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February 26, 2020

Windows Insider Team and The Art of Communications

I’ll start with a real life example: Since December 10th, I have not been able to use Windows Feedback Hub on any of my three Insider machines. As those three machines, two laptops and a tablet, are all I have, I didn’t even have the option to use another PC to file feedback. On December 11th, a day after the issue started after upgrading to Insider build 18298, I tried to get the Windows Insider team’s attention on Twitter:

Since then, I have repeatedly tried to get their attention. I had a lot of feedback to give but could not use Feedback Hub. The issue remained after build 18305 upgrade just before the holidays.

A Tale of Hyper-V External vSwitches

Yesterday, the Insider team released a new build, its first in 2019. In the build 18309 release notes, something caught my eye under “General changes, improvements, and fixes for PC“:

We fixed an issue where using Hyper-V with an external vSwitch in addition to the default resulted in many UWP apps not being able to connect to the internet.

I decided to test this before upgrading. Thus, I deleted my external virtual switches, restarted and voilá, all my Microsoft UWP apps including Feedback Hub were working again. However, there’s nothing about this issue on the Insider team blog, their social media accounts or Microsoft Community. The only thing I could find in the MS community was a post from early 2016. In any case, the MS community would have not been able to help me. That’s because the MS Community site is overrun with canned replies from self-promoting moderators who mark their own replies as the best answer. In most cases, you’ll get no help from the MS community,

Had I known about this issue a few weeks earlier, I could have deleted my Hyper-V external virtual switches. Although using the default switch causes some networking issues, I would still have been able to use my virtual machines with it.

I thought first that I got no response from the Insider team because of the “conflict” which cost me my Windows Insider MVP award. Insider team lead Dona Sarkar has completely blocked me on social media, and some other team members and I suspect the team’s official social media accounts have muted me.

But, it seems that me lacking any means to contact the Insider team is not only my problem. I went through the Insider blog and their Twitter account to check. What I found out is mildly disturbing. Using my case as an example, the Insider team has clearly known about UWP apps unable to connect to the Internet, as the build 18309 release notes show. However, there’s absolutely no information about this or other severe bugs like cumulative update KB4483214 (bBuild 18305) breaking Windows Sandbox. I see no mention of any such things on the Insider blog, in the MS community or on social media .

Continiuning with my issue as an example, I checked the Windows Insider team’s Twitter feed between December 10th and today. There’s not a single tweet about any issues in any Insider builds. Instead, there’s a bunch of these, to be honest quite paradoxical tweets in an effort to create the illusion that the Insider team listens to its users:

Checking Twitter replies from the Insider team during the same time period, they only reply to comments about their own “New build released” tweets. Not a single reply to a tweet about an issue that’s addressed to or mentions them (#WindowsInsiders). Nada.

Think back to the October Update saga, when 1809 emerged on a Tuesday and was withdrawn the following Friday. Afterward, the Insider team and its members cleaned their social media accounts, removing everything related to that fiasco. No communications, nothing shared with Insiders. My question is, how can you get help when the team has decided to avoid direct communications with Insiders, as well as each and every piece of negative feedback? To work, communication must be a two-way street, and leave room for both good and bad news.

Now, I am somewhat worried. In my case, I had a severe issue lasting over three weeks. From the actions of the Insider team, or rather lack of them, I had no way of knowing it was a known issue. If they’s shared what they knew, it could have been resolved simply by deleting some Hyper-V switches. But this is just one isolated, sample case. The truth is, the Windows Insider team as it works today is pretty useless should you need assistance, or have issues you cannot resolve on your own. They are deliberately avoiding negative topics. Worse yet, they appear to have chosen not to communicate with their clients, the Windows Insiders community.

Despite all these behaviors, I’m still hoping the Insider team will get its act together. Windows 10 can only improve as a result.


EDIT, 05-JAN-2019

Jen from Microsoft, although not Insider team member but working closely with it, replied to my tweet:

Apparently, I had missed that important detail in 18305 release notes. My sincere apologies.

In my defense, I can only say that since the issue detailed in this post started on December 10th with build 18298 upgrade, I checked 18298 release notes several times a day to see if it was added as a known issue. Insider team updates their release notes quite often when an issue is fixed, like this screenshot from 18309 release notes show:

I was expecting to find information about new issues in similar way, to be added to list of known issues but it seems that the team will only update release notes when something has been fixed, not when new bugs have been found.

In any case, this does not change the point of this post. Insider team communications skills suck. Their chosen way to operate, like cleaning all social media accounts after the October Update fiasco clearly shows that for the Insider team, keeping the communications positive is more important than honesty, Even in this sample case of mine, it was Jen who replied to me, not the team or its members. I just hope Jen does not get any difficulties when Dona finds out she replied to me 😉


Author: Kari Finn

A former Windows Insider MVP, Kari started in computing in the mid 80’s writing code for VAX / VMS systems. Since then, he’s worked in a variety of IT positions. He specializes in Windows image capture, customization, repair and deployment as well as Hyper-V virtualization. Kari is a proud Team Member at number #1 Windows site TenForums.com.

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