During my trip to Redmond last week, we launched MSDN Connection in the UK.
The concept is simple enough: tell us what languages and technologies you are interested in and we’ll aggregate the corresponding MSDN content for you. You can consume it 2 ways: Via web UI or RSS.
We had some interesting challenges along the way. Firstly, getting the UI design right…8 content types, 35+ topics, and potentially thousands of articles makes for an interesting design challenge…the feedback we captured during usability testing was invaluable.
Secondly, we wanted to let users get a taste of the service before sign-up (you need a .Net Passport to save your preferences – see Mike Shaw’s comments on this), so the workflow design needed to consider a nutty matrix of user scenarios.
Thirdly, and most exciting for me at least, was the opportunity to design and personalised RSS feed based on user topic preferences. I think it is pretty good, but I don’t think the solution is elegant as I’d like it to be: once you’ve saved your preferences you are provided an RSS feed url. Fine. But if you change your preferences then url changes so you need to update your reader with the new url, because the url is not unique to you (I won’t go into the details here as to what the contraints were). That said, we considered this a mild inconvenience given the benefits.
Btw, Maxim Karpov asks Michael Platt why this was done from the UK and not ‘the main office’. Well, we are working closely with the Redmond team (Laura John) and others in Europe and there are plans in the pipeline by those teams. The fact is that Redmond has a lot going on and they often encourage subs to innovate and then draw from those learnings. Also, Australia and NZ have local flavour MSDN Connection offerings without the online personlised content aggregatation (yet?)…
Note: you don’t have to be from the UK to use the UK MSDN Connection service but if you are, you get the benefit of getting locally relevant content: UK dev news, events, webcasts and community plus all the generic stuff. Obviously, if you’re not from the UK, then you’ll have to live with the odd UK article…but hey, I’ve had to live with US ‘noise’ for years 😉
We’re really interested in your feedback…if you’ve used the service, please let me know what you think, good or bad…but go easy 🙂