Welcome!

Open Web Authors: Carmen Gonzalez, Mark R. Hinkle, Elizabeth White, Pat Romanski, PR.com Newswire

Related Topics: Big Data Journal, Java, AJAX & REA, Web 2.0, Open Web, Cloud Expo

Big Data Journal: Article

Building and Maintaining an Application Performance Community

Lessons learned

Two years ago, my team decided to extend our community portal to become "a real"APM Community where members (both commercial and free products) can go to find help and educational content on all topics regarding Application Performance Management (APM). The most critical pieces to that community were: free access to all relevant content (documentation, best practices, knowledge base, downloads) as well as a very active discussion forum where members can get answers to their questions. Two years later I have to say we achieved this goal with more than 60,000 registered members. In this blog I want to first share the Lessons Learned and then discuss the ideas we have for the future.

Lesson #1: Give Access to Content
We know that APM is a very broad topic. We have many best practices on how to analyze, optimize and manage application performance from small to enterprise applications. But no one out there is an expert on all aspects of APM. So we decided to make all content available so that our members become successful when dealing with their own APM challenges.

As we have a lot of content in different areas we decided to have four levels of access privileges to content:

  • Public: There is some content that everybody can read - such as all articles on our APM Blog, our Web Performance Best Practices or general articles about Application Performance such as Monitoring Amazon Cloud Environments
  • Registered AJAX Edition: Customers of our free AJAX Edition get access to discussion forums after they have registered an account. The product is free to use- but after a five-day registration-free period one is required to register in order to access the Web Performance/AJAX Edition related discussion forums.
  • Customers/Partners: Customers of the paid products get full access to all production documentation, APM discussion forums, product and community downloads as well as additional educational services such as Video Tutorials, self-guided online training or webinars. They also get access to our Knowledge Base and our Support System in case they need help from our Technical Support Engineers. In a pre-sales engagement, prospective customers can try the resources to experience the benefit of this community and available content. As we don't have any secrets we always treat potential customers the same way we treat our existing customers and grant full access during our product evaluations. It's a huge plus and helps make a more comfortable decision
  • Employees: We also use the community for internal discussion forums and information exchange. We used to have a different platform for that but decided to provide all relevant information through a single portal. The internal discussion forums are a big success.

Lesson #2: It Takes Time and Passion to Get a Forum Started
I remember the discussion I had with our CTO regarding open discussion forums. We would have to accept negative feedback that everyone - including our prospects - could read and risk lack of activity and with that giving the wrong impression that we have a very small user base that doesn't leverage the community.

Well - two years after that decision I can tell you that the small number of negative postings actually helped us, as we treated it as "constructive" feedback in order to make our product better. Postings from frustrated members who were not happy with a particular feature or release resulted in these problems being fixed and also created a more direct way of having our members influence the direction of the product. We introduced RFE (Request for Enhancement) forums where members can post their ideas. Through Up/Down-Votes we allow the community to tell us how important these RFEs are.

But it was a long a bumpy road to get people share their experience on how they use the product and also raise their complaints. We started with seeding questions or encouraging customers who had contacted us directly via email to use the forum instead. We started with one or two questions per week, now we are between four and five on average per day on both the customer-facing as well as internal forums - that's more than a tenfold increase. It also took a while for community members to start answering questions that other members asked. In the beginning it was our team that answered questions as fast as possible so that members saw the benefit of posting questions. The more members who were drawn to the forum the more likely it would be for other members to answering questions -> this is what really defines a community!!

Lesson #3: You Need to Measure Your Own Success
I already talked about some basic forms of measurement - how many blog posts we have, for example. However, it was critical as an organization to see whether the time spent actually paid off. That's why we built dashboards to monitor the activity on the Community Portal. I use these dashboards every week for reporting. The following focuses on forum activity where I am interested in the number of new posts and replies on our internal as well as customer-facing forums. I also get to see which types of users are reading our forums:

Our traditional forums show constant growth with spikes explained by special events. It is also great to see which users are consuming that content

Another critical metric is the number of registered members. We want to make it easy for customers to register and by looking at the numbers of registered customers, partners and AJAX Edition users we can see whether we grow our community base at least as fast as our customer base:

In case community growth is not aligned with the growth of our customer base we know we have to improve our registration process or even have a problem with our registration.

