Support Engineers, like myself, at Microsoft interact with online documentation as much as anybody else inside the company (except the content folks of course) and probably more than anybody outside of MS as well. On my team alone I support over a half a dozen products each having as many as a dozen APIs with thousands of pages of internal and external documentation. And we are adding new stuff all the time. With each release of Office, Vista, Visual Studio, and Exchange there are more fixes and updates as well as brand new stuff to learn. There is no way to keep this all in your head no matter how big it is or how long you have been on the team. So much of my day is devoted to scouring our public documentation to give to customers to explain product behavior, document a bug fix, show how to do something, or where to get something.
Having this experience day in and day out, I can definitely agree with the sentiment out there that our documentation, while as expansive as anybody else’s, is not as good as it could be. That is why we were all so happy to see blogging take off at Microsoft and it has helped so many get their message out quickly and directly. But blogging is just what it is, one person or a small group of people who are talking to the community it is not a replacement for MSDN, TechNet, or support.microsoft.com. As opposed to blogs these sites, in my opinion, are supposed to be the impersonal, unbiased, fact driven resources for supportability, bug documentation, and product reference.
So how can we blend the power of the community that we see in blogging with MSDN? Check out these two ventures into the Wiki world from different teams at Microsoft: MSDNWiki which is a wiki site that replicates the Visual Studio and .NET Framework portions of MSDN in a wiki that can be updated by the community and ExchangeNinjas which is a wiki site devoted to Exchange 2007 which is moderated by the Exchange Team Blog folks.
I’m very interested to see what comes out of these two sites and very happy and anxious to contribute to their growth. Check them out and let us know what you think…
Updated 1/22/2009 – Removed some broken links.