A couple of months ago I created a small tool that utilized some of the cool meta tag searching capabilities of MSN Search and published it out to GotDotNet.  It was simple, but definitely helps overcome one of the biggest limitations in the forums--lousy search.

That little tool catalyzed a project that I've blogged about in the past--the creation of a "toolset" for the MSDN Forums moderators (requirements) that help them overcome some of the current limitations of the platform.  I'm not the strongest developer out there, but I had some great, passionate moderators step up to the plate and create little pieces of functionality--small prototypes of what the toolset could eventually have.  My search tool was fixed and augmented.  A custom web browser with a treeview based navigation sidebar was created.  I even wrote a tagging prototype--first from del.icio.us's API, then from my own web services.

I recently tied this all together in one application--ForumExplorer.  ForumExplorer allows for advanced question search, custom tagging, and faster navigation from one common interface.  It's rough, and some of the UI doesn't make a ton of sense, but if you're currently a moderator (Microsoft or not) on the MSDN Forums, you might want to give it a try.  You can download the ZIP file for Beta 1 of ForumExplorer here:

http://www.codeplex.com/Release/ProjectReleases.aspx?ProjectName=ForumsToolbar&ReleaseId=772

Just download it, unzip the file, and run "ForumExplorer.exe".  I'd love to know what you think of the tool.  Microsofties--would you like to see an internal version that exposes Answerme's question assignment and statistics tracking?  If you're not a moderator, would you like a tool that just allows you to browse the forums in a custom environment?

Update:  Thanks to Richard Edwards for pointing this out, but the ForumExplorer tool requires a "secret phrase" to create an account.  Since the current version is limited to forum moderators, you'll need to go to the forums to find out what the secret phrase is:

http://forums.microsoft.com/MSDN/ShowPost.aspx?PostID=832076&SiteID=1&mode=1

Make sure you're logged into Passport before you click on that link!