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The Story of Stone Soup

It may be known to you already – or maybe not… But anyway, I think it is a good story to compare it with some experiences that I made in the last weeks here on SCN.

Some travellers come to a village, carrying nothing more than an empty cooking pot. Upon their arrival, the villagers are unwilling to share any of their food stores with the hungry travellers. Then the travellers go to a stream and fill the pot with water, drop a large stone in it, and place it over a fire. One of the villagers becomes curious and asks what they are doing. The travellers answer that they are making “stone soup”, which tastes wonderful, although it still needs a little bit of garnish to improve the flavour, which they are missing. The villager does not mind parting with a few carrots to help them out, so that gets added to the soup. Another villager walks by, inquiring about the pot, and the travellers again mention their stone soup which has not reached its full potential yet. The villager hands them a little bit of seasoning to help them out. More and more villagers walk by, each adding another ingredient. Finally, a delicious and nourishing pot of soup is enjoyed by all. (Source: Wikipedia Stone Soup – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia).

So – why do I post this story?

I feel like one of the strangers, arriving in a town, that consists – like any large town – of many sub-areas / villages . Yes, I may not have the best ingredients with me, but at least I am giving it a try. I am having a little piece of information that I find worth to share with the villagers. And some folks, that I would not even consider being inhabitants of this specific area of the town, are telling me, that I should not even try to cook stone soup in this part of town/village, as the villagers will not like it anyway.

What are your thoughts on this? I am really interested in coming into an exchange – only then the stone soup will taste nicely.

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  • Hi Ursula

    Nice story…

    I did not interpret the feedback you received as you “should not even try to cook stone soup” if you are referring to the PWC publication you posted.

    I felt the feedback (and also from other SCN posts) was more along the lines of: rather than write 1-2 sentences telling everyone in the community to check out this article you could have added your perspective. You could have elaborated further as to why it’s worth reading and why it’s good.

    I did not comment as I am not a member of that community. But if you had written something it may have drawn new people to the community who would learn about why you believe this article is worth a read. I may not live in your village but I do like to travel and discover new things. And I suspect, you probably have more than “an empty cooking pot” to contribute if you are in a position to tell us it is a good publication to read.

    Just posting a link is discouraged as members can google and fin it themselves. If a member of SCN responded to a question with just a link it would be moderated and removed.

    I do not want to see SCN turn into a bunch of links to external sites as it will be a matter of time before consultancies, etc are trying to redirect everyone to their websites for their latest and greatest solution.



  • Hi Ursula,

    I see both sides of this coin and completely empathise with your position.  Often, there is nothing harder than engaging with a community as the newbie or outsider, especially one that is quite well established like SCN now is.  I personally have the same issue with the highly technical website StackExchange, in that I want to participate and engage but as the newbie, the barriers of entry are quite high.

    I’m also hazarding a guess that you have posted this as a follow on to your brief exchange here?

    To give you a bit of background, which might help understand why your ‘blog posting gathered the replies it did…  Due to the gamification system embedded within SCN, i.e. post some content and get some points against your account, we have long suffered with very poor quality content being posted.  As with any other community, the long-standing members, moderators and site organisers try to push for quality over quantity however there is a constant stream of quantity over quality posters, desperate just to get as many points as possible in as short a time as possible.

    No, no-one knows what they do with all of their points although there does seem to be a theory that in some parts of the world, they are used as part of recruitment processes.  I think most of us have given up wondering and no longer care.  Regardless, it is a daily fight to try and keep standards and quality up.  This means however that there is a natural tendency to review most new content (especially ‘blog postings as they garner relatively high points per posting) with more cynicism than many actually deserve.

    The net result is many people are becoming more and more active in challenging content that is posted and doesn’t fall within what we would expect in the community, even if they aren’t familiar with the content space.  Your original ‘blog post definitely falls within the target group for me, as it is simply a two liner linking to external content.  For many, this doesn’t add anything to the content or overall quality, and indeed just adds another layer of navigation to some content that is already out there and available.  For what it is worth, I hit the “Alert Moderator” button against your original posting as it was such a short post and didn’t “add value” in my perspective.  That’s not to say the underlying content isn’t useful and won’t be appreciated by many just that for me, this extra level of a short ‘blog just to get to an external site doesn’t make sense.

    Conversely, this current ‘blog posting does indeed add value and improves quality, as it opens up the discussion and enables you as the “outsider” to figure out how to get the ingredients from us, and enables people like me to contribute to your stone soup – hopefully this reply counts as some carrots? 🙂   What I would say, don’t stop contributing and don’t take any of the feedback as too negative or personal – it really is all about the community trying to encourage improved quality overall.

