Exchange TechNet update unwelcome and unwanted

Looking at the outcome of some decisions, you’d wonder whether the folks who made them are affected by the foods or drink they imbibe. This thought came into my mind with the juxtaposition of the recent vote to approve marijuana in the state of Washington and Microsoft’s announcement of November 8 that they had revamped the URLs used for Exchange Server documentation in TechNet.

This isn’t to say that the Exchange documentation team have any interest in mind-altering substances. I think this unlikely as their recent work to reveal the inner workings of Exchange has been very good indeed. However, the IT community has long been devoted to the influences of other substances – coffee, carbonated drinks, too much chocolate, and now caffeinated-sweetened drinks – so perhaps something was at play when the decision was made.

The announcement proudly stated that:

"Starting today, if you've bookmarked an Exchange 2010 article in the library (for example, http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/bb124558.aspx), it'll take you to the Exchange 2013 version of the article."

On the surface, there’s not much you can complain about here. The Microsoft team has made sure that you get the latest possible information if you go looking for something related to Exchange. And, as they go on to say:

"… if an Exchange 2013 version of the article does not exist, the URL will still take you to the Exchange 2010 version."

All looks good until you start to consider what might flow as a consequence. Consider the folks who aren't employed by Microsoft and write about their technology. Like me, for instance. We don’t have the resources necessary to go through previous blog posts and articles to check that any embedded URL that points to TechNet content is still valid. So any of my links to TechNet contents in this blog or in my other "Thoughts of an Idle Mind" blog have been magically redirected to Exchange 2013 content. Is this what I intended when I included the links in blog posts? Not really...

Could it be that Microsoft has nullified the complete body of Exchange blogging at one stroke? Not really, because the URLs still bring you to valuable content, but readers have to be more aware about what the material that they view and make sure that the changes made in Exchange 2013 don’t impact what they are trying to do with Exchange 2010 or Exchange 2007.

All new versions of Exchange introduce object properties that had never existed before. It can be frustrating to read the description of how to manipulate an object through the Exchange Management Shell only to find that the particular property that seems to be appropriate for your purposes doesn’t exist in the version of Exchange that you run. This is just one example of how updated material, although valuable, just gets in the way.

The Exchange team says:

"You can still reach the Exchange 2010 version of the article by appending version information ((v=exchg.141) for Exchange 2010) at the end of the URL, right before the file extension (.aspx)."

Providing the ability to focus in on version-specific material is a good idea, but I fear that adding the necessary version number to a URL is hardly something that comes naturally to the average or even not-so-average Exchange administrator. People like me can hardly remember yesterday, let alone recall the format of the suffix including the version number (in this case, I assume that “141” means Exchange 2010 SP2 as Exchange 2010 is "version 14").

In summary then, the idea of providing the most up-to-date material available is good but the implementation that we see here is bad because of its impact on previous published material outside Microsoft. There's a possibility that everything will work "just right." We shall have to see.

I also think that pushing Exchange 2013 material down the proverbial throats of those who seek knowledge is just plain premature at this point. Exchange 2013 is not the version that is being deployed today. It is too new and the code necessary to allow it to co-exist with its predecessors is not available. Sure, people are looking for information about Exchange 2013, but wouldn’t you think that the vast bulk of current searches against TechNet are for Exchange 2007 and Exchange 2010 content?

Sometimes I just wonder…

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Discuss this Blog Entry 1

on Nov 14, 2012
I think this is a dreadful idea. I teach Exchange 2010 and maintain a small blog with links to useful articles in the Technet documentation for the product (and elsewhere), articles that I think my students will find helpful. Now the links to Exchange 2010 on Technet are useless. I can think of better things to do with my time than laboriously altering all the links to point back to the original articles. This is very cynical of Microsoft. As you say, most of us aren't using Exchange 2013 yet, and if we want information about Exchange 2010 then that's what we want. We don't want to be redirected to content about another product that we aren't using. Really unhelpful, Microsoft. For goodness' sake, reconsider this.

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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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