GotDotNet shutting down!

The Microsoft sponsored GotDotNet developer community site is shutting down! All of the functionality will be phased out by July 2007, so there isn’t much time left. According to the announcement, Microsoft is phasing out GotDotNet for the following reasons:

  • Eliminate redundant functionality between GDN and other community resources provided by Microsoft Traffic and usage has significantly decreased over the last 6 months Reinvest the resources in new and better community features

The phase out schedule is:

Target Date Areas to be Closed
February 20 Partners, Resource Center, Microsoft Tools
March 20 Private workspaces, Team pages, Message Boards
April 24 GDN CodeGallery (projected date)
May 22 GDN User Samples (projected date)
June 19 GDN Workspaces (projected date)

I can understand some of the reasoning behind this decision. Microsoft does have other community sites, such as CodePlex and Codezone, that duplicate a lot of the functionality found on GotDotNet. CodePlex takes the place of the GDN Workspaces and maybe CodeGallery, but I don’t think it can adequately replace the User Samples section. Codezone would replace the message boards.

The big question in my mind is where will the existing content go? Just because Microsoft doesn’t see the need to keep GDN going, there is still a wealth of information in the User Samples. What will become of the projects that are using Workspaces for shared development and source control? Will all of that history be lost or is there a way to port the data to a CodePlex project?

I think the best thing Microsoft could do is take the proverbial step backwards and look at the entire developer offering and try to present a consistent face. I understand that the sites are geared towards potentially different audiences, but there is a lot of overlap and it can be extremely difficult to find what you are looking for. Searching on MSDN has become nearly impossible given that you now see links for all of the different languages.

After that, take a chapter out of their own book on usability and apply it to the developer sites. Just because we’re developers doesn’t mean we don’t want a site that is easy to navigate, functional, and well organized. I don’t really think any of the current sites fit well into any of those three criteria.

I’m sure I’ve missed some, but here is my count of the number of Microsoft sponsored developer sites:

  1. MSDN
  2. MSDN Wiki (or MSDN Library)
  3. GotDotNet
  4. CodePlex
  5. Codezone
  6. MSDN blogs
  7. Sharepoint blogs
  8. MSDN Forums
  9. Channel 9
  10. Channel 10

Start with consolidating all of the developer sites, make them easy to navigate, functional, and well organized. Then work on increasing the site responsiveness (it takes for ever for the MSDN Library navigation to load, even on a burstable OC12 connection). Then clean up the content. There have been numerous times where I’ve seen documentation contradict other parts of the documentation, code examples that are incomplete, or documentation that just doesn’t provide anything useful.

Create a true developer community that

  1. Fosters open two-way communication in an easy manner, between the community members and Microsoft developers
  2. Promotes code sharing and reuse
  3. Provides clear, concise, and complete examples as well as explanations
  4. Provides a consistent user experience (Microsoft’s new buzzword for Vista)
  5. Provides a single clearing house for developer related tools and information (This could even be links to other areas of Microsoft’s site or other sites completely, but give it to us in a manner that makes sense.)
  6. Efficient and accurate searches across all of the content