Keith Combs' Blahg

Ramblings from another nerd on the grid

TechNet 2.0 – Episode 6 – Wiki

TechNet 2.0 – Episode 6 – Wiki

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Each of you has likely used one of the world’s most popular Wiki’s known as http://wikipedia.org. The English section of that site has 3.2 million articles and there are many more supported languages. An excerpt from the mission of the site is “to empower and engage people around the world to collect and develop educational content.” We have a similar TechNet mission.

As you’ll recall from TechNet 2.0 – Episode 1 – Core Scenarios and Branding, three big things we focus on for all TechNet scenarios are Content, Discoverability, and Participation. We really want to invite participation from everyone and what better way to combine that with discovery and content than to use Wiki technology?

Later this year TechNet and the Server & Cloud Division will partner to launch the new TechNet Wiki.

home

There are a number of interesting features that are part of the Wiki implementation. You’ll notice a very visible tag cloud. If the pic is hard to read, click it or any of the remaining screenshots for a larger version. Tag clouds are great for navigating large number of articles as well as seeing at a glance where activity is taking place. The Wiki has different views depending on whether you are logged in or not. You’ll notice I am not logged in above and we can see quickly the activity taking place, contact information, and how to use the Wiki.

Once I login, I can see additional information. In fact, I decided to click the Windows Server tag cloud and I get a listing of tagged articles as seen in the following screenshot.

tagcloud

I immediately spot an article I am interested in. You can see the one I am referring to above with the Event ID 3112. It’s the third article down. I click the article link and I am presented with the following information. As you can see, Tony Soper is writing about how to go through the process of troubleshooting a Hyper-V virtual machine issue. If you don’t know Tony, he’s one of our virtualization subject matter experts.

article

This particular article and condition was interesting to me because after modifying the Boot Configuration Data (BCD) for my machine, I inadvertently dropped the parameter to start the hypervisor on the Windows Server 2008 R2 boot entry in the BCD store. Tony’s article details this and how to fix the issue or points you to an article for additional help. Been there done that.

Another interesting aspect of the Wiki is the ability to see the changes that have occurred leading to the current version. You have the ability to run a compare if you like to see the revisions. In the screenshot below, I am getting ready to run the compare against the current version and version # 16.

history

After I click the Compare Versions button, I can see the revisions that have occurred as depicted in the screenshot below.

compare

As you can see, Tony is correcting his own article but one of you could be adding or changing information as well. In this particular article’s case, you might add some information about using “Boot from VHD” technology and how to be careful not to step on a BCD entry and lose the hypervisor autorun parameter. Wiki’s are great for collecting knowledge like that and we are anxious to get this in your hands soon.

We believe a public wiki for technical content on TechNet has the potential to be a big step forward in all three areas:

  • For content, while Microsoft teams write some great content, we cannot possibly author all the content customers need to be successful, and a wiki that offers content from the community will increase the breadth and depth of technical content available for IT Pros.
  • For participation, the wiki is a great new way for any IT pro to create and share technical knowledge, engage with other technical people and with Microsoft, and build an identity and reputation within the TechNet community.

I used the word "potential" above because Microsoft cannot succeed with the TechNet Wiki on its own - success ultimately depends on the direct engagement, support, and ongoing feedback from the IT community.

It’s a "big bet" for all of us, but one we believe in and are ready to take.

So, let's start with your feedback - what do you think of a TechNet Wiki? Let us know in the comments below. Thanks !

[NOTE] The screenshots are of our internal beta staging server so there may be some subtle differences by the time we provide access. Enjoy!

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  • I am not sure I see the utility of a Wiki over a blog in this instance. Why would I, as an IT Pro, write up a technical entry on a Microsoft technology that an MS employee could do better and have the definitive resources and knowledge on? My findings are going to be anecdotal or "notes from the field" at best that may or may not jive with the help files, technical docs or other users experiences. Mileage may vary - greatly - and this seems like it will cause grief in the Wiki format.

  • However, on thinking a bit more, it does seem like it will give individuals the ability to post technical solutions focusing on very narrow parameters or scenarios that you wouldn't ordinarily see in MS-sponsored documentation.

  • There are lots of ways you can add value on the wiki off the top of my head:

    1) works with <my hardware>

    2) tested with <my scenario>

    3) Here's a script in <my language> that does this

    4) Found an filed a bug in <this corner case> for this

    5) Here's how to do this if <this product> is in the scenario

    6) other?

  • You can also add the versions that are usually not added to TN/MSDN lib content, such as the "begginner's guide" or the "Scripter's guide".

