I have been following MSDN forums for well over a year (and possibly almost 2 years at this point) and every now and then I hear from someone how “hard” it is to do that. I find it quite easy and thought I’d share my “technique”. This technique also works for www.endusersharepoint.com (http://www.endusersharepoint.com/STP).
Taking MSDN as an example, I first go to standard forum page such as the General Questions for SharePoint main page here: http://social.technet.microsoft.com/Forums/en-US/sharepointgeneral/threads
You should right away notice that the forums are RSS enabled, as shown:
I’ve been using Google Reader for managing my RSS feeds for a long time now (www.google.com/reader). I go there, add the RSS feed for the forum and now I’m getting all new forums posts via RSS. My Google feeds for SharePoint forums look like this:
Google provides me a nice view of the posting itself:
And finally, Google lets me use the keyboard to scroll through the postings in the forums this way.
I can quickly scan through posts and focus just on those I feel I can make a useful contribution.
Alerts close the loop. Updates to posts don’t come through RSS (though I think they used to a long time ago). However, if I post a response to a forum posting, the forums alert me via email and IM that someone responded in turn. Or, if I can’t make a useful contribution but I want to know what others have to say, I can drill into it and explicitly request alerts when others do respond.
In an hour or less you can set this process up and and in a week of regular use, learn the various keyboard tricks and shortcuts so that this becomes second nature.
I use the exact same technique for End User SharePoint.Com’s “Stump the Panel” forums. This is their RSS feed: http://www.endusersharepoint.com/STP/rss/.
Forums are an awesome way, possibly the best way short of direct personal experience, of learning the product and getting a nice survey of how the world, at large, uses SharePoint. Give it a try!
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