We want information, information, information

Who are you? The new number 2… Who is number 1?

Looks like Roy Osherove is making waves with his comments about MVP information hoarding… Having been in the position of being a developer searching for scraps of information on a MS technology that doesn’t appear to be documented as well as it could be I know where he’s coming from.

Sometimes, during the early stages of understanding, I find that I can google for answers better than I can phrase questions. For example, when I was looking into Windows XP Bluetooth support, I didn’t really know what I was looking for, I just wanted information. I couldn’t ask useful questions because I didn’t know what I didn’t know so I couldn’t ask about it. I just bumbled around in google for a while, researching, until eventually I found out enough to move on.

What’s more, asking good questions is hard and asking bad questions is rightly frowned upon. When I was writing OLE DB providers and hit a couple of major “documentation bugs” it took around a week to boil the code I was writing down into a form that was suitable to send off to MS’s premium support guys with a well phrased question or two. I didn’t actually get a useful answer, but eventually a code sample appeared that did the thing I needed to do and I could dig around in it until I found my answer.

It’s all very nice for MVPs to have access to “special” information. But I don’t get the “we couldn’t possibly afford to tell you all” attitude expressed by some. I understand that there’s often a need to shield the people who wrote the code from direct questioning from the unwashed masses but I don’t see why, once a question has made its way up through the appropriate filtering, the question and answer cant be publicly available somewhere. Just spew all this information out there so I can search it. I don’t want to have to go to a news group where an MVP hangs out and ask the right question in the right way when he’s not on holiday to get the information I need.

Of course I do understand why it could be this way… If I’m a premium support customer and I pay MS money to be able to ask hard questions I wouldn’t necessarily want to have my question and their answer posted up for all to see; even if I weren’t named. If I’m an MVP and I have access to “special” information I don’t necessarily want everyone to have access to it because how then could I use this “special” information to build my consulting business? And how special is it if, instead of being the guardians of information, you’re merely the people who can ask the right people the right questions?

Hopefully as more of the people who wrote the code start to write blogs more of the special information that we need as working programmers using their technology will become generally available. But in the meantime I agree with Roy and Joseph’s comments; let the rest of us have access to the information in a read only manner. Don’t spend any time making it nice, just let us see the information as it is, if it adds value we can pull that value out ourselves.

[Now playing: The Prisoner - Iron Maiden]