  • I have no idea what is going to happen on the TechNet Wiki.  It could be brilliance or failure in the making.  I’m thinking it could be a brilliant endeavor and we could have a killer collection of knowledge around Windows Server.  It remains to be seen how much work is involved to support a Wiki and whether it is worth it.  But you won’t know unless you try.

  • For the TechNet Wiki to succeed, we need a collaborative, friendly and transparent Community to guide content and grow participation.

  • Sounds great. Will take a while to take hold, but eventually will take over.

  • You can also "enrich" the wiki articles with things like screenshots, audio and video that you can't get currently (inline to the article) on TN/MSDN.

  • I really like the idea, it would be amazing to see a one stop shop where all Win IT people start adding information that has helped them. I recently took 2 days to find an answer and it came from the community comment at the bottom of the technet article, with out which I would not have found an answer. The wiki would have this down!!

  • I like this idea and hopefully it will get us closer to a definitive source of information.  

    The only caution is with so many authors, making sure the content stays within its predetermined subject matter rather than a series of disconnected ramblings.

    In any case, it's got to be better than scrolling through Page 1 of search results from your favorite search engine hoping to find your golden nugget.  This would become my first place to look for info.

  • Why not try to improve the management and organization of the documentation and support groups.  There are so many languages and tools to learn and apps to debug.  Writing the TechNet doc also is a bunch more.

    There have been several times when Microsoft has come up with something innovative and very helpful. e.g. intelli-sense.

    Are those days gone forever?

    With all the tools available to Microsoft and the new software technologies and algorithms being introduced, why not use some of these to create more focused support for Microsoft products.

    A Bing-like tool for Microsoft documentation and bugs and ???  I find locating the information I need on a development topic as the biggest limitation of what Microsoft offers now.  Not the detail that is there once I find it!

    Wiki's are helpful but still can take a lot of time to ultimately get the help you need from someones poor explanations and sloppy editing and limited explanations.

    I hope I will not have to use a Wiki as my first line of detail on a development topic in the near future.

  • Saw some of this at MVP Summit, very cool. I think in order to drive content you need to be able to author using Windows Live Writer. That allows content to be posted to blog or wiki with no real effort either way; editing using online WYSIWYG is painful and an offline method like WLW is a must.

    The other issue that could sink this before it gets off the ground is siloing information as people start up discussion threads around the article itself. In order to be successful, I think commenting on articles needs to be seemlessly redirected to whichever internal forum is most appropriate and be linked via the cloud metadata. That allows you to drive from the forums and find wiki content while allowing people to comment on wiki articles in an open forum.

  • I love this idea.

    I'd also like to see it on MSDN. (or the topics expanded to Dev & Perf tuning related topics as there is huge overlap between what is TechNet & what is MSDN)

    The issue I have with running my own blog (& blogs in general) is that you need a search engine to find useful stuff.

    If I can post new content in a centralised place where more people will find it, it helps with reach. And helps justify my effort.

  • I have to admit in the last 25 years of programming Microsoft have NEVER got this right. A wiki is probably something that might save the developers from the HELL that is no documentation.

    Microsoft spew out great frameworks great designs and almost nothing but reference material.

    Momentum is gaining, opensource and speed of change is probably going to kill Microsoft.

    Lack of support within microsoft development products is a permanent feature. Its like 10 to 20 top programmers can follow from the off how to use or implement projects. We have a huge variety of systems to implement and every roadblock arrives at the crappy MSDN references or lack of any real documentation save for the pointless barrage of 400 books just regurgitating reference material.

    How many years have we thought that when we get visual studio xxxx we can get on... sure they are getting better, but tooling is always missing for the latest frameworks and libraries the we need to migrate to. The latest Visual Studio is an improvement but you can bet your life that it will not have the tooling for the technologies it brings into view.

    Crap, harsh words, but its crap mentality. Microsoft never fail to realise that the developer tools create products for their platforms and operating systems, yet Visual Studio is still a profit centre, what crap. All the critical elements are missing. It's great that Microsoft were FORCED to release express editions, but then leave out the real tools, crap.

    I can only assume that Microsoft is petrified that releasing Visual Studio 2010 TFS completely free, people would create completely new OS's and products that obliterate all their products.

    I have to agree that Microsoft is now probably on the cusp of a terminal decline.

    This new wiki may just give developers the relief they need but will it halt the decline I hope so but I'm not sure why. I wish it would bring great things, but I won't hold my breath, pretty soon I think I'm going to switch to PHP and join the script kiddies and apache and linux crud.

    For developers the world over I implore Microsoft to up the ante with more tooling at a faster pace. I read that Microsoft have thousands of programmers, so its reported, it can not be true, otherwise we'd have a spectacular array of tools to use and applications and we don't.

  • Sounds like an excellent idea.

    Just curious - what wiki software are you using?