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Insiders Take the Wheel

July 25, 2017

Insiders influence all that we do, so this month they are powering the Windows Insider podcast as we dive into themes of community and engagement. Listen as Dona Sarkar responds directly to questions from the Insider community on Twitter, along with giving us an exclusive first look at what’s next for the program (hint: it’s about building connections). Two long-time Insiders drive the second half of the episode when they interview Windows Insider MVP, Joel Rushworth, about engaging with friends and colleagues through the Windows Insider Program.

Windows Insider Podcast Episode 5


NARRATION:  So it's that power of community to do great things.

NARRATION:  By night, I'm a Windows Insider MVP, and my super power is an ability to find people with questions and connect them to the people that have the answers.

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  Welcome back to the Windows Insider Podcast, where we explore all things Windows, the Insider community, and beyond.  I'm your host, Tom Trombley, a.k.a. "the Tomcat."  Let's get rolling.

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  In our last episode, we explored the world of gaming with Kiki Wolfkill from 343 Industries, then shared the inspiring stories of kids learning to code and applying that code to robotics.

This week, we turn deeper into community and engagement.  After all, Windows Insiders make up an incredible community of folks building the future of computing.

As many of you know, our chief "Ninja Cat," Dona Sarkar, loves meeting with Insiders directly, albeit face to face, through the blog, and yes, even through Twitter.

This week, I chat with her about engagement, and we tackle some of your most burning questions, taken directly from Twitter during a little fun Q&A session.

She speaks to a range of queries from semi-annual feature updates, to what's coming next for the Windows Insider builds.  I think you'll find it informative, and a little bit fun, too.

During the second half of the podcast, I'm handing over the mic to guest host Colin Smith and David Smith, a couple of Windows Insiders who usually host the independently produced Universal Windows Podcast.  I think you'll enjoy their interview with Windows Insider MVP Joel Rushworth, who shares his tips for community engagement with equally zealous friends and colleagues.

Without further ado, let's get started.

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  All right, joining me in the booth here today is my favorite person, Dona Sarkar.

DONA SARKAR:  Hi, Tomcat.

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  Thanks for joining me.

DONA SARKAR:  Of course.

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  All right, well, today I'm going to start off with a bit of a cliché.


THOMAS TROMBLEY:  Meow.  I know that is dangerous to start off with a cliché, but I think it's kind of pivotal to this episode here.

At the heart of almost everything that you do and the rest of the crew does, I would encapsulate with the word "engagement."  You, Jeremiah, and the entire crew of Insiders on this side, I think you prioritize direct engagement with the community over just about everything else.

DONA SARKAR:  Very true.

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  Tell me why that's so important.

DONA SARKAR:  Engagement.  We think of this more as a two-way activity, as in co-creating rather that just engagement.

Engagement feels like we spoke, we listened, but we didn't actually do anything with those learnings.  You know what I mean?  A lot of people say, like, "Oh, yeah, we engage with customers and hear their feedback."  But the whole concept of a feedback loop, closing the loop with customers is really important to us and actually having a result of that engagement.

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  Right.  Now, one of the stories that I can remember is -- I think it was even last week, someone tagged I think on your Facebook page that they had got to meet the great Dona Sarkar and work directly with them, engage with you and Jeremiah and the rest of the crew to speak about what works and what doesn't work for the product, for Windows 10.

DONA SARKAR:  That's right.

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  Tell me about that.

DONA SARKAR:  We find engaging with Insiders, meeting them face to face or online and actually co-creating changes in both the product and the program to be incredibly powerful.


DONA SARKAR:  Because we're not in this era where we as corporations or companies or businesses can sit behind our walls, make a product, push it out there to millions of people and expect them to use it and like it.


DONA SARKAR:  It doesn't work that way because there's just too many products out there and, honestly, there's never been an easier time for people to make their own product.  Anyone can make their own product, anyone can become a software engineer or product manager, get a team together, and build the thing they need to live their life.

So it behooves us as corporations to actually co-create products with our people and our communities.  So we're building something, A, the world needs, and B, that we learn from so we can continue to build better products going forward.

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  Now, a week ago, you got entirely too early, but you always do, and you asked Insiders a fairly open-ended question.  Now, I think you said if we were to do a test program where we train Windows Insiders in basic IT and soft skills to prep for corporate jobs, who would show up?  Tell me about the reaction and what you learned from that.

