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I’m sure you’re already aware of the organizing principle of the current SCN platform: People congregate, contribute, and converse all around the SAP “communiverse” in pockets called “spaces.” Spaces are essentially specialized communities based on SAP products, solutions, industries, topics, and events.

I think the pros and cons of spaces are pretty well-known at this point. They collectively make up our community, but at the same time segment it. They’re efficient, in terms of bringing people and content together around specific topics, but inflexible when it comes to dissemination of content. Returning visitors might not be exposed to information they care about because the platform doesn’t do well with the notion of “Create Once, Publish Everywhere.” As a newbie, you might not even know where to begin. And with the expansion of the SAP communiverse – the inevitable increase of spaces over time – things only get more spread out.

It’s time to explore the communiverse beyond spaces.

Content is king, but metadata rules!

The future community will be based on metadata. Governed metadata will drive navigation and structure content for user consumption, and it will also power reputation and moderation services that keep the community humming along expertly and effectively. Governed metadata is not a new concept for community; it just turned out that the space-based structure proved to be overpowering compared to the implementation of metadata.

As Oliver Kohl, lead architect for the community, put it in The Long Run, “Although tags and even categories exist already, we forced ourselves to organize the content and permissions for managing the content into [the space] concept, which turned out to be a not-so-great idea.”

Currently, visitors to the site must select from among 450+ spaces when choosing where to create a piece of content. Unshackled from the confines of selecting this space or that, users will be able to select multiple tags related to his or her content so that it may surface in the appropriate browse/search/follow experience. This is more along the lines of “Create Once, Surface in Multiple” experience that we strive for.

Meet the “1DX metadata schema”

The metadata schema for the community will simply be the metadata of SAP. There’s much work going on within the 1DX project to align metadata across systems and channels so that we’re all speaking the same language. This is a major piece of foundational work that will help achieve the goals of 1DX on an iterative basis, bringing SAP digital properties in greater and greater cohesion.

We’re doing things like updating the extensive software product list at SAP to get it in shape for this common schema. We’re also refining the list of so-called “topics” to include as values, to support content around such lively subjects as ABAP. There are also solutions, industries, events, and more. The team is working out what to include as these main buckets, or properties, and the values to include within them as part of the governed metadata schema.

The schema will evolve as solutions come to market, products get renamed, and new topics bubble up.

This metadata alignment will help us make connections across digital channels – for example surface relevant blogs on official product pages, but also provide contextual product and support information from the community in the future. Again from Oliver’s blog, “This will allow for a much greater flexibility and more granular contextualization of content and activities.” We’ve had governed metadata on the community before, but a common schema can be shared across all content types – blogs, KBs, Help Documentation, installation guides, and on and on. In short, the common metadata schema is how the 1DX vision will be realized.

The metadata foundation will provide structural integrity and flexibility no matter what applications we plug in to our best-of-breed platform of the future. Combine this with a personalized activity stream and other social features, and the future looks bright.

Think primary tags, not spaces

Today we have spaces. We have managed tags. We have user tags. But these constructs are rather independent from each other. The governed metadata is buried and practically irrelevant.  User tags don’t reach beyond the space in which its host piece of content lives. The extra meaning that contributors (sometimes) take the time to attach to their work literally gets lost in space.

In tomorrow’s community, the user experience will be abundantly better because such concepts will complement each other… except that we won’t have spaces. We will have primary tags.

A primary tag is just a managed tag that the contributor designates as the main subject matter for his/her content.

When contributors click “Create” from the future UI, like today, they will be presented with an interface in which they put in content and metadata, but with an intuitive UI that enables easy tagging.  Contributors will have to select at least one managed tag as the primary tag, and may also select the some number of additional tags. They may also add user tags to further contextualize the content. In either case, tags will be suggested by type-ahead functionality, and contributors will be able to create their own user tags.

