I've been involved with electronic based communities for nearly 20 years now. It all started a long time ago while living in Seattle. I discovered BBSes (Bulletin Board Systems). I found myself spending nearly 6 hours everyday dialing into one BBS after another. A couple friends and I got together and evolved a room based system to one that would automatically dial other (matching) BBSes and swap messages. Soon, we had a network of 25 BBSes from San Diego to Vancouver, BC.
When the Internet opened to the public there was not a lot of options (for sites or browsers!). So, the BBS communities kept growing. We had many User Groups devoted to them usually called SMUGs (Seattle Modem User Groups). Those were some days!
With the explosive growth with the Internet, finding anyone that could help with development was still lagging way behind. The first groups I remember using were the Use Net groups. It wasn't until 4 or 5 years ago that the email lists really took off. At about the same time some web sites started popping up as forums. These were a relief from the MS based on-line help forums (which were still News Group based and it was difficult seeing the answers to your questions.)
Something like 12-14 months ago, not finding what we were looking for, a small handful of us created a temporary community known as Phoenix Out Of The Ashes. From that group, longer term goals were created and acted on. One of them was the creation of a new email based list site. http://www.aspadvice.com was born. It is prospering very well a year later and is a top notch place to go for answers on most anything Microsoft centric.
The other thing that came out of that group was an invitation from the ASP.NET team at Microsoft to form another Community group. This group that MS wanted would not be so much a people helping people with development challenges, but rather a group that helped MS evaluate the ASP.NET product before it went to Beta. This group is also setup to help evaluate 3rd party controls and applications before they go public - especially when built on beta releases of ASP.NET.
So, to provide this service, the MS ASP.NET team, led by Rob Howard and Scott Guthrie, needed to define what we were going to be, what the criteria for membership would be and how would we provide these valuable services. The original 15 people selected by MS started meeting and discussing these things. Now, I believe MS was smart on their selection of the original Board of Directors as they selected people from several different niches. While it's true that most of us have a deep understanding of ASP.NET, not all of us do. However, those of us that don't have other strengths required to make this type of community a success. These strengths could be areas like:
- Long standing community involvement
- Board experience in other private or public non-profit types of organizations
- Long term experience with Microsoft itself (I started in the MS technologies with the original MS-DOS and C products, long before Windows 1.0 came out)
- Architectural backgrounds
- Long term involvement with the VS.NET suite
So we, the appointed board members, have spent the last 10 months defining what the ASPInsiders should be. We have a ratified Charter, By-Laws, a Board of Directors (50% of the Board are elected each year) and a beginning Membership base. We have the beginnings of a web presence (http://www.aspinsiders.com) and most everything dealing with the above mentioned documents are slowly making their way to the web site.
I know, working from the inside, that the ASPInsiders has a place in the plethora of communities. Microsoft also knows this. We are also still defining where that niche will eventually settle out to - and having fun doing it. And to me, that's the most important aspect of any community - is there fun and is there a perceived value. If it's important to you to dig into more in depth information on why we need another group please check out the following:
- A Microsoft staff perspective
- An ASPInsider Board Member perspective
- The ASPInsider web site
- The ASPInsider FAQ site
Now for the Politically Correct statement:
The above statements are mine, all mine. They do not reflect the opinions of the ASPInsiders group or the Microsoft Corporation or any of it's employees.
I just wanted to take a moment and say that the CSK is now transmorgifying to a new product called the GotCommunityNet Web App (GCN for short). You can find it on the web at http://www.gotcommunitynet.com . Source code (C# based), news and more can be found at http://www.gotdotnet.com/Community/Workspaces/Workspace.aspx?id=39959859-68b5-4f5e-bd85-c1a8555e39a9
Now that a lot of the bugs are ironed out we are looking at the following:
- Integrating the Microsoft Application Blocks (Data and Exception Reporting)
- Adding more security integration options
- Splitting the core code base into smaller, more logical assemblies - adding benefits to the GCN like:
- Faster execution time (probably not a ton but it is an improvement)
- Creating new Modules will be truly modular
- Can be created in any .NET language
- Is created from a GCN Module Template (which can hopefully be added to VS.NET)
- Is “standalone“ so you can just drop it into the directory structure without recompiling the entire app
- Is self-describing, admin module will have a discovery function to find all new modules and it should load the appropriate SQL during this discovery action
- R&D on how Whidbey will affect the current architecture
So, as you see, there are many BIG plans for the GCN.