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Capturing a crucial moment in community history
On a blustery day in Seattle - 7th March 2018 – history was being made. On this day, a posse of Microsoft’s most eminent leaders, managers and developers were gathering on Redmond Campus. They were there to meet a contingent of the Microsoft TechNet Wiki Ninjas - guardians of MSDN and TechNet - representing countless millions of community users, past and present.
Their joint mission - to discuss the future of our many glorious Microsoft communities and to better understand the problems – as well as to collate the potential that already lies within.
The one-hour meeting was overshot by two hours, as valuable exchanges led to mutual understandings.
Proceedings began cordially, as the following faces portray:
For a rotating 360 degree view of the image above, click here.
But once pleasantries concluded, sleeves were rolled up and we all got down to our serious thinking faces:
Again, 360 degree version available here.
Thanks to all above, for joining in for that photo story :)
So much has happened, so much is known
As I understand it, documentation across the various websites [related to Microsoft technologies] has almost always outnumbered all the other technologies put together. This is no surprise, considering Microsoft's history and dominance.
Together we are stronger; we therefore ALL advance faster, towards a better future for all humanity. Is human evolution measured only by our DNA? Or also by advances in tools, technology, and science? In which case, humans are evolving faster than ever!
This is the future! A vast collection of information, served up through numerous prolific search engines - by date, popularity, and relevance.
We REALLY do now have that utopian dream of a “computer” that can answer any question that we need to know – in this case to progress our professions and solve our technical needs.
Lost down a rabbit hole
With so much information, from so many sources... Search engines are becoming particularly adept at monitoring and serving just those pages they think are most relevant. However, it is said that the most popular search engines only serve 1/500th of the entire “deep web”. The rest being indexed only by individual site search tools, for example on TechNet and MSDN themselves.
This means outdated documents soon drop off the “global” search tool results, and into obscurity. Found only by people using the actual local site search tools. This doesn’t mean it is no longer valuable, just no longer ranked by the most common search engines.
There is also a certain amount of inaccurate documentation, which promotes a bad practice, or is significantly out of date. I’m sure you have on occasion found yourself way off topic, or copying some ten year old code and wasting valuable time.
Promoting the best, honouring the rest
Microsoft has announced they are looking into ways to pull the best information from all of these communities into one place - docs.microsoft.com. The ultimate authority, a central repository, the official information bank.
Have you contributed some particularly useful documentation over the years, to any Microsoft platforms? If so, this could be your chance to have your work promoted to the status of official documentation (get it migrated over to docs.microsoft.com).
This means much of Microsoft’s greatest minds (developers) will be focusing most of their time on new tools and features for the new platform. Which in turn, may mean a slow decline for MSDN and TechNet - or at least some parts of it.
It is true that most who post anything significant, imagine their contributions will be there in many years to come. Maybe their children will inspire their grandchildren to join the same communities, after showing the wise words their ancestor contributed to history.
But if documents are moved to a new home, what of the cross-links? Plus, what about the community points and social ranking those profiles proudly presented? What of the recognition, for all those prolific and historic contributions?
For the contributors, their own history and identity, every small contribution means something. Even the shortest of posts that solve a problem, representing the revelation that ended a day of research and frustration. The choicest of nuggets that would also save so many, on that same path.
Gathered to listen to our representations were all the key figures who would influence the future of our communities. Dan Fernandez, Sandra Abad and Hui XIE (plus a couple of their most senior developers) took note of every point we posed. Also attending, was the most important figure in TechNet/MSDN history, "grand master ninja" Ed Price. Ed had helped conceive many of the current platforms and has coached hundreds of people over many years in the ways of the Wiki. Looking around the table, we had the dream-team in one room [and on Skype]. I felt a fresh energy and clear exhibition of willingness to do things right for all past effort.
NOTE FROM THE EDITOR: Wow. I appreciate that. Just don't tell the people who made TechNet and MSDN! =^)
I genuinely felt real empathy and open hearts from Dan and his team. We all know love can quickly turn to hate when one’s efforts are disposed or devalued simply in the name of progress. But Dan and his team clearly appreciated this and demonstrated at great lengths that they were keen to work on an amicable solution that meets the various needs of our community.
This doesn’t mean your old (or continuing) work on MSDN or TechNet is under any threat. One clear assurance given at the meeting was that nothing has been decided. Our combined goal (with Microsoft and the Community) is to combine and continue our efforts! So all changes will move in the same community-driven direction!
