The Microsoft Tech Community is a place to interact with IT Pros, Developers and end-users along with Microsoft.  The focus of the site was initially on Office 365 but now encompasses Azure, Enterprise Mobility + Security (EMS) and many other Microsoft technologies.

This article covers how the Microsoft Tech Community came about, guidance on joining and why it’s worth becoming a member in the first place.   The use of subscriptions, notifications and RSS feeds are also covered along with some recommend communities to join for Office 365 IT Pros, power users and enthusiasts.  There are also recommendations for Enterprise Mobility + Security as well.

The website address for the Microsoft Tech Community is https://techcommunity.microsoft.com.  There is also an official Twitter account as well - https://twitter.com/mstcommunity.




Microsoft Tech Community Background 


The Office 365 Network was a Yammer-based community that had been around for three years and had grown with over 80 thousand members.  Microsoft described it as: 

“A vibrant online community for IT pros, technical experts, product enthusiasts and Office 365 customers to come together and share best practices related to Office 365.”

With the Office 365 Network being an authenticated network in Yammer, none of the community posts was visible outside the network.  This meant the posts weren’t discoverable in search engines and only available to members of the network.  Microsoft wanted to expand this, opening up the network to everyone, with optional registration and making community posts visible in internet search results.  The new Office 365 Network was born:

“As more organizations embrace the cloud and move to Office 365, we want to make the wealth of valuable information in the Office 365 Network available to anyone who is looking for it. In an effort to make the community content accessible to anyone, the new Office 365 Network will be hosted on an unauthenticated platform, meaning community posts will appear in internet search results and visitors won’t have to sign in to view content in the network.”

The new Office 365 Network was subsequently renamed to the Microsoft Tech Community, with an expanded focus on other Microsoft products.  The original, Yammer- based Office 365 network has since been closed.   Microsoft is using a platform called Lithium Technologies Online Communities for the Microsoft Tech Community.  There is no mobile app for the Microsoft Tech Community but the site works well in mobile web browsers.

Getting Started with the Microsoft Tech Community


While registration is optional, joining the Microsoft Tech Community and creating an account is recommended.   Microsoft describes this benefits of becoming a member:
  • Personalize the home page so it displays community discussions and other content related to topics of interest
  • Earn badges based on activity in the community, which will be displayed on the member’s profile page along with a summary of their activity—including latest posts, likes given and received, people followed and community notifications
  • Search community content to uncover discussions, ideas and other information from across the community
  • View conversations as threaded conversations and hold private conversations with others using the community inbox

Why be a member of the Microsoft Tech Community?

Here are some reasons to become a part of the Microsoft Tech Community:
  • Influence Microsoft, with feedback, constructive comments and ideas
  • Help other members with solutions or insights on problems
  • Learn about best practices, new features and get the latest information from Microsoft 
  • Ask questions and get help from peers 
  • Access content from special events like Microsoft Ignite and the Microsoft Tech Summit
  • Take part in online events - AMA (Ask Microsoft Anything)
  • Get recognition for overall contributions to the community with member of the week or ranks like super contributor
It's worth remembering that the Microsoft Tech Community isn't an official technical support forum.  It is possible though to get assistance from like-minded Microsoft customers, Microsoft Most Valuable Professional’s (MVP), as well as other experts and Microsoft staff, who will sometimes be able to chip in.

Joining the Microsoft Tech Community


Microsoft has a step by guide to joining the community as follows:

Getting Started Guide Part 1 covers logging in, completing a profile plus notifications and subscriptions

Getting Started Guide Part 2 comes with a Step-by-step intro of the Microsoft Tech Community video, introduces Communities and Spaces, as well as how to contribute to the community.  The use of RSS feeds is also discussed.

There is also some Microsoft Tech Community Guidelines that covers do's and don'ts as well as explaining what the different badges mean, which appear on some member’s avatar.

After logging in to the Microsoft Tech Community, setting up a profile and other preferences, it time to dig deeper and look at what the community offers.

Explore the Microsoft Tech Community


The community is split into these parts: 
  1. Communities are for different Microsoft Products and Solutions.  Members can join communities that interest them.
  2. Within each community, there are Community Spaces, places for discussions and ideas that sit within a community.  Members can favorite Community Spaces that interest them.
  3. Some communities have a blog.  These are official blogs with articles written by Microsoft.  Members can favorite blogs that interest them
On the Microsoft Tech Community home page members will see the latest activity, trending spaces and the latest blog posts, that shows the five latest blog posts. At the top of the every page, there are navigation elements including Communities, showing every available community,  Blogs includes all the latest blog articles and a heart icon, which shows all the spaces, communities and blogs that a meber has joined.

By clicking on "My Home" from the heart icon, a “My Feed” will be displayed.  This is a way to stay up-to-date with posts based on newest, popular, by experts or unanswered posts.  Also “My Favorite Spaces” and “My Communities” will be shown, which is a great way to keep track of what areas are being followed.

Recommended Communities and Spaces for Office 365


Here are some recommended communities and spaces for IT Pros, power users or enthusiasts to join, who manage or are interested in Office 365.  This is only a suggested starting point and will depend on which areas are of most interest. 

