TechNet 2.0 – Episode 6 – Wiki


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!

Comments (54)

  1. Chris Haaker says:

    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.

  2. Chris Haaker says:

    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.

  3. Tony Soper says:

    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?

  4. Tony Soper says:

    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".

  5. Keith Combs says:

    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.

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

  7. jeremy says:

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

  8. Tony Soper says:

    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.

  9. Robin Ferris says:

    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!!

  10. Clark Pope says:

    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.

  11. dpminusa says:

    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.

  12. Brad Turner says:

    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.

  13. David Lean says:

    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.

  14. Anthony says:

    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.

  15. Peter Maddox says:

    Sounds like an excellent idea.

    Just curious – what wiki software are you using?

  16. Tom Chapin says:

    Great idea.  Strongly encourage sponsors reading WikiPatterns = http://www.wikipatterns.com/display/wikipatterns/Wikipatterns

  17. Marcus says:

    Excellent, it really is about time. Looking forward to using it and hopefully spending less time looking for answers and more time being productive 🙂

  18. J Haacker says:

    Technet wiki is something I’d like to see happen for those of us who desire more knowlege on IT and the inner workings of the net.

  19. Valma says:

    Do it. It may reduce a little the duplication of information and it will surely keep articles more readily updated and getting deeper and richer if there are enough experts collaborating *if¨* this site gets to be THE site of reference.

    Everyone is an expert in something and "lay people" would collaborate if they see it is worthy, but they should have a secondary rol. You´ll want to have experts to be warned and arbitrate when two or more people don’t agree on something they edited.

  20. MitchRatcliffe says:

    Keith — great summary of the wiki we’re launching. I hope we can sustain the spirit of wiki while delivering more solid information to the world. Some of the comments here doubt the value of a wiki, because it seems to dump the work on users. There’s a lot of value in wiki because it lets users inject their questions and comments in an article, leading Microsoft to answer questions.

    Wiki is more work for all, magnifying everyone’s efforts in a way other modes of publishing can’t. Even blogs, which bifurcate statements by blogers into a different category than readers’ comments, can’t produce the added value that a wiki does. Microsoft has more work to do because it launched the wiki, not less. That’s the commitment I think we need to reiterate over and again inside and out.

    Because, face it, while there are thousands of smart engineers here at Microsoft, we do need to deliver more than “reference materials.”  In my experience with wikis, I’ve found it makes readers part of a discussion, so that Microsoft’s first word need not be the only word on a topic. That means we can add to the canonical reference material through dialogue that happens in the wiki.

    That’s the hope, at least. Let’s make it work.

  21. Ralph Bussard says:

    If the TechNet wiki proves to be as complete and easy to navigate as Wikipedia, the TechNet version will be a huge success. The best Wikipedia articles seem to be moderated by subject matter experts and edited by professional writers. Hopefully MS will figure out a way to assure that submissions are independently checked for spelling, grammar, and the absence of obvious factual errors. I hope they will also find a way to block content that is nothing more than a critical dig at Microsoft, a product, or another contributor. I get enough snark from reading comments on politics, and I don’t need more when I’m seeking technical information.

  22. Tony Soper says:

    Brad: re: " in order to drive content you need to be able to author using Windows Live Writer" – WLW works great on the wiki. The only thing is that embedded pictures do not transfer when you copy/paste from WLW. You have to save the pics locally, then insert them using the wiki editing toolbar button. Not too bad.

  23. Ronnie Vernon says:

    Hi Keith

    This will be a winner!

    It will be like having the Technet Library, with all of the Microsoft documentation that includes real world, hands on, experiences from IT Pros.

    Looking forward to this.

    RonV

  24. Allen C. says:

    For the development side of the house it would be nice to see a Wiki solution that could plug into SharePoint that could be used for Scrum sprints.

  25. Jeremy2 says:

    There are already a lot of tech support wikis out there – when I search for info at the moment, and I see hits from TechNet and those other sites, I know what the difference is with content from Microsoft.  Maybe not so specific, but more authoritative. This could mean TechNet becomes just another peer-support site.

    Or, of course, if you can invest the QA effort to validate everyone else’s posts, then you could end up wiping lots of those other sites off the web.

  26. ML49448 says:

    @Tony: re: “You have to save the pics locally, then insert them using the wiki editing toolbar button. Not too bad.”  I hate that part of using a wiki.  But then, I am lazy.

    Beyond that… I think that the optimists and tne nay sayers will both get what they expect.  If you think a wiki is “crap” then you will see crap when you bother to look.  If you think a wiki is an opportunity, you will find ways to improve the content and make it into something useful.

  27. Jason says:

    I hope this takes off; it would be nice to have a compilation of information instead of wading through forum search results of the same question asked over and over.

    This could prove to be an interesting and valuable source of information exchange between MS and users such as myself.  I look forward to seeing how other people implement different MS products, especially when the setup deviates from standard by-the-book installations due to less than ideal hardware availability & software purchasing decisions forced by budgetary constraints.

  28. John says:

    Great idea and I hope that

    icrosoft will give enough time for this to gel only time will tell.

  29. Yusuf Shabbir says:

    Thats a great Initiative from Microsoft. On a technical point of view it should provide great insight to some of the interesting and common real-time scenarios and examples.

    It would be great if i can get some of my problems solved by Microdoft technician online.

  30. juerg rietmann says:

    Great idea, is this a Microsoft product ? We’re about to implement a WIKI in our organization. We’d like to use a Microsoft product. Is this available to the public ?

  31. Carlos says:

    Well, I suggest u make TV ads to reach around the word… wikipedia has get a lot of news, and show in many TV news programs.

    TV is the main objective for ur Ads, or a good you tube presentation… a really good one.

