WikiWiki for the .NET docs?

In response to my recent post, Wikis
and Accountability
, reader Hassan comments, “I think a wiki version of the
.net framework documentation … would be an excellent tool for helping people
migrate to and maximize utility of the .net framework.

Hassan’s idea is so good and the potential of a Wiki so obvious in this
case, that I just have to give it a post of its own.  IMO, a Wiki version of
the .NET docs would be best located on a Microsoft-independent site, such as .NET247.

As a writer in Microsoft’s Developer Division, am I trying to work myself out of a
job?  You BET!
Il presente
posting viene fornito “così come é”, senza garanzie, e non conferisce alcun diritto.

Comments (16)

  1. Hassan says:

    When discussing the idea with some peers, many believe that microsoft would balk at the idea of their documentation being duplicated on a non-microsoft site. Do you know what steps one would take to get microsoft’s official blessing for such a site?

    ps. got that disclaimer in arabic? 🙂
    pss. thanks for blogging

  2. First, I would love to have an Arabic version of the disclaimer. I would also love to have any other languages that I do not routinely post. If you send me a draft of the disclaimer in Arabic or any other language, I’ll clear it with my localization folks and put it to good use in short order.

    Hassan, I think you’re right to assume that some within Microsoft might have reservations about a duplicate, or "bizarro", set of .NET Frameworks documentation floating around out there on the Web. For that reason, I suggest that a .NET Wiki should be hosted on a non-Microsoft site. (I mention .NET247 but there are others, like that might be interested as well.) However, such naysayers within Microsoft would and will be completely out-voted by those of us who only care about one thing, making it possible for developers like you to write great .NET applications efficiently and well. Fortunately, the people who drive the boat–people like Eric Rudder and above him, Steve Ballmer–agree with you and me. Everyone agrees that it is vital that there be a foundation of highly accurate .NET Frameworks documentation available on the Web and on developers’ computers. This foundation has been and will be written and published by Microsoft employees working closely with the developers who design and write the .NET Frameworks classes. However, the .NET Frameworks is so big, extensible, and the needs of developers so varied that, when multiplied by the number of .NET languages (and human languages for that matter), it is absolutely impossible for us to write as many code samples as developers want and need. It is also imperative… That’s why a Wiki is such a perfect medium for creating an alternative .NET frameworks documentation set. It might take a year or two to build up a good base of fairly accurate documentation, but it will be an awesome community resource. Imagine going to a site, drilling down to something obscure and advanced like the System.Runtime.InteropServices.Marshal.GetUnmanagedThunkForManagedMethodPtr() method and finding 5 or 6 actual examples in the language of your choice including email addresses to the human beings who posted them. Wowzer! That’ll be the day.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Personally I think that Microsoft should head this effort, this would be something too monumental and too important to leave in the hands of an indie web like aspalliance, dotnet247 or the ever-growing sea of alternatives, this needs to be a professionally managed as well as a professionally financed resource.

    There’s minimal investor risk, I imagine Microsoft could spend <200k for the first two years, and i think long-term it will benefit Microsoft more than anything else we have at our disposal (as developers who do research can attest to, Microsoft has AMAZING resources for developers and tech admins alike, but nothing community driven, forums just aren’t enough, we need better integration).

    I recognize dotnet247 has a similar resource (Usenet<->doco xref system), but I don’t think what that site offers should in any way be confused with what Wiki will present. I also don’t think an independent developer should lay his name all over the work of other people (theory, implementation or content); I feel dotnet247 would be highly inappropriate for such a resource. I feel a tech-centric web-site would be less inappropriate, but wrongfully located, we aren’t ALL asp devs, to the contrary I know more desktop and server developers than web developers these days.

    Something like this belongs under the blind banner of corporate Microsoft, i would pray for an extension of msdn online, but would happily settle with a satellite web (like gotdotnet) working not against msdn, but against a reflection of the framework, then pull documentation straight from msdn online (copy it, webservice it, cross-site transform it, whatever it is that Microsoft thinks is best).

    Microsoft used to have a peer web on MSDN for professionals, I forget the name but it was a novel idea. It was a portion of the msdn web where you could register your email and interests and collaborate with other professionals to solve problems etc.

    Recently, within the last 6-9 months, they scrapped the project, I’m assuming it was never used (granted, I can’t even remember what it was called so there’s a big clue as to how popular it became).

    I believe they had the right idea but the wrong medium, I also believe Wiki would be worth their efforts as a community-driven (even if tightly controlled) resource, this would leave it all in Microsoft’s court (would have appropriate funding), it would be appropriately placed in the community (again, this is something that should be centralized and easily discovered in the community, something GDN was created for to begin with).

    I think Microsoft should pick up the torch before the idea gets half-assed by an independent looking for recognition more than s/he’s looking to help the community, then we’re all stuck using a poorly funded, under-developed, under-managed and non-centralized information resource that, by accountability alone, should be a Microsoft effort, even if only tasked by as little as 3-5 people for the first 2 years, and again probably costing Microsoft less than 150k a year in design, development and management, ultimately it will result in millions in revenue because better resources for us means more "community" PR for them (this is something existing developers will refer to time and time again, for all time) as well as more knowledgeable developers for their systems in the future (something we all know Microsoft wants and needs to survive).

    Just my 2 cents on the matter. I strongly suggest to whoever pushes this effort that they avoid joining any Wiki resource at the hip with an ASP-centric web, or any web which publicizes developers for concept originality; would you want an ASPToday knock-off pushing to become the sole Wiki resource for .NET? Is that in Microsoft’s best interest? If it’s not then it’s probably not in the communities’ best interest either and what about in 3-5 years when those dotcoms finally fold or are surpassed by better alternatives developed by brighter individuals? There’s a lot to consider when trying to find placement for something like this, I can’t stress enough how important it is people don’t go with the first site that says "look at us, we’re doing it" because that’s how good things get stuck in bad places, it’s also how bad places manage to stick around when they shouldn’t be able to.

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