Introduction

This blog post is my attempt to answer Jeanne Carboni‘s questions at the end of her excellent blog post What Kind of Blog Posts do You want on SCN? Normally I’d just comment on her blog post of course, but I’m afraid my comment might grow into something really big this time. Besides, for the moment I just want to get my thoughts written down, and you can’t save a comment for further editing: either you post it, or not (yeah, maybe I should post that feature on Idea Place 🙂 ). However, I will certainly post a recap of this on Jeanne’s blog for further discussion there.

The questions

Quoted from Jeanne’s blog post:

  • What do you think about the audiences shared above?
  • How would you manage this so that various audiences would see only the content they care about?
  • How can we help new members contribute more appropriately?

Which audiences should be on SCN?

To start with the first question: it’s totally legitimate for SAP to want to reach out to and engage with all the audiences mentioned: prospects, customers, developers, partners, decision makers and SAP employees. But the premise seems to be that SCN is the only (or at least go-to) platform SAP has to reach out to all these different groups. And that’s what I can’t agree with.

Even stronger, I’d say some of these groups should not be on SCN, meaning we should not aim for them to be on SCN (everyone is welcome to visit the website of course 🙂 ). In my opinion a community site such as SCN is hardly the right place for decision makers or prospects. They’d better go to the http://www.sap.com main site, or to other semi-private institutions like the User Groups for discussions about SAP software and/or information relevant to their decisions.


SCN, and in the past SDN, has always been a place for practitioners. First mainly for developers, later also for functional people and analytics types. I want to make clear I’m still very happy about the enrichment of SCN as a content platform that’s been the result of including these folks. But it has always been a website for people who have to deal with SAP software in their daily (work-)life. Prospects and decision makers are not such people, period.


SAP has a lot of other sites where people can get information about SAP products, can chat with SAP representatives, buy solutions, buy training, etc. SCN is just one facet of the total interaction between SAP and their customer base (in the broadest sense possible). And within that array of different sites, each having its own purpose, clearly SCN was always meant as a community site for SAP professionals.


Therefore I think it would be a big mistake if SAP tried to replace the current community website (http://scn.sap.com) with a catch-all website (also http://scn.sap.com) that wants to be everything to everybody. In my opinion this isn’t going to work. Moreover, in trying to get it to work, SAP runs the danger of losing the community they’ve been building over the last 10+ years. That is, they might not lose the people, but SCN will lose its community spirit, its social heart, and the cross pollination that comes with the breadth of practitioners we have on the platform today.


For me, this practitioner aspect separates SCN from all the other SAP websites out there, which I hardly visit, comparatively speaking. And in general this group doesn’t need or want ordinary marketing content.

So I’d like SAP to back off on marketing, at least on push marketing (thanks again Audrey Stevenson for introducing this term to me), and if SAP still wants to sell stuff to ‘us’, at least let them tailor their efforts to the ‘professionals’ audience. Developer marketing is okay, though very different from what we’re seeing on SCN today, but stories from SAP about beer, to name just one example, are not okay. They’ve got plenty of other channels for such content.


How to manage the different audiences?


Having said that, I now have an easy answer to this second question: use other channels for all audiences that are not made up of SAP practitioners/professionals. Don’t use SCN for them. If needed, create another website please.


How about new members?


This really is a totally different and more or less unrelated question in my opinion. But of course I do have an opinion 🙂 .


First of all, I don’t recognize myself in the description that Jeanne’s given of SCN members who repeatedly try to get content removed despite a moderator having approved it, and place negative comments. On the other hand, I might very well have gone wrong in that regard. So Jeanne: if you’re hinting at something that involved me, please let me know (privately or publicly), because only then can we try to solve it and move forward.

The following is not meant as an excuse, but merely to explain why I might have done something like that: I’ve seen moderators do things that later had to be corrected by either the SCN team or a global moderator. Besides, I’m generally arrogant enough to think I ‘know better’. Last but not least, some moderators also seem to have their own rules of what is allowed or not, sometimes bypassing the overall intent of the platform as a community site.

