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From the Grumpy Old Man: Ignorance killed the cat

By now you doubtless find me an old nag who repeats himself unendingly. Nevertheless, it seems that I’m right about the SDN community and you do tend to reconfirm my accusations time after time. I honestly don’t know what drives this community anymore.
A perfect example is SDN at TechEd. You flunked the SDN clubhouse in Vienna. I can only speak for the SDN event in that city, but how can you do this when you didn’t even visit it? As said before, the attendance was low at times. Humiliatingly low.
Sure, some things could have been done another way. Sometimes things look better on paper than in reality. That’s the reason why Mark is asking for your ideas, feedback and other thoughts. What is he getting back? Nothing at all, except from the usual suspects of course.

As said previously, I don’t accept the excuse of not having time. After all, you did have time to read his web log (312 at this moment) and give the clubhouse bad marks, didn’t you?
There must be another explanation. Maybe you simply don’t care or are even selfish. Just so long as your problems are solved in the forums. Just hit and run.
On top of that SDN is for free, thus no expensive consultants or OSS is involved. However, don’t confuse the SDN forums with (free) support. The community guidelines are clear:
‘The forum’s goal is to be a place that enables an engaging solution-oriented dialog between SAP developers. … We will not accept questions that go beyond the standard SAP solution and/or need comprehensive knowledge of the current customer situation‘ . But this is not the subject of this lament.
Maybe you take things too much for granted. Perhaps you find it perfectly normal that somebody else is, on a voluntary base, solving your problems and writing articles, web logs, tutorials, etc.  Not forgetting of course that this platform is supported by a large SDN admin group, which also organises events like online meet-ups, SDN meets Labs, a clubhouse at TechEd. All for you, free of charge. After all, you pay enough for SAP licenses, don’t you?

Why should you bother to do something in return when asked for your opinion once a while? There is nothing in it for you after all. I agree that that’s true if you are thinking purely in terms of material things. You won’t get an iPod for submitting your thoughts. Nevertheless, you will benefit from it anyway. You have the chance to determine how the SDN clubhouse will look and how the SDN day will go. An event à la carte so to speak. Teched may seem far away, but NOW is the time to react.
You cannot complain that it’s not any good and then keep silent about what you would like to see changed or added. Or is your silence an indication that you don’t want such an event or clubhouse, or even want to pull the plug out on SDN?
SDN Clubhouse improvement suggestions and thou shalt be heard. Those who are absent are always in the wrong.

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  • Great blog as always Eddy...You're right about the interest people put on the SDN ClubHouse and even in the SDN HomePage...
    I feel bad because living in Perú, makes hard for me to attend SAP or SDN Events...That's why I make my contributions straight to this homepage...I'm a blogger and an active forum member...I always tried to read all blogs and put some comments. Maybe it take a lot of time from me...But come on...Every minute that I spend here is a minute that I gain in knowledge.



  • Hi Eddy,

    after reading your blog, I decided to add my own related thoughts, just to stir up some controversy (or at least have a try at it ;-)).
    I agree that other developer communities seem much more vibrant, apparently succeeding to evoke more than a simply professional interest among their members, whereas at SDN I sometimes feel reminded of a community of taxpayers, where one can exchange tips on how to best fill out the required forms or which tax-deductible investment promises the highest refunds: without doubt important and useful discussions, but hardly stuff to generate any passion.
    Reasons? Possibly several: SAP only recently positioned itself as a vendor of platform technology, and technology is what interests the developers I know considerably more than turnkey solutions. The ABAP stack comes across as old fashioned and appears years behind other development environments (e. g. regarding refactorings); it’s especially bad when you’re stuck on an older release. The development policies in the SAP ecosystem are often extremely conservative, even OO is sometimes considered advanced! Projects for new applications outside of SAP are probably exceedingly (?) rare, thus most of the work consists of enhancements. Then there’s no open source community to generate ideas or frameworks, sharing code is difficult at best, etc… (I could add to this list but still want to leave some room for others to prove me wrong ;-))
    All in all it's probably not an attractive place to invest more of your precious spare time in?
    Cheers, Achim

    • Hi,

      If one doesn't feel happy about SAP or even SDN, why doesn't one speak up? It DOES make a difference.
      The fact that the SDN community screamed for a back-port of the new ABAP editor and got one's way (see Mister SDN Goes to Walldorf) is the perfect example of this.
      That's just my point in this web log. Without casting doubt on the telepathic abilities of SAP/SDN, but if one wants to be heard by SAP/SDN one needs to break the silence.


