Talking to the MSDN Team

posted on 2005-06-09 at 02:07:02 by Joel Ross

I had a chance to talk to a few of the guys on the MSDN search team, as well as the GotDotNet folks. Of course, my reason for stopping was to talk to the INETA team, but they were busy, and GotDotNet offered a free t-shirt if you filled out a survey.

I can't pass up free swag.

So after filling that out, I started looking at nametags, and noticed I knew of a lot of them. Then, Doug Seven grabbed me, and we started talking about search in MSDN. I met Doug on Sunday night, but this was a good chance to talk about what he does. He works on the back end of the VS.NET help tool.

Wait a minute. Back end? What back end? I thought it was all local help. That's why I never used it. VS.NET 2003 help is good if you want technical details about what you're looking for, but not so helpful for contextual information about how to implement something. So I assumed that VS.NET 2005 would be the same way.

Never assume! That's bad. When you search for something in 2005, it does do a local search, so you still get the reference data, but now you get a whole slew of other resources. First, you get search results from the new MSDN forums.

My first thought on that? Cool, but I google a lot, and I find what I'm looking for, only to find out that it's not answered - it's someone with the same question as me. But that's not the case here. If you read Josh Ledgard's post about the new forums, you'll notice there's a way to flag a reply to your question as an answer. That adds it to a database of answered questions that can then be queried through VS.NET. Awesome!

His post also talks about the VS.NET integration, but I forgot about that until just now. It's much easier to remember when you can talk to these guys rather than just read about it.

So that's one part. Another part is third party sites, such as ASP Alliance, DotNetJunkies, etc. They have a way to tell the MSDN team what content to look at, and then those can be used in search results. That's the back end that Doug works on. Now, in VS.NET, without leaving the IDE, you can get information from third party sites about what you want to do.

And the search is extensible. That means if, for example, you have an internal repository of code snippets at your company, you could add a tab that searches your internal repository so your developers can get quick access to code written the way your company expects code to be written.

Now that's cool!

Categories: Development