This post is actually a very overdue thank-you to the user community of SolutionExchange.
The Early Days
Since first raising the idea of an online community platform back at the tail end of 2009, I was fortunate enough to be part of an organisation under Jens Rabe that actively supported the idea and that kick-started a very enjoyable and passion filled couple of years as the Community Leader for the SolutionExchange platform.
There are many aspects of the SolutionExchange where I am particularly proud, from the pure open nature of the platform to the way in which the platform was adopted by you the users, all the way through to some little features which we pioneered on the platform within the enterprise context. On top of this, we did it all whilst showcasing our own products.
A special thanks goes to Markus Giesen during those early days of planning as Markus had already spent years building up an engaged community around the blog he started – The Unofficual RedDot CMS Blog. Markus had every right to be skeptical about what I had planned given the previous community attempts ending in failure but we struck up a great relationship and he provided some very valuable early guidance that helped me justify some of the decisions of our approach to my management team.
I learnt a lot in the following couple of years. I learnt and understood quickly about the philosophies of many start-ups: get to the customer as quick as you can and iterate based on what they say and what they do. We did this.
We launched a beta quietly back in the spring of 2010 with a simple Solution repository/App store concept but quickly iterated based on feedback to include an aggregated feed of blog posts from the broader community. I was particularly pleased with the effectiveness of this simple feature as it put users in control by telling them that they can blog externally of the platform, contribute their blog URL in their SolutionExchange profile, and by simply tagging their posts with the word ‘solex’, they would contribute that specific post to the “Community Feed” feature. At the time, this was big as not many were doing this elsewhere on the web as there was a preference to encourage users to blog within a given platform, which added a small but significant barrier. We discovered that this approach worked very well and what followed was a relatively great success story. Beyond early adopters like Markus Giesen, other partners started to contribute, then some customers, and then many of my colleagues created blogs with WordPress and Blogger and started sharing knowledge this way for the first time, specifically with the intention to share via the SolutionExchange. Kudos should once again be given to you, the user community, for leading the way here but you can now consume great knowledge from within OpenText that is being shared by the likes of Tim Davis, Jian Huang, Manuel Schnitger, and Dennis Reil. I cannot emphasise enough how this was a big deal and I thank each and every contributor for making the Community Feed such a success.
Further to this, we introduced the forum into the platform some months later with thanks going to netmedia for their support. This once again has been a tremendous success and I must thank those early contributors of feedback, which meant that we applied tweaks until the user experience was just how we wanted, which in turn affected the adoption. Well over 1000 posts later, the forum is still going strong and is a valuable ‘go to’ resource along with the likes of the RedDot Google Group. This forum along with the open nature of the platform brought with it more and more visits from search, which helped the discovery of the platform by new visitors.
We also made other subtle but significant additions to the site over time. I could name the introduction of Twitter Anywhere to help our users engage and connect with others, the Ideas feature, Group pages, the integration of OTSN, the rating features, or the external authentication proof of concept to name but a few. I could also talk about how significant some of the stats are like the almost 600 strong user base the platform has, which is relatively fantastic for a platform you do not need to sign up to in order to consume content. Although I could, I shall not, as my role has changed.
As of July 2012, SolutionExchange was no longer ‘my baby’. In fact, I had been re-assigned and given different responsibilities a year earlier in July 2011 and felt I had already been too ineffective with my commitments to the community platform. That guilty feeling was however put a little into perspective when I had a telephone call with Uli Weiss not that long back where he stated that he felt the platform was getting better and better. This is quite simply once more down to you, the users, as your time and contributions are what make the platform gain value day by day.
I am now part of the corporate web team at OpenText and have a very grand title as a Web Business Architect. It is very important for me (albeit somewhat overdue) to acknowledge that I have gained this opportunity in part due to the relative success of SolutionExchange and it is for this reason that I pass my thanks on to you in the community. Without your passion, engagement and desire to share in the ways in which you have, it would not have been the success it continues to be and I may not have had the opportunity that I am currently working on fulfilling now to bring some of those valuable concepts learnt during the past few years into the broader OpenText web experience.
All that said, I’m not leaving a vacant hole. I am very enthused and pleased that Manuel Schnitger has decided to step into my shoes and take on the Community Management role as he is absolutely a perfect fit in my eyes. Manuel has many years worth of experience in various roles and importantly understands the challenges from a community perspective. On top of that, he is always willing to share the knowledge he has (as proven through his blog) and connect others when he is not the right person. Therefore, the community leadership is in good hands and it is pleasing to see the community still progress and build momentum over time.
I may not have named everybody who deserves a special mention but hopefully you know who you are. Let me once again thank you all as I look forward to a different challenge where I shall look to apply the lessons I’ve learnt over an enjoyable period in my career that was only made possible with your support.