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Note: Please understand that this blog series is not blaming complaining about our beloved SDN. I only blog about the topics I have discussed with other Community members and find useful. I think a place where people can discuss the often-appearing-ideas and suggestions one by one is needed and I hope my blogs about the common ideas and suggestions can create such useful places for such discussion.

For previous parts check my Blogs list.

The most important feature ever – linking

I hope you can agree that the linking is the most important way how to “create” a “new” content on SDN. To clarify a little: when you answer a forum question, you mostly don´t describe the whole solution from scratch, right? You just point the one asking to the blog (works together with the blog: The blogs: Roots of the tree of knowledge where my message is: “write a blog about the topic” and use it for future reference + details to answer the questions) which covers the field of the question and provide some additions about what to concentrate on or what are the typical problems he (or she) can expect. Or you provide a link to the same question asked before (yes, people do this, so the same/ similar questions are asked again and again) with a clarification which cannot be found in the original thread or any other brief personal experience.

Cool you can quickly get the answer. Not that cool to assign/ get points from referencing the content the one asking could have find himself/ herself. Also not so cool to assign/ get points for the content, you didn´t create yourself, or didn´t participate in the “creation process”).

Features about the linkage: count the benefits

If we can agree on the statement above, that the linking is the most important feature, we could probably agree on a second one: Any features which would make the linking more useful/ usable will help a lot (simple computation: if a feature would spare a second to every user then for 2 million users and millions of content pages on sap.com, how many seconds would it spare?).

Feature 1 (by Chris Paine): Hyperlinks with identity

There are features, that could be easily implemented (easily means the cost in the “ordinary world”, what “easily” means for SAP you can easily read for yourself for example here: Suggestions for forum improvements

(Concentrate on the parts about markups – to understand the idea of the paragraph – and about the “Did not search/ common question” abuse category complaints -to understand what “easy” means for SAP. By the way, feel free to add your complaints and ideas about the feature you would like to see on SDN!).

Let me briefly repeat the idea presented in the thread by Chris: You may have seen the tiny icons of various kinds, next to the hyperlinks in some forum posts (like a tiny person – link to the personal profile etc.). It would be cool to have similar functionality (but added by the machine for us, the people) for all the links in the posts (well, not all, but the ones that could be recognized).

Example: If the link redirects you to the SAP help page, have a tiny “SAP help” icon added before the actual link. If the link sends you to the blog, have a tiny “SDN blog” icon etc. For the certain set of links the icon can be easily added by the machine, because the “type” of the can be easily determined from the hyperlink format.

Let’s do a little more and see a real picture:

Or maybe some more fancy icons? Maybe you could create some yourself and publish it to let us check?

Feature 2: Rate the hyperlink

(Not that easy to implement but a good idea where to start to understand the next feature).

Behind this idea of mine is a simple observation that people read/ use many older threads, not to ask their own (cool, no more repeated questions). When I read an old thread (and know that many people did that before I do) I wonder which of the links, mentioned in the thread, are the best for my problem. If a user could “rate” a hyperlink, if few hundred people would have rated the hyperlinks I read in the thread, I would easily understand which one is the best fit for me (well, the problem of the previous readers could have been different than mine and the rate would not be 100% valid for me, but would be better than nothing).

It would work the same way as you can rate the documents. There is the average rate for the document and a “star schema” (sorry, BI) where you can pick your stars.

Rate the link

Fig 2: Example of rating the links

Feature 3: The link collector

To be able to rate the hyperlink, the engine would have to create a list of hyperlinks mentioned in the thread and remember the votes of the readers. That means, there would have to be a links collector which would collect the hyperlinks. But… when you would have such collector, imagine what fancy things you could do with the tool.