    Without meaning to sound patronising, the fact you have reached out in this way and engaged further shows you want to participate in a quality manner – something which so many of our “contributors” just don’t want to do…

    Welcome – hope the soup ends up tasting good!


  • Hi Ursula,

    Finally it’s lunch break and I have time to respond 🙂 . Turns out I don’t need to anymore because of the excellent comments by Colleen Hebbert and Gareth Ryan.

    The only thing left to say is: kudos to you for reaching out like this and trying to start a conversation.

    Oh, and while I’ve heard the story before, it’s a nice one, so thanks for sharing!

    Cheers, Fred

  • Thanks to the carrots and salt that especially Colleen and Gareth have added to the stone soup.

    I see your point and I appreciate really your efforts to keep the qualtiy of SCN on a high level (or bring it on a higher level).

    To continue with my analogy of the town that consists of different villages that grew together, there used to be the deep technical village (SDN), where you find the passionate developer, implementation consultants. And there used to be this village of people that rather considered business processes (BPX, a very small village, I agree).  There is nothing wrong about either of them. Both villages have their own beauty and hot spots and low lights.

    And suddenly the authorities of the major district decided that it is not worth to maintain both communities on its own, but that it would be much more convinient to have a common administration of both.

    The technical village was much larger and more active – and did not really like to unified with the process village as to the standards of the technical village, the process village was not really interesting. The process village was not really considering the impact of unification – probably people (at least I) thought that it was a good move to gain a broader platform.

    So to come back to the current situation:

    My personal impression – and I may be wrong there – is, that mainly hardcore technical content is considered to be valuable. This is certainly not an area of strength for me. I am coming from a business process side and try to translate business processes for ‘my’ industry (mill products & mining) into SAP solution offerings. As I am working for SAP, this is what I am expected to be doing – I am afraid. So I am struggeling on how I should be doing this. When I talk about SAPs solutions, I am doing marketing ( 😯 ) – when I am adressing business trends, it is not ‘valuable’ enough ( 🙁 ).

    So – what is the solution for this gordian knot?

    • Hi Ursula –

      First, thank you for engaging and listening.  I am not sure I can add more carrots to the soup like Gareth, Colleen or Fred…

      When I started SCN you had to go through a junior blogger process before you became an expert blogger.  I was always wondering “when will my blog post?”

      Then Jim Spath recommended to the SCN team (Marilyn Pratt) that I become an expert blogger (meaning I could post my blogs at any time, like today).  I was allowed to be an expert blogger, but with that Marilyn gave me constructive feedback to improvement my blogs – she suggested adding images to improve readability.

      I kind of miss those days, as when I became moderator it was my turn to provide constructive feedback, suggesting to the junior bloggers ways to improve their blogs – some improved and thanked me.  The feedback wasn’t public.

      Now everything is out and the open, and I applaud individuals like Fred Verheul who can give that feedback “out in the open”.

      I think there is room for everyone in this village/community, as I am not a technical person either – I am a business analyst.  I think the suggestion was to add more context to your blogs to relay the meaning and importance.

      Speaking for myself, I am not necessarily looking for technical content but more context.  See this nice blog from Colleen today A lot of help from my friends > nothing deeply technical here.

      Thank you again.


      • Hi Tammy, see, here is a great example of how different people are… Nothing against your blog, Colleen, I am sure there is a lot of people who find that a great blog. For me, it is far too long until it comes to the final conclusion. But I know, that this is my personal taste and my personal preference. And I do not want to make my own style and opinion as the general rule on how blogs should be written. To me, there is not right or wrong, but different tastes…

        Thank you also again.


        • Hi Ursula

          Your feedback is one of the positives of SCN. However, you would have added more value by making a comment on my blog.

          Constructive feedback – even if negative – helps us all to improve. When you say too long is this because of your personal preferences? Or is it because you felt it was repetitive, too wordy, not engaging, redundant, factually incorrect, etc?

          You could have written your comments in the feedback section of my blog. Others may have then agreed or disagreed with your and added their perspective. Based on such feedback I would then be in a position to incorporate this feedback into my next blog (hey this is my first one so I was quite nervous in putting myself out there).

          I would not, however, say your opinion is not of value as you do not belong to my village. I had considered writing a much more succinct “these are the team members for a successful implementation” but I decided to write 100% my words and journey as I felt others would be in a position to relate to or add their experience for which the rest of the community could consider in their own resource planning.

