After several months of work, changing dependancies, a couple designs, and a handful of UI attempts, we are getting ready to release a Beta of the community platform we have been working on (Codename: Athens Microsoft.community).

Athens Microsoft.community is made up of three pillars, Discovery Services, Rapport Services, and Discussion Services.

Discovery Services enable the discoverability of useful content. One of the first forrays into this territory is by enabling social tagging and bookmarking. We have built a frontend for this service called Tagspace.

Tagspace allows you to tag and book mark web-based content. For our beta it is limited to Microsoft content, and a few select others. Over time we will open it up to enable you to tag more and more content across the Wild, Wild, Web. The original Tagspace beta, launched a few months ago, is up currently, and will be replaced by the new beta soon.

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.

Forums

Blogs

Both Forums and Blogs are clients of the Discovery Services (Tagging), enabling the sytem, the publisher, the author, and the community to tag content. Additionally, we will eventually be enabling toggling between threaded view and flat view of the conversations, as well as offline views of the content. Currently we are enabling RSS feeds of all threads, enabling you to subscribe to virtually anything.

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 Rapport Services. This is really one of the foundation blocks for the rest of the platform. The Rapport services enable a consistent user experience across all of the Microsoft.community platform. The system is authentication agnostic (i.e. not tied to Passport or ASP.NET Forms authentication), but can support nearly any authentication system. Regardless of the authentication entry point we can support a single user entity accross the system.

Additionally, we have built a frontend for the reputation aspects of Rapport Services, Claimspce.

Claimspace enables you to make a claim that you can use anywhere on the Wild, Wild, Web. The claims can be embedded anywhere using an IFRAME (in Forums and Blogs we have tools to easily enable this). For example, you could make a claim to go along with an answer you provided to a question on a forums. You maight claim "This is a technically accurate answer." Other members in the community will be able to agree, disagree, or vote that your claim is irrelevant. Over time you will develop your community reputation by making claims that others agree with. If, for example, you have claimed "This post is technically accurate" 50 times, and 1,000 people have agreed with you, that adds to your credibility when people see your posts.

I want to thank the entire Codename: Athens Microsoft.community Team. They have all contributed greatly to this project. We have a great team - if you come across them, thank them too.

We should have the beta live by the end of next week, or early the week after. I will post the URLs when we are live.

The Codename: Athens Microsoft.community Team:

Alan Griver, Ben Martin, Bill Long, Brent Serbus, Brian Hsi, Carl Prothman, Dave Morehouse, David Waddleton, Don Tan, Eric Mahlberg, Hua-Tao Zhang (Worksoft), Huong Nguyen, Jana Carter, Jason McCullough, Ji Zhang, Korby Parnell, Krishnavenamma Kailasam, Lisa Ambler, Marshall Lin, Mike Barta, Robert Rebholz, Russ Nemhauser, Sandy Khaund, Syed Sohail, Taylor Parsons, Tim Shakarian (TSHAK), Vikas Ahuja, Xander Sherry.