Microsoft Puts New Face on Developer Community

The editors at the Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) have done some Spring - OK, Winter - cleaning this holiday season and put a new face on a trusted source. Not satisfied with just a cleanup, new features have been added to the site to enhance interaction with developers.

The first, and what has already been the most utilized, new feature of the site is developer feedback. On all of the articles and presentations, developers can post a rating between one and five and then supply comments. Other than blocking out profanity, the comments will be completely uncensored, according to Vic Gundotra, director of MSDN ( editorial. These comments can lead to threaded newsgroups to begin discussions with peer developers.

Microsoft has its own version of must-see TV with the MSDN Show, a regular Web broadcast that will feature MSDN news and entertainment, interviews with Microsoft architects, and "down-and-dirty" coding discussions with developers. "What's really unique is the content, the people we're bringing right into developers' homes and offices," Gundotra says. "We bring in the top developers at Microsoft. You can sit down and listen to an interview and hear what they're thinking and what's their philosophy."

Gundotra says Microsoft's research revealed that 96 percent of the MSDN community have access to the Internet at T1 speeds or higher, so the company had no qualms about investing in Web casts.

Another improvement comes to the site in the form of the Microsoft DLL Help Database, a new troubleshooting tool that consolidates and provides searchable access to the version, size, location and other useful details for specific files associated with many Microsoft products.

Finally, Microsoft has improved a well-used function of the site: the search engine. There's an increase in the number of hits returned from a search from 50 to 100, an allowance to search within a result set, and a listing of "Best Bet" recommendations for the popular search terms.

Most visibly new on the site, however, is the makeover itself. The layout is much more organized, clean and pleasing to the eye than the old site. "There's always a risk that you alienate your customers when you change your site," Gundrota says. "But this is the other way around. People have seemed to very easily understand the navigation and the ability to talk amongst their peers.

MSDN member "paa" would agree. He left this feedback: "Excellent new site design. It has a 'nicer' feel than the previous incarnation. Well done." Hopefully for Microsoft, no one feels like "Anonymous" when they log on to the new site. He comments: "At first I thought my home page had gotten corrupted, then it actually sunk in that you had redesigned the site." -- Brian Ploskina

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.