What do I want from SCN?
Listening to episode 2 of the Coffee Corner Radio podcast – or is it episode 1 under the new name? – with Jakob & Moya prompted me to fire off this blog.
Jakob concluded the podcast by asking Moya – Stop, Start, Continue? Meaning what does she want to see the SAP Community Stop doing – Start doing – and Continue doing?
It got me thinking about what I would like from my SAP Community.
TL;DR – Opportunity.
I have working in IT pretty much since leaving high-school but I really only became a full-time developer in the early part of this century. A happy coincidence was that this was about when the SAP Developer Network was first launched.
Devices like this.
So where to start? Well I can tell you I made extensive use of the F1 key for quite a while. And I got better with each screen I built and each task I completed. You know how you can look back at code you wrote a year or so ago and get really embarrassed that you did things that way? I could do that by looking at what I wrote yesterday. Fun times.
And then there was SDN. What a fantastic resource it was for me. Fortunately the rest of the SAP world was discovering BSP pages at about this time too so there were lots of newbie questions from everyone, lots of interactions, lots of false leads, etc. as we all worked this thing out together. The BSP forum was one of the most active areas on SCN and it truly made us all better BSP developers the more we participated – especially me.
I started as a bit of a lurker. I watched and absorbed what was going on. Then – after a while I answered a forum question. It wasn’t a perfect answer but it was acknowledged and appreciated by the op. Someone else added to my response to complete the answer by addressing a condition I had not considered. So the op had his answer and I had leant something too. That’s pretty cool.
I also learnt how to present a forum question to get the best response. For example “Hey Experts – how do I make a twist twirl?” rarely worked. But – “Hi there, I want to make a twist twirl. I have searched and found this response but it doesn’t exactly meet my needs. I have tried reversing my twist and even hanging it upside down. Here is my sample code `my_twist->twirl( ).` but all I get is a little wobble. Can anyone help me please?”. It turns out showing your code, explaining your problem, and what you have tried to do to correct it works. It turns out people like to help others with problems. But people are not so keen to do your work for you. Give a man a fish… Teach a man to fish….
Special mention to Brian McKellar and Thomas Jung who contributed so much to our understanding of BSP – but there were plenty of others too.
While I initially thought of SCN simply as a resource it was actually an opportunity. It was an opportunity to learn things better by explaining them to others. An opportunity to learn from hands-on practitioners. An opportunity to engage with the world-wide community of SAP developers. An opportunity to appreciate diverse perspectives. An opportunity to show people who I was and what I was like too.
Fast-forward a few years and I had the opportunity to join the SAP Mentor program.
The Mentors are representatives of the SAP Community so some of them were familiar to me – but many were not. Like earlier I sat back a bit at first and lurked – watching and learning from these people was an amazing opportunity. And, in part because of my earlier SCN experience, I understood a bit better the value of this opportunity and tried to make the most of it.
One of the most surprising things I found was the huge number of new opportunities the SAP Mentor program provided. The chance to meet and get to know other Mentors is an amazing opportunity. Many of them, most of them, I now call friends. If I have a security query I can contact Gretchen or Mikki. If I have a Cloud Platform question I know Matthius will help me out. When I am drafting an important but difficult document I can lean on Jon’s advice. And the list goes on. I have had opportunities to meet and engage with SAP Product Teams so that I can contact them if I have questions or concerns. And plenty of opportunities to meet with SAP Executives to hear their perspectives first hand and be able to ask them questions too.
And these opportunities have led to many other opportunities presenting themselves to me because I am part of the SAP Community. I know I have missed some but I hope I have recognised and taken advantage of most of them.
Like the SAP Community the SAP Mentor program is going through a period of transition and reinvention. Whenever people ask me what I want to see from the program I return to those times when I was lurking around and I noticed and took advantage of the opportunities that were presented to me. I want to see the same opportunities for the new people going into the program now. Well not exactly the same but the same sort of opportunities.
So what do I want from SCN? The same thing. I want SCN to serve up similar opportunities in 2018 as it did in when it was the SAP Developer Network. Opportunities to learn, to share and to engage.
Of course recognising and taking advantage of those opportunities is up to the individual.
Great stuff, Graham...and lots to think about.
Two statements in particular resonated with me...
"Of course recognising and taking advantage of those opportunities is up to the individual."