What doesn’t help on such an occasion is the total lack of any possibility to engage 1-on-1 with said moderator and let both POVs be explained in order to get to a shared understanding and ‘solve’ the issue.


With that out of the way: how to help new members find their voice on SCN, just like all the vocal people here have once found theirs? My vote goes to pre-moderation for junior bloggers. Not for everyone every time, as Andy Silvey has suggested, because that’s impractical: you will not find enough community members to make that work. There’s no need for it either: as soon as someone has proved him- or herself capable of writing decent content, you can safely leave them alone and engage with them as needed once they’ve published their content.


One problem with pre-moderation that’s already occurring: members who change jobs and have to start from scratch because of this ridiculous tight coupling of their s-users, their companies and their SCN identity. Today these people have to go through the approval process, which is of course nonsense. If we were to re-introduce pre-moderation, it should be possible to identify people who are really senior members but are using a new handle because SCN doesn’t allow merging/migration of content/reputation (yet?).

Another improvement I’d like to see is the possibility to communicate consistently and directly with your approver on SCN. This is probably already possible, but as Andy has stated: the pre-moderation process should be used to ensure a certain level of quality, and this requires communication beyond just informing the junior blogger about the decision of the approver.

Since quality of content is partly a matter of taste and frequently has cultural aspects to it, it would be nice if approvers could be selected based on geographical proximity, or could be requested by the junior blogger explicitly.


It goes without saying I’d be happy to become a moderator under those circumstances.


Concluding remarks


Well, my thoughts, which might evolve further, indeed warranted a separate blog post as it turns out. I don’t wish anyone a comment like this on their blog post 🙂 .

And again I’d like to emphasize that it’s just the size of my answer that made me post this separately. The discussion should really be continued on Jeanne’s post. Which is why I’ll recap my thoughts over there, with a link (for those interested) to this piece.


Thanks for reading, and please add your own thoughts on Jeanne’s blog post!





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7 Comments

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  1. Tammy Powlas

    Hi Fred,

    This is very good.  Your blog reminded me of something.

    I happened to find the SAP Community Network (SCN) Executive Backgrounder, dated September 2011:

    what is SCN.png

    Source: SAP Community Network Executive Backgrounder

    I think the paragraph describes fits with how you describe SCN, for the SCN practitioner.

    Tammy

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  2. Steve Rumsby

    But the premise seems to be that SCN is the only (or at least go-to) platform SAP has to reach out to all these different groups. And that’s what I can’t agree with.

    That is, I think, the first thing that needs to be settled. What is the target audience for SCN? That’s fundamental to all of these “what do we want” discussions. There’s no way to answer those questions until we know to whom “we” refers…

    Steve.

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    1. Tim Guest

      I do tend to agree with you Steve, you can’t write unless you know who your audience is. Some of the blogs in the Business One space vary wildly from SDK techie to user level “how to” type posts. Personally I think it’s good we have such a wide mix of tech / non tech in our space but this may not work for other places on SCN.

      Maybe we need a way to tag a blog then users can look in a specific space and filter for techie / developer or more instructional user based blogs.

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      1. Steve Rumsby

        In the context of this discussion I think the variety of blog posts you mention are all targeted at practitioners and as such are perfectly fine on SCN. You may be right that there needs to be a way to differentiate better between the different groups of practitioners, but that’s a separate question. The mix of people will be different in different spaces, and that’s fine.

        Fred’s position, and mine also, is that practitioners of all kinds are exactly the target audience for SCN and the other categories mentioned by Jeanne are not. At least not directly. I guess we’ll see in due course what others think.

        But once we have the answer to this question we’ll be able to sensibly answer the “do we want marketing blogs?” and similar questions. Until we do, we won’t. If you see what I mean 🙂

        Steve.

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        1. Tammy Powlas

          Does the Wikipedia definition of SCN help with this?  Not sure because I think it could be open to interpretation.

          SAP Community Network – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

          “SAP Community Network (SCN) is the official user community of SAP AG. SAP software users, developers, consultants, mentors and students use the SAP Community Network to get help, share ideas, learn, innovate and connect with others. There are currently over 2.5 million members who create over 3,000 posts a day.[1]” – Wikipedia

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