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Here are five things to look out for as the SAP Community Network platform is converted to Jive version 5. These are speculative on my part, based on several preview webcasts, conversations with the conversion team members, and my generally wary attitude when it comes to large system projects.  None, some or all of these may happen.  I’m not a bettor, so no odds on which are most likely

 

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1. Data Loss

 

I’m not talking about total catastrophe, where every message on SCN, or on a forum, or even specific messages are lost, though it’s possible that could appear to happen if things go south.  I’m talking about the little things that disappear when conversion algorithms don’t take specific storage formats into account. Examples:

 

  • Bookmarks – do you have hooks to go to your favorite forum?  Erase them and get new ones. The URL forwarding might work, but don’t depend on it.
  • Links to and from the wiki, blogs or forums. Embedded HTML has a bad habit of getting extra wrappers around it, being treated as text instead of markup, or other confusion.
  • User accounts could go astray, especially with all of the ‘guestified’ names out there. Check your message counts, just in case.
  • Timestamps. Forwarding email sometimes mangles dates and times, and web site conversions are no different.  Below are images with 2 different starting dates for my SCN account – one says “date registered”, the other says “member since”.  Will either show up on the other side?
  • With the new spaces and taxonomic structures, content will appear in new places, with some new names.  While we’ve all been careful not to lose any data, this is a manual tagging process, so it’s conceivable that pieces may go astray.
  • Loss of data after the conversion is covered in section 2.

 

2. Site errors (404, 500, etc.)

 

This could happen to any site.  We have seen downtimes with SCN, most recently with decreased retention of ID memory, and unfortunately, since it is not being converted to a new platform, HTTP 500 errors in the wiki site. With heavy traffic volumes, evolving user patterns and a new platform so shake out, I expect the converted SCN site to have shaky days maybe going into weeks, but then become “weathered” from the storm.  That ultimate goal is what SAP hopes of course, and with flagship community site, their digital reputation is hanging on it.

What should you do when you see site errors?

Mark Yolton tweeted this advice the other day:

As we go live with the new #SAP Community Network in the next few weeks use #SCN for updates or questions

For those unaddicted to twitter, blocked at work, or just no clue what he said, email the support team at the usual address.  I use sdn at sap dot com.  (that doesn’t violate the rules of engagement, does it?)

 

3. Notification starvation or overload

 

Did you hear?

Those of us who are also ASUG members have experienced a version of Jive software closer to what SCN is moving to for the past two years. As with previous site migrations, that change included an adjustment period, followed by either a honeymoon or a horror movie, depending on whether things “just worked” for you, or if you hit browser incompatibilities, site log on problems, learning curve disabilities, or other negative effects. There’s no way to predict which of these issues, if any, will plague new SCN users, though I think it is safe to say some people will see some of them.

Notifications of message or other content update can be a challenge in Jive.  While it is automatic and pervasive, it is also pervasive and automatic (I’m assuming SAP has configure the tools the same way; can’t image not doing this). What I mean is partly illustrated by the image below containing “Email notifications” and the drop-down box below (again, this is from an earlier version of Jive, but I expect the new features to be similar, if not look identical). The “type” column on the left shows what you are following.  Every message one replies to is added to this list (and I can’t emphasize this strongly enough): whether you are already following the higher level forum or other object already.  You can manually add forum topics, the new spaces, or pretty much any document or discussion on Jive also.  You can see I ended up in a short time with over 30 screens of “follow flags”; it didn’t take long for me to give up trying to crop them.

You can find other notification settings in other places. I’d recommend experimenting with which level to request alerts, and prepare for a deluge.

Whether every notification of current forums, messages, blogs, etc. will carry over to the new site is a question that occurred to me while writing this post.  I’ll ask on the CW forum and add a reply here when I know more.

 

4. Navigational anxiety

Where are we? Are we there yet? Questions every parent must have heard when taking their children on a trip, or that we’ve asked when going to a site for a first time altogether, or for the first time after a site renovation. With the mapping that I’ve seen, this trip is going to be no different.  There are two areas I’m concerned about: finding old content, and finding new content.

If you are a member of a single forum primarily, you should not have much difficulty locating where that content exists in the new SCN. If you can’t find it, perhaps because of slight renaming, or because it’s moved to an unexpected location, you can try the search facility.  I’d be interested if you experience this. If you participate in more than one, particularly some you only visit occasionally, I think it will be more difficult to find the new location than it was on the old site, because you have a map in your mind how to get there that will be hard to purge, because the new site will continue to grow, and because with the sub-spaces, the navigational tree has become larger than the flat area space of the old SCN.

Then there is the question of content moving around. In one of the introductory videos, the suggestion was made that blogs would be manually moved from their planned landing zone in personal spaces to specific targeted spaces, one by one. With nearly 300 blogs to date, that will take me a while. If I do that, will someone who has bookmarked the initial location get to it after the move?

Finding new content could be as simple as looking at the top of a chronological list of new spaces, or it could be as difficult as finding a Smith in the Manhattan phone book, assuming you could find a phone book (or even knew what that was). Besides fine tuning the filtering of email notifications of content you’ve already found or contributed to, how will you discover new content?  Will there be a spotlight area where interesting discoveries are shared, or will people voluntarily highlight them?

 

5. Testing

There are two areas of concern here, though both are ephemeral compared to the preceding issues, One is for the conversion itself, and the other is for post-conversion. As someone partly in the know, I worry about both.

Having been burned by other site conversions where data were mangled, or the layout was counter-intuitive, and being involved in system migrations between various platforms, I know the value of testing, having metrics, and publishing samples. So far, I’ve seen and heard a lot about ease of use, and some terminology, but the actual migration plan is a mystery. I won’t predict how long the site will be down, because frankly, these aren’t airline reservations or something even more critical, there’s software bug discussions. I can wait patiently (mostly) until the site is totally ready.  After that, stand back.

