Community life seems a bit low ?

Community life seems a bit low ?

  
I have been following this forum for a while now, and it seems there is not much "life" on the forums. Does this mean there are only a few real OutSystems users, or is the "generic" OutSystems community just not very "forum-aware" ? 

I mean, I am even in the "top forums posters"-list ? 

Also, the BarCamp meeting announced in one of the forums has received almost no response. Why?

It seems to me, the community needs a bit of work! Or ?
Hi Marcel,

I kindof agree with you...
Not sure if because people are still recovering from their vacations or if already suffering from workload because of taking those vacations...
Workload here... not very active unfortunatly....
Marcel Onck wrote:
I have been following this forum for a while now, and it seems there is not much "life" on the forums. Does this mean there are only a few real OutSystems users, or is the "generic" OutSystems community just not very "forum-aware" ? 

I mean, I am even in the "top forums posters"-list ? 

Also, the BarCamp meeting announced in one of the forums has received almost no response. Why?

It seems to me, the community needs a bit of work! Or ?
 A little bit of yes, a little bit of no...

I've been involved in at least a dozen forum-based online communities (mostly social/hobby related), even moderated a few. The ratio of posters to lurkers is usually around 1:100... most people consume content on buletin boards, few people chose to add content of their own. That's online life in general, really.

On the other hand, there's the question of why do we even have forums at all? Within OutSystems, it's mostly an engineering thing-- there are some service delivery folks that participate, but even on our internal boards it's pretty much all techies. For people outside of OutSystems, this has the unintended benefit of getting real answers from actual developers, which is pretty uncommon for most companies.

Anything special you would like to see?

Anything ordinary you'd like to see?
 
There are a lot of questions around understanding how to do something (techie) in detail, or how to solve some issue - that will always be part of our forums. But...
I know I'd like to see more developers sharing their experiences with OutSystems and what they do in terms exploring its boundaries. 
From showcasing the apps or components they implemented (such as Chinita's CMS), tricks and tips, to full blown teaching articles like the Phonegap stuff that Ruben set up. I guess everybody here knows what you can do with the Platform, but seeing examples of real stuff fosters creativity and pushes us to create even better solutions.
In this sense I do feel we're not very "forum aware" or, at least a bit introvert. I would definetely like to see more people bragging about the cool stuff they've done.
Marcel, welcome to the club! :)

So thatttt's why my community manager-sense was tingling... it was you hitting the nail right on the head!
The community does need more visible work!

There are a lot of OutSystems developers out there but only a very small minority is really "forum-aware" and tries to connect with others (Robert provided a good example: Agile Network: Where is everyone?).

While our forums are very good for people looking for help and answers on how to use the OutSystems Platform, they don't get much use as a wider discussion space (exceptions exist). The BarCamp preparation using the forums is one attempt at fixing this but we've learned that it still depends on rallying up of troops on the offline world (if such a thing still exists).

Thanks for sharing your honest opinion! :)

Cheers!
Davide Marquês
Community Manager
I have a theory, and it's not based on any research whatsoever so it could be way off the mark :).  

The current OS business model targets medium - large orgs with teams of developers.  Teams have the benefit of being able to solve a lot of their questions internally, are more likely building internal apps that are not for the public domain and they have their own internal social network - therefore many of these developers do not have a strong motivation or reason to frequent the forums.  If the model changes, as is being touted, to attract smaller dev shops and individual developers I think you will see more activity on the forums as those without an internal support network will look to the OS platforms for help, to share and to socialise.

Just a theory, not sure it's valid.

Cheers,
Gavin
Quite honestly, I *love* the community as it is. Why? Because I see people come in with questions... and they get answers... quickly and accurately. And not just from folks like myself or Robert C., but also from the actual developers of the Platform. I'm not going to get that anywhere else. If I want a social discussion, I've got Facebook. If I need to know how to do something with OutSystems, I come here. :D

One reason you don't see quite as much community articles/tips/etc. type stuff is that it is hard, very hard to make that content. I should know... I spent seven years writing for TechRepublic, generating 1 - 4 articles a week on software development. Writing about OutSystems is particularly tough, because it is so visual. You need to either make videos or sample eSpaces, and those don't show the "click here, do this" needed. So yeah, for someone to put up an in-depth piece like that, it can easily take 30 minutes or an hour, and most of us are pretty busy with our jobs to spend that kind of time, even if it is a big help to others.

J.Ja
I agree with your post J.Ja although I didn't mean socialise in the "go to the pub, have a beer and talk some crap" sense :).  I think participating on the forums helping others is a social interaction for developers, particularly if you work alone a lot of the time.

G
Participation in a forum medium can have MANY faces, it does not need to be just related to trying to resolve technical issues. What "alarmed" me was the very small number of participants on the OS forum. I come from an other platform where hundreds of users per day are crawling around the message boards and where community life till shortly has always been rather vibrant. We are talking about a forum with half a million posts on it. And no, this is not a Microsoft product, in fact, it is a very small company who produces that particular platform.

