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MSDN Forums are too scattered to be useful

    General discussion

  • Hello Microsoft!  I have a piece of feedback for you:  There are way too many forums here.  This is most likely NOT working.  Allow me to ellaborate using myself as an example.

    I develop in several languages (interpreted and compiled):  .Net C#, C++, VBScirpt, Javascript.  I also develop using many different MS technologies like XML Serialization or Serialization, Windows Forms, data binding, etc.  I am therefore qualified to be either the guy that asks questions in all pertinent forums, or the guy than answers questions in all pertinent forums.  For Microsoft, I bet it is good that good developers that have most of the answers browse all forums they can possibly answer on, right?  Well, at least I get sick just by looking at the amount of forums in here.  And at least I use the browser's find feature to see if there is a forum for what I want.  I bet most people just go for whatever they are developing in, namely .Net or C++.

    This behavior (people not searching the correct forum to post questions to) punishes people that do search for a correct forum.  Why?  Because forums with low activity tend to have low number of readers.  This means that the few of us that do search and post in the correct forum have less probability of getting an answer because the more specialized the forum, the less experts reading it.

    So why having a CLR forum, a .Net base class library forum, a Windows Forms forum, a data binding forum?  This differentiation doesn't help anyone.  Most of us average developers deal with all of that anyway, so why not having a single .Net forum???  The differentiation doesn't help searching either.  If I want to search for answers, I just google msdn.microsoft.com.  So at this point I see no gains, as an end user, on having dozens of different forums scattered all over the place thinning the number of experts and therefore the possibilities of getting answers.

    You should re-think this categorization in order to serve us the public better.


    MCP
    Tuesday, March 29, 2011 6:00 PM

All replies

  • You should re-think this categorization in order to serve us the public better.


    Have you had a look at the new Answers 2.0 organization?   I guess you approve?   Post some feedback for it there.

    ---

    Tuesday, March 29, 2011 10:02 PM
  • No, I haven't seen it.  Where do I see it?
    MCP
    Tuesday, March 29, 2011 11:17 PM
  • I agree entirely! There are just too many forums. Almost any given question can reasonably be posted to any one of seven or eight different forums, which leaves people confused. I think most people, in their heads at least, go by the language they're working in.

    The question then is what about language-independent stuff like SQL? If I'm working in VBNet, do my questions go to the VBNet forum or the SQL one? I don't have the answers, but I know the current classification isn't as helpful as it could be.

    Have you had a look at the new Answers 2.0 organization?   I guess you approve?   Post some feedback for it there.

    Like someone else asked, where is it? I see too many people giving too brief answers, but I guess that's an annoyance for a different thread. LOL :)

    Friday, April 1, 2011 2:36 AM
  • @Robert:  Agreed.  There will always be some overlapping between topics no matter what.  Having said that, it shouldn't become an excuse for just leaving this the way it is.  Something has to be done to remove the number of forums and therefore increase the number of readers to improve the chances of getting an answer.

    Take the Windows SDK forum for example:  SDK can be used in C++ and .Net.  Why is then in a separate forum?  Because there are experts reading the .Net forums that also know about Windows SDK and the same goes for C++ experts that read the C++ forum.  If we are using the MSDN forums, we clearly are programming for Windows.  If I wanted help with Linux, I probably would seek help elsewhere, like the cplusplus.com forums which are more appropriate anyway.

    I also don't have an answer, but at least I can suggest that you do this more language-centric because I believe most people look for a forum based on the language they use, just like Robert here stated.


    MCP
    Friday, April 1, 2011 3:43 PM
  • I don't like watching every .Net language forum (yes this includes the VC language forum although I am a VC MVP) for Windows Forms questions. If people post Windows Forms questions to language forums I usually ignore them or direct them to the Windows Form forum where often they don't need to ask anymore because the existing FAQ or other answers solve their problems. And it helps me to remove questions that are language-centric but happens to involve windows insignificantly if I were to do research on Windows Forms.

    I do not want myself to be in the increased number of readers who are involuntarily reading questions that are not language-centric in language forums. I would like to propose more forums to be created so I can focus on questions I do have the expertise to help with, and reduce the posts I have to read involuntarily because I subscribe to a language forum.

    People mostly come to forums via search engines anyways.

     



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    Visual C++ MVP
    Wednesday, July 27, 2011 4:24 AM
    Moderator
  • Hello Sheng.  So I see from your answer that this forum madness (hehe) actually serves you a purpose:  Screening unwanted questions; so you are pretty much saying that this categorization works for you and people like you, which are forum experts, or in other words, the people holding answers.  How's that working for you?  I bet not too good because people continue to post in incorrect forums, right?  So I ask again:  Does this REALLY work for you?  And do you really think that your proposal of even more forums will actually reduce the number of wrong posts?  I say:  If 50 forums don't suffice, I don't see how 100 or 1000 will do any better.

    You also say people come from search engines.  If this is true, how come people continue to ask the same questions over and over instead of finding the previous forum posts?  I see myself explaining integer division in C++ every week (not at this forum, though), or why the console window closes after the program executes, etc.  This of course is not the fault of the search engines, this is a human error:  People don't know how to search.  And up to certain extent, I understand.  After all, if you know nothing about a topic, how can you ask the search engine to find it for you?

    So summarizing, I do feel you. :D  As an expert here, these categories help you filter unwanted questions, but they also make wanted questions wander elsewhere.  So maybe this separation is not the best?  Maybe categorization should be automatic, you know?  Maybe the forum should be smart enough to "read" the post and categorize it.  How does that sound?


    MCP
    Wednesday, July 27, 2011 4:43 AM
  • You are misestimating forum users, only focusing on those who ask questions. Just check the view count, most users do not even post, they find answers by themselves, mostly using a search engine. Surely the forum works for them, the more focused forums are, the higher the forum ranks in search engines. It is called SEO. The read count vs reply count often exceed 100:1.

    If you do not put effort in filtering out those questions and helping users to learn search skills you will find yourself explain the same thing over and over with the answer right there in the sticky FAQ thread in another forum. You can't assume volunteers will never leave. It is better to help people learn how to find answers, than always find answers for them. People need to grow up and become contributors, so when old experts leave for whatever reason, new experts are ready to take over.

    Personally I use Google Reader so actually where a roughly correctly placed post is does not concern me as long as it is in one of my monitored forums. However a misplaced thread that should not appear in my monitored forums (e.g. an ASP.Net question in the C# forum) cost me time that should be used on those issues that do involve C# specific features. If I were a web developer planned to only answer asp.net questions I would subscribe forums.asp.net, subscribing the C# forum would expose me to all kinds of C# language/Windows Forms/ADO.net/WPF/Silverlight questions that won't be best use of my time.

    Moderators can move threads and in some forums that related to MSDN subscriber support. Those Microsoft ones are pretty active in moving posts once a better forum is pointed out in the thread. I'd like to create some keywords-like interfaces like stackoverflow, but for whatever reason a previous attempy failed, not many people tag their questions with keywords.

     



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    Visual C++ MVP


    Wednesday, July 27, 2011 5:27 AM
    Moderator