Contemplating the RSS feed for Exchange Knowledge Base articles

People sometimes ask where I pick up information about Exchange. Telling the truth would be far too boring... But I do read a lot about the topic, including picking over a reasonable amount of information on the Interweb. RSS feeds can be a useful tool because they can be gathered and stored in Outlook. That is, if the RSS feed delivers the right kind of information. Some sites do an excellent job, but I have been having problems with the feed for the "latest Knowledge Base articles for Exchange."

The folks responsible for maintaining the RSS feed describing the latest Microsoft Knowledge Base articles for Exchange 2013 (or the equivalent feed for Exchange 2010) must share the high availability principle embodied in the Database Availability Group that multiple copies deliver the best service. What’s for sure is that they very much like publishing at least two copies of every article, if not three or four.

It might well be the case that the Microsoft team who produce the RSS feed are doing what they believe to be the right thing by providing a complete snapshot of “the latest KB articles.” After all, an RSS feed is just a mass of XML entries and it seems very much like old articles are included along with the new.

All of which means that although I like the information provided in the feed, being forced to clean up the Outlook folder where the feed goes is a royal pain in the backside.

Perhaps the problem lies in the way that Outlook 2013 consumes the RSS feed but I think not. Other feeds work perfectly well and result in a well-organized collection of (sometimes) useful information. But Exchange insists on telling me the same thing time after time after time ad nausem.

Take what happened the other day. Outlook proudly told me that 14 new articles had arrived in the feed. When I went to look, 13 articles were duplicates and the last wasn’t interesting enough to warrant mentioning.

You might be wondering why anyone would want to read every new Knowledge Base article about Exchange that Microsoft produces. Indeed, the thought has crossed my mind that this might be an early sign of madness. That feeling goes away after a while and I comfort myself with the fact that I don’t actually read every single article. Instead, I browse the titles and dive into the content if an article seems to be about something that might be valuable. For instance, “Korean language localization issue in Exchange 2013 OWA user interface” holds no joy for me whereas “Information store worker process crashes when you export mailboxes in an Exchange Server 2013 environment” is a definite read.

Indeed, hidden and surprising nuggets lurk in the feed of new knowledge base articles. Take the article "Content Index status of all or most of the mailbox databases in the environment shows "Failed"", which tells us that:

"This issue may occur if the search platform tries to check its membership in a security group that is named "ContentSubmitters." This group is not created by the search platform or by Exchange Server 2013 and is therefore not usually present. Although the check usually fails silently, without any consequences, an exception sometimes occurs. This causes the search component to fail."

The suggested fix is to create a group called ContentSubmitters and grant Administrators and NetworkService full access. This apparently makes the Search Foundation happy and content indexes healthy. A nagging doubt remains that although the fix is pragmatic, shouldn't Microsoft go and understand why Search Foundation tries to check its membership? Maybe they are now... I hope so!

I’d like to say that the articles that I select for reading are always useful. However, Microsoft sometimes follows an editorial policy that must have been set down by Pravda in the glory days of the USSR in that information is terse and uninteresting. Take the Korean language article referred to above. All we are told is that some of the Korean language text used by Outlook Web App is badly translated. We’re not told what text is bad or if it has any particular consequences, such as referring to users as “horrific charlatans” or mailboxes as “smelly containers” (and yes, my imagination is running wild at this point).

But even if you have to wade through articles that can only be enjoyed by their authors (and for a very short time at that), the feed is useful because some articles fill in the gaps that exist in your personal knowledge of the product or in the official documentation. I guess these articles get past the Pravda editors.

Retention policies aren't applied when you move a mailbox to Exchange 2013” is a good example of a useful article. It tells you that mailboxes with an MRM 1.0 policy applied (clearly belonging to the 0.02% of the user base who enjoyed using Managed Folders) won’t work properly when moved to Exchange 2010 or Exchange 2013 because the Managed Folder Assistant shows the proper level of contempt for these policies. Well, that’s my interpretation of the text. I acknowledge that the official communication might be a tad different.

My point is that the Knowledge Base feed is a useful tool for anyone interested in Exchange (or other products as RSS feeds often exist for them too). It’s a pity that the tool is lessened by the insistence on pumping out duplicate information. You’d think that a software company could come up with an intelligent solution, wouldn’t you? Maybe I should just be content with reading the feed from the EHLO blog. At least that works.

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Discuss this Blog Entry 2

on Mar 31, 2014

it also sends a helpful post alerting us to a "new" article when it has actually been withdrawn or otherwise made unavailable, which is quite confusing the first two or three hundred times it happens...

on Apr 2, 2014

Quite. Useful for that first two or three hundred times...

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Tony Redmond

Tony Redmond is a senior contributing editor for Windows IT Pro and the author of Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 Inside Out (Microsoft Press) and Microsoft Exchange Server 2013 Inside Out: Mailbox...
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