Content will aggregate around both types of tags – in other words, users will be able to see content when they click on either type of tag, although there may be more to display around the managed tags.

Metadata, the fabric of the future

The result will be a more interconnected, cross-referential, and navigable universe of content. You’ll be able to follow content based on tags of your choice, but not so exclusively that you won’t find enticing new paths to go down throughout the experience.

One last point on metadata and primary tags is that they will power the gamification and moderation services. In short, metadata drives the consumption and navigation of content, and the reputation and moderation programs – in a sense, tags are the thread and metadata the fabric that weaves the next generation community together.

More to come about metadata and its relationship to reputation, moderation, and migration.

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17 Comments

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  1. Matt Fraser

    Hi Brian,

    So, if I understood your comment about user tags correctly, they currently serve no purpose at all? I had understood they would function as search terms, but is that not true? I gather this will be different on the new platform.

    Cheers,

    Matt

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    1. Brian Bernard Post author

      Tags can help surface or distinguish content in individual spaces, for example when you click on a tag from a piece of content or the Popular Tags widget:

      /wp-content/uploads/2015/04/blog3_690426.jpg

      But they don’t distinguish between managed and user tags.

      Searching over tags as free text of course pulls up results in search. And there are some filters, as pictured here, but there isn’t a full integration.

      /wp-content/uploads/2015/04/blog2_690427.jpg

      In short, there is room for improvement.

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  2. Gretchen Lindquist

    Brian,

    I think I am going to like this new concept. Today, if I publish a blog about my expectations for ASUG/ SAPPHIRE, I have to choose between publishing it in the SAPPHIRE space, the GRC space, or the Security space, and tagging it in the hopes that others not following the space will see it. If I am following you, I will just need to decide which one should be the primary tag and which are the additional tags, and everyone will be following tags. I’m looking forward to giving it a try.

    Gretchen

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  3. Nathan Genez

    This is becoming more of a problem in the Financials area where we have a new solution (Simple Finance) that could potentially fragment the content that we have assigned to other spaces when it’s really cross-topic.  After all, debits are debits no matter what financial release you are on.

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  4. Somnath Manna

    Question is how existing content will be transitioned to new platform – how will it get “primary tagged”. Guess there will be automated rules that will assign primary tags to content based on current “spaces” they are created / residing in.

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  5. Ajay Maheshwari SAP Trainer

    Hi Brian

    Seems exciting. Would love to give it a try

    Recently, I had an interaction with Nathan Genez about the Simple Finance Topic and I fully concur with his opinion. I often create the content and then tag it to other spaces..

    What you are proposing seems logical at this stage to me

    Br, Ajay M

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  6. Prateek Raj Srivastava

    Thanks for sharing Brian. Looking forward for more information on Primary tagging which will change the way users follow content on SCN. I am hoping that the user transition from 450+ spaces to even more tags will not add to confusion.

    Prateek

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  7. Jeremy Good

    Coming from the other side of this equation, I will celebrate the root level organizational aspect of the ‘space’, with a success story that challenges some of the cons you mentioned.  When SAP Fiori had its beginnings on SCN it really didn’t have a home, therefore content was orchestrated within the SAP for Mobile space where the space categories did not really match the topic, and the ONLY option we had was to use the #fiori tag, which was encouraged very heavily but required quite a bit of effort to keep up with (thank you Michael Appleby).  Introducing a new space with organized content and categories helped us immensely to have that root level home (space) for all things Fiori.  We have captured this story in the following blog:

    SAP Fiori has Blossomed into a New SCN Community

    I have also seen the often discouraged sub-space work quite well too, and just like with SAP Fiori, in the case of SAP Manufacturing Integration and Intelligence (SAP MII) it really boils down to a gathering of like minded topic/solution focused members of the community working towards the same spirit of sharing and collaboration.

    I don’t have the statistics for what percentage of the visitors to SCN come from Google search results, but when someone bookmarks a space or document (like the popular All Things SAP Fiori ), then the community member has also found the home space for their topic of choice, and they are likely to get in the habit of returning to this space to collaborate.