      • Good point Eddy but I dont know what is the solution to the problem , I myself being only an on and off contributor though I dont blame this on SDN but more attributed to a demanding work. However I have seen communities that are more cohesive and sticky inspite of lesser community engineering
        Maybe SAP/SDN needs to attract more Geeks

        * Re engineer a mini ABAP runtime something on the lines of PHP and throw it free to the market , that way you get early adoption and people might use it beyond building business applications and hence a more vibrant community

        * Make SAPs presence in the java world felt more, that way atleast developers from that world start looking at SAP more curiously

        * Maybe we could move away from the points system but use it internally to judge who needs to be moderators thereby sharing responsibilty and ownership on to them

        • Hi,

          I'm not going into the JAVA/ABAP and open source discussion here since that is not the subject of this web log and has been discussed many times elsewhere (I've said my bit about it in things like already). Same thing for the point system btw.

          The point of this web log is that this community counts > 250K people, so SDN is rather attractive to my sense. The problem is that of those > 250K, not even 1/500 are really active contributors. And that's even an overexaggerated estimation to my feeling since only 200 people (excluding SAP employees) have > 575 points rewarded.
          Despite that, the SDN site contains a treasure full of code, tutorials, solutions to problems (in the forums), documentation, etc. created by those people on a voluntary base, "thrown free to the market". The rest of the community (the > 249,5 K non active contributors) can take advantage of this.
          The only thing I would expect as return is that people would write a few lines down ellaborating their thoughts on a subject for making things better and thus for their own good.
          Appearantly that is expecting the impossible from them. It's up to them to prove that I'm wrong and I sincerely do hope that this is the case.


          • But Eddy that argument applies to so many other sites and the WWW itself Eg: wikipedia , not everyone who visits there is motivated to expand on some article or even make a tiny donation. Within SDN ,the casual user who comes in to get his answer solved wouldnt even know if such feedback mechanisms existed let alone be even interested to use it because as far he/she is concerned the site works . Then on the matter of being responsible, that is a rare quality and that is what differentiates community leaders from the community itself.
          • Hi,

            You're right that this applies for a a lot of sites. But who says that SDN can't make the difference? I would be be a bit happier when as little as 10% of the people viewing Mark's weblog (325 at this moment) would give their comment. It isn't that difficult; it's just a matter of following the link. People know how to work with the forums since they use them to get their problems solved.


          • Eddy,

            The interesting part is that on the CRM forum, most of the contributions are from people who do not work for SAP.  The only drawback from the CRM side is we don't have a lot of articles/weblogs contributed on our subject. 

            I myself have limited time to what I contribute and ability to answer.  Being on the side where you have project deadlines, and production support, I feel luck that I get to read the parts of SDN that I choose to scan.

            I have stopped answering questions a couple times on the CRM forums, because people fail to acknowledge/give points after you spent a signficant amount of time proposing a solution and all they want is you to give them the fully coded solution to solve the problem.

            I don't know what the answer is, but I am sure your blog has inspired a lot us to be more active if possible.


  • Hello Eddy,

    I can see and understand your concerns. I am one of those not-so-very-active members. I'll try to explain why.
    First of all, there is the time-issue. ebvn though you say you don't accept this as an excuse, it is one of the main reasons. Working for a client quite often means that you have a deadline to work to, and next to that I do have a family, and they don't live online. And as Shai already said at the last Teched, it takes a lot time to read everything on SDN (approx. two-and-a-half year). So I only delve into the subjects which attracts me, and unfortunately, that didn't include the blog about the blog about the clubhouse. I think I choose about 1 percent of the SDN to read, and that takes already about 1 hour a day.
    The second reason why I am not so active, is that those 200 persons who give all the answers, are just too quick and too knowledgable. It seems they have a better knowledge of SAP than me. I just don't have the answers to a lot of the questions being raised, although I would love to, and sometimes even try to. So I indeed use the SDN as a source of information, hoping that my knowledge will increase to such a point that I am able to answer some questions. But until that time I am one of the quiet ones.

