I have been following MSDN forums for well over a year (and possibly almost 2 years at this point) and every now and then I hear from someone how “hard” it is to do that. I find it quite easy and thought I’d share my “technique”. This technique also works for www.endusersharepoint.com (http://www.endusersharepoint.com/STP).
Taking MSDN as an example, I first go to standard forum page such as the General Questions for SharePoint main page here: http://social.technet.microsoft.com/Forums/en-US/sharepointgeneral/threads
You should right away notice that the forums are RSS enabled, as shown:
I’ve been using Google Reader for managing my RSS feeds for a long time now (www.google.com/reader). I go there, add the RSS feed for the forum and now I’m getting all new forums posts via RSS. My Google feeds for SharePoint forums look like this:
Google provides me a nice view of the posting itself:
And finally, Google lets me use the keyboard to scroll through the postings in the forums this way.
I can quickly scan through posts and focus just on those I feel I can make a useful contribution.
Alerts close the loop. Updates to posts don’t come through RSS (though I think they used to a long time ago). However, if I post a response to a forum posting, the forums alert me via email and IM that someone responded in turn. Or, if I can’t make a useful contribution but I want to know what others have to say, I can drill into it and explicitly request alerts when others do respond.
In an hour or less you can set this process up and and in a week of regular use, learn the various keyboard tricks and shortcuts so that this becomes second nature.
I use the exact same technique for End User SharePoint.Com’s “Stump the Panel” forums. This is their RSS feed: http://www.endusersharepoint.com/STP/rss/.
Forums are an awesome way, possibly the best way short of direct personal experience, of learning the product and getting a nice survey of how the world, at large, uses SharePoint. Give it a try!
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Paul, do you know the difference between social.msdn.microsoft.com and http://www.microsoft.com/communities/newsgroups/en-us ?
I don’t understand why Microsoft has two different places, as it seems to me that they have the same purpose.
That really is an interesting idea, and something I will have to try. When I first signed up with my first account I really had trouble finding the threads I had previously started or posted a response too.
It took me a bit to figure it all out, but there are some features that help with that and the new design is a big improvement. For frequent contributors be sure to use the Alerts feature. It takes a bit of maintenance, but I keep alerts on all the threads I post on until it has been resolved. Since I also use MSN Messenger, it pushes those alerts to IM in addition to the email and alert view.
The MyThreads view also offers the RSS feed, so that can be subscribed to in a reader as you suggested.