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Notes from the First SDN Weblogger/Contributor Meet in Palo Alto

Notes from the SDN Webloggers and Contributors Team Meet in Palo Alto. Thanks to everyone who took time out of their busy schedule to take part. We had some great conversations regarding the human voice of SAP that the SDN Weblogging is enabling.

Pain points/things to improve about SDN

  • You have to register to see a Weblog (several times mentioned)
    [Comment: We will change that within this quarter.]
  • Problems to show code examples in Weblogs (above 80 characters wide causes scroll bar)
  • Some UI issues: like long list of articles and print them out, she loses the context of where she is, breadcrumbs would help.
  • Better Weblogger statistics.
  • SDN doesn’t focus on the existing installed base (more R/3, ABAP, etc. wanted)
    [ABAP Development Area is in the making.]
  • Content isn’t specialized for developers from Content Factory of SAP.
  • How can we recruit more contributors?
  • SAP Community integration and SSO.
    [Project currently under way to provide single sign on to SDN, SAP Community and Service Marketplace]
  • Too much information architecture, not enough context.
  • Need better quick and dirty Computer Based Trainings.

Good things about SDN

  • Group Weblog about contributors.
  • That it is there, represents human voice of SAP.
  • The download feature.
  • Good audience
  • Tremendous potential to bring customers and community together.
  • Better freestyle communication so that I don’t have to go through global marketing, a realistic style.
  • The scope of people.
  • SDN is listening to community (through 3-4 channels).
  • Community of contributors and their commitment.
  • Knowledge Transfer
  • As a customer, they can tap into knowledgeable quickly (like how to do backup of MaxDB), to drive TCO down.

External voice: Ross Mayfield (CEO of Socialtext: Enterprise Social Software Platform based on Weblogs, Wikis, email integration, etc.)
Started out with saying “Most of my critique points were already mentioned.” Bad: Lack of identity, almost too precise.Good: Developers talking to developers. Can other content be brought into SDN using tools (like TrackBack or Yahoo portals discussion groups)? The more you blur outside content with inside content, the more “open” you appear. Future: Maybe enable developers that want to do a project together by giving them a space to do that.

Blogs are individual voice, WIKI is group voice (a virtual whiteboard almost, they de-emphasize flaming and instead focuses on content). Compare the benefit of the SDN community to putting on a developer conference, customer/employee retention, reduced cost for finding talent. Besides ego, how do you draw in contributors? Give training/examples that are relevant to their space. Also, it’s useful for people who don’t want to continue to be asked questions on topics (they tell them “check the Weblog”).

There was some more discussions about the Weblogging in an enterprise environment which later lead Ross’ to post his thoughts in this excellent post. Read it, don’t skip and let’s work on standardizing the author/reader agreement. For example: Weblog posts written under an enterprise banner shouldn’t be read, understood and hold accountable on par with press releases.

Tips and Tricks Weblog Writing within SDN (Dos and don’ts)
Went though the points covered in this Weblog formatting Tips and Tricks.

When is it an Article vs. When is it a Weblog? Presented by Jennifer Lankheim.
Blogs are appropriate to deal with a specific focused point. An article is a broader spectrum. A Weblog could then link to a full article. A Weblog is small focus, and then the article goes into the full exposition. The SDN editorial team can help to flesh out ideas into full articles (developmental editing).The difference between whitepapers and articles are that whitepapers have a certain structure and are created by marketing and have much more editorial review.

How to write well on the Web (for articles)
People don’t read the web they “scan” instead of “reading” every line. Therefore write your text so that it can be easily scanned. [Jennifer Lankheim, who lead through this part of the presentation, will provide the whole document on SDN soon]

Status of the Contribution Reward System
Discussion of rewards: Waive the fee for TechEd for best contributors, a letter to their boss, software subscription, dinner with Shai. To motivate new members, old points should expire, similar to the chess scoring system. Also, make it really easy to rank answers (put it in front of people’s face). Maybe allow users to decide whether or not their profile can be viewed (like what posts they’ve done, the points they’ve received, etc).

What can be done better?

  • Add commenting on articles.
  • For weblogs, there isn’t an easy way to track responses to the post. It is suggested to use an RSS reader like Bloglines.
    [Email notification will be added as a feature soon.]
  • Add a “site map” so that new pages can be discovered.
  • Promise, I will not schedule it in parallel with JavaOne again, got some last minute cancellations because of it.

Actually the next US one will be during the SAP TechED in San Diego, probably as one of the new Birds of the Feather sessions. But first we will do a similar session at SAP headquarters in Walldorf. Mark you calendar if you want to be part of it: Thursday 15th of July 2pm to 5pm. Details in my next Weblog.

P.S. I never posted anything about the Microsoft SAP merger talks. As a little worker bee, I don’t know anything more about it than can be read in the News, but let’s just say that the 4th of July has a brand new meaning to me and yes, I am going to celebrate: Happy 4th of July.

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