Indeed. This is why I usually end my Member of the Month interviews by asking for advice for new members. I want members to feel encouraged to take advantage of these opportunities.
"I also learnt how to present a forum question to get the best response."
A great example. In a recent Coffee Corner conversation, we discussed whether we need to expand the rules of engagement to set the expectation that posters must outline what steps they took/what they found when searching -- instead of just stating, "I searched and couldn't find an answer." Perhaps you'd care to share your insights here as well: https://answers.sap.com/articles/507864/behold-the-new-and-improved-rules-of-engagement.html.
Thanks for posting! While you're quite correct that the transition continues, I believe opportunities still exist -- even if they could be improved upon.
On presenting a forum question, I totally agree, and this is also a philosophy that's embedded in StackOverflow - posters are marked down or even reprimanded if they appear to be asking for help without having made an effort themselves.
On the SAPUI5 front, a while back, I published this post Help Us To Help You – Share Your Code which was specifically related to posting questions about chunks of UI5 apps that weren't working. It's all part of the same thing - if you're going to ask for help, have the decency to make it as easy as possible for those you're asking to help you.
There is a similar blog in ABAP as well: How to get your post rejected in ABAP Development
It occurs to me, just looking at the titles of these two blogs, "Help Us to Help You" vs "How to Get Your Post Rejected," is perhaps indicative of part of our image problem. Don't get me wrong, Matthew B's advice for those posting in the ABAP forums is spot-on, but from the larger perspective the title starts with a negative connotation, whereas the title of DJ's link starts with a positive connotation.
Could this be one area where we're turning people away, simply by not seeming very welcoming even when we're well-meaning?
Obviously not a frequent visitor to the ABAP forum, eh? 🙂
Duly noted. From my experience though, however you write it result is the same. People just want someone to do their job, to copy-paste an answer for them.
I've someone reply to me after I answered with a specific string they could copy-paste in Google: "why don't you just give me an answer?!" And I don't know how we can help someone with this mindset.
I just read through Lars Breddemann 's link below to Stack Overflow, and it's quite the read; it was like looking in a mirror. I do feel that much of what Jay Hanlon wrote over there could apply equally here. Yes, we have lazy "do my job for me" users, but I also see a lot of jumping down of people's throats because they failed to tick all the boxes on their very first question. We want people to follow the rules, but as Lars and Jay both state, we need to make it easier to do so, and when there's a slip-up, we need to be more diplomatic and empathetic in our response. And yes, that starts with me, too, as a moderator. I try to see that job as one of guiding rather than one of policing, but I totally get that some days this is easier said than done, especially when I barely have time to pay attention due to the demands of my own (paying) job and I just want to fix something quickly and move on.
This isn't easy. If it was, there wouldn't be an issue.
Did I miss anything? Are there complaints on Twitter or FB?
The numbers which are shown to the SAC speak a totally different language.
Of course there could be done much more much quicker to make it user friendly, but unfortunately its the year of GDPR....
It's true that stackoverflow has this push-back culture - and they recognize it as a problem (https://stackoverflow.blog/2018/04/26/stack-overflow-isnt-very-welcoming-its-time-for-that-to-change/) now.
I completely agree with an approach where "under-prepared"/"lazy" questions are taken out of the pool of questions in the forums; heck, I feel like all I'm doing on SCP nowadays is clicking the REPORT link for "no search done" questions.
BUT(!) I am pretty sure that this situation is mainly caused by the design of this Q&A platform.
All a user gets when trying to post a question is a form with text boxes and an automated search based on the chosen title text.
There's no guidance on what a good title should look like, no example.
There's no help with structuring the question. If there was a checklist of things to look at, then a save-draft feature would probably be nice, but that's not there either.
Then there is a required "primary tag" text field, without any explanation for what the tag should be for.
To me the "ask a question" form is one big assumption: "You, dear user, you already know the ins and outs of this platform. If you don't... well, too bad, hm?"
I'd say. it's good to have traffic lights, stop signs and cops to enforce how traffic flows, but it's probably better to just have an underpass/bridge so that crashes are a lot harder to do.
This Q&A site is software - underpasses/bridges are dirt cheap to do here.
Well, this is exactly what new "cutting edge" Q&A platform was supposed to improve. We were promised type-ahead search, for example. It kind of exists now but doesn't work at all (IMHO it does more harm than good).
