Windows 7: Beta testers, not Microsoft, need more feedback

When I saw Windows 7 chief Steven Sinofsky had published another (epic-length) post, entitled "Feedback and Engineering Windows 7, I was encouraged. Until I read the post, that is.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

When I asked last week what Windows 7 testers wanted, the predominant answer was more information -- specifically more information about which bugs were being fixed (and not) as the product progressed through the pipeline.

When I saw Windows 7 chief Steven Sinofsky had published another (epic-length) post, entitled "Feedback and Engineering Windows 7, I was encouraged. Until I read the post, that is.

If you want more information on how Microsoft obtains feedback and debates that feedback internally, this Februrary 25 entry is your post. If you were hoping for more about how and when the team was going to relay that feedback to its testers, you won't be happy.

Some interesting factoids from the post:

  • During the first few week of the Windows 7 beta, more than 1 million people downloaded and installed it.
  • Microsoft has released a "reliability update" test release for Windows 7 testers with Internet Explorer 8. (My blogging colleague Zack Whittaker has more thoughts on that IE 8 update.)
  • "During a peak week in January we (the Windows dev team) were receiving one Send Feedback report every 15 seconds for an entire week, and to date we’ve received well over 500,000 of these reports."
  • Microsoft has "fixes in the pipeline for nearly 2,000 bugs in Windows code (not in third party drivers or applications) that caused crashes or hangs."

That's great. Microsoft is getting a lot of feedback about Windows 7. What kind of feedback are testers getting from the team in return? Very little. I get lots of e-mail from testers asking me whether Microsoft has fixed specific bugs that have been reported on various comment boards and Web sites. I have no idea, and neither do they.

The feedback loop cannot continue indefinitely. But would finding some way to relay to testers which bugs have been fixed and which haven't derail the development process?

Sinofsky doesn't address that issue specifically in the post. He repeats the new Microsoft mantra -- "Shipping is a feature." Specifically, in his words:

"(U)ltimately on the Windows development team we have to make a call as we’re seeing a lot of people are looking forward to us finishing Windows 7, which means we need to stop changing the product and ship it."

That's definitely true, but don't the testers spending hours, days and weeks providing you with feedback deserve more information back from Microsoft? Any thoughts about how Microsoft might provide more and better tester feedback with the least amount of time/effort?

Update: Speaking of Windows 7, Microsoft rolled out an update to Windows 7 yesterday. This wasn't one of the "placeholder" updates that it is delivering this week just for test purposes. The February 24 update was "an app compat refresh for Window 7 and is focused on older PC games," according to a company spokesperson.

Update No. 2 (February 26): Microsoft has begun posting details on some of the changes it is making to Windows 7 in response to tester feedback on the Engineering Windows 7 blog.

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