DONA SARKAR:  That was very interesting because, as you know, we recently acquired LinkedIn last year and we've been learning a lot from our new friends at LinkedIn last year, and we've been learning a lot from our new friends at LinkedIn.

One of the most exciting things about partnering with them is the resonance with which their mission lines up with ours.  So their mission, for all of you who don't know, is to empower the global workforce with economic opportunity. They said nicer than that.

And, of course, ours is to empower every person on the planet to do the thing, they line up pretty well.  I absolutely understand why these two companies go together.

So I started thinking, "How can we use more of LinkedIn's mission in our day to day?"  Because many of the Insiders actually have LinkedIn.  They have connected with me, they've written posts, they have responded to mine.

But I started thinking, "How do we, the leaders of the Windows Insider program, actually start to help the Insiders be empowered, to turn their skill, which is this really unique superpower in tech expertise in a product that is used by billions of people in the world?"  It's not a product that's not used by lots of people.

We have Insiders in every country.  We have companies that use Windows in every country.  How do we actually put them together?

So I put the question out there, and I thought, okay, I'd get a few responses saying, "Yeah, that sounds interesting."  Within just maybe three hours I had, you know, turned off Twitter and I went away for a bit and came back -- 300 responses.


DONA SARKAR:  Yeah.  And 600-plus likes.

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  What did they say?

DONA SARKAR:  They said, "I would love that."

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  Overwhelmingly?

DONA SARKAR:  Overwhelmingly.  There's a few people who had questions like, "Well, I already have expertise, can I mentor?"  I said, "Yes, this is even better than I anticipated.

So we have Insiders raising their hands to mentor and coach, we've got insiders raising their hands to be trained.  This is such an amazing opportunity.

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  This is fantastic.

DONA SARKAR:  It was really cool.

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  I love mentorships.

DONA SARKAR:  I love it.

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  And I think they're so beneficial for everyone.

DONA SARKAR:  And these are so organic.


DONA SARKAR:  Because they share that value of co-creating.  They already know how to do this, so that actually stemmed a whole bunch of discussion within our team, as you know.


DONA SARKAR:  It spawned, like, the world's longest discussion about how can we make this happen really quickly?  But we'll do this as an Windows Insider.  We'll launch a small program with a small number of people, co-build a curriculum with them, we'll talk to companies, figure out, what do you look for from IT professionals?  We'll set up a set of trainings.

We think most of this already exists out there in Virtual Academy and whatnot.  And we'll train a group of Insiders and start introducing them to companies who actually have openings.  And let's see what happens.  This could be tremendous, it could be a spectacular failure, but we don't know.  We have to co-create with our audience.

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  I do want to shift gears because there was a big announcement at MS Inspire.  Now, Satya announced M365, or Microsoft 365.  Tell me what that is, and what are some of the things people said, your take-aways, and most importantly, what this means to the Insider Program.

DONA SARKAR:  Yeah.  This is fascinating because as a lot of people have been hearing lately, we're actively turning our focus to cloud services.


DONA SARKAR:  As an all-up company.  Everything is cloud focused, lives in the cloud.  And the main reason for that is so our data is more secure, our businesses are more secure and more accessible from whatever device we happen to be on.


DONA SARKAR:  Plus, it makes it far easier to collaborate across the world.  Microsoft 365 is kind of this natural progression of where we've been going as a company all along, which is trying to make our products easier to use together.  And one thing we started to realize, and I saw it in the Insider Program, and Satya and co. I'm sure saw it in the global enterprises they work with, was that very rarely does a company use Windows without using Office or any of our cloud services.

Very rarely does someone use Office for Enterprise without using Windows.


DONA SARKAR:  It's just an unusual situation when that happens.  So we started saying, "Why not make this offering just easier?"  Easier for our sales team, easier for the people who actually purchase products, easier for the IT professionals who actually deploy.  How can we make this easier all up?

And, of course, our minds on the Insider team started spinning, like, "Hey, 40 percent of our Insiders are IT professionals that work in IT."


DONA SARKAR:  So how can we make their lives easier and have them show up as tech heroes?  So my ambition and hope for M365 is that we start to encourage our IT professionals to think about this.  They probably already give feedback on Windows, they probably already give feedback on Office.  How can we actually start to look at the feedback in cross-pollenated ways?

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  I love that.

DONA SARKAR:  Right?  So that this feedback doesn't get lost.  They say, "You know what?  I have this feedback on Office running on this version of Windows, or I have this feedback on cloud services."  How can we make sure that we look at that feedback together and say, "It's all coming from this one individual, so let's debug what's really going on"?

