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MSDN Wiki: What's Up?

Scott Swigart is a consultant specializing in convergence of current and emerging technologies. Scott can be contacted at [email protected].

DDJ: I'm familiar with what MSDN Wiki is, but I don't know that the world at large is. Could I get you to start off with an introduction to what MSDN Wiki is, and maybe even more importantly, why MSDN Wiki is?

Molly: For the last year or so, my team has been looking at different ways that we can allow the community to expand and enhance the product documentation that we supply. What we've done on the current site is build a wiki around the MSDN documentation. People can add community content to the end of a page and put in tags, examples, tips and tricks, and other information that relates to the products, information that we didn't cover in the original documentation.

Translation is the second part of our project. MSDN publishes machine-translated content to our translation wiki site and then allows people in the community to make changes that improve the translation. In that case, people can make their edits in-line in the documentation.

DDJ: In other words, there are two goals. One of them is to take the MSDN content, and let the community localize it to a lot more languages than would otherwise be feasible, and the other goal is for the community to have the opportunity to expand the documentation that ships with the product and shows up on MSDN site. Is that an accurate summary?

Rob: Yes, it is.

DDJ: So, how's it going? You've launched this now, and the community can contribute content and do translations. How are you seeing the community engage at this initial point?

Molly: The response so far has been excellent. Our English site has been live since early June, and we've had 1700 edits covering close to 1000 topics. The quality of information that we've gotten has been really high, and we haven't had a lot of problems with vandalism, or those kinds of things, which is great. The feedback that we've gotten from people has been really positive so far. We've noticed a lot of interesting things about how people interact on the site. They seem more apt to create new content blocks rather than editing somebody else's content, for example.

DDJ: I didn't realize there had been 1700 edits, that's great. It seems to me that one of the things that prevents vandalism, and that makes this a little bit different from a traditional Wiki, is that you can't really modify the MSDN documentation. The content that you contribute is more like comments that get appended onto the end of the page, but you can't edit the core documents themselves.

Molly: Right, we don't have to worry about people touching the Microsoft content directly. Also, several of our top contributors who were on the site anyway have become moderators. They have the ability, if they do see something that's inappropriate, to get to it right away.

DDJ: So in other words, people in the community who have been really active in contributing to the success of the site have been given a little more authority in helping ensure that it keeps going in a good direction?

Molly: Right, exactly.

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