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This blog would never come into being without kind help of Mr. Martin Lang, Director Collaboration on SAP Community Network.

Have you ever participated in a discussion how would you like to change/ improve the SCN site? I bet on “yes” or “yes, all the time”. Many forum posts have been posted about the complaints, ideas, errors, some blogs asked to change or improve certain features of SCN (check the SCN Support for tons of suggestions). I know many of the discussion are much older than my first SCN contributions, even though I have participated in some interesting discussions on the topic. This blog is not about more ideas and complaints; it is about how I change my opinion about the SCN infrastructure thanks to a deep discussion with a friend.

First of all, dear reader, understand how heterogeneous the current SCN infrastructure is. It seems like all the parts of the site are only modules (a famous word in SAP) of a single engine, but it is not like this:

What does that all mean:

  • Before implementing any changes asked by the Community members, we need to decide what features/ corrections and other “things”, that cost money (!), we need to have implemented like right now. Why? Because if we would implement these “things” right now, we would be investing (I mean SAP would be investing) in an outdated platform which will be shut down sooner or later. So this money would be like thrown away… only because the Community would be so stubborn to insist on the changes.
  • We will face a great challenge of integrating things together. We need to have (I mean: we all would probably prefer to have) all the “channels” named above (blogs, articles, wikis, forums… and hopefully some more, new, colorful and fancy channels…maybe like Twitter integration and stuff) integrated into a single content repository. The search could then be simplified and all other mechanisms would work the same way for all the content types (tagging for example, how you could tag things “together” if you would have to implement the tagging system into the several different “engines” and then glue everything together).
  • In the end the one last (BIG) challenge will remain: how to migrate the current content (are we going to migrate the current content? All the content? Part of the content? Which part? What will be the steps of the procedure? What about the schedule… and much more)

What I want you to do, as a follow up:

  • Please visit Jive software homepage. Do the research. Learn what are the features and if you like it (this is important especially for the people who are coming with the suggestions for months: could you please check the features of the new Jive engine and comment if you would like to use it on SCN?). If you need to try it yourself, you can register for their Try Jive SBS. Or what I think is a better option for the ordinary people: check the names/logos of the companies which are running Jive software and visit their portals/ support sites based on the new Jive software. Example: Cisco support Community. Or you can check the Jive´s community, if you want to see how the creators use their own product.
  • Concentrate on the features of the new Jive software you would like to use here, on SCN, and tell us about it. Do you want to use: Collaboration on documents? Answering questions through the email (like you get the notification, reply to the notification and the answer gets appended to the original thread)? Polls? Tagging? Sub-communities and topic groups? LinkedIn-like look and feel (list of all the relevant news on the activity around you)? Widgets (something we could develop on our own…maybe?)?
  • Understand the costs and the obstacles. We want you to understand SAP listens to all of you (us), but this is not a simple operation. Understand why bugs appear (forums are out of the standard maintenance) and why things take weeks to get implemented/ corrected even if they seem to be very simple (before understanding the whole picture I was convinced that some of the “corrections” or “enhancements” would take a IT university student like hours to do, but it is not that easy in the business). Everything costs money.
  • Comment! We need to know you´re aware of the costs, the challenges and the obstacles.  Jerusalem was not built in a day. The change of the SCN infrastructure will not start tomorrow and will not get completed in weeks after the start. This is a long-distance run and we want to make sure, we run together (you, me, us).

The goal of the blog was to explain and help you understand. To tell you, you´re important, your ideas are important! But you cannot expect the changes to happen in a matter of days/weeks (months?). I ask for your support and understanding instead of the flood of more and more complaints.

Thank you, Otto

P.s.: If you have any idea what would be the best tool to run the coming discussion about the topic, please share it through the comment below this article. I am afraid, that forum discussion would not meet all the needs, nor would the Idea Place or other “conventional” tools (wikis…).

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9 Comments

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  1. Chris Paine
    Like it or not even with the recent enhancements to the SCN search, with the mass of content that is on SCN it is slowly becoming harder and harder to search.

    Tagging would be a way around this, and has many other benefits.

    Would it be hard to implement – I’m sure it would. Can we really afford not to do it, I don’t think so.

    I’d love to add more comments, but must stop for today – will be back.

    Chris

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  2. Harald Boeing
    Otto, as always a nice and passionate posting, but I’m a bit surprised, because I would hope and expect to see such information from SAP.

    Should we worry about SAP’s costs? I say no, absolutely not. Before considering cost one should start off with the value of SCN. Clearly we all can assign a value to our personal SCN experience and weigh it against the cost (investing our precious time). But what value does SAP see in SCN? Where is this site/community supposed to be headed? What’s the SCN 2.0 blueprint? Is this a technical upgrade or a functional? 😉

    Now I wouldn’t really worry about SAP’s vision if I’d be completely happy with SCN as is. But I’m not and probably my main complaint is that quality of the content should be more important than quantity (of content or community size) and vanities (like points, badges, etc.). And maybe we all agree, but it would be nice to know that. So as a counterpart to the feature discussions I’d really like to see some simple mission statements about SCN…

    Long term I’d love to see SCN as a reliable knowledge base with interesting information and knowledge exchange/discussions on a well balanced mixture of beginner to expert level. But how do we achieve this with all those different areas like forums, articles, blogs, docupedia, etc.? How can we ensure quality and accuracy of information (and should I throw in a silly acronym like ILM)? And who is “we” actually (is it the community or more driven by SAP along with chosen members)?