          You are right – different tastes – and it is difficult impossible to please all. Those in GRC who only seek out technical instructions will ignore what I wrote and that is fine. Interestingly enough, this blog has received more positive feedback that the technical articles.

          In your situation, I looked at what you have published and thought your article on Lean was the format you could have written your recent one in. You had an external link but you used your own words: My ‘hobby’ – LEAN – SCN had the privilege in hearing your voice! And I can also see it was in your style: succinct without loss of depth and value.

          Good luck in SCN’s village. It took me few years of passive participation before I was ready to jump in (when I made that decision I dove into the deep end and hoped I would not drown).

          Thank you for your feedback



    • As the original village idiot resident blogger residing in BPX before its launch I can attest to the fact that it wasn’t easy going to branch out from SDN to new themes.  The strange migration path (mine) went from from editing the highly technical ABAP, Technology, XI, PI, and ESA spaces on SDN to eventually writing about more esoteric themes like inclusion, design thinking, empathy and failure.

      This happened after trying my hand (not always very successfully)  to encourage people to write about process thinking, BPM methodology, agile, scrum, lean and business solutions on the nacent BPX.  And no, it wasn’t always fun and yes there was pushback: as in “why do we need a community for business process experts when technology folks worth their salt already understand the business needs”.

      During my decade residence as community advocate I learned that I could help or coach others to tell stories even better than I could dream of telling them. And when telling a story myself, I found it always helped to weave it back to others in the community, tapping into their work experiences, expertise, expectations.

      In recent dialogues with folks like Fred Verheul and Tammy Powlas it becomes more and more evident that the most engaging stories and valuable ones on SCN usually aren’t told by SAP employees but by “others”.  There seems to be a real need to define “user-generated” content.  cc. Audrey Stevenson

      • Hi Marylin, with that sentence :

        ‘In recent dialogues with folks like Fred Verheul and Tammy Powlas it becomes more and more evident that the most engaging stories and valuable ones on SCN usually aren’t told by SAP employees but by “others”.  There seems to be a real need to define “user-generated” content.’

        I kind of feel discouraged as an SAP employee to blog. 🙁

        I am working in the IBU for Mill Products & Mining, and honestly, there is not that much activity in social media in these industries. They are usually rather not known for being frontrunners in technology changes. And still I feel that I can try to initiate some thinking and hopefully some actitivity on SCN at some point in time.

        What is your take on this?

        Kind regards,


        • Hi Ursula,

          Just picking up on your point about feeling discouragement as an SAP employee…

          For me, as a non-SAP employee but long term SAP Partner, the value from SAP employees is when they…

          • Share solid, honest and clear facts and information about a product/process/industry/solution/etc that would support me in guiding my customers
          • Give guidance on what you can do with an SAP product/process/industry/solution/etc. within their circle of interest and knowledge based on their own learnings, enabling me to learn from their experiences and knowledge
          • Reach out for feedback and input into how a product/process/industry/solution/etc. can be improved and enhanced
          • Don’t just dump pure marketing type ‘blogs/documents that don’t “add value” and only exist to try and gather sales results
          • Don’t simply link to external content without expanding or adding to the story, i.e. sharing an opinion or perspective I may find valuable (even if I disagree with it)

          I strongly suspect that whilst I don’t personally have an interest in some of the above points for your particular area of interest (I’m a developer, currently working with mobile logistics solutions) you definitely do have lots to share that many others will find very useful.  As a bonus, as I am now following you there is a large chance I’ll end up reading your content and learn something new about an area I didn’t know about before, which sums up one of the great benefits of participating in SCN.

          However, what is also important, maybe more so, is forgetting the SAP employee/Partner/Customer/Clinger-On’er roles, and remembering we are all SCN members – we have a shared role.  This means you can ‘blog/document/share from that perspective, just as you have done here.  On some days, depending which way the wind is blowing, I might argue these sort of ‘blogs are just as, if not more important than the pure technical content.  Often discussion around the SCN community, rather than the content is what really gets people engaged around here.  I think this ‘blog of yours goes a decent way to prove that. 🙂

          To wrap up, and as others have already alluded to, don’t feel discouraged at all and please do carry on engaging, ‘blogging and sharing information & opinions.  Everything is a journey and its not to say that we are right and you are wrong or vice-versa – things will and do change.

          SCN has long suffered with people getting the hump because their content isn’t instantly accepted and put on a pedestal, whereas you have quite rightly engaged with the community to understand how both sides can adapt & improve, which should ultimately mean we all learn and evolve.



