Various people seem to have discovered 'Codezone'. The name rang a bell, the color scheme did too. Then I remembered: I saw it first in the summer of 2004, at TechEd 2004 Europe. It was then introduced as the new developer community. It doesn't surprise me it's still the failing marketing driven 'community' initiative as it was back then.
Not only does CodeZone think that the world is divided into 2 parts: The US/Canada and 'the rest' (that really gives that warm feeling you're one of the group!), it also doesn't work. I selected C#, 'outside US/Canada' and '.NET framework and clicked the button. Oops! "Page could not be displayed. An error occured while processing your request. The site administrator has been notified of the error.". Apparently someone didn't think of implementing a check if the resultset was empty. But let's not nittpick on a technicality, the real reason codezone will not work is that it's marketing driven.
Marketing driven communities won't work for technical oriented groups. Technical communities are Q&A driven. A technical community has some key elements which are essential to make it a success: you have a question, you get answers. You see questions, you give answers. You have information, you share information so others get their questions answered. Another key aspect for keeping these communities together is a simple, yet effective interface to get to the information. Not the slow, cluttered interface of gotdotnet.com, not the Webdesigner-look-n-feel of channel9. But simple, effective interfaces, like Code Project, or Developer.com.
It's very simple: target groups and their benefits sought. Ironically the core rule of MarketingTM. And here they don't match. That's why all but two Microsoft's communities fail. All but two: the www.asp.net/forums community is a success, a lot of different sections crowded with people having a lot of discussions about technical topics. The other one is the MS newsgroup section. Why do these succeed and the others fail? One simple reason: they're not designed to be a community, they grew into the community status.
As soon as you try to 'design' a community, it will fail, because in 99% of the occasions, the people who are making the decisions during the design phase are not part of that community. This gives an environment the technical oriented people don't see as their home. Mind you: the internet is a pull market: the visitor decides what s/he will see/read, not the person creating the website, because if the visitor doesn't like your website the visitor will leave and move to another website or won't visit your website in the first place. The core rule of creating succesful websites has always been: deliver what your target groups want to find/read/see at your website, not what you think they should read on your website, because that's completely irrelevant.
I don't know any hard-core code writer, like myself, who visits channel9 often for example. Or gotdotnet.com. What's there to find? Ok, a random video of some internal MS lab or new product perhaps linked from a MSDN blog, but that's it. For example, if you have a question about a given topic, what's the first site which comes into your mind where you think you can find your answer? Channel9's wiki? CodeZone? Gotdotnet.com? If you do, how on earth do you search through the info there to get your answer? Most likely you'll either go to a newsgroup search using google groups, go to code project and search for an article there or go to the asp.net forums to search for an answer there.
The thing is: because you find your answer there, you stick around, you come back, because you learned you can get your questions answered there. In a technical driven community, that's key for building up a large(r) user-base.
So, Microsoft Marketing Department, take it from a guy who spend 15 years in usenet newsgroups: stay away from community initiatives and let fellow developers run the show. We know when a non-developer is calling the shots, we just do, call it a sixth sense, and we'll go some place else. You see, developers have to make a deadline once in a while and get things done and we can't babble away our failures, we have to deliver. That's why we visit sites and communities which also deliver and make us deliver.
To get your bonus this year: here's a tip for you all at MS Marketing: make the asp.net forums your core community and keep the interface raw, simple and fast as it is now and pair it with an article site like Code Project and make sure it's supervised by a group of hard-core code writers from the trenches, you know, the guys/gals you create the community for.