I tend to agree with Gavin on this one.  Having been around in development circles for a long time, I know a bit of the "typical OutSystems customer" and I think Gavin nailed at least ONE of the aspects that define your forum visitor. The typical corporate developer does have an internal team to fall back to. Personally, I have been leading such a team within a national bank institution for many years, but are now an independent developer. Being independent indeed means you don't have that team to fall back to. So, I carefully pose the idea, based on Gavin's comments, that independent developers are more community aware than corporate developers being a member of a development team (exceptions will exist).

Independent developers will also have DIFFERENT issues to discuss compared with corporate developers. The first group will have business issues to discuss as well, where the corporate developer probably has not, or at least considerably less.

At the old platform I used in the end the forums became that important that they were seen as a full substitute for much of the documentation and it's vibrant presence was used in marketing promotions as a standard feature of the product.  Point is, that on THAT forum, the corporate user was generally NOT present since the product was not marketed towards that group of developers (and not suited either). So that too supports Gavin's comments.

I would say that, of course, resolving technical issues is an important function of the forum, if not the most important one. If there is nothing more then THAT however, one tends to only visit the forum if one HAS a problem, which obviously will be happening to less experienced users more often then highly experienced users. Which brings the problem that normally one can expect only a few (community aware) highly experienced users on it and for the rest only starting users with common questions. That lifts the total "workload" on the shoulders of just of few highly experienced users.

Maybe an approach to resolving this issue is to bring more value to the user community, so that it enriches ANY visitor and offers something to EVERY user, highly experienced or not. Draw more traffic to the community forums with stuff that attracts your complete user base. Once there, nothing stops the user to have a quick view at what's going on on the forum and help out somewhere quickly. If the user doesn't even visit the forum because he has no problem and no basic drive or time to help others, then you miss out on that user.

Making the forum attractive to a higher percentage of users, especially corporate users (see above) can be done in many ways. Offer goodies from time to time, offer information (development calendar, what is OS working on right now? What will be in next version(s)? Stuff like that. Maybe a scrolling ticker somewhere in the Service Studio showing the latest posts titles. Things that trigger attention or interest of the user. I am sure more things can be thought off.

IF the licensing/pricing policy will change, besides the corporate user also the independent developer might be attracted to the platform in higher numbers which will in itself change the characteristics of the community and forums.  
The "team to talk to" situation is so true... I work with a team here, and I am the only one who puts in more than 1 or 2 posts a year. Why? Because they go to me with questions, and only when I can't answer it do they go to the forum. :D

J.Ja
@Justin: you could make them post the questions and only answer to them here! :D
Many good thoughts. I think it all comes back to "ask why" (something we do a lot of here @OutSystems!)

Marcel Onck wrote:
Participation in a forum medium can have MANY faces, it does not need to be just related to trying to resolve technical issues. What "alarmed" me was the very small number of participants on the OS forum. I come from an other platform where hundreds of users per day are crawling around the message boards and where community life till shortly has always been rather vibrant. We are talking about a forum with half a million posts on it. And no, this is not a Microsoft product, in fact, it is a very small company who produces that particular platform.

I tend to agree with Gavin on this one.  Having been around in development circles for a long time, I know a bit of the "typical OutSystems customer" and I think Gavin nailed at least ONE of the aspects that define your forum visitor. The typical corporate developer does have an internal team to fall back to. Personally, I have been leading such a team within a national bank institution for many years, but are now an independent developer. Being independent indeed means you don't have that team to fall back to. So, I carefully pose the idea, based on Gavin's comments, that independent developers are more community aware than corporate developers being a member of a development team (exceptions will exist).

Independent developers will also have DIFFERENT issues to discuss compared with corporate developers. The first group will have business issues to discuss as well, where the corporate developer probably has not, or at least considerably less.

At the old platform I used in the end the forums became that important that they were seen as a full substitute for much of the documentation and it's vibrant presence was used in marketing promotions as a standard feature of the product.  Point is, that on THAT forum, the corporate user was generally NOT present since the product was not marketed towards that group of developers (and not suited either). So that too supports Gavin's comments.

I would say that, of course, resolving technical issues is an important function of the forum, if not the most important one. If there is nothing more then THAT however, one tends to only visit the forum if one HAS a problem, which obviously will be happening to less experienced users more often then highly experienced users. Which brings the problem that normally one can expect only a few (community aware) highly experienced users on it and for the rest only starting users with common questions. That lifts the total "workload" on the shoulders of just of few highly experienced users.

Maybe an approach to resolving this issue is to bring more value to the user community, so that it enriches ANY visitor and offers something to EVERY user, highly experienced or not. Draw more traffic to the community forums with stuff that attracts your complete user base. Once there, nothing stops the user to have a quick view at what's going on on the forum and help out somewhere quickly. If the user doesn't even visit the forum because he has no problem and no basic drive or time to help others, then you miss out on that user.

Making the forum attractive to a higher percentage of users, especially corporate users (see above) can be done in many ways. Offer goodies from time to time, offer information (development calendar, what is OS working on right now? What will be in next version(s)? Stuff like that. Maybe a scrolling ticker somewhere in the Service Studio showing the latest posts titles. Things that trigger attention or interest of the user. I am sure more things can be thought off.

IF the licensing/pricing policy will change, besides the corporate user also the independent developer might be attracted to the platform in higher numbers which will in itself change the characteristics of the community and forums.