Today my team has released Community Platform 1.0 with our all new Microsoft Forums 3.0 Web Application.

I’m the dev lead on the new forums app and we've had a ton of fun building this since most of us use forums in our daily lives and wanted to make this the best experience we could.  We support branding for MSDN, Technet, Expression and a generic Microsoft brand for forums that don’t fall under the other areas. This code base was completely rewritten from scratch with a new Web 2.0 User Experience.    Here are the links:

http://forums.msdn.microsoft.com

http://forums.technet.microsoft.com

http://forums.community.microsoft.com

This is a replacement to our current forums system found at http://forums.microsoft.com/msdn we’ll be migrating the old forums over within the next couple of months. 

I’ve prepared a 15 minute overview video to showcase some of the new features it offers:

http://xpstream.winisp.net/samjarawan/msdn%20forums%20overview.wmv

What is Forums 3.0 ?

The Forums 3.0 release of the new online forums application is a completely new code base, designed and built from the ground up. This release boasts many enhancements over other online forums applications.

 

Community Features

·         Online Avatars: Users can now include a little more personality in their online forums participation by including an avatar of their choice.

·         Recently Online: A continually update list of who has recently been online and participating in the forums. It helps to understand "who's currently online".

·         Filtering By Users: Users can scope down the list of contributors to a particular thread by simply selecting the user filter bar. This is especially useful for users who know "who" they are looking for and want to see contributions from trusted sources.

·         User Recognition and Affiliation: A medals recognition system rewards users for their participation. This can help users understand whether the source of a post is from a novice or someone who has invested a lot more time and effort in continual online forums participation.

·         User Based Tagging: Users can apply tags to threads which help other users find content the community find relevant to a particular term. Users can select multiple tags, every one, applying a more targeted query to refine the pool of threads.

·         Browse Users: Do you want to know who is contributing the most in the forums? Do you want to see their actual threads by a couple of clicks. Well, this can be done by simply browsing the user list, reviewing any user's recognition status or last participation date and clicking "view threads".

 

Discoverability Enhancements

·         Enhanced Filters: A powerful set of filter options allow for finding threads of various types, states and properties. Are you a moderator looking to help people that have posted questions with no replies that include code snippets? This is now possible! Better yet, these filters can also be subscribed to as RSS!

·         Tag Browsing: Users at any level of the forums application (brand, forum or thread) can find threads by tag. These tags are not

·         Top Level Filter Entry Points: Users that always like to start off at the top level of the forums list can now quick link into the unanswered or answered threads in the forum of their choice. This saves what used to be three or more clicks, anchoring the user into a context pre set for them.

·         Search Result Filters: When search results come back and seem overwhelming users can select a filter for various thread states and properties. Users can choose to select only answers, only questions or any of these threads that may contain code.

 

Cool New Features

·         Dynamic Posting, Quoting and Paging: Tired of post backs? Well posting, quoting posts and paging in a thread are now all client side events. Users can decide to post and then change their mind without post backs. Users can post replies or quotes to thread without having to wait for the server to reload the page. Users can page around in a large thread without having to wait for the server to answer back. These features reward the users by making the application feel snappy, dynamic and friendly.

·         Inline Posting: New posting of questions or replies keeps you on the same page which you can still scroll and see the contents of as well as page through the threads or posts while creating your message.  This allows you to “Multi-Quote” when replying to a thread.  This makes it easy to respond to several posts in a single post.

·         Thread Preview: This allows users to view the first 20 posts of a thread in line without needing to commit to a post back or page navigation. Users can preview threads and then decide to dive in and participate.

·         Real Time Updates: Every page updates with new activity. Home pages update to show changes in recently online users, forum pages continually update to show recently updated threads and new posts pop up dynamically to users viewing threads.

·         Code Formatting and Spellchecking: Users have the ability to include code and format it to the specific code language. C++ users want their code to look like C++ code. People adding XML want it to look like XML. This is now possible with the latest editor. Users can also spell check their posts if they so choose.

·         Proposed Answers: Any user can now more actively participate in helping other users by selecting "Proposed Answer" in any question thread. This should help others that have the true authority to validate the answers, Moderators and Question Askers, find questions that may be very close to being resolved.

 

My personal favorite features are auto update, the inline posting and thread preview.   Using Microsoft Ajax allows us to make calls in the background while you’re on a page to see auto updates as the community participates in the forums system.  If you are inside a forum you’ll see new threads appearing in almost real time as other users enter them.  We’ve put in a “Pause” button if this becomes distracting in high use forums.  As well as inside of a thread you’ll see new messages appearing when other users reply.  With thread preview I no longer have to click into a thread and wait for a page refresh to see the content in there.

 

There’s a feedback forum available so please leave us any with any other new ideas you have for one of our future releases.