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We need a multi-forum reader..

    General discussion

  •  I realize that MS is pushing these new forums (and the old ones as  well), and will migrate to the new forum platform, but I have not seen anything or any program/application that can read all desired forums in one reader in the convenient and efficient way that most newsgroup readers can. There are some 3rd party forum readers out there but I have not found one that works very well.

    IMO.. if MS wants to push these forums, then they should be working diligently to either develop a satisfactory method of synching them with NNTP readers, and/or developing a good and efficient (and convenient) multi-forum reader.

    These forums are not designed for quick and easy monitoring of many forums... which I think is the main concern. Most of us who have expressed out distain for forums compared to newsgroups, do access those forums we need to on a limited basis - because (in my case at least) I *do* still have a couple dozen or so newsgroups that I am still actively monitoring and participating somewhat, so to monitor even a half dozen forums for new and interesting posts is just too time-consuming for me.
    Art..
    • Edited by artfudd Wednesday, April 30, 2008 7:05 PM added a word
    Wednesday, April 30, 2008 7:03 PM

All replies

  • Thanks for the feedback. We're looking at a couple options to address this. First, we're working on an offline forum client for the forums, more details here: http://www.codeplex.com/msdnforumsclient. Second, we're improving the thread preview feature, so for general reading (and eventually replying) you won't have to leave the main forums page (no navigating to the thread url). Finally, we're also looking at other options, one example is improved alerts with full post text and forum name, but we're open to others as well.

    -Andrew


    Forums Product Planner, Andrew.Brenner at Microsoft.com
    Thursday, May 8, 2008 4:01 AM
  • Thank you for your reply Andrew. I read the documentation about the proposed Forums Client, and while it appears it might be a step in the right direction (aside from syncing forums to NNTP readers like OE, WMail & WLMail - which IMO would be the best way to go), however.. maybe I am missing something, but I fail to see how this proposed Forums Client will address the problem I stated - that of being able to monitor and post to many forums quickly and easily like we can do now with NNTP readers like Windows Mail. The problem is that if you insist (as stated in the documentation) on moving away from NNTP altogether - for whatever mysterious reason - then there needs to be a method of making the browsing and participating in many forums as quick and easy as it is now with WMail etc..

    I see from other feedback in various places that most MVPs agree with my take on this... Why should we have to spend 12 to 15 hours a day to monitor and participate in say 20 forums (as an example), compared to being able to spend maybe 4 or 5 hours to monitor and participate in say 20 NNTP newsgroups like we can now?

    When will a beta of this Forums Client be available for testing? Without a model to test, it is very difficult to understand exactly what you propose and whether it will address these concerns. Just being able to access forum content offline, while important to some, is not IMO the major concern here. Being able to access and monitor and participate in multi different forums in the quick and easy fashion we can now with NNTP, *is* the major concern as I see it.
    Art..
    Thursday, May 8, 2008 6:36 PM
  • Andrew,

    Any update on this? At TechEd we talked about the forums as a result I've been giving them a "fair trial" and must stay they are the worst forums I've use in the last 8 years.

    As of yesterday the alternating color on the thread listing pages is gone, there is no "quote" in the preview section, the only way to tell tell what threads you have been active in that have new message is to use the "My Threads" section but you can't reply at all in expanded previews in that view. After almost two weeks of using these forums I'm ready to fold my tent and go home. It is just far too painful to try and keep up with threads and respond. If the preview was faster, didn't cause my page to jump around with large gray areas when a thread is closed (sometimes have to reload the page to see the thread list again) and I could see an indicaiton of what threads I had particpated and quote back sections in preview it might be funcitonal but as it is, sigh.
    MS MVP Expression
    Wednesday, July 2, 2008 1:48 AM
  • Although I have been pushing hard the past few weeks to get the forum interface improved, and I think it is improving, I would  have to say that I agree with everything that Art and Cheryl say.

    Despite being old technology, NNTP performs the task of monitoring a large number of newsgroups (on different servers even) extremely efficiently, something that is quite impossible in the forum interface.

    The thing that really puzzles me is that a good Ajax web application should be able to duplicate the functionality of a newsreader (except for offline perhaps), but no attempt seems to be made to do this.

    A couple of mitigating points:

    Art: If you have only a few forums to monitor, then on a tabbed browser you can put them each on a separate tab and save them as a group. For me, the forums are absolutely unusable on a non-tabbed browser.

    Cheryl: The absence of the Reply button in preview is new with the most recent release, and I have bugged it here

    http://forums.msdn.microsoft.com/en-US/reportabug/thread/bcd4fd8f-c4cc-4dae-967e-2620889464af

    As to the absence of Quote in the preview, the forum management seem committed to migrating more features from the individual thread view to preview in the main forum view.


    David Wilkinson | Visual C++ MVP
    Wednesday, July 2, 2008 3:38 AM
  • We'll have an update on the offline solution we're working on pretty soon, so stay tuned!

