussions between SQL Server teams and MVPs. What are we doing in the product and what have we done in the products. Get such good feedback. Developers walk out with a whole new light and the MVPs walk away and understand where the product team is headed. I love the MVP Summit.
Ed Lehman: Sessions that are organized are great sessions. The perception that is a myth is the MVP program is like a Microsoft fan club, if those same people could just see what occurs in those meetings they would change their opinion!
Greg Low: Have to close the door for privacy and to minimize the yelling! Heading to PASS Conference in Germany. Unfortunate timing; really excited about being at that conference and doing the key note. Will also be sad to miss the Summit.
Ed Lehman: Spectator in launch events. Launch is coordinated by marketing in my perspective.
Greg Low: That’s great. Hopefully see you at TechEd.
Ed Lehman: The last kick for CodePlex trying to figure out how we approach this on CodePlex.
How to get more activity around the vertical space. So if peers have ideas as to what want to see from a CodePlex format around verticals, I’m all ears. People can let me know their thoughts.
Greg Low: Best way for people to voice thoughts?
Ed Lehman: Through my e-mail; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Greg Low: Thank you so much for your time. It’s Friday for you and a pleasant Saturday morning for me. That’s an interesting area that we haven’t got to explore before
Ed Lehman: OK. Thank you for having me Greg.