Wednesday, April 30, 2008

MSDN Updates

Yesterday was a big day for me with respect to MSDN. There were a pair of "the new replaces the old" moments.


The first event was the one Larry Jordan amusingly subtitles "There will be only one!" What happened was, the old MSDN finally got turned off - the MTPS-based version of MSDN is now the only version running. now redirects to That means no more fun URLs like Now it's Ahh - that's better.


Since I helped write the Microsoft/TechNet Publishing System (MTPS), which sits behind the new, one-and-only MSDN website (and the TechNet and Expression websites, for that matter), it was sort of cool to see it "take over".


The other thing we did yesterday was to update the MTPS REST API. It's still very much a prototype (i.e. things are broken) but we wanted to push a version out there that has some of our latest thinking in it. Most notably, this release sketches out what we think we want to do for writes. That's right - we intend to support community-authored changes to MSDN (the website supports that now in the form of tags and wiki-like annotations, in case you didn't know).


Although I should point out that the writes aren't implemented yet in the REST API because we haven't fleshed out the story for authentication.  But you can see the idea. For example, to add a new tag to an item you'll be able to PUT to;vs.90/tags/add-tag. And to delete a the foo tag added by user candera you'd DELETE;vs.90/tags/foo/users/candera. For convenience, we're also planning to support POST to those endpoints with a hidden form parameter of _method, which is set to PUT or DELETE as appropriate. It's just too convenient to be able to drive the service from a browser during development not to do that.


Another big change is what lives at ~/content. In this release it's a link to the ~/sites part of the API. In MTPS parlance, a "site" is the host part of a URL (e.g. the "msdn" in Underneath those are "iroots", which is a lot like a vdir (e.g. the "academic" in The reason ~/content links to ~/sites is that via ~/sites you can find your way into the TOC tree of any of the content in MTPS…or at least you could if it were hooked up properly everywhere. Still, you can see the idea.


That said, we've decided that the link to ~/sites is ugly and we hate it. :) So we'll have to figure something else out there. Maybe a set of virtual TOC nodes that unifies all the TOCs - one node to bring them all and in the API bind them. Or something - we're still noodling on that one.


Other changes: we've added ETags and Expires headers to all resources (currently everything is hardcoded to expire 24 hours in the future), fixed some of the encoding problems, added an XHTML DTD where appropriate, and of course there are the obligatory bunch of minor bugfixes. We've also done some slight reorganization of the URLs to fit our evolving understanding of the model, but most things have remained unchanged. I'm curious to hear if anyone has played with the service at all - if you have any questions or feedback, do feel free to contact me.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Friends of the MSDN Library Facebook Group

Larry Jordan has put together a Facebook group ("Friends of the MSDN Library") to aggregate people who have ideas about how MSDN can improve. I have a vested interest in this, as I make part of my living contributing to the code that makes it happen. So join up…think of it as a way to help put my daughters through college. :)