    Perhaps a ‘space’ with optional ‘categories’ is less of the problem, but like Prateek, I also hope that relying on tagging does not make it more confusing when the entire site is space-less.

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  8. Lee Clemmer

    Hi Brian, thanks for sharing. I’m still not sure I’m completely sold, but I’m willing to give it a go. The problem with pushing out content to multiple spaces in Jive is certainly a real one.

    Here are some questions I have around all this:

    • In the future, what will stop someone from adding as many tags as possible to a post so that the post shows up in a lot of different places?
    • If I understand correctly, there will be managed tags and user generated tags (right?). From previous work I know that managing a consistent set of SAP metadata across orgs is nearly impossible (for a variety of reasons) but I’ll assume that we can accomplish this. Will managed tags have hierarchies (e.g. Global > North America > United States)? If yes, when I tag something with U.S.  will it also show under North America and Global?
    • Regarding user generated tags: we can safely assume that these will balloon into all the various variants of different words that people will think up. Will there then be separate streams for “ux”, “user experience”, and “user_experience”?
    • What will the experience be for the reader? How will they wade through both the managed tags (here’ll be hundreds of tags for products alone) and the thousand of user generated tags? Will the homepage consist of all posts that have been tagged with those that the user is following?

    Thanks Brian!

    – Lee

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    1. Brian Bernard Post author

      Hi Lee,

      Some responses:

      In the future, what will stop someone from adding as many tags as possible to a post so that the post shows up in a lot of different places?

      There will be some limit imposed.

      If I understand correctly, there will be managed tags and user generated tags (right?).

      Right.

      From previous work I know that managing a consistent set of SAP metadata across orgs is nearly impossible (for a variety of reasons) but I’ll assume that we can accomplish this.

      No doubt it will be a challenge, but we’re well on our way. It’s happenening. And it’s critical for the 1DX experience.

      Will managed tags have hierarchies (e.g. Global > North America > United States)? If yes, when I tag something with U.S. will it also show under North America and Global?

      There are hierarchies in some of the properties, principally products. Maybe some others. To use a product as an example, I think content could roll up: If you write a blog and tag it with the product SAP Lumira Cloud, it could roll up onto the product page for SAP Lumira (the product line around which new pages are being built).

      Regarding user generated tags: we can safely assume that these will balloon into all the various variants of different words that people will think up. Will there then be separate streams for “ux”, “user experience”, and “user_experience”?

      I believe there will be synonyms for managed tags, and obviously governance, but I don’t know whether the metadata tools being implemented will help us consolidate user tags in the way you describe. We’ll find out.

      What will the experience be for the reader? How will they wade through both the managed tags (here’ll be hundreds of tags for products alone) and the thousand of user generated tags? Will the homepage consist of all posts that have been tagged with those that the user is following?

      The team is working on a UI that will employ type-ahead and browse capabilities to help users find content. And you are correct that users will be able to follow certain tags.

      Brian

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      1. Lee Clemmer

        Hey Brian, sorry for the late reply, I didn’t get (or see) a Jive notification. Thanks for the response! Certainly makes things more clear for me.

        One more question: will there be a concept of regional and language specific “sections” or ways to get content? For example would a user from Brazil have a Portuguese experience?

        Thanks again, very helpful.

        – Lee

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  9. Erin Parrish-Dickson

    Hi Brian,

    Great article.

    I have always hated adding my own tags, as I’m not sure they’ll get picked up on.  In this new world of tags, will there be an accompanying article suggesting HOW user tags are generated?  (e.g., whether or not to use an underscore between words, etc.)

    Thank you,
    Erin

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    1. Brian Bernard Post author

      The goal is to have a tagging interface intuitive enough so that not much explanation is needed. But there should be some supporting documentation or blogs that describe how it works when the time comes.

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