You're right about the tags. On MSDN, I can see a description for each forum. On SCN, it's anybody's guess or some sacred knowledge.
Of course, a lot of blame still goes to the folks who can't even type their question into Google and shouldn't be creating new questions to begin with. But you're exactly right: it's f*g software and it should enhance our lives, not make them more miserable. This is a website for a technology company for cripes sake.
We were told before that old platform (Jive) was too rigid and SCN team could not do what they and Community wanted with it. I'm wondering what is the excuse now, as Jive is gone? [Crickets]
Just another link showing the thought processes and decision making behind better functioning Q&A platforms: https://www.joelonsoftware.com/2018/04/23/strange-and-maddening-rules/
To me, it still comes back to the point where the "WHY" lacks an answer that would drive the actual decisions behind the platform and community development. In that regard, I don't see much progress at all since last year.
Great article, Lars, thanks for sharing!
I agree with you on "why". From this article, it's clear that there is a purpose and vision behind the community. On SCN, this has been lacking for many years already. It moved from being "world’s greatest resource for SAP professionals" (to paraphrase the article) to a marketing / product pushing platform to I don't really know what. It's just drifting in the sap.com ocean without a clear goal or purpose with a group of people trying to keep it afloat while we wait for some kind of revelation (or a captain to steer us).
Lars, you keep coming up with very well-written pieces by the powers-that-be over at Stack Overflow regarding their own struggles and their proposed solutions. I'm tempted to say that everyone who wants to be a moderator or to work on the Community team at SAP should read both (Jay Hanlon's and Joel Spolsky's) pieces. The Wikipedia POINT article isn't a bad one to peruse, either. We could learn much from SO's history with many of the same issues that we struggle with.
And, of course, I would be remiss if I didn't mention your own "WHY" blog.
What a great perspective / retrospective.
Especially this passage struck me:
From this it occurs to me there’s something powerful about putting ourselves out there especially *because* inherently we do so at a level of personal risk, since ultimately we’re here as individuals. This is where the magic happens!
thanks for sharing.
Wonderfully said Moya.
That is the paragraph I struggled to write and then gave up in the interest of posting quickly - so I went with "That's pretty cool".
Great thought, Robbo! For me, I think this part made the most sense:
By the time I came along, it was SCN and it was an organized place for folks to seek help and connect with like-minded folks. For me, it was the blogs: reading about other folks going through some of the same issues and successes as I was. To forge a new future, I think SCN needs to return to the roots that you've talked about.
Darn it Robbo. Here you are making sense again. I might just have to blog a response to this.
I don't think a comment would do it justice.
Sooo, Nigel, how is that blog coming along? 😉
Would you believe ..."Still in draft"
https://blogs.sap.com/2018/05/24/sap-community-start-stop-continue/ Just for you Jelena
What stands out to me here is just the simple concept on which much of the rise of tech forum culture on the internet was about: people helping each other out, going out of their way to do so, perhaps imperfectly but learning along the way, and self-correcting info amongst a group of passionate folks who care about the topic.
Graham I love how your post said nothing about personal or corporate branding and all that stuff folks seem to obsess about. When that happens, it's just another byproduct of doing good stuff and making things better.
Building a community does lead to opportunities....we are stronger because of our network. As soon as we start thinking about KPIs and page views and ROI, we lose.....
Wow this is awesome. I totally agree it is up to the individual.
Given the kind of changes happening at SAP with coming of FIORI, Cloud, HANA on and on endless list, i feel we have good number of opportunities. What i feel is important is to Learn, Share and Repeat.
Learn --> Share --> Repeat -- love it!
I think those of us who have been part of the whole journey, SAP Iview Studio -> SAP SDN -> SAP SCN (and its incarnations) we are all veterans of the period before there was any SAP Community, and we were there when there was a void which was filled by the SAP Community.
We all so appreciated the SAP Community that we all jumped onboard and contributed, I also remember interacting with Brian Mckellar for BSP guidance, (here's a Thread I created under a pseudo name back then - https://archive.sap.com/discussions/thread/28939). I still have the "I'm blogging this on the SDN tshirts" from 2004.
All of us got stuck in, contributed, blogged, questioned, answered, engaged.
