As part of the larger group of feature improvements in forums that includes the reputation changes that I blogged about earlier, we're also adding in something that people have been asking about for awhile--product feedback and bug reporting.

The idea is simple.  If you've ever used Microsoft's Connect site (http://connect.microsoft.com) or the MSDN Product Feedback Center, you get the concept.  If you find a bug in Visual Studio or the .NET framework, you can file a bug that actually gets opened in our internal bug database.  We have goals around fixing these customer reported bugs, and you are notified if your bug is accepted and when it is fixed.  Simple enough, right?

Well, yes, it really is, but the problem so far is that the product feedback site has been completely separate from our online question and answer site, meaning you needed two separate accounts--one to ask questions and the other to file bugs.  We also couldn't move bugs from the forums into the bug database or questions out of the bug site and into the forums.  It was a sub-optimal experience for everybody involved.

With the next service pack of the forums, this will all be history.  We will be adding two new "thread types" to the forums:  bug and suggestion.  When you select either of these, helper text will automatically be added to the text editor, asking for your operating system, product version, and repro steps for your bug.  When you post your bug, other users will be able to comment on it, "vote" for it, and suggest workarounds for the bug.

At the same time, the bug will be sent to a product support analyst who will route the bug into the correct team's database and attempt to reproduce the bug you reported.  If everything checks out and it was a valid bug, it will be forwarded to the correct product team.  You can keep updated on the current status of your bug right on the thread page.

The concept isn't new--we've been using a system like this for a couple of years now in Developer Division, but this is the first time that the forums will act as a "one-stop shop" for both Q&A and bug reporting.