Robert McLaws: Windows Edition

Blogging about Windows since before Vista became a bad word

Microsoft Changing Online Communities with "Codename: Athens"

Hot on the heels of an article in Wired about Microsoft's newfound openness, it looks like Microsoft is preparing to move away from CommunityServer to their own community platform. Doug Seven, former DotNetJunkie and former ASP.NET MVP, is working for the MXPS Community Technologies Team (Microsoft eXperience Platform Solutions, say that 3x fast). His team has been building a new solution consisting of Discovery, Membership, and Discussion services, to create a brand new experience around Microsoft communities.

Community Discussion Services is a service platform to enable threaded discussion. We are currently building two frontends for this, Forums and Blogs, which will ultimately replace the current http://forums.microsoft.com and http://blogs.msdn.com / http://blogs.technet.com.

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Through the use of tagging you will eventually be able to create views of virtual forums - forums that only exist in the context you define. This really changes how you can use forums. Instead of being stuck with the forums we define, you can define your own to pull in messages from all appropriate forums. For example, you could build a forum view of "SQL", "C#"  and "Beginner". You would see all threads that have been tagged with these three tags, which could include messages from any of the C# forums, any of the SQL forums, beginner forums, or others. You no longer need to figure out where to look; you tell us what you want to see...and you can susbscribe to an RSS feed of the virtual forum.

Lastly, but certainly not leastly (real word...it is now) is the Membership (and reputation) services. This is really one of the foundation blocks for the rest of the platform. The Membership services enable a consistent user experience across all of the Community Platform. The system is authentication agnostic (i.e. not tied to Passport or ASP.NET Forms auth), but can support nearly any authentication system. Regardless of the authentication entry point we can support a single user entity accross the system.

Here's one of the screenshots.

So, it will be interesting to see how all this plays out. From Doug's post, it looks like "Athens" will compete directly with Technorati and Community Server, at least initially. But it still leaves a ton of questions open. Some that immediately come to mind:

  • What if I want someone else providing the structure? Will the owner of the blog or forum be able to define their own default view of their content?
  • What about popularity services? Tagging is great, and so are views based on those tags... but how do you know what other people are reading?
  • Are there going to be APIs tied into these services, or will it be a Microsoft-only thing?
  • Will this be a software product, a la Community Server, or a Microsoft-only thing?

But even without answers to those questions, it is still probably one of Microsoft's most innovative projects to date. hopefully we'll be seeing more about how this shapes up in the very near future.

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Comments

  • Let me be a bit selective in my answers:

    Popularity: we will ultimately provide many different filters and sorting mechanisms; popularity will, in our view, derive from the number of tags that are applied to a given resources. Do you have some other measure in mind?

    APIs: Definitely, on the way. More details to come, but REST will be a part of it.

    Software product: Not in our current vision of things, and not explicitly out of the question some time in the future; mainly we're about providing adoptable/adaptable services that others can use to build out their applications and customer experiences.

    - dave (Microsoft.community product manager)

    March 29, 2007 10:47 PM
  • Dave, thanks for the response. For popularity, I'm thinking something along the lines of Digg or Dell's IdeaStorm. Being able to vote for items that people feel are good, valid, or worth reading.

    March 29, 2007 11:38 PM
  • Massif said:

    How does this relate to the platform being used by Channel9 and on10?

    It certainly appears to have many of the same features.

    March 30, 2007 3:28 AM
  • Corrine said:

    From the bit of experimenting I have done, I would think that maintaining the tags appears as though it would be a spam headache.  For example, when selecting a URL, i.e., http://microsoft.com, it then becomes a major exercise to edit the tags to obtain anything of value.  The current tag list for Microsoft Corporation:

    Tags: __WowIcanTypeAbsolutelyAnything, <script>bbb</script>, AJAX, asdf, asdfd, Beta Office 2007 issue, bill gate, Blogs, c, C++, CanITagThis?, developer, downloads ie7, entertainment, Excel, Flickr, food, fun, Games, gateway, general information, groove, headlines, home, home page, homepage, IM, internet, Internet Explorer, ISA server, microsoft, Microsoft Egoism, Microsoft Home Page, mobile phone, mobile phones, movies, MS, MS home, MSCOM, music, pics, portal, products, profanity, rachel, radio, sam garmon, software, SQL, Sql server, T, talorp@microsoft.com, telephone, test, Travel, TV, videos, visual studio professional, wireless, wow, xp

    Misspellings such as "Outllok" will also contribute to uselessness.

    How do you prevent someone from embedding dangerous code in the tags?

    March 30, 2007 11:53 AM
  • Robert, Massif, and Corinne--I've responded over in my blog, if y'all care to take a look: http://davemscom.spaces.live.com/blog/cns!217A4DFE679DE9D4!606.entry

    Thanks v much for your input--

    - dave

    March 30, 2007 7:58 PM
  • flup = follow-up. hold over abbreviation from a former life ... My colleague Dave pointed me towards

    April 2, 2007 12:01 PM
  • Brian Hsi said:

    Hi Robert, I just posted a response on my spaces and technet blogs  -- http://b2ix.spaces.live.com/, http://blogs.technet.com/b2ix/.  In a nutshell, it's on our radar, but havign the owners change default views will take some time to be fully realized

    April 2, 2007 12:06 PM
  • Cool article

    May 18, 2008 7:15 PM