Thanks to everyone who attended our most recent series of Live Meetings for the ICAB—you gave us some terrific feedback, and we look forward to talking to you again soon. In the meantime, for those of you who were not able to attend, here’s a summary of what we discussed.

As you’ll recall, the sessions concerned some content initiatives that the Windows Server Information Experience (WS iX) team is exploring. Our speakers were Windows Server Group Content Publishing Manager Althea Champagnie and Windows Server Principal Writer Joe Davies.

Joe and Althea covered the following topics:

·         Encyclopedic content

·         End-to-end content for scenarios

·         Other types of content integration

·         Community-authored content

·         Translated (“localized”) content

·         Troubleshooting content on specific problems

·         General troubleshooting content

Below are summaries of what we heard from you. Our team would like to thank you once again for your thoughtful and incisive comments—we enjoyed the discussions very much.

Encyclopedic content

Current state: The Windows Server documentation (or “docs”) that our team produces are pretty modular, with a small amount of content in teach topic. (For an example, see a Design Guide—there are lots of topics with little chunks of information in each one.)

Potential direction: We’re investigating a model where we have larger, more encyclopedic topics that contain more content—for example, design and planning information would all be in one topic, so that you wouldn’t have to hunt through multiple topics to find what you’re looking for. Print capability is a factor here—we want to know whether you want to print a number of topics, and/or create a customized collection of topics from our docs.

You told us: By and large, the ICAB agreed that our content is quite modular, and asked that we make it easier for you to cull a selection of key topics together, either for print or online use. You also had some thoughts about navigation, suggesting “breadcrumbs” at the top of the page, like Wikipedia, and improving search. Community input should be included (and cross-referenced to the TechNet Wiki where possible), and so should mobile functionality that allows you to access content on your phone or e-book reader.

  

End-to-end content for scenarios

Current state: Our docs currently describe general planning for a technology. They detail what you can do with that technology in steps, without taking you end-to-end through the planning and deployment process.

Potential direction:  We are investigating creating content with specific prescriptive steps or phases that guide you through the entire end-to-end planning and deployment process.

You told us: Overall, you liked the idea of more step-by-step details with specific content; you recommended that we include the consequences of a step as well as the more prescriptive content. You also suggested that we tie this in with the TechNet Wiki to enable more community input. That would help with the problem of environments with third-party software, which can bedevil even the best use cases. You also mentioned that while our docs are pretty comprehensive, they are often geared toward the enterprise customer, rather than the small business—and several of you requested that we offer a broader range of scenarios for all sizes of business.

 

Other types of content integration

Current state: We offer text and figures on our TechNet and MSDN articles.  

Potential direction: We would like to know what you think of different types of content: videos, animations, and the like. We would also like to know whether it would be helpful to you to link to blog posts, forum posts, and Twitter feeds—and if we were to do that, where on the page would you prefer it?

You told us: Videos weren’t a terribly popular option, because text search doesn’t work well with them, they can’t be taken offline, and because of the time it takes to sit down and watch a video. Often you’re searching for a quick answer, and video doesn’t deliver that in the same way that text, diagrams, and screen shots do. But many you do like the idea of linking good blog posts and Twitter feeds to TechNet and MSDN articles, as long as we maintain close editorial control of those links to eliminate noise and to ensure that the content we link to is reliable and authoritative—well curated, in other words. You recommended that we put links to those additional sources of information on the side or the bottom. Finally, you asked that this content be able to work on multiple devices—not just a laptop or desktop.

 

Community-authored content

Current state: Right now, Microsoft offers two tools for community-authored content: the TechNet Wiki (which just launched last year), and MVP Corners.

Potential direction: We would like to promote more MVP authorship of TechNet library content, and we would like to embrace TechNet Wiki content more in our overall doc set. We are also investigating incentives for community-authored content, and we would like to know what incentives would move you to create or edit content on the TechNet Wiki and/or MVP Corners.

You told us: Many of you weren’t aware of the TechNet Wiki (which means we need to do a better job of promoting it) or MVP Corners. And while the ICAB in general seems open to the idea of writing content, incentives for doing that weren’t high on your list. Several of you made the point that having Microsoft listen to the community would help encourage you to contribute, as would sharing your experiences with others, building an online reputation in the community, and having your TN Wiki contributions count toward MVP status. And of course, ease of use is top of mind—the site must be easy to search and use.

The consensus on community content was that you’d use it as long as it is accurate, and that the author’s reputation is important. It must be attributed appropriately, and differentiated somehow from the authoritative Microsoft-authored content.

 

Translated (“localized”) content

Current state: Currently we offer both translated content and side-by-side translation panes on TechNet.

Potential direction: We are investigating a model where we ask the community to help us translate documentation.

You told us: English documentation is popular even for those whose first language is not English, because the translation quality of some of our documentation is somewhat lacking. When you use translated documentation, you need a comparative view for the operating system itself, as error codes and other strings, once translated, cannot be easily mapped back to their English counterparts.

You asked for incentives similar to the community-authored content (translation activities would count toward earning MVP status).

 

Troubleshooting content on specific problems

Current state: We currently offer Fix-Its and event-based troubleshooting content.

Potential direction: We are investigating the movement of all Windows event-based troubleshooting content to the TechNet Wiki to enable greater community input. We also want to explore the use of Fix-Its by IT Pros.

You told us: While Fix-Its have their uses, some of you prefer going through the process manually so that you know exactly what’s happening, similar to Operations Manager—otherwise you run the risk of disrupting in-house tweaks you’ve made to your system. Several of you mentioned that you would like the ability to open and modify the Fix-Its, create your own Fix-Its and post them on the TechNet Wiki, and to undo Fix-Its. Finally, some of you suggested that we use the community control on TechNet to suggest Fix-Its.

As for moving all the event-based troubleshooting to the TechNet wiki, some of you were pleased that all troubleshooting for Windows would be in one location. Others mentioned that having troubleshooting integrated in the topic means you don’t have to have multiple screens open. You also asked that we distinguish between original Microsoft content and community-authored content on the wiki, and some of you recommended http://eventID.net as a good non-Microsoft site for finding information about events.

 

General troubleshooting content

Current state: Right now, most of our troubleshooting content focuses on fixing specific, known issues.

Potential direction: We are investigating the usefulness of general or how-to troubleshoot content that is based on a problem class or sub-class when the root cause and its solution is unknown. This general troubleshooting content would step the reader through the system, configuration, and end-to-end process requirements and provide a way to do back-to-the-basics troubleshooting when specific-problem troubleshooting content is not helpful. For an example of this type of content, click here. Part of this model would mean providing deep technical information on system component architecture and processes. For an example, click here.

You told us: You seemed to like the idea of component-based problem solving, particularly for new products. With tight budgets and limited time, you would appreciate faster resolution of your issues. Many of you were delighted at the prospect of deeper technical information on architecture.

Joe Davies for Brooke Chapman, Senior Program Manager, Server & Cloud Division Information Experience Team