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The headline of a June 2010 article in the McKinsey Quarterly grabbed my attention: Unlocking the elusive potential of social networks.  Who among us hasn’t occasionally wondered if social networking is all that it is cracked up to be, and what it takes to be successful. The author, Michael Zeisser, suggests several winning strategies, and it seems to me that the SAP Community Network has already adopted these strategies, becoming more valuable both to SAP and to the members.

Zeisser suggests that the road to success is to make the social network genuinely valuable to the participants, and he suggests two ways of doing that: conferring social importance on the users and using virtual items to stimulate social interaction that will, in turn, generate word of mouth. “Recognition by peers is a powerful motivator,” and the behavior of users is mirrored by their networks of friends in “contagions.”

I think that SAP is doing an outstanding job of creating opportunities for social importance in the SAP Communities Network, through the Contributors recognition program and the SAP Mentor Initiative. If you are not already familiar with these programs, I strongly encourage you to take a detour from this blog and read the linked pages.  No matter where you are in your SAP solutions learning journey, there are activities available for you here in the SAP Community Network for learning, contributing, and recognition.

As for the virtual items that stimulate word of mouth, if you have not yet noticed the SAP Mentor recognition symbol sprinkled throughout this site, keep a look out for it. When you see it, you will know that you have found content contributed by leading members of our community who are eager to engage with you. Keep a look out for the SAP Mentor symbols at the upcoming SAP TechEd conferences, too, as Mentors will be found speaking, assisting with sessions, and engaging with conference attendees in the Community Clubhouse. Maybe being active in the SAP Community Network is contagious!

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  1. Chris Paine
    Hi Gretchen,

    I would agree that peer recognition is indeed a powerful motivator. However, I would disagree that the Contributors recognition program is equivalent to peer recognition.

    This disconnect between peer recognition and the SCN CRP is a discussion that has been ongoing in the Comments and Suggestions forum and the Coffee Corner forum.

    SCN is certainly well back from the cutting edge in this regard, although it would seem that there is a desire to move forward.

    The mentor team is certainly excellent, and I do think you all do a great job of promoting the community, perhaps I can agree that activity in this regard does beget activity in others (would I for example be responding had you not posted?! 🙂 However, the whole community cannot end up as mentors – so I feel we do need to address the first point.

    Thanks for your contribution to the debate!

    Chris

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    1. Gretchen Lindquist Post author
      Chris,
      Perhaps the debate hinges on the interpretation of “peer recognition.” To me, when I am given the opportunity for my peers in the community to see my name listed among the Active Contributors, or when my statuses on SCN are included in my LinkedIn profile, I consider those to be opportunities for peer recognition, and it motivates me to keep contributing. I think it is great for those who have earned their way to the Top Contributor page to be recognized there, as well as those who are recognized at events such as the Demo Jam, both of which would be distant goals for me. Certainly these are not the only ways to make a contribution in the SAP user ecosystem, but with 2 million members and growing, it seems that SCN is on the right track.

      Did you have a specific kind of peer recognition opportunity in mind that you would like to see here at SCN to provide more motivation to you?

      Thanks for your comments!
      Cheers,
      Gretchen

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      1. Chris Paine
        Gretchen,
        Indeed I think it does hinge on this definition. I don’t think that the current points awarding in forums does represent peer recognition – instead it encourages behaviour that garners more points in the hope that people will mistake points earned with knowledge in the area.
        Forum posters that do little more than search with the text of the post given and return a list of links (some which are completely irrelevant) are an example of a behaviour that has been fostered by the SCN points system. In one of the forums that I frequent one of the top three contributors recently has been someone I would not want on one of my projects – many of the comments/suggestions/posts they made were incorrect – however, the sheer volume of posts meant that they did get “recognition”.
        There are anecdotes of excellent potential contributors (top consultants, technical architects in large firms) being dissuaded from using SCN because of this point scavenging behaviour. Certainly I found it disheartening to find someone who I believed knew less about the topic lauded like this.

        Various proposals have been made on how to achieve a better solution. These range from a scraping of the points system replacing with a voting system, to the ability to nullify points awarded for basic questions that should be answered by searching not posting, to having a parallel process of reputation points – if someone with a high rep gives you a plus you get more reps than if a newbie poster rewards you. I’ll not go through the whole list – please go to the previously mentioned forums and see for yourself.

        My point is this – SCN is a vibrant and lively community, it has the potential to be even more so – the SCN points system does not represent recognition by peers, but rather the ability to work the system, to reach further we need to understand this and find a way that we can in a non-exclusive way use this strong motivating factor to bring more and better community involvement.

        Cheers,
        Chris

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        1. Gretchen Lindquist Post author
          Chris,
          Well then, we are in agreement, as I never said that the SCN points “represent” peer recognition. It seems that we are in agreement that the points can, and often do, *result* in peer recognition and higher social status in the community, which in your observation is sometimes undeserved.  The difference between points being causation of peer recognition and being result of peer recognition is significant, and I’m sorry that my meaning was so unclear.

          If some SCN members are repeatedly gaming the forums for points with low value replies, it sounds like the moderators may need to be alert for such behavior, and it was my impression that they in fact already are. I agree that high noise to value ratios can drive people away from discussion forums. Perhaps voting on the value of posts, such as we all see on web sites such as YouTube, would help.

          Thanks again for sharing your observations and suggestions.

          Gretchen

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  2. Cailin Yates
    While I do believe that the SAP Community Network is working to provide a valuable experience to users, I find that I agree with Chris’s point that “sheer volume” often results in recognition.  In my opinion this can be confusing for one looking to solve a problem or answer a question.  I also find myself questioning the motivation behind someone producing volume for recognition, particularly at times when the market makes acquiring placement difficult.

    However I do find that the SAP Community Network uses other methods to provide peer recognition as well.  “Mentor” titles for one, and the sub community of Mentors.  Perhaps it is a naive view.  But when I am searching for information I tend to pay more attention to the articles various mentors are citing or referring to than others. 

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  3. Susan Keohan
    Actually, these two are not really tied in my mind either.  The Forum Moderators do try to keep up with the point-mongers – it’s a very hard job to do.  I think we are all able to distinguish between a thought-out answer, or thought-provoking blog post, and someone who has cut-and-pasted SAPHelp into a forum.  And putting the responsibility on the originator of a forum question to award points for useful answers is fair.
    I suspect peer recognition has more to do with people who can see that you are active(whether by points or not)in the community, and bring some value to it.  And perhaps even get inspired to do the same!

    But SCN has traveled a long way from the days when points meant you got a t-shirt, and the mongering was excessive. 

    Just my 2p,
    Sue

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