What if the MSDN Forums where based on Live QnA?

Just indulge my thought experiment here.  This is not a commitment or even a direction, but more of a…  “brain fart” if you will.  What if the MSDN Forum site, instead of forum like, was more live QnA like?  What if we just used Live QnA?   If you haven’t checked out Live QnA yet then you can try it out by replying to the same question that I’ve posted here….


Here is what I noticed:

  • The tag browsing and tag suggestions when asking a new question clearly beats trying to find a forum on a site with more than 150 forums. MUCH better for newbies.

  • They also have suggested answers to cut off duplicate questions.

  • The editor doesn’t format code very well, but neither does the one on the MSDN forums today.

  • I’m not sure I like killing the discussion after 4 days.

  • I love how the best answer is a community vote and is always shown right next to the question.

  • They have points and a reputation system built in.

  • I’m not sure how things are moderated or if things can be re-tagged after the fact.

  • I like the related questions list below the question when you are browsing.

  • They have messenger and spaces integration.



Sometimes its just worth having thought experiments like this when you are thinking about the future direction.

Comments (7)

  1. twoelfer says:


    navigation in qna sucks.


    -thomas woelfer

  2. Josh says:

    I see this message:

    Your browser does not work with this website

    Please use one of these supported browsers:

    Internet Explorer 6 or 7

    Firefox 1.5

    I’m using IE6…

  3. MSDN Archive says:

    Thomas: Could you explain why you feel the navigation sucks?  I just want to know why you might like one over the other. It’s the navigation that I actually think makes it easier to find things.

  4. MSDN Archive says:

    I don’t think the general Live QnA homepage is appropriate for developers, but with a few tweaks here and there, a pretty awesome "Developer QnA" page could be made.  The real advantage would be in search–Live QnA has been built from the ground up to be super-searchable, which is how we’ve found developers want to get answers to their technical support questions (see my blog post, based on our forums hit metrics,  here:  http://blogs.msdn.com/joemorel/archive/2006/10/18/how-are-people-using-the-msdn-forums.aspx)

  5. Erik Porter says:

    Well, I’m on Vista RTM (IE 7) and couldn’t post an answer to your QnA Question.  😛  After hitting submit, it would just sit there doing nothing forever.  I’ll just post it here I guess…

    I’m with you 100% on tags being better than forums.  Quite often, questions are related to more than one thing and double posting in forums, sucks.

    That said, forums are also good because they’re for more than just QnA (even if MOST of the time they’re for QnA).  What about just conversations about what some people think about say the name change from WinFX to .NET 3.0 or whatever the latest topic of discussion is.  QnA doesn’t seem right for that.

    Is there any way to leverage the QnA "engine" on MSDN Forums?  So people could get credit for correct answers in QnA but from the MSDN Forums?  Link into their tags, etc?

  6. Peter Ritchie says:

    If you’re looking for strictly an answer repository then QnA might be the better option.

    QnA is kind of terse and doesn’t lend itself to discussion about the answer to a question (some questions don’t have a precise or tangible answer or the answer is only arrived after discussion).

    In general, programming questions are almost never asked in a way that lends itself to the one-and-only "correct" answer.

    One of the issues that has come up time and again on the MSDN Forums is the fact that rarely anyone really knows "the correct answer" with programming questions.  There’s lots of replies on the Forums that are tagged as the answer but are clearly wrong.  I for one would like to see a deviation from question/answer towards question/discussion with helpfulness ratings (that only the questioner can use) and voting ratings (that other members can use) of the replies.  Possibly the ability for the questioner to mark the thread "resolved"; but that’s a much more complex issue.

    Another issue on the Forums is marking replies as answers.  With a question/answer paradigm with the ability of elevated members to mark replies as answers (and a clear mandate to do it) you often get questioners who get quite annoyed that they haven’t resolved their issue but people are marking replies as answers as this is a means for rewarding partial answers, etc.  Deviating to strictly helpful rating and vote rating makes this a non-issue.

    A strict QnA model doesn’t promote further discussion.  Often a question starts a conversation, why should a conversation be marked as complete ("answered") just because the questioner is no longer involved in the conversation (assuming "answered" means they got what they needed and left)?

  7. Bjoern Graf says:

    There is nothing to add to Peters essay 🙂