My first encounter with sdn was in 2005 when I took over a project in 2005 from an external consultant, who suddenly left the company over night. My assignment was to take over a broad Enterprise Portal project in the middle of everything. (Notes LDAP, SSO, KM News&Documents, iview programming, hardware based authentication). The challenge was to take over and get everything running in three month.
The only chance was to start posting at sdn and hoping for answers. I was surprised about the speed and the quality of the responses. It was 5 years ago, the community was significantly smaller and the quality of the forum postings more focused. What really made me a fan of sdn in the first place was the speed of the response. The first answers to forum requests usually started minutes after posting and the quality was on the level of SAP developers.
Two thirds of the problems we had wouldn’t be solved in this time frame with regular support schemes. Even SAPNet would have been too slow for some of the challenges or the wrong auditorium. Getting “Subject Matter Experts” would have been too difficult and too slow. Or it was just not worth to book a full day of consulting, if sdn can solve it in two hours.
For me, sdn has become an import cornerstone in working on SAP projects. A lot of people are hesitating, but once they started posting, they won’t miss it. In my SAP Netweaver classrooms (I do teach quite a bit) using sdn is a fix part of any curriculum.
“How should I keep up with that pace of learning curve in all these new technologies?” is an often asked question and “sdn” is my prime answer, before standard classrooms, books or SAPNet.
A lot of people have problems with English as a foreign language. My answer is, too, look at the forums. Some people obviously have nearly no knowledge of English or using Google translations.
For me, this is just fine and an essential part: No matter how challenged your English is, everybody will try hard to understand you. Just do it. If you think you`re English is bad, I’ll find someone who is worse. (including me) . Maybe your English is not sufficient for blogs or articles, but for forums anytime.
The good thing is, that in a country as Germany with a dense SAP eco-system in SAP hometown, you meet a lot of sdn people in person. Living 50 km from Walldorf also helped alot. And being a former SAP employee anyway. So, over time, you have a virtual and a real network, and I worked on several occasions live at customer sites where I met good sdn sports and also SAP mentors. Not so much the actual tools are important, it is more important to be a constant part of sdn, as a participant and contributor.
Time, of course, is for most of us the limiting factor. If your employer has not given dedicated time for working on sdn, you will most likely do it “after hours. I spent roughly one to two hours a day on sdn and when I write blogs or articles, a Sunday quickly goes by. But it is definitely worse the effort. As I said, being a constant part of the network is important.
I think that the current structure of sdn is well balanced, with forums and blogs, articles etc. The biggest challenge I see is managing the quality of the community. With some million participants, managing masses is critical. Keep the erroneous posters out of the way, keep beginners from answering if they are not sure and keep the blurpers from blurping and the thefts from cut&paste. This is a difficult task, I know -keep the distinctions between not-so-good-contributors and newbies, that want to be an important part of the the community, between right and wrong in such a big community.
A more present “SDN Police” in forums, showing that someone is looking after the bad boys (and girls) would help. But this is maybe also too much of a law-and-order approach. I am not sure, but sometimes, these people really needed a spanking or – even better – just make them go away.
The part that definitive needs improvement at sdn is e-learning and video. But I better do a separate blog about it- my actual favorite topic.
Forum points are like the icing on the cake: It is great to see them grow from time to time, but they are not purpose by itself. If you are a constant part of the community, points are like a calendar: From time to time you look at them and think: Gee, how long are you already here? But they are never the actual motivation to help, tech and tell.
For 2010, I see more and more video-based trainings and presentation on sdn. And I see the challenge to keep such a huge community focused. Quantity is never quality and when there was such a thing as swarm intelligence, Earth would have already taken over by aliens or fruit flies.
We currently see the Internet wiki culture faltering over the liberal way “everybody can do everything”. I think the concept of mentors are a good step towards quality and one step towards positive community dynamics.