        • Also, I forgot to add, if there is currently a lacking of social media engagement within your area it strikes me you have a massive opportunity 😉

    • Hi Ursula,

      I (still) would like to respond to the SDN versus BPX comparison you make. For me, technical content is not all that matters, though I am a developer, so I’m naturally more geared to it.

      There are lots of excellent blog posts by more functional people (or should we call them just non-technical?), from which I learn a lot, and others which I personally can enjoy very much.

      One prime example (IMHO of course) is Uwe Goehring. His blog posts are certainly not technical (IMO), but they have one subject, which is explained very clearly, and everyone can learn from them. Other non-technical bloggers that I admire are Richard Hirsch, Greg Chase, Heike van Geel, and there are lots of others.

      The bottom line is: I really don’t think we should look at this village in a business versus technical way.

      I think Marilyn makes a good point about user generated content, BUT that doesn’t mean we don’t want SAP employees to engage with their audience and with the wider SCN community on SCN. On the contrary I’d say. It’s never been easier to connect to SAP than nowadays, and one of the primary reasons for it is SCN (Twitter does help too 🙂 ).

      Two SAP-employees who write great blog posts, (which you might find more ‘useful’ as a reference because they seem to be in kind of the same situation as yourself), are Marcia Walker and Milja Gillespie.

      Both are great storytellers, and while they sometimes (or even quite often) have wat I’d call a ‘kind-of-marketing’ message, they both know very well how to wrap this message in a interesting blog post in which the marketing part adds a little flavour to the soup, but doesn’t dominate the other ingredients.

      I hope this gives you some more examples of how very different people can write very interesting/readable blog posts and encourages you to keep engaging and blogging!

      Kind regards, Fred

  • To provide some more background on this topic,  once there was a highly recoginzed person who was new to SCN start posting blogs on the old platform.  That person actually had lemon on their profile but found a way to annoy all the moderators.  The problem was that the blogs were a “link farm” with no individual commentary or depth on why the links were relevant.  A few of us tried to persaude the person to put some “depth” rather than posting links, but that failed and nobody ended up happy.  The content wasn’t even deep technical, but rather links to industry trends.

    The issue was never the topic, but thinking about the content presentation itself.  A single link to a document is a not a blog and never has been.  There is no sharing of your personal expertise/viewpoint which is the whole point of writing a blog in the first place.  Putting a link on a wiki page or updating a document is much better way to share.  You could even write a blog introducing your document/wiki and explaining how you gather/what will be on there/when to look forward, that would be a blog.

    To end with your food analogy we aren’t looking for “fast food” when it comes to blogs, but instead appreciate the homecooked meals done with care.  Our knowledge lunchboxes don’t want a prepackaged lunchable thrown in, but rather a simple or complex sack lunch made with care instead.

    Take care,


    • Ok Stephen, I understand. Could you help me with some more concrete examples on how I should be handling the topics I would like to discuss? It is not that I have an answer or a definite opinion about the things. What would be the ‘homecooked meal done with care’ for examples like mine? What you have written is somewhat too high level for me to translate it into concrete action for me.

      Thank you,


      • I think I can help answer that because it goes back to the soup ingredients that Tammy Powlas alluded to when she pointed to the Between You and Me: Think-Blog-Think by Jason Cao in your former (original) exchange.

        To find a list of ingredients I did a small google search and stumbled upon an infographic that outlines the : 11 Essential Ingredients Every Blog Post Needs [Infographic] – Copyblogger (since it recommends using this anywhere and everywhere I have reproduced the list below) Each ingredient provides an additional link has a subset of spices and further tasty ingredients.

        It is really pretty awesome that you thought Ursula Gruen to further dialogue publicly.  Many newbies throw up their hands and leave in disgust as Gareth Ryan hints when he mentions those that don’t take the time to learn to participate in a quality way.

        This is one of the best conversations around educating for writing success I have had the privledge to read.

        In fact doing the research, reading the responses here will certainly impact my thinking when next I begin to post…or even comment.

        Many of the comment here are better quality than a great deal of the posted content that people produce as blogs.

        You’ve done a great job of engaging some of the best formal and informal mentors.  I’m sure the next cooking experiment will be easier.

        If you like, I believe I can take each of the 11 points above and tie them back to your original question around how to write about the confidence crisis in the Mining industry without merely pointing to the PDF document you link to.  If you would like me to further illustrate, I’d be happy to do so point by point… but I’ll give you a first big hint: the real importance is in point number 7: telling a valuable story.