Why did we do that, I think it's because we came from the previous world where there was a SAP information void and where SDN filled the gap which we appreciated.
If we look at where we are today, we would all like the SCN to have the spirit which it had back then and we all do what we can to help that.
But there's one difference today compared to the past which I see first hand.
In my opinion (tin hat on), the people in the community who have grown up only knowing that the SCN is there, and not knowing the dark ages from before, these people are less motivated to blog and engage.
I try to encourage people I work with to blog, I say to them, what you are working on is fascinating to the SAP Community, if you wrote one blog a month on the interesting things you are working on and share your learnings with the community, you will very quickly become an appreciated member of the SCN.
But still they don't blog/engage/contribute.
I fear this is the challenge, getting the next generation to have the appetite for engagement which we had and have.
If we could get the newer membership to engage and contribute we might be having a different conversation.
What do you think ?
All the best,
Andy, I totally agree! I certainly remember the "dark days," when licenses had to be applied for via a fax to Walldorf (and a wait of potentially weeks for a reply), when the only documentation was pretty much whatever printed manuals you carted around with you from gig to gig, and the only way to search for Notes was via the old SAPGUI-based OSS connection over a private ISDN line -- and until you got that setup, you had next to nothing!
In a way, it's sort of analogous to the evolution of the Basis tools in the application itself: when I started working with SAP, there was no STMS -- transports had to be done via tp command line from the server console. Maybe you had PCAnywhere for remote access, but half the time you had to physically sit in the freezing air-conditioned machine room to do that. As for applying those Notes found on that ancient OSS connection? Yeah, no SNOTE to help you with that, either. In those days applying a Note code correction was an entirely manual process, via SE38. One byproduct of that, of course, was that Basis admins tended then to be much more familiar with the ins and outs of ABAP syntax -- you had to be, to figure out how to properly insert the new code! Or if you weren't, you figured it out pretty quickly. And remember profile parameters for performance tuning? Back then it was much more hit-or-miss, more of a guessing game figuring out what values to put in what parameters to properly tune the memory. Nowadays that's at least half automated, and what isn't has much more clear guidance built in to the tools.
Basis admins these days have got it so easy! 🙂
We had SAPfans in the early 2000s, but when SDN came around it was a big improvement, in my mind. Like so many in this comment thread, and like Robbo himself, I jumped into that with both feet, even if it was years before I did more than lurk and search. Suddenly I was all-powerful! Between online Notes search and SDN, I could solve ANY problem! The base skill to do my job became one of knowing how to search, rather than remembering countless little factoids. Ok, maybe not quite that simplified -- one still has to have some analytical skill, after all, and be able to discern the right time for bold action, and the right time for caution -- but being able to dig up solutions and answers is a major part of it.
That was SDN to me. That was SCN to me. That can still be SAP Community to me.
Great observation, Andy, applicable to even greater, dare-I-say universal truths. Once we take something for granted we risk losing it. Or maybe said more positively, appreciate what you love...
If we agree:
that the SDN -> SCN which we grew up with filled a void and we embraced that
that the SAP world today has different challenges than we had 20 years ago
that people coming in to the SAP world today have a different starting point than we did (ie a wealth of information available)
then I am wondering, the SDN which we look back on romantically, will it ever come back ?
and wondering further, shouldn't we be looking to the next generation of Sappers to take it forward and if we should be looking to the next generation Sappers to take it forward, shouldn't we be asking them what they need from SCN to make them successful and what they would wish for from the SCN to help them be successful like we were/are ?
And maybe if we can evolve SCN into what they need to be successful, then naturally, SCN will bloom and blossom and be the hive that it was.
And there'll still be room for all of us seniors and we'll learn from the new generation and evolve the SCN together with them.
Whatta you all think ?
maybe the question is,
what do you want from the SCN
It's perfectly valid to look back on the past romance and ask if it still serves the same purpose. It probably needs to evolve if it wants to stay alive -- if it still should stay alive of its own right.
To me, I think that community around SAP continues but like many open communities today is at risk to become dark again due to cyberthreats, spam, over-saturation, etc. (Views my own) - in this case, SAP should have an interest in preserving the conversation and the light wherever it happens -- here, over on LinkedIn, over on Medium, StackOverflow - wherever -- we should keep bringing it to light otherwise it cannot evolve.