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  In my mind, it brings some sort of fluidity --

DONA SARKAR:  Exactly.

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  -- to the use of our products across --

DONA SARKAR:  Exactly.

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  -- the different products for a customer.  And albeit a general consumer all the way through an IT professional.

DONA SARKAR:  Uh-huh.  (Affirmative.)  So we really want to cross-pollenate the engagement with the end user, the IT professional in this case, and make sure that we partner very closely with the Office team and the cloud teams to make sure that we're delivering the right thing across the board.  And we remove any barriers between our organizations so we're able to deliver this end to end solution.

But it's a cool solution.  I don't know if you've gotten to see the walk-through.  They did a walk-through at MS Inspire where it's this pretty sweet dashboard.  Like, Nathan Mercer on your team, actually.


DONA SARKAR:  He put it together, and that was fantastic.  And Bernardo and his team showcased a lot of the "whys," and then Rob Lefferts walked through a lot of the "hows" of how a person and an enterprise would receive it.  Say, someone who works in finance, how would they actually receive the solution?  It's five steps, and their life is so much easier than it is now than, like, "Oh, you've got a Windows update, you've got an Office update, you've got this update."  No.  It just came down together as one update.

And then the person in the IT department, it's so much easier to actually track which updates are working well, who's using what.  So I found the whole thing super fascinating, and I can't wait to start getting the feedback from our early adopters, who are "Insidering" it right now, really, and looking at it and figuring out, how can we make this offering even better?

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  Inspire is such a huge event.


THOMAS TROMBLEY:  And we've got another big event coming up here on campus.  It's called One Week.  Now, folks, they're building a mammoth tent outside my office right now.  And by "mammoth" -- it's ginormous.  It's probably the largest tent I've ever seen.

DONA SARKAR:  Is it called "Hacknado" again?

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  It may be called "Hacknado."

DONA SARKAR:  That's going to be funny.

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  I actually really like that name.


THOMAS TROMBLEY:  So I'd like you to tell a little bit about what One Week is, first, before we dig a little further.

DONA SARKAR:  One Week is one of the changes that Satya made when he took over as CEO a few years ago.  The idea is that rather than having one company meeting that's one entire day and then we not really creating anything as a result of all the things we learned that day, let's have One Week be one week in July where everyone is here.

That's generally the week when we have all of the interns almost, not the southern hemisphere interns, unfortunately.  But all of the employees at Microsoft are encouraged to just put our pencils down and focus deeply on why we work here, and look at the back of our badge, and look at that thing that says, "Empower every person on the planet to do the thing," said nicer, and go after that passion project to actually make the world a better place.

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  Right.  Now, at the core, it's kind of a hackathon.


THOMAS TROMBLEY:  Well, it is a hackathon.  It's billed somewhat as a hackathon.


THOMAS TROMBLEY:  But it's opened up to everyone.

DONA SARKAR:  Everyone.

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  Whether you're in marketing.

DONA SARKAR:  That's right.

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  Whatever business unit you're in --

DONA SARKAR:  That's right.

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  -- you can engage to help create or solve a particularly complex challenge.

DONA SARKAR:  That's right.  Working with people from all over the company.  And it's not a technical problem.  Right?  That's what I like about it.  Sometimes, it's refining a process of getting something out of the way, or introducing an idea that will benefit our global audience much more so.

So it's also a time when non-tech people work with tech people.


DONA SARKAR:  I love that, that's my favorite part.

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  Now, what have you done or what have we done as part of Insiders in the past at One Week?

DONA SARKAR:  Well, you remember last year, our big One Week project was looking at the map of global Insiders, where are the Insiders all over the world, and realizing there happens to be quite a large number of Windows users on the continent of Africa, but not as many Insiders.  So we were very surprised by that.

And to answer the question, we started doing a lot of research.  And then we realized, "Oh, wow, entrepreneurship is a big deal on the continent."  The average person runs three businesses.  I found that endlessly fascinating.  So, of course, we launched our aa for Good Fellowship to truly understand how do African entrepreneurs use technology to build and run their businesses?

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  Now, let's turn to engagement with Twitter.


THOMAS TROMBLEY:  You have a rather prolific list of Twitter followers.

DONA SARKAR:  They're awesome.

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  You're actively engaged with those folks.  You have a few more than I do, for sure.  So I wanted to maybe go through a few of their questions.

