This ASP.NET Podcast from Wally McClure is not only informative, it’s HISTORIC! Someone had to transcribe it into text format, and I am pleased to be that man who preserves a bit of history for fellow nerds everywhere.
Wally asks great questions from Scott Watermasysk and Rob Howard at Mix ’06. We get to hear about the origins of dotText, how dotText and ASP.NET Forums came together, the makings of Telligent, and where Community Server is headed.
Wally McClure with Rob Howard and Scott Watermasysk at Mix 06
Wally started with Rob, asking how Telligent came to be.
Rob had apparently started a software company before going to Microsoft that he said “got up to around 10 people,” but he realized he wanted more experience in the software industry. Rob stayed with Microsoft for 6 years, describing it as a very difficult place to leave and an “amazing, amazing company.” Telligent currently employs around 50 employees.
Wally then turned to Scott and asked him how dotText got started.
DotText came to be around 4 years ago when Scott started messing around with blogging, playing with Radio and a couple of other tools. Scott wrote a small blogging engine for himself and after two or three posts started getting emails from people who wanted the source, as there was nothing else out there close in the ASP.NET world. It was then he “kicked it into high gear” and developed a personal blogging engine, dotText. Dotnet.weblogs.com began shortly thereafter and had 50-60 bloggers within a couple of months.
How did dotText morph into Community Server?
Scott replied that dotnet.weblogs.com took off and that he was using SecureWebs, who worked with Scott to support the bandwidth dotnet.weblogs.com was using, which was way beyond the account that Scott himself was paying for. (As a former dotnet.weblogs.com blogger, I forget that Scott was paying for the site out of his own pocket.) There was only so much SecureWebs could do to help him keep the site alive, so at one point the offer came from Rob and Microsoft to move weblogs.com onto the *.asp.net cluster. Over time they started to see that it was “kind of lame” that you had a login account for weblogs.asp.net that was different from forums.asp.net, so they began by merging accounts. Then they moved Microsoft bloggers to blogs.msdn.com and one thing followed another.
They continued seeing a lot of duplication between forums and weblogs and started looking at how to streamline, get rid of duplication and start thinking about building a layer in between the applications. They found that there was so much in common between the applications that they realized they “didn’t even need a bridge” and began building a single application.
Rob added that he saw a great need for these types of applications in the marketplace, integrating forums, blogs and photo libraries. Rob said, “We don’t want to build the next digg.com, we want to help someone else build the next digg.com. We want to build a platform that enables anyone to create an interesting community application.”
Wally commented that it definitely evolved since there was a now a new Community Server 2.0 release, and asked what new features of CS 2.0 they were really proud of.
The biggest feature you’ll see in CS 2.0, Scott replied, was a completely rewritten Control Panel from the ground-up in an attempt to get it as simple as possible to use.
Then Rob talked about the vision Scott and he had for some time, how in the past there were communities separated by technology boundaries: email community, web-based forms community, newsgroup community…all separated islands. So with CS 1.1, gateways were introduced, like the news server gateway to CS Forums. You could now connect to a Community Server with Outlook Express or any RFC compatible newsreader. And with CS 2.0, an email gateway was added so you can email to your blog and forum discussions.
As Rob described the process, “you can now send an email to a Community Server system, as if it were a distribution list, have that mail get redistributed out to the people who are subscribed to the forum, also have that message posted in the web-based forums so people can interact with it through the web, AND have someone come in through a newsreader to read and post, which will get back to you as well.”
Wally asked what was added in CS 2.0 to block spam.
ScottW talked about the new Spam Scoring system, where people can write their own rules. The module was based on the CSModule Eventing model, so anyone could add such a module. Rob mentioned how Spam Filtering is applied to all areas of CS, not just blogs.
What does the future hold for Community Server?
Scott stated that a point release is on tap for the next few months. The point release will focus on bugs, and due to other work being done, some new tagging features will be added. “We’ve taken it two or three steps further than some other people have gone with it in the past.” (Transcriber’s interjection: Sweeeeetness!)
We also started working on Version 3, which will probably be about 9 months after 2.1 is released. One of the big things you’ll see in the 3.0 version is a CMS solution added. You’ll also see 3.0 getting closer to a Framework model and farther away from the current Application architectural model.
Rob reiterated that they’re moving in the Content Management area. Another area of investment will be more RSS tools. Email functionality is another area where Rob feels they are just scratching the surface on and will be exploring more extensively.
Wally asked about the future of weblogs.asp.net.
Scott said that once getting the site to CS (and it will probably be CS 2.1), reving the site will be much more realistic. Weblogs.asp.net will probably be the first place we see some of the more advanced tagging we’ll be releasing in 2.1. Rob mentioned that since the weblogs.asp.net community was so technically sophisticated, it was important to provide a very solid product when moving from dotText to Community Server.
What features of Atlas might end up in Community Server in the future?
Scott answered that it will be worked into the product to decrease refreshing, improve performance, and add new functionality, using the example of inline editing being added to CS 2.0.
As his final question Wally asked Rob the interesting question, “as one of the architects of ASP.NET 2.0 at Microsoft, how does it feel to watch your children grown up?”
It’s highly exciting. It’s great to see the work and investment made in ASP.NET come to fruition.