Goodbye Spaces, Hello World of Tags
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.