DONA SARKAR:  Okay, let's do it.

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  Can we do that?


THOMAS TROMBLEY:  All right.  So I'm going to start with a question from David Obando (ph.).  And he asks where there are any plans to bring Paint 3D to the Xbox One.

DONA SARKAR:  Hi, David.  Okay, so here's the good news:  You control that.


DONA SARKAR:  We put products out there, especially apps, to be used by Insiders.


DONA SARKAR:  And as Insiders use the apps and send us their feedback, we decide, one, is it going out to the global audience?  Two, is it going out to other form factors?


DONA SARKAR:  But we don't just make that decision without Insider feedback, because it wouldn't make any sense.

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  No, decisions in a bubble never do.

DONA SARKAR:  Exactly.  It never makes any sense.  So Insiders actually do decide that.  I'm sure Insiders have seen in the past we'll flight something in Insider builds and then we don't put it in the final product.  The reason is, the feedback was not good.  If we arbitrarily push something out to the billions of people who use Windows, when the Insider feedback was, "This is not good," we are not treating Insiders as the millions who represent the billions.  We're going against our mission of the program.


DONA SARKAR:  So we wouldn't do that.  So if the feedback is great on Paint 3D, like this is wonderful and it's ready for Xbox One, great.  Right now, the feedback is not saying that.  If it does, over the course of, you know, the next few months, that would be amazing and I'm sure the Xbox team would be happy to put that on their roadmap.

But I'll tell you something exciting we saw at Inspire.  I met this wonderful Insider named Vincent Pendleton.  Hi, Vincent!  And he is actually using Paint 3D to teach astronomy to children.


DONA SARKAR:  How cool is that?  Yeah.

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  I love that.

DONA SARKAR:  He had some really, really cool stuff to show us.

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  I kind of want to see that demo.

DONA SARKAR:  Exactly.  So if Insiders are doing cool things with Paint 3D, send us links to them.


DONA SARKAR:  Send us YouTube links and feedback or whatever it is because that way we'll see interesting use cases and use that to justify why these products should go in the other form factors.

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  All right.  Question number two.


THOMAS TROMBLEY:  I'm going other see if I can not butcher this one --Santosh Manimanakandan (ph.), I really butchered that, but --

DONA SARKAR:  Hi, Santosh!

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  But they asked whether you can tell how the cloud-first strategy helps Windows 10 to get better.  He said, "Recently, I saw the restructuring of Microsoft in Cloud business."  Tell us about that.

DONA SARKAR:  Well, the cloud underlies everything we do.

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  Right.  As we spoke about earlier.

DONA SARKAR:  Exactly.  Like, cloud is how we're able to flight builds week after week.


DONA SARKAR:  Right?  Our entire infrastructure, including our feedback app, is built on Azure.


DONA SARKAR:  If we didn't have cloud, none of this would be possible because we're not mailing disks to people every week, that is not happening.

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  You don't want to send memory cards around?

DONA SARKAR:  Exactly.  Or get feedback, like, written on sheets of paper.


DONA SARKAR:  Exactly.  (Laughter.)  So we've done this in the past, as you recall.


DONA SARKAR:  We've done this a lot.  But the cloud is how we run all of our businesses.  And for us to actually put it at the center of Microsoft and say all of our businesses run on our cloud, that's actually a very powerful message, because that's going to enable us to try and iterate on products and features way faster, plus it's going to allow us to bring together things like Windows and Office and cloud services into this offering.


DONA SARKAR:  To our enterprise customers.

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  Windows as a service.

DONA SARKAR:  Windows as a service, right.  And M365, Microsoft 365, is such an example of putting cloud at the center and saying, "You guys are probably going to want this bundle of things," rather than disk one, disk two -- you know what I mean.  (Laughter.)

So I think it's really going to help us be able to flight things to customers faster, get the feedback faster, iterate faster across products and be able to correlate feedback in one enterprise between these products.


DONA SARKAR:  So I'm very excited about it.  I think it's going to lead to better products all up, and to better customer experiences.

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  Okay.  Next question from Brian Demodulated -- now, I don't think that's his last name, do you?

DONA SARKAR:  It's definitely his last name.

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  It could be.

DONA SARKAR:  Let's just call it that.

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  I might change my name, then.  (Laughter.)

DONA SARKAR:  Tomcat Demodulated.  (Laughter.)

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  What's the most important feature that's ever been added to Windows?  Is it the start button, search, or touch?

