Dan Appleman: Kibitzing and Commentary

My personal blog

I noticed earlier today that Rob Caron at Microsoft was glad I posted my first entry to the MSDN Wiki. While I really don’t consider my posting to be any sort of a milestone, it did remind me that the Wiki project is no longer under NDA so I can actually comment on it.
So here goes.
As someone who has been doing Windows software development since version 1.0, I long considered MSDN the single most important product Microsoft ever shipped – you had to have suffered through the painful lack of documentation earlier on to really appreciate what a revolution it was. The complexity of Windows programming is ever increasing, and MSDN remains the foundation that every developer relies on. While it’s true that for most of us the front-end for searching MSDN is now Google, the content remains the gold standard.
But as good as MSDN is, it’s not good enough. There are far too many holes (and probably always will be – I doubt any doc team could keep up). Even now, it’s extremely common for me to have to search the web for solutions to problems – answers that should be in MSDN but are not.
None of the search engines are good enough for what is needed – a cross linking of information (samples, best practices, caveats and bug reports) that is relevant to each MSDN entry. This problem – discoverability of knowledge that already exists – is the biggest problem faced by any software developer today.
I’ve known about the MSDN Wiki project for a while, but have been too busy with other things to pay close attention. That said, I believe that the MSDN Wiki project is the single most important project going on at Microsoft in terms of software development.
My plan is to add content to it any time I run into something that I get stuck on and have to research – something that should have been in the docs in the first place. I invite and encourage everyone to join in.
I also challenge Microsoft to encourage every one of their software developers to contribute to those areas where they were involved in the development.
The MSDN Wiki project has enormous potential, and I am very excited to see it becoming a reality.
Check it out: http://msdnwiki.microsoft.com