  • Hi Eddy,
    Clearly this weblog once again shows your emotion about SDN, but you assume too much - especially from the wrong people, according to your numbers.
    You cannot take for granted that every SDN member is an active part of the "community". Even now it is hard to follow every new publication on SDN one might be interested in, imagine what would happen if the number of articles etc. would double or triple. This would show to most of the people what SDN has become already, an information network.

    Of course this network did arise from a smaller community, I do remember the days when I was able to not only read every thread but to reply to quite a fair number of them. The ratio of "community members" to "SDN members" was significantly higher back then, therefore it was a lot easier to "feel the community". Nowadays you have to be actively trying to stay in contact with your SDN friends, as you don't get to talk in the same forum threads that often.

    Just don't make the assumption that every SDN member automatically has to be a community member, take Wikipedia as an example (like mentioned below already) - what if everyone who every read something on Wikipedia would be pushed to attend a member meeting ...

    Your wish for a higher number of "active community members" is understandable, but keep in mind that the number of "possible community members" did not grow the same way as the SDN member count did, by far not that much.

    Imo it takes one of these two situations for a "community" to be active: either have a managable number of members, who do not lose contact during regular times, or the members have to have some geeky attraction to the community. Maybe the current situation only shows that despite all open source and project activities on SDN the "geek level" is not high enough to trigger more activity, especially in the community part (compared to the information part, which is available all the time to everyone).
    But this is speculation, something to have a chat about - just wanted to point out that "SDN members" does not equal "community".

  • What really strikes me in this context is the fact that this
    SDN: T-Shirts & More
    is one of the most active blogs around.
    I mean, hey, it's just a t-shirt. If it were sooo beautiful I could make it myself in the next copy shop for 10 euros. Just a t-shirt. If I get it, I'd consider it as a nice compliment by SDN, but if I don't get it...kismet. Just a t-shirt.
    If someone asked me to write a blog with a high impact on the community, I think I had to write a blog on t-shirts.
    Since this makes me laugh whenever I spot a posting in the right hand column, I think this must be funny.


    (i've got to have a look at ebay this evening and see what those t-shirts get you there...must be a lot...)

  • Eddy,
    I am one of those whose contribution is very irregular. However, in my opinion you should not try to judge which "excuses" are acceptable and which are not. Shortage of time is not an excuse, it's a real problem. We are all free people (at least I hope), except that we must do our work if we want to get paid. And this is only the second most important thing in my life. Who has the right to tell me that SDN is more important than my little girls and wife, since the wealth of my family (including me) is the priority #1 for me? I am not saying that you suggest that.
    I am only pointing out that every individual of those 250K has his own reason for not contributing. Someone is inexperienced or not enough self-confident, the other is embarrassed for bad English, people have families, bad bosses, deadlines in doing what they are paid for... I can imagine that companies might forbid contribution as they might feel that they are giving away value that way.
    There is another discouraging phenomenon to be considered. I myself became active after a long period of time. I opened the ABAP forum, saw a question that I suppose I know the answer to. I started typing and surfing through my programs for solution, and when I got back to the post, there were already 5 answers. What a waste of my time! So why bother answering when there are people who type faster?
    Getting the answer to tough questions is getting harder too. If someone doesn't answer immediately, the post sinks down and gets out of the forum screen in the matter of minutes. I had such posts with no replies at all.
    This is a kind of conflict that I don't know the solution to. We want more contribution, but it has drawbacks too.
    Not granting points for good answers doesn’t help either.
    Alright, within those 250K there are surely genuine parasites as well, who use SDN as they use everything and everyone in their lives. There is no way to motivate them for contribution.

    Let’s make one more thing clear: contribution is not an act of philanthropy. So why do people contribute? Some look for pure fame, simply love their pictures before 250K of others, show off with their points… Don’t get me wrong: this is good too, as long as it produces valuable content at SDN. Contribution is also a business investment. It’s just that it pays in long terms and is not obvious immediately and to everyone.

