First blog entries are like first dates: awkward and usually brief ;) This blog is intended to provide a sounding board for my brainstorms on improving the MSDN library and the evolving TechNet library (yes, if I get my way, we'll have a comprehensive TechNet library too). A few points of clarification first:
  • You may have already figured out that I'd like to find (wherever possible) solutions that work for both the IT Pro and the Developer. I'm reminded every day how different these populations can be, but I'd like to think that getting and using technical reference is 80% the same task for both. Tell me if you think differently!
  • I'm going to keep the focus of my discussion on the online experience for the moment, but if you have input related to the "offline" (CD/DVD/download) libraries, I'm all ears.
  • There's going to be a little overlap between some discussions here and on the MSDN Search Blog, but discussion here will be at a higher, conceptual level and search's relationship to the library. Jeremiah is talking about very specific UI and architectural improvements. There's incredible work going on over there. If you haven't checked out the latest developments, stop reading and click here. Then come back of course :)

Kicking things off here, I'd like to ask for general comments on how you use the library. I'd love to just collect some typical stories of how the library saved your skin, how it ticked you off, or what you wish it could do everytime you visit.


To frame the conversation and start using some common vocabulary, here's an article on information-seeking that might help us. Donna discusses four methods of looking for information:

  • Known Item… this is where search and traditional nav usually come into play. You know what you're looking for, you just need to find where (Microsoft) stuck it. E.g. how the CSS color:transparent attribute works.
  • Exploratory… this is where you're pretty sure you know what you need, but you're not sure what it's called. E.g. what server applications are available to handle process automation and integration? Search is less useful here because you're invariably using the wrong terms. We just launched a new "Related Pages" component on MSDN2 that is designed to help a little with this mode of finding by exposing pages that others have visited after visiting the current page.
  • Don't know what you need to know… I would guess this isn't a mode you're in when headed for the library, but please tell me I'm wrong. It's when you kind of meander through a site, trolling for stuff that you really should know about but aren't thinking to look for.
  • Re-finding… Now where WAS that article? I forgot to bookmark it… this is simple enough, but how often does it happen? Do you make a habit of adding MSDN/TN pages to your favorites? Would you rather manage them on the site rather than mix them up with all your other favorites?

Tell me which of these modes you are in most often when visiting our libraries and what pleases/upsets you the most about it.


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