Microsoft Puts New Face on Developer Community

The editors at the Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) have given the trusted source a makeover. Not satisfied with a simple cleanup, new features were added to the site to enhance interaction with developers.

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

Also added was The MSDN Show, a regular Web broadcast that features MSDN news and entertainment, interviews with Microsoft Corp. (www.microsoft.com) architects, and frank coding discussions with developers. "What's really unique is the content, the people we're bringing 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 is the Microsoft DLL Help Database, a trouble-shooting tool that consolidates and provides searchable access to the version, size, location and other details of specific files associated with many Microsoft products.

Finally, Microsoft upgraded an oft-used function on the site: the search engine. Improvements include 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 popular search terms.

The most immediately apparent change to the site is its new appearance. The layout is more organized, clean, and pleasing to the eye. "There's always a risk that you alienate your customers when you change your site," Gundotra 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" agrees, and left some positive feedback: "Excellent new site design. It has a 'nicer' feel than the previous incarnation. Well done." Of course some people don't like change. With luck, Microsoft won't encounter a lot of responses like the one from "Anonymous": "At first I thought my home page had gotten corrupted, then it actually sunk in that you had redesigned the site."