    I certainly agree that something should be done to improve situation at SDN. But in my opinion the motivation should be positive: what one gets (apart from the t-shirt) if one does contribute at SDN rather than just use it? What you are trying to do is a negative motivation: you are teaching people a lesson what kind of bad persons non-contributors are, and how other communities are better than them, ungrateful lazy parasites.
    I have never seen a deep change for better driven by negative motivation. It only creates an opposite effect.

    Pointing system is excellent! And those t-shirts are good examples. Some folks see them as a sort of trophy. I personally don't care and didn't even know about them until I got one. But when I did I was pleasantly surprised too! How can I stop contributing now that I got a gift with such a lovely "thanks" note by Craig?!

    Maybe one of the ways to motivate can be seeing SDN as a business investment and pointing out what good can contribution do to one's life and career. I don't mean the business perspective like "see what I can do with SAP thanks to SDN contribution", but rather a pure private perspective like "see how contribution at SDN impacted my career and improved quality of my private life: how my value at labor market grew, how I gained more job security, how I got hired by SAP and tripled salary" and so on. There are success stories like that, and maybe they could be grouped and published somewhere.

    I can offer mine. 🙂


    • Igor,

      Thanks for sharing your concerns. You're 1000% (no, this isn't a typo) right about your private life and that your family is the most precious thing in the world. I have myself a wife and two kids and I can only agree with you.
      However, this web log isn't about contributing web logs, etc. nor the value of SDN in general. The real subject is that the SDN admins (in casu Mark) ask for input to improve the clubhouse at SDN and get few responses.
      As Anton rightfully points out, one seems to be more concerned about a T-shirt not arriving and spends time on complaining (and using the wrong channel for it). All this despite the multiple attempts by Craig to explain the procedure.


      • Eddy,
        I appologize if I got it all wrong - I saw some more replies on general contribution issue too and just hit the keys. Well, maybe those t-shirt naggers could be qualified as "geunine parasites", but I still don't believe in negative motivation. They just won't get better for spanked butts.
        Anyway, what do you think about the idea of publishing SDN success stories?
        • Igor,

          No problem. Maybe I didn't state things properly, which causes the confusion. The fact that I replied to the general contribution responses in the same manner could have caused it too.

          Anyway, the Grumpy series is set up as a column where I give an unsweetenend opinion about and most important in benefit for the SDN and its community. 
          I'm not pretending to be a do-gooder trying to change the world (of ubergeek), far from that. The main purpose is to point out things that could be done better/otherwise. At least it starts a discussion like this one and the ultimate is off course that we all benefit from the solution.
          Things might come over negative. I would call it hard but fair though.
          However, that doesn't mean that I can only write negative stuff. My other web logs and articles prove the opposite. Even Grumpy can be positive in blogs like From the Grumpy Old Man: I'm not an addict
          The SDN admins, commuinty reporters (see  and of course the community can always prove that I'm wrong.


  • Hi Eddy,

    This is my first contribution to SDN in many months, so maybe I'm your bad books too (sorry!) 🙂

    I think your comments about lack of contribution to different areas of SDN are consistent with a feeling I have had for some time about the SAP community in general.

    Whereas open source and other such projects are generally contributed to by people who are committed to building a better mousetrap, and are doing it for altruistic reasons, or for the kudos, I feel that people who work in SAP are generally in it for the cash.

    That is a general statement and I am sure that huge numbers of people (well, 200 anyway) are in it for other reasons, but if money, or job security, or other material benefits are your motivating factor, then why would you spend your time contributing to the community?  You just take what you need to get the job done.

    I remember back in the day, as part of ABAP teams on various implementation projects, you would always get your jealous horders, those who would keep their knowledge "secret", so as improve their position on the project, or to keep the competition down for the next project.

    Now that these skills are much more common, you don't get this attitude as much, but in some ways, the community still retains a bit of this culture.

    I think that for many, SAP is just a job, a means to an end, not a subject to get passionate about.

    Now, I just need a quick answer from the forums before I can get back to my work...


    • Brad,

      One can also look at things in another way. Where one think that one can increase their value by keeping things for themselve, one can also consider the opposite. Being a contributor can also increase their value. All depends on the interpretation of that value.
      But again, this web log isn't about contributing. It's all about having at least the politeness to answer when somebody asks your opinion.