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I don’t know whether you have noticed it or not, but it would appear that some people only become a member of the SDN community in order to post commercial, non SAP related content in it’s forums. You know that I’m not so keen on – or should I say I’m allergic to – SPAM (see also my SDN Day Sessions in Amsterdam October 17 at the SDN day) and the commercial From the Grumpy Old Man: Does money makes the SDN world go round? of our beloved SDN site. It is clear to me that this type of person and their messages are not welcome at SDN. The only reaction to this is to report this kind of misbehaviour to the SDN admins via the well known e-mail address.
Having said this, as with SPAM, it comes too late in the day. One needs to think about why such things happen and how these things can be prevented in the future. I’ve been thinking about this for a while now and here are a few of the possible solutions that I’ve thought of. First of all it is far too easy to become a member of SDN. All that one needs to do is to fill in a name, first name, e-mail, password and password hint in order to become an SDN member. All of these could be false. No verification at all with direct access as bonus. The only hurdle is that you might use the ‘Phantom of the Opera’ browser.
I prefer the idea used at the Service Marketplace where registration is more fraud proof  since you need to provide a customer or installation number, and generation of an userid might take up to 2 hours. Hit and run users are therefore less likely. Why isn’t SDN adopting this type of registration process? Sure the hurdle might seem a bit steeper with possibly fewer members as a result. But is the focus of SDN to make converts? And is quantity more important than quality? What’s the point of having  > 500k users, other than bragging of it, or that figure being used by the afore-mentioned others?
The ‘side effect’ of laxity in this domain is not only the abuse of the forums, as mentioned above. Another plague is the existence of double (or more) accounts for the same person. Even a split personality, such as mine, doesn’t see any credible reason why one should have more than one SDN account. What could possibly be the reason for having multiple accounts? The only possible reasons that I have managed to come up with so far are:

  1. One has changed employer and it’s easier to simply create another user. Why doesn’t one just send a mail to the SDN admins asking them to change the non-modifiable data like the userid (S-number)? Maybe you will still end up with a new UNIQUE id after all, but the benefit of it is that you keep the contribution points that you’ve gained. If this works for people like Craig and Thomas, why shouldn’t it work for you?
  2. You, as a consultant, want to keep your userid separate from the company you’re currently working at. How many userids do you want to have then? I’m sure that by the third customer you will no longer be able to keep them all apart.
  3. You have forgotten your password. There is clearly a link for obtaining a new password. Funnily enough you’re asked more questions when you click upon this link that upon registration.
  4. You want to fraud with points. I’ve already expanded on the recommendation point’s From the Grumpy Old Man: The points of no return. On SDN world I also see the same person putting themselves on the map multiple times – and thereby acting against the spirit of this project – two different business cards, thus two accounts on SDN. And all of that for the ‘measly’ 25 points one gets for it. I don’t see any point to this since points don’t get accumulated between accounts. Unless you can manage to convince the SDN admins to merge two accounts afterwards. Maybe you could fool them once, but you certainly wouldn’t be so lucky a second time.

Having said that, I wonder how many of the > 500k users are for real. I think it’s about time that we had a good spring clean and reject the abusers relentlessly. I would even extend this to sleeping accounts. Let’s say that an account that has not been logged in to for > 6 month – or a more generous year – would be a good boundary.
It could be a painful operation for both the SDN members and SAP to see the number of SDNers dwindling. But, let’s compare it with cooking where one tries to reduce a sauce by boiling down the liquid. You know that by the time that you’ve finished you will end up with not only a better quality, but also a far better tasting result.

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  1. Mark Yolton
    Always interesting to read Eddy’s blogs and rants.  Enjoy them even though they sometimes hurt a little bit. 

    One question raised: How many users of SDN, really, when you subtract duplicate members and then add anonymous public (non-member) visitors? 

    Aside from 500k+ members with all of its flaws, we also watch unique monthly visitors.  That number is more than 350,000 regularly (getting closer to 380,000 the past few months). 

    That number uses a cookie, so if you take your laptop from home to work and login both places, we only count you once.  But it counts you twice if you visit SDN from two different machines. 

    So, it’s all imperfect (as are most of the Internet metrics, unique users, member numbers, etc.), but I’m starting to watch “unique monthly visitors” more closely. 

    Unique monthly visitors will probably be one of the metrics we use to measure ourselves in 2007. 

    See you in Amsterdam at SDN Day, Eddy.   Hope to see many of our other 500k (or 380k) members as well. 

    Best,

    Mark Yolton

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    1. Eddy De Clercq Post author
      Mark,

      That’s indeed an interesting figure. In fairness, I must admit I didn’t think that it was that much. I guess I have been focusing at those few “malpracticers”.
      I guess it comes to the saying that one rotten apple can spoil the whole barrel.

      I surely hope too that a lot of the good apples will attend the SDN day 🙂

      Eddy

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  2. Anyone who uses the place to advertise their commercial apps don’t really understand the community but maybe some people need to be educated more on what exactly should happen in the forums.

    However, I don’t think you should make it more difficult to become a member. Some of the experienced people that are here are sure to be frustrated with new members but that’s expected. If you limit the community your isolating the people who will benefit the most out of the community.

    In fact, SDN should be coming up with ideas on making it more simple to register and making people’s transition to a developer network a lot more easy. People should be aware of what to expect out of SDN.

    I certainly wouldn’t delete members accounts. Members can find the information useful or just a good read and may take time to post or become part of the community and forcing them to take part to early than they feel is right is completely wrong.

    If people have multiple accounts certainly the admins should be following it up. Not to delete their accounts but to discover why multiple accounts exist, is the process which sounds simple to you or I not simple enough? Theirs a lot that can be learned from these so called annoyances, if people are prepared to analyze the community that already exists.

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    1. Eddy De Clercq Post author
      Hi Cathal,

      Thanks for your opinion. I think that the SDN admins  already have put much effort in educating people. Additionally, I try to pinpoint things with my Grumpy web logs in the hope to get people to finally  understand that this/their kind of behaviour casts a slur on the reputation of our beloved site. I leave in the middle if things are helpful or not.
      Maybe sometimes prevention is the best way to cure a pain.

      Eddy

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    2. Nigel James
      I would have to second this opinion. Lets keep it easy for people to get involved. Sure that way you are going to let a few people through the door who are a little bit weird but it is up to the community to keep reinforcing it. Posts like ‘oh send me that pdf too my email is …’ should be jumped on by moderators and should be able to be reported by every user. This is the sort of feature that most communities have –   those in the BBC site do this quite well and the mods jump on and block objectional posts. (Sometimes the passion of cricket fans gets out of hand)
      I also think everyone should be able to mark a post a useful. Lots of sites have this and  Microsoft do this well. This could link to points somehow and then there would be no need to  continually remind people to rewarded posts.
      I believe both of these features are on the adjenda.

      On another note of multiple memberships I found myself in this precise situation earlier this year. I client gave me an S id which I linked to a certificate to avoid logging on to the SAP notes portal but then I thought I would link it to my SDN account but it created another SDN account with that S id rather than use my P id. Once I had found the error I had already posted under both ids (and linked to SDN World with both). A simple email to Craig resolved the situation.

      So in summary – keep the doors open and keep the moderators working!

      Cheers,
      Nigel

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