Microsoft Answers and Community Platform Services


The Customer Facing Engineering (CFE) team released Microsoft Answers 2.1, and CPS 1.1 on June 21st, resulting in improved customer experiences, and laying the groundwork for future with Windows and Windows Live properties.

Customer-facing changes were made public June 27th, in alignment with the Communities and Support Delivery teams’ needs.

Thanks to a previous service pack, this release was accomplished with no user-impacting down time!

clip_image002[6] Real People. Real Answers.

Expanding the Community!

In partnership with the Communities and Service Delivery organizations, we’ve expanded our English community and added 7 new languages to the Answers family.

Welcome, clip_image003[4], to Microsoft Answers in English!

8 New languages

Microsoft Answers released 8 new languages, bringing the current language set to 24. Community support for Windows, Microsoft Security Essentials, Office, and IE launched in these languages:

· clip_image004[4]Danish

· Norwegian

· Finnish

· Swedish

· Turkish

· Greek

· Hebrew

· Thai

· Arabic (not launched per partner request)

Making it Easier for End Users

Bring it to the Customer: Integrating Results From SMC and Help

When users search on Microsoft Answers, we now provide scoped results from Support.Microsoft.Com and business group help sites. This enables customers to see a wide variety of resources without having to search multiple sites. When there are no results from Microsoft Answers, customers always have a resource. The results powered by bing.


Make Great Content Easier to Find: Mark it as Answered or Helpful from Email.

End users receive an email notification each time their question receives a reply. In this release, they are now able to mark a reply as helpful or as an answer from that notification mail without signing in. Marking a reply as helpful or an answer makes it easier for the next user to find it. In Usability studies, other users’ ratings were highly valued.


Detect and Displaying User Agent Data

When user’s ask a question, we often need basic information from their computer to answer them. In Answers 2.0, users had to enter their browser and OS versions—and were not always sure of what they had.

In Answers 2.1, we do this for them, so that the community can more easily and quickly provide answers, and content is appropriately tagged and easy to find.


Making it Easier for Support and Other Influencers

Email Obfuscation

Users sometimes enter an email address looking for help. Microsoft Answers is committed to protecting users who do so, while also getting support delivery personnel the information they need.

Email obfuscation shows other users and community moderators “email removed for privacy” while enabling the user who posted it and paid support staff to see the email. This reduces cycles, getting users their answers more quickly, and making better use of support engineers’ and moderators’ time.

Increased size and Fidelity of Reply and Edit Boxes

Answers increased the sizes of the edit and reply boxes, and improved the fidelity of entered data and posts at the request of service delivery and other influencers. We want to make it easy to answer questions.

Jump to Any Page in a Thread List

One of influencer’s number one requests was to be able to easily navigate to any page in a thread list. We’ve added a control that enables users to do just that!

Remove Steps from Signing Process

We removed a legacy step from the sign-in process left over from when users were to have multiple methods available for signing in.                                  


Providing options and flexibility to customer applications

Search Service Enhancements

Customers of CPS are looking to deliver experiences for their users with the least number of calls to the platform and in a consistent way.  CPS Search Service provides support for public content via FAST search, as well as Bing Search via the same API. This allows the platform to not only enable customers, like Answers, to choose the search engine via the API, but also provide search fallback option, in case the primary site search (FAST) is unavailable. The Bing adapter work in CPS enables the “Results from Microsoft Support” feature in Answers 2.1 release.

Search Spellcheck

CPS FAST Search Service and the Bing adapter now both support spell-check functionality.  The customer application may get a spell suggestion, request to receive spell-checked results, or no spell checking at all. The feature is supporting integration of Windows Online and Windows 8 with CPS & Answers.

Supporting multi-application content creation

CPS supports creation of content shown in one of its applications from other sites and applications.  The Answers Facebook application is one example of this functionality being utilized. Application group concept provides a way to group data in CPS databases and restrict access to that data by each authorized application within the group.  This release we also added a way to track where the content is being originated, so different business rules may be applied to it, if needed. For example, the FaceBook application is restricted from certain actions, which users are allowed to do on Answers.

Enabling Custom User Notifications

CPS provides a notification service to its customer applications, capable of distinguishing email notification templates based on user types and applications. This release included enhancements to the service to accommodate different treatment of notification business rules for Answers and Answers FaceBook. The ability to obfuscate email addresses from the notifications was also added to the service.

Simplifying REST Service URL’s

CPS team simplified the REST service URL’s to be more developer friendly and logical, so future services built and exposed to the customers are more intuitive to use.  The effort involved CPS team, GSFx Search Operations team and CPS Operations team to perform URL remapping.  No live customers were affected by the change.

Posted June 29, 2011 by Robert Smit in Microsoft Answers

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