Updates and Developer Roadmap

Topics: User Forum
Jun 18, 2006 at 2:22 PM
Just in case you missed my blog entry on this, a few adjustments being made to the system as a result of meeting some folks at TechEd this last week.

First off, I’m moving to a scheduled monthly iteration. I’m still a one-man team (but don’t intend to keep it that way) but want to follow a regular schedule. Monthly iterations sounds good from a management perspective and they’ll be enough time to work on each release and get features baked in that are value-added.

The first of the new features that arose out of discussions Tuesday is anonymous support. Currently all users have to be a member of a SharePoint site which is great for intranets, but if you want to host SharePoint Forums on an internet facing site, it just doesn’t works (to be honest, I don’t know what it will do yet so I have to see but I’m pretty sure it won’t work). In any case, I’m going to do some specific things around anonymous support. If a user hits the site and is anonymous, then they can get read access (configurable as to what access they have). Once they want to post they’ll need to be signed in so if they’re not, they’ll be whisked away to a new login/register page. Again, it’s up to you how much access they get on sign up so they can post or you can set it so they have to be approved first before their word can be heard. This will all be configurable per forum so you can have some forums open, some slightly locked down, and others completely verbotten to internet users. Also extranet users will look just like internet ones as far as the forums go, just behind the scenes we’ll store more info because right now users information (display name, email, etc.) is all coming from SharePoint. The forums only store the SharePoint ID for a lookup so this will change. Again, the forums are polymorphic in design so once a new version goes out, the lists will automatically be upgraded and transformed. There’s no data migration you’ll have to do. I think this is the best of both worlds.
Jun 18, 2006 at 2:22 PM
The next thing is the introduction of an question/answer system. Currently with a message you can reply (or quote) and the message just shows up in the thread. For each forum, you’ll be able to flip a flag that turns it into a question/answer forum. This means that an additional link will appear next to the reply button called “Answer”. An answer is a reply, but just has different characteristics. As the thread owner, you’ll be able to look through the answers and click on a new button called “Accept” (which will be next to “Edit”). This will allow you to accept an answer as correct and give us a bit of ranking/rating system (for example you can get a list of threads with questions that are “unanswered”). Think of a system like Experts Exchange and you’ll get the idea.

I’ll be putting these in as work items on the CodePlex site and adding a few new releases to the release schedule for the next few months. There are additional features planned and actively being worked on so check out the release roadmap for more information. Speaking of the forums, I spent an exhausting 15 minutes yesterday porting the Web Part over to 2007 and have it running in my VM. If you’re in the TLC, drop by and take a look. There are some bugs due to deprecated features I’m using so I have to switch some controls over to their ASP.NET 2.0 counterparts, but it looks pretty good. Expect a 2007 version in the August drop.

Jun 19, 2006 at 12:43 PM
Sounds good - I don't know the 'experts exchange' thing.

It would be great if the web part were able to help identify and rank experts on a particular subject - and this might encourage people to try to provide useful answers and become a recognised expert. Was that the sort of thing you were thinking of?
Jun 20, 2006 at 4:04 AM
Not sure how to identify users based on subject matter, since that's entirely subjective.