DONA SARKAR:  So I've been thinking about this question for a few days now.  Someone posed it to me on Twitter and I read it.  There are so many features, I would say.  Some, of course, I'm selfish, so I would name things that I worked on like search -- most important thing, open/save.  What is a file system without opening and saving?


DONA SARKAR:  But those are very 1990s answers because those are things that we created and pushed out to audiences and audiences use.


DONA SARKAR:  But I actually think the most important feature we have ever put into Windows in the history of Windows --


DONA SARKAR:  Ready?  Is the feedback app.

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  Oh!  Tell me more.

DONA SARKAR:  Because that's how we will build better products.  That's how we know which of our products are being used, that's how we know what people think of our products, and that's how we know we're going to continue to build products in the future.

It's been the most powerful tool that we have ever used to build Windows by far, which is the co-creating with our community.

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  I'm awestruck, I like that answer.

DONA SARKAR:  It's the truth.  Like, I actually flighted that answer before I went and told you guys, and all of our execs agree, "Absolutely, it is the feedback app."


DONA SARKAR:  So thank you, Insiders.

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  Next question.  This one comes from Luke MacDougaled (ph.), and he asks, "What kind of timeline is the rumored, leaked, demoed Seashell interface on?"

DONA SARKAR:  The rumored, slash --



THOMAS TROMBLEY:  -- leaked, slash, demoed.

DONA SARKAR:  Slash, demoed.  So we want to know the timeline of the rumor.  We do not comment on rumors and speculation, Tomcat.

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  That is the perfect legal response.  (Laughter.)  Sorry, Luke.  Nice try, though.

DONA SARKAR:  Nice try.

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  Next question:  What's the best, hardest bugs that you've come across in this process?  That comes from Simon Allison (ph.)

DONA SARKAR:  Simon Allison.  Hi, Simon!  Okay, so I used to say these were bugs that are just very, very hard to reproduce because of their transient nature.  Like, there was some off-by-one error somewhere, it's hard to reproduce the big.

But, actually, our debugging tools have gotten pretty good, so we're able to reproduce bugs based on traces and log files Insiders send.

I would say the hardest thing is when it's device specific, because it's pretty hard to set up that exact same configuration in house.  Insiders have the most interesting variety of device configs, right?


DONA SARKAR:  Exactly.  Like, I had this one machine from 2007, I upgraded the memory card, and I did this with the graphics card, and I have this entire new set of drivers that I'm also flighting, and by the way, I'm also flighting this other thing, and I've also hacked my registry six times, and I'm running into an issue.  Debugging that is really hard.


DONA SARKAR:  Because setting that up in house is quite complex.

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  I just shifted gears over to become a member of the engineering team in Windows Servicing and Delivery.


THOMAS TROMBLEY:  Saw a recent statistic that there are over 3,260-some-odd configurations that we manage or account for when we get ready to deploy.

DONA SARKAR:  That's right.  And that's just 3,000 that we can account for.


DONA SARKAR:  Because we would lose our mind -- we don't have enough time on earth to actually reproduce all of the Insider configurations.


DONA SARKAR:  And that's one of the reasons the Insider Program is so powerful, because we're able to co-debug some of these issues.

Like Jason Howard on our team, of course, does so much of this.  And he's able to debug like the most complex issues with the help of Insiders, like, you know, there's those HP devices that they debugged a few months ago.

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  Yeah.  I remember that.

DONA SARKAR:  But we have those every week, and hardware problems are incredibly complex because you never know why it's happening.  And it could be happening on a customer's machine due to hard drive failure.


DONA SARKAR:  Or it could be because of some weird driver issue.  It's just so hard to know what the issues are, but we're all a bunch of giant hardware geeks, so we like it.  Right?  (Laughter.)  We like this.  We're like, "Ooh, this is exciting."  When we don't know what it is right away, it's very exciting.  So nothing to engage devs more than telling them, "You can't solve this problem immediately."  We're up all night chasing this bug.

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  Right.  Speaking of liking things.

DONA SARKAR:  Yes.  Speaking of liking things.

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  Our last question.  Antonio Contreras.

DONA SARKAR:  Hi, Antonio.

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  I struggle with rolling my R's, even though I was a French major.  Asks if we can enter into a faster ring, because he said, quote/unquote, "We can endure bugs!" exclamation point.

