I admit, it’s been a while.  28th April to be precise, which, in my book, is far too long.  For those of you who showed concern, it was much appreciated, but I’d like to reassure you, I hadn’t moved role, left Microsoft, or been struck down with illness.  On the contrary, I’d just been very busy indeed, as we roll up to our end of year.  That said, you have to go back to December 2007 when I last failed to post at least one article within a month, so it’s a good job I’m here today!

May has been an absolute whirlwind.  A series of events, meetings and other Partner-related activities has meant blog-time has been at an all time low, but that doesn’t stop my ‘to-blog’ folder mounting up and mounting up…

To Blog Folder

53 items, excluding this one, to talk about!  It’s going to be a while before I get through that lot, and by the time I do, some of it will no doubt be out of date, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

The eagle-eyed among you will no doubt have noticed that the blogs hosted through MSDN and TechNet have recently undergone a bit of a facelift as we upgraded our blogging platform to a newer version.  At first, I thought this was going to be painful, but I was reassured all content would be brought across to the new platform without any loss.  They were right.  Well, apart from the fact that the CSS overrides I’d successfully used on the old virtualboy blog, didn’t really have the same effect on the new virtualboy blog, so I had to start again on that one, but, and I hope you agree, it’s looking better than ever, with more flexibility from my side to boot.

Firstly, I can happily create my own widgets, and drag modules around the page to style them how I like, which makes simple customisations much easier.   I have more control over what exists in these modules too.  Sure, I had control over my right-hand-column before, but the new platform makes it much easier to enable me to have control, and set the styling how I see fit.  I’m no web guru (or should that be, master?) so anything that makes my life easier is a good thing.

One of the first things you may notice is the inclusion of a small, well, advertisement I guess, for the sister site, virtualboy tv:

virtualboy tv

Hopefully, it’s inclusion will make it easier for anyone to make their way over there, should they want to investigate some of the video content that’s available around Microsoft virtualisation.  Again, I’m sure I could have done this before, on the old platform, but the new platform just makes it easier.

You’ll also notice that you’re now in control of how you view the content on the homepage:

Example Post

If you take a look at the screengrab above, you’ll see right at the top left, you have 2 controls.  the first, is list view, and shrinks down the content on the homepage into bitesize chunks, so the page loads a bit quicker, and if you’re interested in a post, as usual, you can click the link and read it in it’s entirety.  This is the default setting on my blog.  Alternatively, if you prefer, you can expand this out by using the button next to it, in order to see all the posts in their entirety on the home page.  You also have the option to sort the content in a couple of different ways.

One of the biggest things I’ve noticed with this new platform however, is the integration with Windows Live ID’s, which opens up a whole new content-sharing opportunity, by unifying the authentication process of the blogs.  So, if you’ve got a Live ID, make sure you sign in when accessing the blogs, as you’ll be able to start to build up a repository of content that you’re interested in.  If you check out mine:

New Tabs

You’ll see that I have a number of tabs, ranging from profile, which includes posts that I’ve marked as ‘favourites’ across any of the TechNet and MSDN blogs.  For me, that’s very cool, as I can see something that I’m interested in on say, the Virtualisation team blog, mark is as a favourite, and in the future, I can just go to my profile and find it.  I guess it’s an alternative to favourites in your internet browser, but hey, it’s a nice feature!

You can also start to make friends with fellow bloggers, which then starts to contribute towards your activity tab.

All in all, I really like the new platform.  I expect there to be a few niggling bugs as we go through the next few weeks.  The fact that the search bar at the top of my blog currently searches across the whole of TechNet rather than just my blog is one they already know about, so hopefully there won’t be too many more!