Anyway: long live Petr Solberg!
Nice blog Graham and curious if someone could outline the large changes that have been made in the SCN Community in past 4 months since this blog and support from leadership to fix.
or even before that
The ideas seem plentiful but real timely execution seems to be a challenge.
The answer is in this wiki: https://wiki.scn.sap.com/wiki/display/WHP/SAP+Community+Release+Notes
Curious which of the items in the release notes you consider on the scale of "fixing" the major issue at SCN as most of the above seem more like bug fixes or minor enhancements.
On a side, I tried to pull up your name so you would be aware and there would engagement (one of the issues with SCN right now) with no luck. Sure there is a "trick" but needs to be easy and simple like on Linkedin to name a person in a post/comment if you ask me.
The trick is to leave the umlaut just type jrgen after @ , or click the profile to see what needs to be typed, it is listed directly under the name.
Liking your comment + the wiki as evidence = my opinion 😉
which is not really different from yours, and it feels like there is nothing really going forward.
The new search, Gamification, RSS feeds, 3 major features, 2 of them are not used by me.
Unfortunately the GDPR topic is so bold this spring that it seems to block all resources
I tried to add Bill McDermott in my other reply. No luck. And no umlauts in his name as far as I know. 😉
And editing comments doesn't work either. 🙁
re Bill, interesting observation #yetanotherbug lt me mention it to Audrey Stevenson
Nevertheless it is still possible by copying the URL from his profile as shown in https://blogs.sap.com/2017/09/13/dont-mention-it-oh-wait-do/
However, his profile is also not found in the profile search, only those profiles show up who follow him. Maybe a side effect from the GDPR developments, maybe only people who have given the consent are listed. 3:-) David Metser FYI
re editing of comments: This is a known bug for many months, which does not hit everyone, I am just editing, and believe it has to do with permission.
Exact these missing fixes over a long period are really annoying
>re editing of comments: This is a known bug for many months, which does not hit everyone, I am just editing, and believe it has to do with permission.
It does hit me everytime, so I have learnt to copy my modified text, delete the reply and add a new one with the copied text.
So thanks to the GUI to help me stay creative:)
This bug has been reported already in May, in February and in December 2017. I guess my "what do I want from SCN" blog would be a very short one: fix the bugs already!
Firstly - sorry I have no idea how to do a umlaut on my keyboard. I know I should be more culturally sensitive and adjust my behaviour to better meet the needs of others but quite frankly I have enough trouble with the old Ctrl+Alt+Shift+Fn+? stuff as it is. 😉 Technology baffles me.
Your response to Jarret's comment has irritated another itch I have about the SAP Community that I will scratch here. Please do not take this as criticism of your above comment. I am very aware of your understanding, regard and appreciation (as well as your contributions) to the SAP Community and your standing within it. Your comment - together with Jarret's - has just reminded me of this itch. 🙂
We all know that the SCN platform has been going through tough times. And we know that the team have been working very hard to improve things as quickly as they can as shown by the release notes. We also accept that these problems have contributed to a fall in activity and content on SCN.
But while an online collaboration area (or areas) is important place for a community to come together, to share, to seek out our peers, to met new people, to learn, to teach, to be a perpetual artefact and just as a place to have fun - it is not in itself the community.
People make a community. You can take away almost anything else and a community is still a community - but take away the people and it no longer exists.
While there is significant - and deserved - attention being given to fixing the SCN platform I worry that there is an expectation that once the platform issues are resolved then we can sit back and just expect the people to reappear. Build it and they will come.
It is reasonable to apportion some blame for the downturn in the SAP Community to the platform issues. But even if the SCN platform achieves unforeseen levels of awesomeness it cannot be expected to magically have the old SAP Community reappear and grow as we all hope it will.
I know that the Community team inside SAP appreciate this aspect. But they are a small part of a big organisation and it is hard to change behaviours.
For example I still see plenty of posts from SAP Employees that IMO are poorly disguised puff pieces. Yet in Bill's post he called out "We let the impression linger that SAP was using our community simply as another channel to promote our corporate messages" as an honest mistake. Change is hard.
My experience is that what attracts someone to a community is the existing members of that community - the people. I am one of those people. So are you. So we are what attracts others to our community. Scary isn't it?