This is list of communities to join, which also have an underlying space of the same name to mark as a favorite, with some exceptions in the next section
  • Delve
  • Exchange
  • Microsoft Teams
  • Microsoft Stream
  • Office 365
  • Office 365 Groups
  • Office 365 Video
  • OneDrive for Business
  • Outlook
  • Planner
  • SharePoint
  • Skype for Business
  • Yammer



Here are the recommended spaces that differ from the community name to mark as a favorite.  From the Office 365 community: 
  • Change Alerts 
  • Admin Center
  • Office 365 ProPlus
  • Identity & Authentication
From the Skype for Business community: 
  • Skype for Business IT Pro
  • Skype for Business Users
The Weekly Roundup space from the Community Info Center community is also recommended, as is Driving Adoption community from the space of the same name.




Blogs


Some communities have blogs as well.  These contain Microsoft written articles and are well worth following.  These blogs are quite easy to miss, the navigation is shown when browsing a community with a blog, in this example the SharePoint community.  Selecting the Blogs heading, as highlighted, will show the available blogs. 





Here is the SharePoint blog as an example:




Here is a list of some of the communities that have blogs available:

  • Office 365
  • Microsoft Teams 
  • Planner
  • SharePoint
  • Skype for Business 
  • Yammer

Enterprise Mobility + Security (EMS) Community and Spaces


There is now a dedicated community for Enterprise Mobility + Security, with these spaces: 
  • Azure Information Protection
  • Microsoft Intune
  • Microsoft Advanced Threat Analytics
  • Microsoft Identity Manager
  • Microsoft Cloud App Security
See also this other Technet Wiki article for an introduction into EMS and all its components - Enterprise Mobility + Security Guide.

Staying up-to-date with the Microsoft Tech Community


With so much happening on the Microsoft Tech Community, new conversations or replies, new blogs, regular news roundups, staying up-to-date is easy with the following options.

Subscriptions and Notifications 


By subscribing to posts, anytime there is new activity, a notification will appear or an email will be sent.  This makes it easy to follow along with developments even when away from the Microsoft Tech Community.  When participating in a conversation, the user is automatically subscribed to the post.  Optionally the user can subscribe to any topic of interest by selecting the option from the 'Conversations Options' option that appears in all posts.

Notifications appear, overlayed on the user's avatar, with the number of new notifications.   Also when clicking on the avatar, there is a visual indication of how many unread notifications which are shown beside a flag icon.  By clicking this icon the Notification Feed is shown.  This shows recent notifications including when there is a new reply to a subscribed post, if a like has been given or if the user has been mentioned. 


Email notifications are sent as well, for example with replies to a topic that the user has subscribed to.  This includes the contents of the reply, so the user can follow along as new replies are posted.  Notifications and emails are configurable by clicking 'My Settings', which appears after clicking the avatar.  In the 'Subscriptions & Notifications'  section and under 'Notifications Settings' there are numerous options for changing the defaults including email frequency.  There are options for Daily and Weekly digests as well.  Finally, after clicking the avatar there is a 'My Subscriptions' option, this brings up a list of all subscriptions, any of which can be deleted if required.

Discover new posts with RSS


Staying informed of new posts is worthwhile, many spaces have a lot of activity and it's easy to miss a topic that may be of interest.  One way to help with this is to subscribe to community spaces using RSS.  Every space, shown below is the Office 365 Change Alerts space as an example, has a drop down menu with a 'Subscribe to RSS Feed' option.  This option is available even without joining the Microsoft Tech Community.





This will open a standard RSS feed address, that can be added to any program or service that understands RSS feeds.  Microsoft Outlook is one program that can be used to subscribe to RSS feeds as is outlined in the article - 'What are RSS feeds?'. Here is a view of the Change Alerts space in a third-party RSS service:



Follow all replies to posts with RSS


Taking it one step further, rather than just seeing new topics listed but also replies to posts in a space as well via RSS is possible with a bit more work.  It involves taking the address given when using the 'Subscribe to RSS Feed' option and changing it.  In this example, someone wants to follow all replies from the SharePoint space, the RSS feed address is as follows:

https://techcommunity.microsoft.com/gxcuf89792/rss/board?board.id=SharePoint_General

and by changing it to the following inserting the boardmessages? option replies will be shown as well, when added to an RSS program or service:

https://techcommunity.microsoft.com/gxcuf89792/rss/boardmessages?board.id=SharePoint_General

Here is what it looks like in a third-party RSS service, where replies are included as well:



Unread Discussions


A feature that isn't yet officially listed but is part of the underlying forum software, is unread discussions.  This provides a way to view unread posts that haven't been read yet or all threads that haven't been opened yet.  This list is personalised for the logged in member and will change accordingly.  Simply visit this specific web address to see this in action - https://techcommunity.microsoft.com/t5/forums/unreadpostspage/tab/thread.





There is an option to "Mark all Posts in Community as Read", this will set all items as read, leaving nothing new to display.  As new discussions or posts to threads are added these will appear in unread discussions.

Microsoft Tech Community Summary


The Microsoft Tech Community is a place to interact, ask questions, share ideas or observations with peers, developers, end-users as well as Microsoft.  While there is a strong focus on Office 365, many other Microsoft technologies are represented.  By joining, members can better stay up-to-date with new developments, make them more informed, contribute ideas and ask questions, as well as help fellow members.