If you can rate the link, you can check the content for bi-directional linking. Sounds a little weird, so let me elaborate: in a thread the links are mentioned, the collector creates a list of links, for each of the documents where the link takes us, we can make the collector to do the same (here I assume that mostly SAP SDN pages content is referenced) etc. etc. This way we could build a tree of reference which would lead us to the original thread. This way for example:

  • We can easily navigate from the source thread (where a solution was provided for the first time) to all the threads which build on the referenced knowledge
  • From the threads where a link is mentioned we can create a collection of the relevant information sources (branches of the tree built by the links collector), this would work just great with the idea described in Tiny details I would love to have on SDN, part 2 where I was dreaming about the “users who read X also read Y” feature.
  • We can estimate the value of the information by the number of references leading to the original posting (blog, wiki, forum answer)
  • We can benefit the most valuable threads (through the number of references found by the links collector) in the search, of course the tree of reference (would be cool to see that in some graphically appealing shape) can help with the search a lot itself
  • …and many more in my opinion

By the way: Linking bugs (at least usability bugs)

Let me mention the “Suggestions for forum improvements” again: Suggestions for forum improvements. At the top of the page (not that top, but above the first post) you can see the grey stripe as a “toolbar”. I can see this info: Pages: 7 [1 2 3 4 5]. Cool I understand the number of pages and can access the oldest posts, but I would like to see the newest, of course. Why it is not like 7 [1 2 3 4 5 6 7]?? Is it that difficult to spot/ understand/ experience why it is not usable? (I am almost sure that the same problem exist when one is reading the headers of the treads in the Forum category, that the offered “links list for pages” does not allow the user to access any page of the content, but all the time I was trying to get some evidence, I had a feeling that it changes every time I access the pageJ).

Together with the above about counting the wasted second… would you vote for fixing this?

These “tiny blogs” are mostly about my feelings and not about a carefully building a problem and offering a solution, but hopefully somebody can understand some of my cries and support the idea.

Feel free to contact me and discuss the mentioned or comment here, I would like to hear the feedback, regards Otto

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  1. Nathan Genez
    A few people have requested in the past that the community rate the quality of people’s posts.  I’d love to be able to do that in addition to just a URL that they provide.
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    1. Ethan Jewett
      Agreed. It would be really nice if the community could rate post quality (Stack Overflow-style). The current situation where the only community-visible feedback mechanism is for the questioner to give points seems a bit too reliant on one person to remember to give points, and is pretty open to gaming or innocent misuse.
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  2. Otto, the thread page navigation is very lame on this forum. 7 pages is small potatoes, try going to page 77 of the ‘Funny Threads’: http://forums.sdn.sap.com/thread.jspa?threadID=397043&tstart=0

    There is no “Last page” link. The only workaround is to click ‘Last post’, which is not that obvious. I don’t think though that it should be displayed like 7 1 2 3…. Normally, if I’ve already read the thread’s beginning, I just click on the page I want in the thread list (although it is a problem if I came from a link). And how about an option to go to any page by number? It’s not a rocket science.

    But forget that – I’ll settle for the navigation that just plain works. This morning I clicked on the page 2 of a thread and was sent to… a completely different thread. I’ve also seen glitches when clicking on ‘Next’ and ‘2’ from page 1 has different results. Someone mentioned that clicking on next page link re-sends the request, which explains it (at first I thought I was going insane 🙂 ). But it’s not an excuse.

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  3. Harald Boeing
    Hi Otto,

    nice post, though I’m not really convinced that those features are really required or beneficial…

    Hyperlinks with identity: I’d say a good link should be mentioned in a context, which should indicate what the link is about. Mostly I’m interested in relevant, accurate and up-to-date content and I don’t see where the type of the link would help me with that…

    Rate the hyperlink: Again, I’m interested in content. In a forum answer I’d want to rate an answer and not links. Either an answer is good or not. If a link is relevant within an otherwise poor answer, it’s probably just a point hunter with a lucky hit. For me rating links is too fine-grained and doesn’t add value. Instead I’d prefer to rate the container content for the link (e.g. a forum message, blog posting, etc.).

    Link collector: From a strict theoretical perspective you most likely won’t deal always with trees (i.e. a tree is a connected graph without cycles). 😉
    If the content (i.e. blogs, messages, but not links) could rated *and* tagged, would such a feature really be of much use?

