Microsoft makes breakthrough in community software – Offline Forum Reader

In this era, the importance of social media can’t be undermined. Forums are community avenues where people converge and discuss issues of relevance to them.

Forums were preceded by BB software and newsgroups. India, however, jumped this technical cycle and moved directly to forums. The main advantage that forums presented to users was access using browser over internet and searchability. however, the drawback was that you have to be connected to internet to read the forums. Google acquired DejaNews that used to make newsgroup posts available over internet. There are a lot of forums in existence today and most likely you have been to one of them already.

forumsreader Microsoft for the first time has released a preview (CTP) of Offline Forum Reader for its MSDN/ TechNet Forums. This software is dependent on the APIs exposed by the forum and hence only works with the same. This combines the benefit that newsgroups provided of offline access with the traditional forum. Currently the beta software only supports following activities:

  • Getting the list of available forums
  • Subscribing to forums you're interested in
  • Manually (by right click menu) synchronizing the Question and General Discussion threads in a forum
  • Reading posts that have been synchronized
  • Hierarchical (threaded) view of conversations
  • In this preview software, the reader doesn’t support posting questions or answers to the forum. however, that would definitely be a part of the final release. Also, a lot of options in the “Subscribe to  Forums” window seem to be turned off in the current release.

    The offline reader requires the following prerequisites for installation:

    1. .NET 3.5: the application seems to be a WPF application
    2. Windows Live ID Client SDK: Reader uses Live ID authentication to
    3. SQL CE 3.5
    4. Existing profile at forums: This means you should be able to log in with an existing Live ID at the forums before you can use this software

    One of the enhancements that i think that would make forums reader a super hit would be to introduce a pluggable architecture or some API so that it is able to read any forum that complies with the requirements. I think there should also be tools for forum moderators to do additional moderation tasks e.g. mark post as spam, move threads etc.

    This being a preview software comes with very little functionality. the release of offline forums reader marks an important step in the evolution of community software. From purely being a web based solution, forums will now become Software + Service…

    I am pretty excited about this development. In case you want to give this a shot or if you are an MVP, head over to http://www.codeplex.com/msdnforumsclient and get your download. In case you have any comments or bugs to report, you can do that at the discussions section of the project homepage.

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