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First off ( even though I've never met him in real life ) I highly respect and like Stefan. So my thoughts here are strictly about the newsgroup, not the messenger.
I find it interesting that Microsoft advertises the newsgroup as an MSDN Subscription feature. Then again, Microsoft has recently been in the news for charging for features that it otherwise gives away for free. Sadly, Macrovision is guilty of this as well since they claim that Bronze, Silver and Gold maintenance plans come with "24 x 7 access to product Web Communities".
Either way my personal opinion of the MSI newsgroup is very low. The volume of traffic is extremely light. When you wade past all of the `MI5 ruined my life` spam posts, there is almost zero traffic.
What's left is a core group of mostly InstallShield/Wise/InstallAware haters who love to roll their own tools. Ironically a couple of these people have been awarded MSI MVP Awards simply because of their participation in this one small forum and/or for rolling their own tools. ( But that's a topic for another day. )
The core group of this newsgroup typically `helps` people who are having problems writing MSI packages using the SDK tools, home grown tools and VDPROJ. From my observations, the same old problems crop up year after year. Problems that wouldn't be happening if better tools were selected.
For example, one recent particularly funny thread was when Microsoft Windows Installer MVP Dennis Bareis was having difficulty understanding registry appending and registry types. I've been using InstallShield for years and their graphical designers make this question a non issue as the tool guides you through authoring your registry table entries. If you want to know what it actually looks like, you can see it in the direct editor. I suppose everything has to be harder when you are rolling your own and trying to prove that you know more about MSI then InstallShield.
Well, I'm sure with this post I haven't made any more friends at Microsoft. Sorry, but this is how I feel on the subject and I'm more interested in telling it the way it is and trying to improve things then paying homage and maintaining the status quo.