MSDN Experimental Annotations Service uses RSS

I miss Win95 winhelp. In particular, I was sad to see in Win98 that HTML Help had not included the annotation feature, the ability to add your own notes to a help topic - any help topic. These were stored in a local .ann file next to the help file if memory serves.

During his PDC keynote, Eric Rudder mentioned and briefly showed some stuff they were doing with the Longhorn SDK to enable threaded annotations, kind of like discussions to a help topic. So I've stumbled on what promises to be a cool site: lab.msdn.microsoft.com. One of the play things is the MSDN Annotations Service. It requires the download of a small plug in for your browser.

It basically works like this...

You visit any page (in theory) on the msdn site (including the longhorn sdk) and you get an annotations window on the bottom. This allows you to add your own comments. Nice. The cool thing is, you get to see other users annotations as well. These annotations are not stored in a local .ann file, no they are stored on the Microsoft site.

Maybe you don't want other people to see your goofy code snippets. Fortunately you can subscribe to your own feeds - so long as they are exposed as an RSS, like say - this blog. If you want to make an entry to a page your visiting, simple paste in the URL to your blog entry (like so: http://longhorn.msdn.microsoft.com/lhsdk/ref/ns/microsoft.build.buildengine/c/target/target.aspx).

The annotation service allows you to subscribe to a feed. While you are looking at a given page - like the one above, if the subscribed feed contains an URL to that page, then presto it shows up as an annotation. Very cool.  The stipulation here is that in the RSS XML feed, the tag has to contain an anchor with that URL.

So does MS listen to your subscribed feeds? No, that's what the small utility plug in is for. It's done on the client.

Yet another creative use of RSS. I'm also told that the MS provided annotations also are scraped from newsgroups.