I’m gonna let you know something a little earlier than the general public. MSDN Forums is available at http://forums.microsoft.com/msdn/. And, there is a new folder there called Visual Studio Extensibility. Now, to be clear, we are not abandoning the public newsgroups because we are releasing the forums. The Microsoft.public newsgroup domain will continue to exist for a long time to come. Microsoft will support both for the time being. We believe the offline capabilities of NNTP are so important that we are offering this as an option for high volume users.
I am so jazzed about this development, as are most of my peers. Here are the benefits, as I see it, to using the Microsoft Forums instead of newsgroups.
1. Ease of use: These forums are easier to navigate than the newsgroups. If you are coming to Visual Studio with a question we can use the web interface to walk you through searching for an existing answer to posting a new question in the correct group. No need to configure a newsreader, get lost in a sea of newsgroups that you have the choice to subscribe to, and you’ll get notification when you get an answer to your question that you wouldn’t get with the newgroup experience.
2. Searchable: The MSDN Forums are searchable. No more moving amongst newsgroups to look for answers or make recommendations.
3. Archiving Capabilities: The public newsgroups lose all history associated with users or answers after 60 days have past. MVPs answer the same set of questions over and over again. This system gives us a way to archive every answer posted because we know it is important and surface those answers (even if they came from several years ago) to users through the search first mechanism. In the end, maintaining a sense of history is recognized by many as a key tenant to creating community. Newsgroups don’t offer this capability.
4. Moderation and Security: We need to make the asking experience safe for users of the system. They have to know that they can trust users. This is just not possible in the newsgroup space where the number one question answerer in several groups is anonymous@anonymous org or some derivation thereof. The community needs an ability to govern itself in order to create a safe virtual location and unique voice that public newsgroups just don’t afford us.
5. Question/Answer Tracking and Notification: You’ll get pinged when someone responds to your question or observation. Having this data gives us a very rich ability to enable the creation of community generated FAQs for users that we can easily tie into other MSDN experiences.
Customers want the forums. To ignore it would be to ignore a trend. Year to year there has actually been an 8% decline in the usage of the Microsoft.public developer newsgroups. A corresponding increase could be seen in the usage of online forum sites, such as those offered by our codewise partners.
We have a need to service and support you, to make you more successful. This means answering user questions in diverse ways that include, but are not limited to, blogs, newsgroups, web forums, chats, etc. This is the newest tool we have at our disposal and it will work exceedingly well.