Microsoft Forums Moderators Toolset

High-Level Requirements and Goals

Author: Joe Morel
Version: 1.0
Last Edited: 8/9/06

Introduction

The purpose of this document is to outline the high level requirements of the Microsoft Forums Moderators Toolset project (henceforth referred to as the "Toolset".) The intention of this document is to gain feedback and guidance from the larger team of moderators on the Microsoft Forums (particularly the MSDN site.) Are we on the right track? Are we missing a large feature? Is there something on the list that isn't going to be particularly useful?

Contributing to this Document

This "wiki" isn't a wiki in the traditional sense--only project coordinators are able to directly edit this text, but there is a comment area at the bottom. Go ahead and comment away--we'll try to keep the document updated with the changes that are suggested. Some features just aren't going to be technically feasible at this time, and some are going to be lower priority than others.

To stay in sync with the changes to the document and the comments that others are contributing, there is an RSS feed of this page available. Click on the orange RSS icon at the top right-hand corner of the window to subscribe.

Contributing to this Project

So far, there are a couple of moderators that have volunteered to help manage this project. If you're interested in contributing to the project, we'd be happy to have you on board. Just put a comment up on this document and I'll get in touch with you and add you to the project.

Goals of the Toolset

  • Make Moderators More Efficient: Moderators spend quite a bit of time doing simple things that should take long--checking up on off-topic posts, asking each other to help with a thread, and trying to find a good question to answer. An effective moderator toolset provides the tools to help minimize the amount of time on these "housekeeping" tasks and maximize the time they can spend helping the rest of the community.
  • Overcome Technical Limitations of the Forums: The forums have been a great home to a growing community for over a year now, but during that time the technical limitations of the platform have been exposed. This toolset helps overcome some of the technical limitations of the forums by providing workarounds where they make sense.
  • Create a Truly Collaborative Project Between Microsoft and the Developer Community: The Developer Solutions team has been creating the Power Toys for Visual Studio which are all Shared Source solutions to developer pain points with Visual Studio and the .NET Framework. We've been developing the solutions in house and letting the community see the code at the 1.0 release, but it's time to really test community development. Let's have fun working together and making something great!

Features of the Toolset

The following features have been suggested for the moderators toolset. They are being assigned one of three priorities:
  1. Priority 1: These are "must-have" features that are an essential part of the moderator toolset.
  2. Priority 2: These are important features that are necessary for efficient moderation, but may not ship immediately with the first release of the toolset.
  3. Priority 3: These are "nice to have" features that will be included if time allows, but will likely get pushed out. (Read: If you want these features, you might want to fire up Visual Studio and code them. :) )

As each feature is approved to be built, a detailed functional spec will be written for the feature prior to its implementation. That specification will be broken into CodePlex work items, which will then be picked up by developers.

Assign Question to User

Priority 1
A user should be able to assign a question to another user (the question "owner") on the site with notes explaining why that question was assigned to them.

Question Tagging

Priority 1
A user should be able to tag questions with keywords, a la Flickr or del.icio.us.

Advanced Search on Internal Metadata

Priority 1
A user should be able to construct complex queries to return lists of question links based upon question owner, tag, answer status, and forum. (e.g., "Show me all of the unanswered questions I own in the Visual Basic General forum.")

Knowledge Navigator 2.0

Priority 1
All moderators should have access to a common store of knowledge and information that they are able to read and write to. This store will be used to store code snippets, moderation guidelines, "canned" replies, and any other information the moderators see fit.

Advanced Search on External Metadata

Priority 2
The Microsoft Forums MSN Search Constructor tool should be available and updated to automatically update its lists of sites, forum groups, and forums. The tool allows a user to construct an advanced search on the forums against the publicly exposed metadata, including question asker name, answerer name, answer status, helpful rating, site, forum, forum group, and keywords.

Moderation Macros

Priority 2
A user should be able to execute certain "macros" on the forums for commonly occurring tasks, such as marking a question as off-topic and locking the thread, asking for follow-up information, etc. These moderation macros would include the ability to automatically insert text into a thread and execute moderation functions on the site. (Note: There are many outstanding issues with this feature that may prevent it from being feasible, such as the forums restriction on posting identical text in multiple posts.)

Forum Thread Bookmarking

Priority 3
A user should be able to "mark" a thread as something that they want to track, and be able to view a list of tracked threads. This feature could be implemented just using the tagging functionality with custom search buttons, which is why it's priority 3.

Escalate Thread to Microsoft

Priority 3
A user should be able to click a button and escalate a given thread to Microsoft, basically saying, "Hey! We could use some input here!"

Requirements

These requirements include technical "background" features that must be implemented to acheive the features above.
  1. The toolset must be implemented using .NET 2.0, ASP.NET 2.0, and SQL Server 2005 wherever possible.
  2. The toolset needs to have an authentication scheme that lets Microsoft Forum moderators in and keeps others out.
    1. The toolset can not use the current forums authentication (or any Passport implementation.)
    2. The toolset can not store personally identifiable information as a requirement, including email addresses, phone numbers, physical addresses, and full names.
    3. Once a user logs in, the user should have the option of saving the login information so they do not need to retype it whenever they use the toolset.
  3. The toolset requires a SQL server to store the extra metadata about questions (owner, tags, etc.) and the Knowledge Navigator database.
    1. Joe Morel will be the primary administrator of this SQL server, and will obtain hosting for the project.
    2. Web services will be used whenever possible in lieu of direct SQL access.
  4. Multiple tags will be available for each question.
  5. Multiple owners will be available for each question.
  6. The tool will not store information that is already available on the public forums site.

Design Considerations

Possible UI Designs for the Moderators Toolset
  • The idea of an IE toolbar as the GUI for this toolset has been proposed. This might make the most sense, but there are some issues with a toolbar:
    1. The construction of an IE toolbar requires fairly extensive knowledge of COM, and would make future development difficult.
    2. An IE toolbar is not cross-browser friendly--users of Firefox would be left out.
    3. The UI of a toolbar might not make sense for many features, such as advanced search.
  • Despite those limitations above, an IE toolbar might be the best choice of UI.
  • Validating that a given display name on the forums is a moderator requires access to the forums database at this time, which is not feasible. The most feasible option might be to have a manual approval process for adding new users for toolset access.
  • Auto-text and moderation macros may not work because of the forums' behavior regarding multiple posts with the same text.

Last edited Aug 14, 2006 at 11:25 PM by joemorel, version 5

Comments

ReneeC Aug 15, 2006 at 10:26 PM 
KnowledgeNavigatorII

"store code snippets"

I think this should be "code snippets and code examples across the entire VS2005 namepsaces, classes, all product information, information on related and relevant products and systems programming using VS2005."

mbrownbh Aug 11, 2006 at 9:19 PM 
Sign me up joe. Ivolved_MikeBrown...forums moderator.