    Thank you for keeping us up-to-date and thinking about SCN’s future.

    Cheers, harald

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    1. Otto Gold Post author
      hello Harald,
      I was sure you´re going to comment on this. I am glad you have appeared and described your thoughts:))
      The main reason why I am the author of the blog is my feeling I can help here and there to push thing a little or help others to understand (maybe you´re aware of all the things described in this text for a long time, but I was not and thought all the guys interested in the future of SCN should be notified…).
      I don´t consider this a SAP failure, au contraire, I am glad I was allowed and helped to write this blog and will continue the effort if at least few people will find it useful…

      I have one complaint about your comment here and in the Thread (big T). Why don´t you tell us in detail (!) what do you think about it? I mean… why don´t you build a cloud castle and ask people to help you rebuild it with the bricks and stones afterwards? Provide your vision, motivate the people and something great could happen.
      Well, there were attempts of yours to really build something and the Community appreciates it, we do. But regarding these “conceptual” things you keep complaining only. Or did I miss anything relevant for this where you describe your visions?
      Weeks ago I would accept something like “i don´t have numbers to suggest anything” as a valid reason for not building… But I have changed my mind. So I ask you: offer your suggestions in some structured way, write a blog, man, and we will help you get the numbers to support your ideas.
      Were back (nice circle) to the metrics you started about weeks ago in the Thread. You were right and I learnt a lot from this. But it is time to elaborate. If you want to get something, you must give first.
      If you want to understand more about the future of SCN, write about the future you “dream” about and then ask the SAP guys to approve your vision and get some help or you will receive some reasonable information why that is not possible/ will not happen. It is a little funn, but have to make “them” to share something. They will learn what to do very soon, I hope, but they didn´t get used to share this kinf od information yet. We are way too fast for them, so why don´t you try to help them understand?
      I mean no offense, you know me (at least a little), I am just trying to share what I have learnt in the past weeks and how I would like to push things.
      cheers Otto
      p.s.: if you don´t want to discuss this in public, you can always reach me through the email. We can add any more people you would like to, to discuss the topic with us through email.

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      1. Harald Boeing
        Hi Otto,

        you’re saying “it’s time to elaborate” – so let me try one more time to make my position clear. You’re asking for my vision of SCN and I thought I had posted it before, but let me try one more time: SCN should be a place for exchange of knowledge and experience, discussions on interesting topics. People should come here motivated by content, old-school types who think and do research before posting and dwell on good content rather than points or badges. The created content should serve as a knowledge base, which can be easily searched and accessed. The platform should be simple to use and account for different user types and requirements (nothing fancy, ideally just “invisible”).

        Based on your posting though I think your definition of vision goes a bit further and you expect us to talk about SCN design and features. I joined SCN because I was hoping to learn new things and share some of my acquired knowledge, not for designing or implementing a new collaboration platform. If I had true ambitions on the latter, I’d focus on some site where I’d know I had some kind of control/influence or could contribute to changes (i.e. some community driven/owned site).

        I’ve “met” a few very knowledgeable people on SCN who contribute valuable and insightful content and thus I’m still trying to gauge if that’s good enough to keep me here (as it’s really hard to make out the good stuff among all the noise). In the meantime I prod and poke a little bit, trying to figure out if SCN is headed in a direction that suits me. Of course I’m hoping that my meta postings (i.e. the ones about SCN platform) are not just complaints, but contain to some degree also something useful (and obviously I cannot judge that).

        I hope that doesn’t sound too negative, but in the end my main control is being here or not. I’m definitely willing to contribute to making SCN better, but for me this is not a goal in itself. A better platform with poor content is still the wrong platform for me. So meta discussions about SCN are useful – and hard to resist 😉 – but that’s not what I signed up for. However, I truly appreciate that some people like you are actually willing to go the extra mile. That includes Marilyn, Martin and other team members from SAP, who are very patient, dedicated and constantly try to make our experience better.

        Cheers, harald

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        1. Otto Gold Post author
          Hello Harald, I am reading your post for like third or fourth time now and it is making me sad. I understand your point, it is well articulated and stuff. But I don´t feel the same way. Ok, it´s meta discussion, I admit, but I was sure you would be interested. Now I am a little disappointed. I thought you were the right man to help me/us/them to elaborate on this. If you´re ready to spend time adding comments like this one (or those in The Thread), why do you deny to try to push this meta discussion a little further? I mean the time loss would be the same but there could be a better result. Could be because of the feeling of being unimportant, is that so? Do you think you would waste your time because nobody would listen to you? Or any other reasons?
          How could this be a community driven site, when there are no community members who could drive it? I mean: one can show the feeling of responsibility about the result and maybe, one day, he will be given some real responsibility, don´t you think? Do you think I am too naive about this?
          Cheers, Otto
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          1. Harald Boeing
            From my perspective we’re talking about something really tricky here. How do you create a site with quality content that attracts the right people? Platform features are important, but they are only one part of the puzzle.