DONA SARKAR:  We get that question a lot.  Can we enter into a faster ring?  And the thing is, there really isn't one, other than self-host, which Insiders probably don't want to be in because it's one step above Canary, and we haven't had time to validate with more than a very small group of people.


DONA SARKAR:  But we're experimenting with the idea of doing like a fast ring plus-plus type thing.  We're going to it internally right now to see how it goes and whether people actually like to be on this ring, and also whether the feedback coming in is, you know, valuable enough.

Because what we don't want to do is have Insiders try something and we're not able to look at that feedback.  So we're trying an experiment.  We'll see how it goes.  Again, we want to do the experiment.  We want to roll out to a small group of Insiders, see how it goes.  If it didn't work, roll it back.  So, no promises because we never know if it's going to work internally.

To close, though, Tomcat, I want to say one more thing about One Week.  Okay, so last year's One Week project was very successful, we've learned so much from it, we've made so many new friends.  So this year, we're going to do it again.  We are locking ourselves in a room starting next Monday morning, and we are going to create -- it's going to have a better name -- called Insider Match.


DONA SARKAR:  Ohh!  What's that?  So Jeremiah Marble's (ph.) going to lead this project, he's in spec-writing land right now.  But it is the ability for Insiders to connect with each other in solving whatever problem they want to -- whether it's getting a job, partnering on a project, or even just making friends.

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  Dare I say, mentorship?

DONA SARKAR:  It's mentorship, it's friendship, it's coaching -- it's just matching.

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  That's community.

DONA SARKAR:  Yes, it's community.

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  That's engagement.

DONA SARKAR:  Exactly.

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  Oh, I love it.

DONA SARKAR:  It just brings it back in a circle, right?  And we're going to -- we're exploring a bunch of interesting algorithms and techniques to actually foster these matches to happen.  There's a lot of options out there.  We're going to see what happens, but again, we're going to flight to a small group of Insiders who would like to participate first, and then roll it out other Insiders so they can actually connect with each other and, you know, do the thing.

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  Donna Sarkar, I'm so glad you're my colleague.

DONA SARKAR:  Oh, Tomcat.

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  And still "gladder" that you're my friend.

DONA SARKAR:  Tomcat, thank you.

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  If "gladder" is a word.

DONA SARKAR:  "Gladder."  It is now a word.

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  It works for me.  Thank you for being my guest today.

DONA SARKAR:  Of course.  Thank you so much for having me.  I'll see you next month.  (Meowing.)

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  Hey, you guys know how I love talking with Dona, but let's hand the mic off to our guest hosts, Colin and David, as they speak with MVP Insider Joel Rushworth.

DAVID SMITH:  I'm David Smith.

COLIN SMITH:  And I'm Colin Smith.  And we are the Surface Smiths.

DAVID SMITH:  We have a podcast called The Universal Windows Podcast.

COLIN SMITH:  But today, we're doing something a little different.  We're hosting a different podcast, we're hosting the official Windows Insiders Podcast.

DAVID SMITH:  And as part of that, we are interviewing Windows Insider Joel Rushworth.

COLIN SMITH:  He's also a Windows Insider MVP.  Hi, Joel!

JOEL RUSHWORTH:  Hi, Colin!  Hi, Dave!

COLIN SMITH:  So, Joel, let's get started.  What's your superpower?

JOEL RUSHWORTH:  My superpower?  My superpower is an ability to find people with questions and connect them to the people that have the answers.

COLIN SMITH:  Well, that's an amazing superpower, Joel.  How well does that serve you in your day-to-day life?  Tell us what you do, tell us about your life, and how that superpower helps you out.

JOEL RUSHWORTH:  Well, by day, I'm an outside sales rep for a wholesale confectionary company.  And by night, I'm a Windows Insider MVP and occasional guest host on a radio program focused around technology.

COLIN SMITH:  So tell us how you use your superpower in your sales job, in your radio show, and in your spare time as an MVP.

JOEL RUSHWORTH:  Well, I certainly use my ability to connect questions and answers as an outside sales rep to help better service my customers.  And I use that ability as a Windows Insider MVP to help build a local community of Windows Insiders.

DAVID SMITH:  And you've been doing that for -- well, really long before the Windows Insider Program existing.

JOEL RUSHWORTH:  Yes.  Boy, for a while now.  Let's just say, "For a while."

DAVID SMITH:  Tell us about the Windows Insider events you hold in Victoria.

