Tuesday, 31 January 2017

The day my love of being a Windows Insider died

The 27th of January 2017 was a significant day in my lifetime of being an Windows Insider. It was the day that my love of being an Insider died. The mojo has gone. When a new build comes out with new features and I cannot be asked to download it and check it out, you know something is seriously wrong. Much like the break up of any relationship, things start going wrong gradually but this isn’t no “It’s me, not you” excuse but a firm “It’s definitely you, and maybe a little of me”. As I drift apart from the insider programme, I expect that soon I’ll probably not even look out for new builds or bother reading what's in them. That still seems hard to believe but the last few builds I’ve resorted to watching videos of the new features rather than spending my own time exploring.

So, what’s gone wrong?

Well, I always knew that the primary perk of being an insider was getting to test out new Windows 10 features. However, there was secondary reason for me signing up to be an insider and one that quickly became an equal to getting new builds: feedback. Essentially us Insiders are glorified testers for Microsoft. We all know that. We’re Windows Fans who love the OS so much we’d happily get our hands on anything new and play with it. I too was very much blinded by the love of trying new builds for a long time, until the recent v1607 build. It was at this point in time that my eyes were opened wide on the lack of development in the feedback area by Microsoft. I wrote this post all about my issues with the feedback hub app http://reviewsofblah.blogspot.com/2016/07/windows-10-insider-hub-app-two-years-on.html at that time. After lapping up receiving builds and feeding back issues or suggestions for a long time, I lived in the belief that the insider programme would develop and the feedback hub would be improved. The insider programme was in it’s infancy early on, so things could only get better, right? Even when things dragged on and the one-way feedback via the app continued for ages, I was briefly renewed in my faith when the new feedback hub was born (combining insider hub with feedback hub) and I believed that Microsoft were really taking responding to feedback seriously.

Well, that last change to the hub app was a year ago now (yes, there have been minor revisions since) and the feedback is still very much one-way. Results of surveys and quests are never forthcoming. The VAST majority of feedback items are not responded to. The hub is like a brick wall where people insert their thoughts into slots in between the cracks and hear nothing back. Then those items are left there for years to come like some sort of landfill site. A hub is supposed to be a hive of social interaction, but the main insider interaction is on twitter, and not everyone wants to be there. So, alas, the hub is a dead-end of feedback, STILL, and unless you actually badger a Microsoft employee on twitter and get lucky, you might get actual help and feedback. That’s not how feedback or the hub should work in the insider programme.

I've had enough. It's not enough for me anymore to play with new toys, give my thoughts and hear absolutely nothing back in response. I'm wasting my time doing so. If I feedback, I hear nothing back. If I don't feedback, I'm also wasting my time. So, either way, I'm wasting my time, right?

I've never asked for much in terms of feedback. Just a simple pie chart of what responses people give to quests or those hub pop-up prompts would be something I could cling to as a reward to gauge how everyone else is thinking about features in Windows 10. But, we don't even get that. We get stupid achievement badges in the hub but even those have almost stopped recently. The closest we get to feedback at all from Microsoft is via odd mentions in the "What's new in this build" when apparently it's because of us that things like night light got created or something like that.

I've become far too cynical now about this insider experience. Whilst they are turning out builds, and lauding up the community atmosphere of throwing parties and conferences for insiders all over the world, the actual development of feedback for a Windows Insider has gone nowhere but backwards.

I'm fed up and I've had enough. No more feedback from me about new builds or my suggestions for changes. The hub is a disaster and there’s no sign of any time soon that it’s development will increase and give me something to look forward to and believe in.

I’ve been dismayed by the feedback system for too long and my tether has well and truly worn out. I can’t provide feedback anymore without feeling emotional and almost crying that I’m submitting it into the abyss. I want to feel valued but I’m just a number in a Insider machine where feedback means less to Microsoft than throwing glamorous conferences and parties for Insiders.

Surely things will change in the future? I’m not convinced anymore. The ironic thing is that the feedback system Microsoft used to use, UserVoice, was more responsive and two-directional than the hub system. It didn’t seem like it back then, but when you look at the hub, you see a system that’s no better than uservoice in terms of the user experience of feedback interaction. Microsoft have their telemetry being drained from our Insider devices and diagnostics via the Hub, so the desire for them to improve an aspect of the Insider Programme that provides little value to them and extra work (I.e. feedback to insiders) seems to be ultra low.

Well, it’s important to insiders and those who value the time they give to test new things and provide both suggestions and report problems. Who wants to talk to a brick wall? How would Microsoft feel if they released a new build and no one bothered to install it? Turn the table around and that’s the treatment us Insiders get in terms of any feedback to justify our hard work checking out Microsoft’s own hardwork.

I don’t feel valued anymore. The love of being an Insider has gone. At this moment in time I’m not sure there’s any hope I’ll get that love back. That saddens me. Does it sadden Microsoft?

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