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Q&A: "Microsoft launches “The Hive,” a beta site for community leaders" Interview with Josh Levine, Group Product Manager: Windows Client Community Group

Josh Levine, Group Product Manager for the Windows Client Community Group, sits down with Bob Stein of ActiveWin.com to discuss the new site, where online community leaders can connect with one another, share ideas, and find the latest information on Microsoft Windows products.

On June 13th, Microsoft, together with key community leaders, announced the beta launch of “The Hive,” an online site dedicated to helping online group leaders, bloggers and other community website owners who focus on consumer information regarding Windows, Windows applications, and technical issues.

To shed more light on the new site and what it means for Windows users, Josh Levine, Group Product Manager for the Windows Client Community Group, lets us know what the buzz is about.

ActiveWin.com: First off, what is ‘The Hive?’

Levine: The Hive is designed to be a resource where online group leaders, bloggers and site owners can connect with one another and find the latest information on Microsoft Windows and other Microsoft consumer products critical to their readers or group members. The site is sponsored by 15 of the leading Windows community websites in conjunction with Microsoft Windows.

One of the great things about the site is that it allows members to cut through the clutter and directly share their knowledge with the group and get advice from their peers, giving them more insight into making their community better for their readers and members. To be clear, there are plenty of resources out there for Windows developers and IT professionals. However, there’s very little to date for Microsoft community leaders who focus on helping consumers – the Hive is that resource.

ActiveWin.com: Who can participate in The Hive?

Levine: Individuals who own or lead a consumer group, blog, or community focused website can participate in The Hive. Right now, The Hive is limited to online community leaders with at least 50 members in their community. This ensures that participants are seen as authorities on Windows who deliver valuable insight to consumers and the Windows ecosystem as a whole.

ActiveWin.com: Why is Microsoft doing this; is it just a marketing ploy?

Levine: Certainly it is in Microsoft’s best interest to reach out to people who are talking about the products and experiencing it first hand. I think we can learn a lot from online community leaders, and honestly, we haven’t done a very good job of listening to their needs to date. But this is really about listening to the community.

Over the last ten years, the Internet has really changed the way we work and interact with others on a personal level. Microsoft is seeing this in our own user groups that meet offline. However, to date, we have not done a good job of listening to the needs of online consumer leaders. We have heard repeatedly that these communities want one place to find timely, in-depth information coming out of the Windows group as well as other groups across Microsoft that touch consumer technology. Most importantly, these leaders are asking for a place to cut through the clutter and be able to interact with each other. In the end, The Hive isn't about Microsoft. It’s about community leaders coming together to better serve their readers and members.

ActiveWin.com: So, what exactly is Microsoft doing in The Hive?

Levine: We’re providing the basic resources for The Hive—server space, contributions to content, prizes etc. But the actual day-to-day management is handled by independent moderators from community sites. We’ll always be involved by making sure that timely product news is making its way into The Hive, and giving leaders access to the information they want. But, our goal is that the community makes The Hive their own.

ActiveWin.com: What’s available on The Hive?

Levine: The members of the Hive will be contributing a wide range of content ranging from product information to tips and tricks, events and news. Of course, the latest consumer information from Microsoft will be immediately available on the site.

For the beta site, we’re starting off with forums. As we gather feedback over the next several months, we’re planning to add file sharing and blogs. We’re also working on some cool ideas around Wiki’s, NNTP readers, chat and more, but ultimately the community members will decide what they want the site to be and what features they want to use.

ActiveWin.com: Is the community going to be free to express their opinions or will some comments get censored?

Levine: The whole reason for creating The Hive is for the members to share their knowledge, advice, and opinions with their peers. As long as the comments don’t infringe on anyone’s trade secrets and aren’t inflammatory towards other users, members can say whatever they want. The site has a rating system built in, so members decide what posts are most valuable, not us.

ActiveWin.com: Why did you pick a bee theme? Why is it called The Hive?

Levine: In the beginning stages, we felt that bees were a good analogy for the idea of leaders coming together and cross-pollinating ideas and sharing information. Plus, Poodles seemed too silly.

ActiveWin.com: Why should community leaders join The Hive?

Levine: The Hive should be the easiest, fastest way to get the latest Windows news and Microsoft product information (from both Microsoft Windows and independent community leaders). Plus, since The Hive is only for community site leaders, The Hive is a great way for this group to connect with each other and share ideas in an open environment.

ActiveWin.com: Will community leaders be able to take information away from The Hive and share with their online communities?

Levine: Of course. We want The Hive to be an open environment where site leaders can connect, share insights, and find the latest information on Microsoft Windows products. Most of the information contributed by the community and Microsoft will be public and can be shared by The Hive participants and the broader community. There will be a few private conversations, but these are not the focus of the site. In general, The Hive is an open forum for discussions, collaboration, and information sharing. The whole point is for the communities to share their ideas, information, and advice.

ActiveWin.com: Will participants in The Hive be able to provide feedback which influences product development?

Levine: The purpose of The Hive is not to provide a way to send Microsoft developers feedback on products, but rather to provide community site leaders a place where they can find the information they need to stay on top of Windows news and product content critical to their readers and user groups. However, we have other community programs in place and actively solicit feedback from community leaders through a standardized set of criteria that ensure an equal playing field for everyone (i.e. MVP program, Featured Community Program, etc.). Sound like jargon? It’s not. We work hard in Windows Client to ensure our community programs are fair for everyone.

ActiveWin.com: How is The Hive different from Microsoft.com community sites?

Levine: The Hive purposely has nothing to do with Microsoft.com community sites. The Hive is a living, breathing, independent site of online community leaders. While Microsoft Windows is the major sponsor of The Hive, the site itself is community owned and driven. There are 15 sponsors thus far, and I’m sure the list will grow. We’ll always be involved by providing participants with the latest product news and giving the group access to the information they want, but The Hive is really operated by the community – there is no queen bee here.

ActiveWin.com: How does one apply for access to the Hive

Levine: It’s simple.  Just visit www.hive.net and click the Join The Hive button.

ActiveWin.com: Anything else?

Levine: Nope. Thanks for your time today, Bob.  We’re really excited to see this site get off the ground and to see how the community leaders change it over time.

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