        But what am I saying? No one needs to mentor you on that…as here you are telling the story of stone soup to a very listening audience 😉 You’ve already mastered the most important ingredient.

        • Marylin, thanks for your very kind offer!

          I would certainly love to learn from you an other experienced guys in this community.

          What I am somewhat struggeling with – what would be the right place/format to do knowledge sharing? For me personnally, that is also something that belongs to a community. You know, those little bits & pieces that you come across and where you believe people in your community may be interested in getting to know this.

          Let me take that example of the Mining confidence crisis.

          • I believe that this piece of information is not known to each and everybody in the Mill Products & Mining Community.
          • I believe there are people inside the Mill Products & Mining community, that would like to read this.
          • I have not done my own study about it but I believe it to be a trustworthy enough source of information.

          So what is your take on that? According to your definition of blogs, this would certainly not be falling into that category. How should I bring this to the Mill Products & Mining Community?

          I wonder if a blog could not also contain a wider definition than what currently seems to be the understanding here.

          I think that I understood from the explanations that this has not been the case in SDN/BPX/SCN – and that I am standing on some peoples toes as I am just writing a blog as a newbie. And it took them long time of learning and really earning the right to write a blog. And well, what should I say? It was not my decision to change this… I am just here, trying to contribute with the pieces of information I have…

          Kind regards,


          • Hi Ursula,

            I just (re-)learned from Tammy Powlas how this kind of announcement/short message should be done on SCN: by using a discussion and NOT marking it as a question. A more comprehensive explanation can be found here.

            I intend to respond to other comments later, but for now: please don’t be discouraged from blogging or engaging on SCN!!

            BR, Fred

          • Fred, if that is the way to bring forward this kind of information – I am more than happy to work with ‘discussion’ instead of ‘blog’. I certainly don’t insist on writing blogs if they are not the appropriate way to share the kind of information, I would like to share – I just insist on being allowed to share that information at all 🙂 .

            Kind regards,

      • There’s a saying that you have two ears and one mouth, and that’s the ratio you should use them in[1].   To put it another way, I once heard that to be a good writer you have to be a great reader.  I suggest you lurk a little, watch, observe, see what works and what doesn’t – from the safety of the sidelines.

        I skimmed Marilyn’s points and they look good.  Plus I totally second Gareth’s post: if there aren’t any front runners then all you have to do is run and you’ll be in front!

        [1] Doesn’t really translate into online (two eyes, ten fingers).  Then again, maybe that explains a lot.  I often see people responding to things that they clearly haven’t read, at least properly.  Maybe they type five times as much as they read 😉 .

      • I was going to respond with some more details, but there is already excellent advice here already.  I think I’m repeating the last comment way below, but I believe that providing your own unique viewpoint and looking at things from the viewpoint of your reader will help greatly. 

  • As the resident SCN foodie, I shall add that some of the problems on SCN are either because the soup has nothing but stones and is just served in a fancy pot or people are throwing in more stones hoping that someone else would bring quality ingredients. Then moderators have to fish out those stones from the pot (and then people complain why their stones were not served).

    So if everyone reads the recipe and brings their finest ingredients, I think we should have a pretty good soup here on SCN for everyone to enjoy. 🙂

  • Hi Ursula,

    First of all I really liked the way you tried to reach out and discussed the issue. I read your earlier blog because of this post. Also, thank you for sharing the story. This is the first time I read the story. I went through a lot many comments to understand the issue and even went to your post ” *** Publication – Mine: A confidene Crisis”.

    First of all I do not believe that SCN is place only for technical people or only technical posts are encouraged and entertained. I have read many posts which are not technical in nature and adds a lot of value. As a part of my job I do have to read and go through many documents pertaining to business process and trends and like one shared by you. I even went through the document shared by you. However the issues I will have for your post are:

    1) You have shared a document link instead of actually writing on the topic by yourself. Even I cannot find your name as contributor in the document.

    2) Your subject lines contains the name of the company and somehow is sounds like advertisment or branding on behalve of the company

    3) I would have appreciated in case you would have put down some of your knowledge or experiences about your industry in the blog instead of simply sharing the link. You might have picked up key points from the document and presented it in your words giving insight on the process of mining industry and how SAP might be useful in it. That would have made it a great blog.

    In future I would definiately like to read more from you giving some of your insight. What I wrote is my personal opinion and suggestions to you but the experts over here might be able to guide you in a better way.

    Happy Blogging.


    Pankaj Pareek