JOEL RUSHWORTH:  Okay.  So we have a chat group where we discuss things, what's coming in with the Windows Insider Program, but we've also really sort of, over the last number of years, got to know each other on a much more personal level.  So it's not always just about "Insidering."

COLIN SMITH:  So, Joel, you've had a lot of good success with your meet-ups, and a lot of people come out to them, you've built a community.  I'm sure there's other Insiders out there that would like to do something similar, but you know, they're sitting on the fence.  So what would you do to motivate them to spark that desire in them to start holding local meet-ups?

JOEL RUSHWORTH:  Okay.  So the first thing you need to do if you want to host a local meet-up is you have to find your local Insiders.  And that could be looking on Twitter, checking Instagram.  You know, I follow the #yyjtech hashtag, and I check every once in a while, to see who's posting stuff that might be Windows related, and then getting in contact with them.

COLIN SMITH:  So, just for the listeners, YYJ, that's your local airport code?

JOEL RUSHWORTH:  Yes.  That's for Victoria.  I also went to forums in places for other Canadian-focused technology websites to look for other Insiders, and then I brought them together.  And it started with a chat, and it has grown into doing events.

The other thing that I would recommend is to check Microsoft's website and find your local DX MVP.  So the DX MVPs are the developers.  They're the guys that do the coding and the real, the hardcore technology stuff.

But I was lucky enough that I have Jan Hunman (ph.) as a local DX MVP, and what we have found is that we have sort of a symbiotic relationship that people come to Jan's events that might be more suited -- they're Windows enthusiasts, and they're more suited to being part of the events that I do.

And I have people that discover me first, and I can direct them over to Jan's group because they're coders and they want to learn how to code and the kind of stuff that Jan can offer.

COLIN SMITH:  Okay, that's awesome.  By the way, one of the things that I've used to help connect with people in similar situations -- so if anything's out there looking to help build their community, I find Reddit's really good for that, too, because Reddit builds micro-communities as well, and there's a Windows Insider subreddit, there's a Windows 10 subreddit, there's all kinds of subreddits that really help to focus an area of interest, and as well as there are some that are geography based.  So you can, then, post the question both in the geography-based one -- like I'm sure there's a Victoria subreddit you could probably post in there looking for people, but you could also post in the Windows Insider or the Windows 10 subreddits looking for people that are in Victoria.

JOEL RUSHWORTH:  Excellent suggestion, yes.

DAVID SMITH:  So talk to us about the benefits for you and for the Insiders of this meet-up.

COLIN SMITH:  And how do you communicate the benefits that they're going to receive from being part of this community?

JOEL RUSHWORTH:  I think the biggest benefit is probably just enthusiasm for what Microsoft is doing.  That is the reason that they come out to these things -- a chance to be with other like-minded people and have a chance to talk about what's going on.

I also try and do meet-ups that are -- that have tangible benefits.  So, you know, how do you use OneNote?  I would really like to do a MinecraftEdu how to do coding that's tied into MinecraftEdu.  The last time that I did any coding was on an Apple IIc back in school.

So I think, for me, that would be something that I would really like to do.  So I've got lots of ideas about other meet-ups that people could learn something from.

And, of course, you're going to have different parts of the community that are interested in different things.

COLIN SMITH:  So David and I have talked about using one of those stem kits to host an event here, because we don't have a local Microsoft Store.  So for those listeners that live in a city that has a Microsoft Store, Microsoft's got some great community events to help people learn to code and learn about technology.  But, you know, living in Ottawa, and you're living in Victoria, we don't necessarily have easy access to that, and that's something that, perhaps, as Insiders we can bring to our communities.

JOEL RUSHWORTH:  Absolutely.

DAVID SMITH:  When Build 16226 was teased, there was a picture of you and a bunch of Windows Insiders holding up your fingers with the build number.  So what's the story with that?  How did you know the build number?

JOEL RUSHWORTH:  I didn't.  We guessed.  I was lucky.  Microsoft Canada brought their Windows Fan road show to Victoria, and of course all of the Insiders went to the event because it was, you know, lots of fun.

I pulled some of them aside, put the Ninja Cat headbands on, and what we did is take -- we actually took a series of pictures changing the build number that would be used in the teaser pic, just guessing what it might be.  And then sent it in to Microsoft, crossed our fingers, and hoped that they used it.  And they did.

I happened to be at work -- I mean, I was working that day, I didn't get a chance to see the tweet that Dona sent out with the teaser pic.  I really got a kick out of reading the thread, because the picture was so much different than the normal teaser pics, following all of the tweet back and forth folks trying to figure out what exactly the picture meant was a lot of fun.