  32. Andy Brown says:

    Sounds right to me – as the info volumes row so this could be a very very valuable resource.  Provided enough of us use it to make certain that whats in there is the true version of the truth!

  33. David Irwin says:

    This introduction could prove an interesting one, and as many comments above read generally a positive move for Microsoft documentation. I only hope that two key issues are being addressed:

    1. Microsoft review all documents regularly to make their contribution. I do not mean to moderate before documents are made public, but to add the knowlege of the relevant developers and support teams to particular problems.

    2. This should not give an excuse to reduce the number and quality of other TechNet documentation.

    My experiences of finding and using TechNet documentation is that for me as a installer/configurator/supporter of microsoft products if I can find the relevant document they are very good. Unfortunately as a previous comment said our software developers find that documentation is poor. In many cases what they need simply does not appear to exist and in those cases where it does inevitably is either incomplete or out of date.

    Please keep trying hard.

  34. Mani says:

    wll b gr8 source of info of innovation of technology!!! 🙂

    i m impressed.. :p

  35. Ranj. says:

    Keith currently 5MB over the air is not big. We here in Oz get 4mbps on our iphones and TELSTRA announced 42mbps will be available in the next month or so. It will be a game changer but whats crucial is the content.

  36. Dan_IT says:

    I think this is an awesome idea.  I also think success or failure will, in part, on how much participation there is from within Microsoft.  In many ways, no one knows Microsoft products as well as Microsoft.  We can add real world experience, but without the benefit of Microsoft participation, this may become little better than blogs which can be hit and miss as far as accuracy goes.

  37. Ron J. Buitenhuis says:

    Thanks for sharing this information with us Keith!

    Sometimes it can be frustrating to look something ones is investigating on.

    However TECHNET has never dissapointed me in any way, what so ever. TECHNET wiki will surely enhance the way people would like to cooperate and share information on a web 2.0 kind of way, namely more democratic and controlable.

    Keep on the good work, so we can start contributing!

  38. Anderson Carli says:

    I think this is a great ideia (even if a little late) and I’m sure this is the right path.

    For those who want to understand why, I recommend the book Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything by Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams.

    http://www.amazon.com/Wikinomics-Mass-Collaboration-Changes-Everything/dp/1591841933/

    My best wishes,

  39. RIX78 says:

    Great Start !

    However IT solutions in present times overlap multiple technologies that finding relevant answer at times can be challenging.

    Specificity around scenarious would be interesting.

    Curious follower here !

  40. Richard Hartley says:

    I’m looking forward to solutions for embedded development. Especially the older tools, which are still relevant to some.

  41. Rick says:

    I think Microsoft will benefit from this wiki if only to learn a little about what is missing from their documentation.   I think it will also help them to address the technical writer issues overwriting a simple concept.  If Microsoft learns these lessons well, maybe their documentation will improve to the point where a man on the street can interpret and act on it.  

    At that point, Microsoft technicians will need to find other means of support, war and famine will cease to exist, and Gene Roddenberry’s dream of utopia will have come to pass.

  42. Jose Angel Rivera says:

    A Wiki format will be great.  Even when Microsoft is trying to give us accurate documentation, a lot of it is sometimes not so accurate or is irrelevant to our scenario, as there are thousands different scenarios all over the world.  It could enhance all type of documentation with graphics, technical notes, and lot of other useful stuff.  I’m waiting for this already!

  43. Keith Combs says:

    I wanted to say thanks to everyone that has commented. It’s always killer to hear the voice of the people and I can see you all are very interested in this aspect of our feature rollout.

    The TechNet Wiki is going to be very interesting and I hope you find that it is a useful source of high quality information.

  44. David Litster says:

    to: Chris Haaker, Keith Combs

    If you have an issue with "non-Microsoft people" adding articles, or "messing up" Microsoft-written documentation, perhaps Keith would consider having "official articles" have a "comments/lessons learned" sections, much like the official PHP documentation exists, but also has a "comments" section at the bottom, where users point out caveats, share examples, etc.  I have found that paradigm to be invaluable, because the "blessed" documentation can also be supplemented with "in the field" examples without polluting the original content.

  45. Keith Combs says:

    Hi David,

    I actually don’t worry much about things getting messed up. We have a lot of subject matter experts interested in the Wiki.  Inside and outside the company.

    The word "official" does add an interesting twist and I’m sure it will be a topic of discussion for months and months.

  46. Rus Hays says:

    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!!

  47. I think this will provide more info-glut  .. would’nt it be better if Microsoft comes with some new technology that reduces and consolidates Technet into short, meaningful facts .. instead of adding more and more articles from many users that might be facts or just more crap !!

  48. David Bermingham says:

    I think this is a great idea.  I can’t wait to see it get started!

  49. kim says:

    Every contribution to any kind of source material regarding technical Microsoft issues are most welcome!

  50. Torsten says:

    Do you take your own medicine and build it on Sharepoint 2010?

  51. Frank Callanan says:

    The benefits could be enormous, the fear is that users will post information that is incorrect, poorly researched, or just difficult to follow.

    As long as some level of oversight (users governing users) is kept up I am confident this will be an invaluable tool.

  52. Mitch says:

    Any update as to when the technet wiki will be made available?

  53. Keith Combs says:

    If you know where to look, it already is. Bing would be a good start.  😉

  54. Keith Combs says:

    FYI, when I posted that reply on 3/11 I was still under a gag order and not allowed to directly disclose the location, nor promote it via this blog, twitter, etc.

    That’s over as of last week.  See http://blogs.technet.com/keithcombs/archive/2010/04/14/microsoft-technet-wiki-has-launched.aspx for more information on this new service.

    We launched !!!