When Microsoft introduced the .Net platform, they clearly wanted to reach out to the developer community and build some connections. The “Start” page in Visual Studio and the “Community” menu sort of show what they were aiming for. About the same time, the “gotdotnet.com” site showed up.
GotDotNet was a community site built for MS developers by MS developers. To be honest, I don’t know what involvement, if any, Microsoft had with this site, but it was clearly a good thing for Microsoft, since it gathered like-minded developers together and gave them a place to share tips and techniques. There’s no doubt that it added value for Microsoft by promoting its tools and covering some support burden via peer-to-peer support.
Time marches on, though, and a year or so ago, the folks running GotDotNet decided to ramp it down. Other sites were to take its place, like Codeplex to host community-build code bases, and so on.
One big problem remains, however: GotDotNet continues to dominate search results for the stuff it used to have, and there’s no forwarding address if you want to find this “old” material.
Case in point: Code Snippets for C#.
I’m dropping some timing code into a project, and it’s repetitive work. It occurred to me that this was exactly the sort of thing I’d expect a “snippet” to handle:
DateTime timr = MyLog.BeginTimingMessage(“Unnamed timer”, 0);
<< code to time >>
MyLog.EndTimingMessage(“Unnamed timer”, 0, timr);
So I Google “c# snippet”, and the top results point at a blog hosted on MSDN.com (so I assume he’s an MS employee, MVP, or equivalent). The post is dated 2005, and it talks about a snippet editor called “Snippy”. It’s apparent at this point that snippets are slightly more complicated than just chunks of text – hence, the need for an editor. That’s fine, I thought – I’ll just go grab the editor and be on my way.
So I follow the link in the blog to GotDotNet, and see this “so long, and thanks for all the fish” message:
Great. I did my best to find a breadcrumb trail leading out of this abyss, but to no avail.
In this case, it turns out it wasn’t the end of the world. I never did find “snippy”, or any other snippet editor, for that matter, but I found the MSDN documentation that let me create the XML from scratch.
But the thing that really bugged me was that Microsoft would let this play out the way it did. How much effort would it really have taken them to step in here and find new homes for the files on this site and to provide forwarding links to guide people to the new homes? Don’t they have interns??
Here’s a site that’s got a bunch of top Google spots for searches about Microsoft development topics. All sorts of Microsoft developers are going to hit these links, and they’re going to be spending real time navigating around on a wild goose chase for community content, all the while muttering about how they wouldn’t have this problem if they were looking for something on Sourceforge.
It’s a blown opportunity for Microsoft to take care of the developers who are driving the demand for their products.
Easy come, easy go.