COLIN SMITH:  Well done, good for you.

JOEL RUSHWORTH:  Yeah, it was fun.

COLIN SMITH:  So what does it feel like to have a community of fellow Insiders?  You know, you're a part of something bigger than just you.

JOEL RUSHWORTH:  When you have a community that you can connect with on a more personal level, I think that that changes things.  So we have our local chat and you get a chance to ask questions, do a little bit of triaging before things get submitted to the feedback hub.  And if, you know, we find a significant issue, you can get other people to up-vote it or learn why what you think is a problem isn't a problem.  That sort of thing.

And then I guess an example would be one of our local Insiders lives in a community outside of Victoria, and there was a forest fire that started in the afternoon and closed the road out to where he lives.  And as soon as the news went out, our Insider community lit up with everybody asking, "Are you okay, are you okay?"  Because it's more personal when you've met the people that you're dealing with.

DAVID SMITH:  And was he okay?

JOEL RUSHWORTH:  He was okay.  Everything was fine.  But, yeah, you know, we help each other out in other ways besides "Insidering."

COLIN SMITH:  "Insidering," that's a verb now.  I love it.

DAVID SMITH:  It sounds like a certain type of apple cider.  Okay, what is the number-one thing you like about being a Windows Insider?

JOEL RUSHWORTH:  The insight into what's coming next.  Getting a chance to try out the new stuff before it goes out to the wider world is probably the thing that I like the most.

DAVID SMITH:  That's the technology part you like?


COLIN SMITH:  Yeah, and I think that echoes the sentiment that David and I uncovered when we interviewed a bunch of Windows Insiders that are also IT pros.  The big thing they found was not just knowing what's coming, but being able to influence what's coming.  They felt that they were connected to Microsoft more, and that they were being heard, the things that they cared about were being addressed.

You know, everyone understands, Microsoft can't fix every bug or put every feature in that everybody asks for, but they did feel like they were being heard and that what they place and importance on was definitely being listened to and used as part of the prioritization and triage of where Microsoft puts its efforts.

DAVID SMITH:  Well, thank you very much, Joel, for being on the podcast.

JOEL RUSHWORTH:  Hey, thanks for having me.  This was a great opportunity to talk about something I'm passionate about.

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  But thank-yous to Colin and David for taking over that segment of the podcast, and thanks to those in the Windows Insider community who tweeted us questions for our Ask Dona segment.

As always, I want to thank Dona for giving us the lowdown on what's up and coming for the program, including her latest on mentor co-creation, pairing Insiders and skill-set development.  You heard about it here first, though.

We'd love to partner with more passionate Insiders.  So if you have an idea you'd like to share, tweet us @WindowsInsider, or e-mail us at winsider@microsoft.com.  Sharing is caring, folks.  Bonus points for video or audio submissions.

Before we close out today's episode, we're trying something new -- an Insider info segment, where we share exclusive details around Insider team happenings.

First up, a brief update on the Insiders for Good Program, where we're working with entrepreneurs in Africa to bring ideas to life through technology, business development, and, of course, community.

For those faithful listeners of prior podcasts, you're likely familiar with our work in Nigeria.  We recently launched our Insiders for Good East Africa program in Nairobi, where our new fellows are working on a ton of exciting projects.  Look for a segment in an upcoming episode.

Next up, beginning August 22nd, the Insider team will be in Cologne, Germany, at Gamescom, hosting meet-ups and other social gatherings for Insiders.  Tweet us at #gamescom if you'll be in Cologne and want to join in on the fun.

If you liked this episode, please subscribe and review us on iTunes, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts.  As a thank you, we'll pick one reviewer at random and send them a Ninja Cat T-shirt and a sticker.  We'll announce the winner in our next episode, so be sure to write your review before August 15th.

Thanks, Insiders.  Looking forward to our next Windows Insider Podcast.

NARRATION:  Our program today was produced by Microsoft Production Studios.  The Insider team includes Tyler Ahn, Michelle Paison, and Amelia Greim.

Our website is insider.windows.com.

Support for the Windows Insider Podcast comes from Microsoft, empowering every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.

Moral support and inspiration comes from Ninja Cat, reminding us to have fun and pursue our passions.

Thanks, as always, to our program's co-founders, Dona Sarkar and Jeremiah Marble.

Join us next month with more stories from Windows Insiders.