    Also, if a forum question can be answered by *only* linking to another thread, there is a good probability that the poster didn’t do a proper research before posting. In that case I’d like to be able to mark the question as duplicate or vote it down and possibly boost the other thread up.

    In those few cases where I’m really curious about link relationships, I could for example simply use Google along with the “link:”-operator (and for browsing the “related:”-operator possibly).

    Usability bugs: The discussion on the quoted forum thread (http://forums.sdn.sap.com/thread.jspa?forumID=40&threadID=1661965) shows that there’s lots of room for improvement. I agree it would be nice to fix some things that make the SDN experience unpleasant or cost valuable time…

    Cheers, harald

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    1. Otto Gold Post author
      Harald, this is my way how to express the feelings and ideas about SDN, because, as you may have noticed, the other ways don´t work.
      Maybe the suggested features are not uselful or can be replaced by other features, but we don´t have ANY improvements here, so ANY improvement in my eyes would be a step forward. Silly, but a result of the situation here…
      Ok, not a tree, oriented graph, layered one.
      I agree with everythink you say, except the Google. Ok, we have Google, but Google cannot save the world and people don´t know the features + SDN will not become enough Google friendly to give me what I want. In fact, let´s be able to do the job with Google or SDN search/other feature than with no one.
      To finish this: I write this blogs because maybe some of the readers are not aware of the discussion in those threads and would like to take part and through these blogs I am trying to gather the critical mass to push some change. By the way… I wonder why did you choose this part where you cannot agree and didn´t comment on any older part, where we can agree on the message?
      I am trying to be a little constructive here.
      Even if the “links collector” would be “useless”, in my eyes it would be much more useful improvement than the “New and Shiny business card”.
      Regards Otto
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      1. Harald Boeing
        Otto, it sounds like you felt my comments were inappropriate and I apologize for that. From my perspective we’re here to learn things, share experiences and discuss topics. I was trying to be constructive by stating my opinion, but if it’s not, than it backfired…
        As we’re not trying to vote here for features that should be implemented (obviously inappropriate via comments) but just exchanging ideas, I feel that exchanging different opinions and possibly coming to some conclusion is more beneficial than tons of postings where everybody just agrees. So I would like to continue to see nice posts like yours, along with some discussion, so that in the end we’d somehow identify the main pain points that should be changed. I doubt that anybody would address requests/issues without any prioritization.
        I hope that explains my intentions a bit better and my apologies if my clumsy postings cause more grief than being beneficial.
        Cheers, harald
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        1. Otto Gold Post author
          Maybe my answer was a little too defensive, nothing personal, no offense, no problem:))
          I apologize as well. We don´t share all the opinion but definitely share the passion and drive for change.
          I only wanted to explain why do I write these blogs and why (could seem like) I am not more helpful with the forum discussion (I have posted few long threads, but more sarcastic than helpful…).
          In fact no one of these comments would be needed if any action would be taken, what we, unfortunatelly, cannot push.
          Let´s continue the discussion and wear the pink glasses for a while. I am looking forward to the critical mass to change the course…
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    1. Otto Gold Post author
      Not my idea (credits gives), but I like it very much. If you could do anything to promote the idea, it would be cool.
      “Easy” tasks can be seen all over (and in the mentioned threads) but with “one release per month” and “we will discuss it internally” and “there are more important things to do” and some other typical comments, I am afraid we can expect the feature like in a year:))
      But thank you for the comment anyway and especially (as I said in one of the “crying thread”): if I can write a blog series about the community (well, mostly mine, but not an author of most of the ideas myself) wishes, maybe you could write a blog series about the SDN team progress/ development/ ideas you like/ ideas you are going to implement etc.
      If you have read the previous parts of the “tiny details” series, one (like 4. or something) is called “the voice of SAP” which can help you understand “our” thoughts.
      Thank you for the involvement in the discussion both here and especially in the “crying threads”, please keep going, regards Otto
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