I am a firm believer that for any big system to be successful there needs to be an efficient communication system in place. This is true whether the system is a multi-threaded computer program, a community Home Owners Association, a national or multi-national company, or a government/society. In my option, communication is one of the most difficult components to get right, and the people that do get it right are the ones that are most likely to succeed. If you think about the major advances in technology over the last 10-20 years, a lot of them have to do with mass communication: cell phones, SMS, email, websites, blogs, social networking, and RSS. But even when the technologies are available, it sometimes takes a change in the culture and attitude of a system before effective use of those technologies can shine through.
Today, with all the hype about social media, pretty much everybody is starting to use it. A lot of people still do not know how to use use the tools very well, but I am glad to see that the tools for mass communication have become so cheap and simple that everyone has access to them. It surprises me when I find a large company or organization that has yet to at least make an attempt at interacting in today's online social landscape. But, to put things in perspective, Microsoft's community site for software developers has just celebrated their 5th birthday with a few interviews looking back at the history and future of Channel 9. Channel 9 is a a very good example of how a company with over 80,000 employees can create an online community to inform, support, and engage with their customers on a global scale.
I started watching videos from Microsoft back in 2003 by following the .NET Show with Robert Hess, which was a professionally produced show that covered different aspects of the .NET framework. Sadly that show ended in 2007 (probably due to production costs), but it's spirit survives on Channel 9 with Robert Hess and The Knowledge Chamber. The content on Channel 9 usually takes a much more casual approach to relaying information, with a no-spin attitude and direct conversations with key people inside of Microsoft, which is refreshing after watching TV ads or reading corporate press releases that often are void of real information. The videos are usually aimed at a software developer (i.e... über geek) target audience, but they also offer a lot of insight into a what it is like to work at a large technology company like Microsoft.
I wish that more companies would embrace this type of open communication with their customers, as it helps outsiders understand how the company thinks and operates. It also brings a human face to the corporate abyss, showing that there are in fact real people behind the development and support of their products. This has always been the mission of Channel 9, and I applaud them for their hard work and success.