The other concern is about site stability (see #2 above), in the context of ramp-up testing. If a full copy has been restored to a test system to practice the system migration has been done, I don’t know anything about it, and you’d think I would be the type of end user that should be verifying both the data quality and system stability.  Whether SAP uses automated testing tools to determine proper capacity settings for the new infrastructure, and which ones, is a matter of speculation, but again, in my experience, that kind of testing is helpful, but does not always predict or prevent flaky behavior a random user population can induce.

Again, the testing concerns will vanish once the site is live and stable, and we’ll see if the recent instability is vanquished. I know Mark Yolton will be getting those reports, and sharing them, good or not so good.

 

There’s more, but I prefer to let the soup simmer, and take a swim in it after the bell rings.  See you on the other side!

One parting thought:

 

A recovered version of this content exists […] Would you like to use the recovered version or delete it?

 [Use Recovered] [Delete Recovered]

 

Become familiar with this message.

 

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10 Comments

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  1. Jarret Pazahanick
    SAP isnt going to be happy to read a new SCN is dysfunctional prior to the actual launch but you bring up some valid issues that hopefully do not occur.  Since SAP heavily markets that SAP runs SAP and it drinks its own champagne this migration will be one of the first times the public gets to see how smoothly it does so. I think the bar has to be set high for this SCN migration and will be curious to come back in a few weeks to see if any of these occurred.
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  2. Former Member
    Jim,
    Thanks for the trip down memory lane, reminding me of the pains of ASUG’s Jive migration. I hope that SCN manages to avoid some if not all of them, such as all members suddenly being listed as becoming members as of the go live date of the new site, and all of the orphaned data and forum posts.

    Gretchen

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  3. Tom Cenens
    Hello Jim

    There are indeed signs of the migration being a very heavy project. The biggest sign are blog comments that are being registered but never show up. This has been bugging a number of community members for the past few weeks and it’s not solved yet.

    I do know the SCN team is working hard and doing a lot of effort to make this migration succesful and I sure do hope they succeed as I have gotten to know many of them and I think they do a great job running this wonderful community.

    In my opinion one could also build a huge list why the new SCN will rock so five signs why the new SCN is dysfunctional is not that bad after all ๐Ÿ™‚

    As an active community member I feel it’s part of my role to spend time on the new SCN and report in issues I encounter to try and help the SCN team in quickly resolving those issues.

    SCN is huge so the chance that something will not be right exists of course no matter how much testing you do.

    Kind regards

    Tom

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    1. Kumud Singh
      Hello Jim,

      Would add few more apart from one mentioned by Tom
      a) SCN keeps logging out . I assume this cannot be security issue.

      b) One day I saw that two different comments on two different blogs were mingled. This was getting displayed on the right side of Blogs tab.

      Regards,
      Kumud

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  4. Former Member
    Many migrations have these problems.  Not the exact ones but something similar.  It doesn’t matter what you are migrating from and to.  My hair was dropping out my first SAP migration.  Now things are much easier.  Sort of. Kind of.  I mean yes!  They are much easier.

    I agree with Tom as I’m sure you do to, the benefits we are going to get outweighs the problems that are going to occur.

    This is a nice listing of what we can expect! 

    Thank you for the heads up!

    Michelle

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  5. Former Member
    posted yesterday a comment that didn’t show up … wondering where it has gone … to space?

    Big changes tend to fail, or fail in the eye of the user. Even with 99,999% of SCN up and running on 5.12, the rest will see 404, 403, 500 and report it. I guess that the actual number of error pages delivered is considerably small compared to the # of servers/overall pages/users

    SCN + Jive: the go-live is on a monday, showing some self-confidence. If SAP isn’t able to fix a bug, they don’t can escape into the weekend.
    What I would like to know how to go-live roll-out will happen: server stop on sunday, rollin roll-out (go with the sun), meaning while the Australians will get all the problems, the Americans get the already fixed new SCN?

    ASUG + Jive: The design + navigation can be useful, if you have enough content and users. What really is/was frustrating: the speed of the site and random Javascript errors.

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  6. Former Member
    I’m assuming that SAP set up some quality “sit down and try to break this” time with the top users of this site. I’m also assuming they spent a great deal of time interviewing top ASUG contributors (who still remember the pain of moving to Jive and who are intimately familiar with how to optimize the user experience in Jive and could have commented heavily on whether Jive was the right tool to select) before this go live comes up.

    Right?

    Right?

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    1. Former Member
      Don’t know, hope they do. No one asked me, maybe I’m simply not a top user.
      What I know from Jive, SCN is THE customer. Most things will depend on how Jive conducted their product testing, as surely SCN will hit the limits.
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  7. Paul Hardy
    Mr.Jim,

    On the text for this post it said “the good news is that any idiot can post a blog, the bad news is that any idiot can post a blog”. I presume the rules are going to be relaxed. My take on the SDN blogs, and maybe I am carzy, is that they are supposed to be work related, and so talk about SAP technology news, or give tips, or share work experience i.e. things that may have potentital benefit to other readers. I presume you are worried that if the bar was lowered then people would start posting about what they had for breakfast at the hotel prior to going to SAPPHIRE or how long the taxi took to get them from the hotel to SAPPHIRE or how many business cards they collected whilst at SAPPHIRE or how they got to meet a pop star backstage at SAPPHIRE. None of us would want people posting things like that on the SDN surely? So I totally agree with you such things should be banned as you so rightly suggest.

    Cheersy Cheers

    Paul

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