New Microsoft Q&A Platform
Written by Sue Gee   
Friday, 01 November 2019

Microsoft Q&A, launched this week as an extension of docs.microsoft.com, is intended to become the place to get answers to technical questions on Microsoft products and services. But will it be welcomed as a replacement for the MSDN and Technet Forums?

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In the FAQ section of the new site Sandra Aldana, @saldana, states explicitly that Q&A will be replacing MSDN and TechNet forums, which she states are "outdated", a rationale that we originally encountered when docs.microsoft.com was initially announced as a new documentation service to replace MSDN and TechNet.

Aldana outlines the major benefits of Microsoft Q&A over the forums it is replacing with:

Microsoft Q&A will use the same user authentication as Microsoft Docs and Learn content for a more consistent experience across the platform. This integrated experience will allow us to better prioritize and answer questions, and give users clearer paths between documentation, learning content, and answers. Microsoft Q&A also offers a much better set of permissions that will equip our moderators with improved tools.

One of the key feature of Microsoft Q&A is: 

  • Tag-based experience allows you to ask questions across products and services in a single place

but the current preview only has 11 tags, 8 of them relating to Azure and the other two being Universal Windows Platform and Partner Center API. Aldana explains:

A migration of a resource this size is a massive undertaking. To ensure a smooth transition and minimize any disruption for users, we’ve broken down the migration into multiple phases. The goal is to complete the migration by mid-2020.

The MSDN and TechNet forums are now closed to all new posts - both questions and responses although existing ones can still be viewed. There are no plans to migrate content from  MSDN and TechNet forums, although the FAQ states:

In the next few months, when a user searches for something that doesn't appear when they're browsing in Microsoft Q&A, we'll use machine learning to display read-only questions and answers from MSDN and TechNet forums.

 

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Although currently a large proportion of the answers come from Microsoft employees,  this is supposed to be a "community-driven platform" where any logged-in user can provide answers as well as ask questions. To encourage participation, contributions to the Q&A site earn Reputation Points - having a user accept an answer gains 75 and having feedback approved  is worth 50. To ensure that people look at the answers to the questions they have asked, there's 20 points for accepting an answer. You can also lose points - a fine of -10  if one of you posts has to be moderated. 

It seems that reputation points are such a good incentive that they have to be controlled. A limit of  500 points has been set  as the maximum a user can earn over a 24-hour period. Another aspect is that people want to be able to transfer the recognition that they had gained in the TechNet and MSDN forums, and one early question asked was:

Can we migrate existing Technet/MSDN rewards, points to Microsoft Q&A?

Seniors who contribute in MSDN, Technet forums have lot of reward points, medals etc. Looks like, everyone needs to start from 0 on this new forum.

Is there any way we can use existing rewards from existing forums in here?

This question was quickly closed and this information was added to the FAQs:

Q. Will I lose my MSDN and TechNet reputations?

A. Currently you can't carry over your MSDN and TechNet reputation. However, in the future we'll give you the opportunity to link Microsoft Q&A and MSDN and TechNet forums. When this is an option, your current badges and points from MSDN and TechNet forums will be displayed as part of your Microsoft Q&A profile.

Community contributors give their time in return for reputation points - i.e. they do Microsoft's work for free. To redesign the system without preserving these points is like snatching away the reward. The team designing this Q&A is clearly out of touch with the realities and need to value their customers rather more than this "reward snatch back" implies. I can only hope there are protests to make whoever is in charge to provide this option sooner rather than later.

Concerns about reputation-points may also account for the fact that the question about enumerating an infinite set of integers in C# (see screen dump above) was closed with the reason:

Question is an exact copy of an Stack Overflow question.

Yes, the question was copied - but there was a new and helpful answer which was not on Stack Overflow, which I consider made revisiting the topic worthwhile. Also there doesn't seem to be any explicit restriction about asking questions that have already been asked elsewhere - although word for word copies might well be disallowed on the grounds that Google objects to large-scale copying of content from one website to another.

The relationship between Microsoft Q&A and Stack Overflow is an obvious question and this is the Microsoft official line on the matter:

Q: What are the major benefits of Microsoft Q&A versus Stack Overflow?

A: We love Stack Overflow. We will continue supporting our customers who ask questions there. In the future, we will introduce a feature that points askers on Microsoft Q&A to relevant answers from Stack Overflow.

However, Stack Overflow has specific criteria about what questions are appropriate for the community and Microsoft Q&A will have a more open policy regarding this. More importantly, via Microsoft Q&A we can create unique experiences that allow us to provide the highest level of support for our customers. It is hard to get a full picture of the customer who is asking a question on Stack Overflow. But on Microsoft Q&A it will be possible to connect the asker to their actual product usage and support contract. This will enable new opportunities to offer the highest quality support.  

If posting a question on Stack Overflow means it is disallowed by Microsoft Q&A this is hardly "a more open policy". And if there is going to be a conflict then Stack Overflow reputations are probably the more highly cherished.  So far Microsoft is showing scant regard for the efforts of those who contributed, in many cases for over a decade, to the reputation of MSDN and TechNet forums. This is yet another example of overthrowing a valuable resource for the sake of appearance rather than substance.

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More Information

Microsoft Q&A

Introducing Microsoft Q&A (Preview)

Related Articles

Microsoft Open Sourcing MSDN - Good News? 

New MSDN Blogs Broken 

Microsoft Developer Blogs On The Move 

 

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Last Updated ( Thursday, 07 November 2019 )