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June 9, 2006

MSDN Wiki - plaudits and questions

Posted 4154 days ago on June 9, 2006

At last! Just as I was ranting about annoying documentation along comes MSDN Wiki, now in beta. It's particularly good to see folk from Microsoft already making strong contributions.

Great news, but I have a few reservations. First off, this isn't the entire MSDN library, but perhaps it will be in future. More seriously, I question whether Microsoft should have two sets on online documentation, one wiki-enabled and one static. Rather than set up a new wiki, I'd have preferred to see comment threads enabled on the standard MSDN pages. If I can see the same documentation, but with comments added by other developers or by the Microsoft team, why would I ever want to visit the old-style site?

Next, Visual Studio integration is a must. Since, for all its faults, the Microsoft Document Explorer has online capabilities, I hope Microsoft will soon come out with a plug-in that replaces the static docs with the MSDN wiki equivalent.

You have to sign in with Passport to comment. OK I guess, though I prefer the wikipedia approach, where sign-in is not absolutely required. What about the legal side? Here it is:

Microsoft does not claim ownership of the sample code, content, or other contributions you submit to this web site. By submitting such contributions, you are granting Microsoft and its affiliated companies the following worldwide, non-exclusive, perpetual, irrevocable, royalty-free, fully paid-up rights: (1) to make, have made, use, copy, reproduce, modify, and create derivative works of the contributions, (2) to publicly perform or display, import, broadcast, transmit, distribute (directly and indirectly through multiple tiers), license, offer to sell and sell, rent, lease, or lend copies of the contributions (and derivative works thereof), (3) to sublicense to third parties the foregoing rights, including the right to sublicense to further third parties, and (4) to publish your name or alias in connection with your contributions.

Much of this is just common sense, though it strikes me as stacked somewhat against the contributor. I am even meant to warrant various things; follow the link to see. The bottom line is that Microsoft can sell it but I don't get anything; and the rights we get on material we want to use are substantially less than the rights we give (for example, Microsoft expressly refuses to warrant anything, although it requires contributors to do so).

In a bizarre twist, to discuss the MSDN wiki you are meant to join the email discussion list. Very "open source"; but what's wrong with an online forum or even a newsgroup? It jars to have a wiki, but then an email mechanism to discuss it.

Microsoft's Somasegar asks: "For Orcas, should we completely open the documentation to editing?"

I don't think so. I want to see official text distinct from comment text.

Finally, this thing needs active moderation. Currently I have an open mind on whether Microsoft will do it right - some precedents are not encouraging.

See also this post from Rob Caron.


Re: MSDN Wiki - plaudits and questions

Posted 4150 days ago by Tom Elix • • • Reply

Do you think this will hurt C# Online.NET?

C# Online.NET is a wiki-based C# and .NET resource featuring articles, code snippets, forums, study guides, and tutorials.


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