The PDC saw the announcement of so many exciting new things, it was hard to keep track, but everyone I talked to seemed to be having fun trying. After so many months of silence from me, I suspect even most news aggregators have forgotten about me, but just in case, today I’m going to talk about something that we opened up with the Longhorn SDK documentation - the MSDN Annotation Service.

 

What is it?

Shamelessly lifted from http://lab.msdn.microsoft.com/annotations/annotations.aspx:

 

The Annotation Service is the place for online discussion of MSDN content. Any comments and annotations relating to a particular page are included at the bottom for reference. In addition to discussions hosted by Microsoft, the Annotation Service can import information from sources external to Microsoft, provided it is available in RSS 2.0 format.

 

Sara’s been talking about this too:

 

With annotations, we use the docs on MSDN as a way to help organize all that other useful information into a single place, so it’s easier to find what you’re looking for. Go to the API reference, and you can also see errata, insight from the community, additional samples, and the like, all in one place. The information comes from lots of difference sources, but we can display it in a way that’ll make it easier for developers to find what they need.

 

How does it work?

Right now, annotations are available on a limited set of content, namely the Longhorn SDK documentation. Visit almost any page in the SDK, scroll to the bottom, and there behold the comments left by other users relating to that page. Got something to say? Why not leave a comment or add some wisdom to an ongoing conversation.

 

All public comments shown on these pages are also posted into the public Usenet newsgroup microsoft.public.msdn.annotations. Newsgroups are a great place for storing threaded discussions, exactly like those seen in the annotations section. Imagine you’ve got a question about a specific API or feature – you can post your question, as an annotation, to the WinFX SDK newsgroup. Thanks to all of the great folks who hang out in the public newsgroups, chances are your question is going to get the answer you need. Whenever someone posts a follow-up, that answer is automatically picked up and displayed as part of the threaded discussion back on MSDN; bringing answers back into the documentation for everyone.

 

Any annotations made by Microsoft appear in both the public discussions area (so you can tell us what you really think of our annotations :) ), and also just above, reproduced in full. This is the information you need to see – any errata notes, critical updates or important messages are posted here in cases where it takes slightly longer to update the documentation.

 

So why is there something to install?

Well, official Microsoft annotations and public discussions are only part of the story. The exciting part begins when you can import annotations from anywhere around the web. With a client-side .NET component, your browser can suddenly import annotations from anywhere - public blogs, content management systems and intranet RSS feeds. But that’s a topic for a separate post, so stay tuned.