    I think one thing that's maybe causing some confusion in our responses is separating the idea of monitoring "20 different forums" that are all on the MSDN Forums site, vs. "20 different forums" that may be run by different people, on different platforms, for different purposes.

    Our offline solution won't address the latter, but will hopefully help with the former.  Our upcoming preview will give you a sense of the direction we're headed, even though we won't have all the functionality there.

    -Jeremy


    Jeremy Kelley
    Wednesday, July 2, 2008 4:41 PM
    Moderator
  • Hi Jeremy:

    I understand that your solution will not help with reading non-Microsoft forums. That's OK, we don't expect that.

    I was just noting that not only is NNTP able to handle many newsgroups on the same server at once, it is also able to do it for multiple servers. It is that much better (and always has been).

    I do not use my NNTP newsreader (Mozilla) in offline mode, but I am not quite sure what offline has to do with anything. My NNTP newsreader operates much the same in online and offline mode; the only difference is the timing of when the messages are downloaded and replies uploaded.

    The fact is that the present forum interface is fundamentally incapable of displaying more than one (MSDN) forum on the same page at the same time (without a complete page switch).

    What I do not understand is why an Ajax forum should not be able to provide essentially the same user experience as a NNTP newsreader (and supply marking/voting if that is considered necessary). Just look at a typical NNTP newsreader (Outlook Express, Mozilla, Agent) and copy its interface. Yes, these newsreaders are not all the same, but any of them provides a much better user experience than the MSDN forum.

    The fundamental difference is that the NNTP reader uses the available real estate in a much more effective way. A key feature is that they display the entire thread tree at one time, but only one actual post. When there are a lot of posts in a thread, there is not much point in having them all on the page.

    Just my $02.




    David Wilkinson | Visual C++ MVP
    Wednesday, July 2, 2008 5:32 PM
  •  Thanks for the feedback Dave!

    There are a bunch of issues at play some more related than others.

    The more appropriate name for what we're building is the "Forums Client" and yes, we've modeled it after NNTP newsreaders.  So the UI should be similar to that experience (list of forums on the left, threaded discussion view at the top, with a body view down below).  I took a look at a couple different ones to see what general UI elements they had in common and did our best at a first pass.  Once we release the preview, I hope you'll take a look at let us know if we're in the right direction, or if there's something fundamental that we missed.

    In terms of making the online experience more like newsgroups, I actually disagree to a certain extent.  I think your points about making the UI better use the space available are absolutely correct, and we should keep moving to improve our usage of the screen real estate.

    But as a forums guy, I LIKE the traditional presentation model of forums on the web.  I use a lot of different forums interfaces, and the general mechanisms that they use for showing forums / threads lists on different pages is actually something I like.  We're certainly evolving where the site is going, but I want to make sure we service the users we have who do enjoy the forums experience in addition to the newsgroup experience.

    There's room for growth in both dimensions I think, and I'm hoping the team's responsiveness on issues is a good indication that we can change as we need to.  I'm actually looking forward to the next incremental step in the layout, because I'm in the group that isn't completely in love with the latest changes, and I think we can do a little more.  (Who would have thought I'd agree with Cheryl on some things??)  :)

    -Jeremy
    Jeremy Kelley
    Wednesday, July 2, 2008 6:07 PM
    Moderator
  • Jeremy:

    Thanks for all the information. Hopefully the new client will be much more efficient from a responder viewpoint.

    It's just that right now, all we have is the forum, and compared to NNTP it is enormously time-consuming to get anything done.


    David Wilkinson | Visual C++ MVP
    Wednesday, July 2, 2008 7:40 PM
  • davewilk said:

    Cheryl: The absence of the Reply button in preview is new with the most recent release, and I have bugged it here

    http://forums.msdn.microsoft.com/en-US/reportabug/thread/bcd4fd8f-c4cc-4dae-967e-2620889464af

    As to the absence of Quote in the preview, the forum management seem committed to migrating more features from the individual thread view to preview in the main forum view.


    David Wilkinson | Visual C++ MVP



    Serious bug and one that makes it even harder to use the forums than it needs to be. Unlike Jeremy I don't like forums all that much in the first place. I want an efficient use of my time and frankly these forums are not it. If/when there is an efficieint way to view these forums and the Ajax always works smoothly and quickly maybe I"ll change my mind but I usually end up with a hugle scrolling page because everytime I close a preview I end up in a gray space and lose my position in the thread list unless I scroll up and close the thread from where the preview starts.
    MS MVP Expression
    Wednesday, July 2, 2008 10:41 PM
  • Cheryl:

    Once again, I really agree with everything you say. Unless forums are much better than NNTP, why change? And right now they are not even close.

    Even if you like forums, as Jeremy does, one big problem is that they are all different. I have to go to different web sites to use them, they have different login requirements, and different interfaces that I have to learn. OTOH, once I have learned to subscribe to one NNTP group, to subscribe to another is trivial, and I can access them all in the same application, with a uniform interface. However good the new Forums Client is, it will be another thing to learn.


    David Wilkinson | Visual C++ MVP
    Thursday, July 3, 2008 12:44 AM