Perhaps that means to get people back to our community - and to attract new ones - we need to do something about it?
Late though - The SAP Community transcends SCN so maybe a fixation upon the SCN platform is a little myopic?
Transcends SCN in what way or ways? I don't understand your point Graham.
SAP Community is much more than those who participate online at SCN. There are plenty of people in the SAP Community who do not use SCN.
Scary indeed. Even a kind of a catch 22 situation. With us is not much room for others to grow, without us is no audience because of less answered questions. Just drastically shortened. No, I am actually not worried about new visitors. And all new visitors do not know us in the beginning, they are not coming for me. They come because its the site with the most traffic in both directions (I know sites with have just questions). Probably we have some influence on another visit with good answers.
I think we need to get more people into the answer mode. The more people help to answer questions the quicker the questions are answered and issues are resolved sooner, the help seekers become happy and return with more ease. Sounds simple, but how could you get people to help others? Gamification alone is probably not the wonder weapon.
Are we up in cliques and do not let others in? I don't feel so, I am happy about anyone else who answers questions, because then I have a chance to learn something too. Of course it is a bit harder today, as many questions have been asked and answered already in the past. But now with the move to S4 which still takes months, maybe years until I get a hand on is plenty room for new helpers to step in.
Sometimes I see such easy questions like "Does your screen look like mine here in the screenshot? Just want to see if my system is standard or modified". Then I see that this question had already 20+ views and no one had the courage to say "yes its standard" or "No, my system looks like in this screenshot".
Appreciate any idea which helps to have more people answer questions and sharing experience in blogs.
A recent thought the occurred to me: why can't the platform (with BigData, machine learning and all) suggest un-answered questions to me, for which I likely know the answer?
-> Like Am*zon does with "people who bought..." SAP Community could offer a "you maybe can help on this: ..."-section.
Graham and everyone:
Great blog and awesome comments. However for those us way far removed and in a different universe, my perspective has changed. The are communities such as Salesforce Trailhead/Trailblazer, and Microsoft Dynamics which have both communities and technology platforms that are much closer to the spirit of the old "SCN". Those platforms seem to be designed for people to connect and not around a goal of providing a unified website. It's very true they still have common branding... but they function much different than the marketing motherships.
It's very simple stuff like having true groups, forums, blogs instead of a universal tagging mechanism forced upon everyone. Sure they can tag content... but that's not the point of their community. Once the technology is out of the way of the people it helps build the interactions instead of becoming a barrier.
As I have said many times... the fundamental design of the new SAP Community platform is wrong. It's not a social platform, it's a marketing platform designed as social platform. When your competitors who have some really awesome communities and involvement don't use a marketing platform for social, you may want to consider your approach :).
Great post and very lively discussion as an effect of it.
It's hard to pinpoint what made the "old" SCN feel so amazing if I look at the different comments and opinions. In my opinion it's a mixture of things, the platform, the people, the content, the journey, ...
One thing which was clear is that back in those days (some years back) the community seemed to be a bigger topic and focus within SAP. That was pointed out to SAP more recently in different ways which has gained traction and caused change to come about.
What I personally miss, is the focus on community at events such as SAP TechED where we used to have the community manager on stage at SAP TechED, we used to have top contributors being celebrated on stage at SAP TechED. This was more of a journey in my opinion. Celebrating community members on the platform is of course good but it gets even better when you can then bring them along to meet other community members, to meet the persons behind the community network, to introduce them to the SAP Mentors and have more of a journey for them to enjoy and to be inspired by.
In my opinion, SAP should bring this back. Not going to discuss exact form or shape or gamification here but that journey is important in my opinion.
Of course the bugs need to be fixed on the platform as well (not being able to edit = major pain point when it happens to me). A lot of other things need to happen but back in those days, SCN was the reference in literature about online communities, I believe there is a significant effort to be made to get back to that if that is still possible even.
The current capabilities feel rather old school to me, although I'm no longer part of the newest generation, there is no option to quickly drop video's online to explain something, wouldn't it be great if SAP could also do something there, create a screen capture tool that hides sensitive data (hostname, SID, firstname, lastname) but can capture through a SAP process so we can then easily share it online? Should be feasible with todays technology I would imagine.
Even though I'm really short for time - I had to read this one..
"Spot on". 😉
Totally agree, and it's fun reading the comments too.