            We’re talking about a very huge and diverse community. Most of them are possibly just happy with SCN as-is or merely look forward to some minor improvements. Just check the names appearing over and over in those meta discussions, it’s an immeasurable fraction in a constantly growing community.

            Now as dire as the situation seems for somebody who wants change, the good news is that this site is *not* community driven (and the mentor/moderator approach shows that single people *do* have influence). SAP owns the site and defines its future and thus SAP is the key party for understanding where we’re headed. Maybe they’ve posted this information already and I’m just to dumb to find it. But I’d really like to see some general statement – just to evaluate how far my goals match up with theirs.

            Until then I will go for the low-hanging fruit (incremental platform changes) and post silly suggestions, but I won’t spend my whole spare time on designing SCN 2.0 (especially since everything might go to waste). Asking SCN members to post their visions and feature suggestions for SCN works only as long as hardly anybody responds. Otherwise you need a very structured and moderated approach (and here I can only see SAP in that role), where later the community can possibly vote among alternatives (if SAP would actually want to place such decisions in the hands of the community).

            Anyhow, let’s get to the most important point: My intention was not to spread any negativity or drag you down. I hope you keep your enthusiasm and passion. So let me end with a more positive comment and promise that on this blog I won’t post any more silly comments – knowing myself though I won’t extend that to a broader SCN scope… 😉

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  3. Michelle Crapo
    Hi Otto,

    Let me just say I love reading your blogs.  They are very interesting.   They make me think.  And think too much probably.

    Now let me add –
    I disagree with this one.  Think about your projects that you work on for your company.  They follow some basic ideas.

    1.  As-is flow chart.
    2.  To-be flow chart. 
    3.  Clear Requirements.
    4.  Decide on technology.
    5.  Develop or enhance technology.
    6.  Implement on Dev, then test, then production

    Technology shouldn’t drive the solution.  The solution should be based on the requirement.

    Can any one of us come up with an As-is flow chart.  I love SCN.  There is a ton of information, but it would take me a long time to try to flow chart what is already here.

    Then I would start gathering requirements on what is needed.  Starting with blogs like this one, threads, and a new thread or blog about what people want.

    Honestly I think that is happening now.  I can see small changes being made to SCN.

    Now – after I have the as-is then to-be.  I’d start looking for the gaps, and addressing them.

    Well – SCN is monster huge.   That’s a problem.  The changes must come slowly and to each area.

    So I would split the project up.  Maybe tackle the Forums first.  Or maybe even make the project smaller and tackle one forum.   Now I would pick my software.  (Or develop it myself)  Then test it.   Then implement it.

    Anyway – I don’t think the driver should be the technology.  What is already out there.  The driver should be based upon the requirements.

    It could be a community project.  SAP / SCN owners do not have to do this themselves.    We can and would love to help!  Hit the threads, blogs and determine who “we” are.  Then open the project up to anyone who wants to contribute.

    Boy – this is a long reply.  So now….  How do “we” get started?  Maybe someone already has.

    Michelle

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    1. Otto Gold Post author
      Hello again Michelle,
      (it is strange to see the same names everywhere I go, everything I do:)) I wonder if Julius is listening:))
      first of all: I am glad you like my blogs. I will keep them coming (hope to find some more topics not to bore anybody to death).
      next: I like your enthusiasm and proactive approach, I feel the same way. But I cannot agree with the way you want to “handle” things. I will support nearly everything, what you would do in this regard, I have forwarded your email and am ready to help if any opportunity appears or any tasks will appear/ be addressed. But I cannot agree with the rest.
      The technology is the top priority here. Why? Well, this is the cruel life, and you cannot change the course (too much). You cannot really expect SAP will allow anybody to recreate the SCN and run it (something like Community driven site). This is not how it works. If we would like to have something like this, we would have to leave SDN and build something on our own. And I am not going anywhere.
      I wonder if you checked already the Jive site I mentioned in the blog? These guys already have what we need and they´re ready to sell it. The problem is with the money. They will ask much money for the upgrade (and to have some of the currently non-Jive parts, like blogs, integrated).
      In my eyes this is the only way. This blog was intended to inform the community people, to start a discussion, to gather some pieces of evidence for the SAP management (that we would welcome the upgrade). But you cannot think you could rebuilt what Jive is building for years in a matter of weeks, months.
      I don´t like the situation here, but I am trying to help and will keep loking for the alternatives, gathering support and asking for money and action…
      I don´t know if there will be any actions taken based on this blog or SAP internal discussion, but I had to make sure I am doing anything I can to push the change.
      I am sure the answer is very puzzling, but these are my genuine thoughts about the topic.
      cheers Otto
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