It is true that there is a heap of old documentation, forums, and code samples starting to stagnate. Like a stagnant pool, the information within can cause more harm than relief for a weary traveller, thirsty for knowledge. Something will have to be done eventually.
Suggestions include archiving historic documentation, or simply branding (labelling clearly) certain documents as old. Discussions included the role that the community would have, in helping to decide what is useful and what is not even worth archiving (such as stubbed or inaccurate articles).
What is Microsoft’s true strength?
The answer is obviously you, the community, and every individual within it. Just taking the time to read this, for example. All of you, who have collectively made MSDN and TechNet the largest collection of technical documents, discussions, reviews, tutorials, questions, solutions, examples, and work-arounds - covering every aspect of your chosen IT professions.
It is the very history and the tales, which have been scribed by so many devoted people, over so many years, which have has led us to this glorious place in history.
What happens next?
After three hours that seemed to go in a blink of an eye, we left with views exchanged, concerns raised, plans revealed, and possibilities discussed.
Next, we digest what we've discussed, we disseminate to you, and we all discuss it together. Then we meet again and talk some more. Regular meetings, so we all have an ongoing hand, helping to shape our future as one community.
Together, with Microsoft and many of our Wiki Ninja leaders, we demonstrated a new face of openness and collaboration. Every effort was made to show we are listening to each other and that all of Microsoft acknowledges and celebrates the history we all helped to write. Microsoft will never forget the work so many have contributed, over so many years - the solid foundations that got us all to where we are today.
One thing is certain, we will need full community support - your hearts and undamaged passion - to continue the journey. Communities always evolve, so join us, onwards and upwards!
A greenfield opportunity, a level playing field, and a chance to get noticed!
Much was discussed about incentivising and energising any new platform with recognition and gamification – which I’ll save for another post. Should historic progress points count towards a new platform? Or should history be forever remembered, but not carried over?
NOTE FROM THE EDITOR: As a stake in the ground, Microsoft's goal is to find a fair way to transfer previous gamification. It won't be the exact same, but it should be a fair exchange, taking into account each community member's impact, experience, and ultimately the persona and reputation that they worked so hard to establish for themselves. We've done this in the past (when exchanging MSDN/TechNet Forums gamification points to the new system established in 2010, which included grafting in TechNet Wiki, Gallery, Blogs, and Translation into the profile gamification system), and we plan to continue this track record of fairly migrating gamification into new profile systems.
There are a number of well-known problems with some current platforms that hinder input, or prevent better gamification, for current contributions.
One thing is certain, there is a lot of potential in better gamification in a new platform. And everyone at Microsoft is excited about the gamification opportunities! For us all to get rewarded, promoted, and recognised. A community driven platform, with features designed from the bottom up.
If you have any views on the current platforms, or suggestions for future incentives and recognition systems, now is a good time to tell us. Leave comments on our posts, or provide your own blog articles (and send us links to them).
Those of you who find this and realise what I am hinting at and get in early enough, may just find this new opportunity is a fast-track path to increasing your fame and fortune. This has been proven time and time again to be the fastest way to progress through the community, up though the award systems, and eventually invited into the company itself!
NOTE FROM THE EDITOR: This last bit might sound impossible. But you should know that Peter speaks/writes from experience. His own endeavors on the Wiki have resulted in job opportunities and becoming an MVP, being able to visit Microsoft and "sit at the table" of community leaders, across from Microsoft leads who are designing the future of the Microsoft technical community, making requests and concerns on behalf of you, the community. We have another 30+ examples of that from other community members who have joined the Wiki Ninjas and climbed the ladder of success. So if this is your desire, please see my article, How to Become an MVP or MCC .
A chance to elevate your own career!
We (the TechNet/MSDN community leaders) will work with Microsoft to move more towards an open source platform, with community inspired & built platform features. There may therefore soon be opportunities for you to embellish your CV, with the description of “community feature development” .
Any future merging of communities and official documentation may involve open source development, or even private invite projects. Known community representatives, like TechNet Ninjas, MVPs, MCCs and even “new-but-passionate contributors” could be invited to join various ground-breaking projects - to help build that better future!
If a better platform is to be created, the best people to help develop it are the cream of our technical community, those who use it - that’s you!
I hope this somewhat rambling post helps bring some transparency to what I consider the beginning of a new chapter of community evolution. But it cannot evolve, without YOU. So please, sharing is caring. In this case, please share your most candid opinions on the platforms and communities themselves.