So - make sure you measure. Otherwise you won't know whether you are successful or not.

Lesson #4: Search Is Critical - What You Can't Find Isn't There
With more and more content on our community it becomes even more important for the content to be found. One way is to provide good navigation and structure of the content. The other option is to provide a good search capability. I have to admit that this is something we need improvement on. Even though the Search capability is good in our current implementation it can get better. We don't want members to say "I know I've seen this before but I don't remember where and I can't find it!" We also see that certain questions get asked over and over again.

For this reason we decided to invest in new search capabilities by looking at integrating our community with a Search Appliance that our company already owns. That will probably lower the number of new forum entries - but will subsequently increase the number of members who become successful faster because they can now find past forum posts with answers without having to ask the same questions over again.

Lesson #5: If You Are Global - Use a CDN and/or Lower Your Page Footprint
After getting acquired by a larger corporation that already did business in the APAC region, we found that User Experience could be improved. For example, images could be optimized (compressed, smaller resolution,...) and a CDN would help with more members from different geographical regions signing up. Looking at the UEM (User Experience Management) World Map showed us that our user experience in some of the APAC countries is lower than in EMEA or US:

The WorldMap highlights regions and the respective user experience. Certain countries in APAC show a higher level of frustrated users than others

Looking at one of the users that had a frustrating experience shows us that loading some of these pages takes up to 77s and several pages include JavaScript errors:

Easy root cause analysis for visitors that have a frustrating experience on our community. Need to make these pages more lightweight, put a CDN in that geographical region and fix these JavaScript errors for IE8

We try to watch these problems on a continuous basis. We get alerted on problems of slow pages or errors that happen and with that have the ability to fix these problems before they affect too many of our users. With that we make sure to keep our users happy and keep these red dots on the World Map to a minimum.

Lesson #6: You Need to Keep the Ball Rolling
It is hard to build a community - but it is almost as hard to keep it rolling. Once you have reached the critical mass where community members help each other out - it still requires you to play a very active part in moderating forums as well as constantly providing new and valuable content for the community (Best Practices, Tips & Tricks, White Papers,...). As we grew the number of forums on our community, we appointed different moderators for each forum to make sure that comments of the community continually get addressed in the absence of another community member doing it for us. This is one way we make sure that we keep the ball rolling.

Conclusion
If you want to build a good APM Community it takes several things: easily accessible and searchable content, a dedicated group of content creators, members and moderators to get it going and a system that allows you to measure your success as well as identify problems fast.

More Stories By Andreas Grabner

Andreas Grabner has more than a decade of experience as an architect and developer in the Java and .NET space. In his current role, Andi works as a Technology Strategist for Compuware and leads the Compuware APM Center of Excellence team. In his role he influences the Compuware APM product strategy and works closely with customers in implementing performance management solutions across the entire application lifecycle. He is a frequent speaker at technology conferences on performance and architecture-related topics, and regularly authors articles offering business and technology advice for Compuware’s About:Performance blog.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@ThingsExpo Stories
Things are being built upon cloud foundations to transform organizations. This CEO Power Panel at 15th Cloud Expo, moderated by Roger Strukhoff, Cloud Expo and @ThingsExpo conference chair, will address the big issues involving these technologies and, more important, the results they will achieve. How important are public, private, and hybrid cloud to the enterprise? How does one define Big Data? And how is the IoT tying all this together?
We certainly live in interesting technological times. And no more interesting than the current competing IoT standards for connectivity. Various standards bodies, approaches, and ecosystems are vying for mindshare and positioning for a competitive edge. It is clear that when the dust settles, we will have new protocols, evolved protocols, that will change the way we interact with devices and infrastructure. We will also have evolved web protocols, like HTTP/2, that will be changing the very core of our infrastructures. At the same time, we have old approaches made new again like micro-services...
The only place to be June 9-11 is Cloud Expo & @ThingsExpo 2015 East at the Javits Center in New York City. Join us there as delegates from all over the world come to listen to and engage with speakers & sponsors from the leading Cloud Computing, IoT & Big Data companies. Cloud Expo & @ThingsExpo are the leading events covering the booming market of Cloud Computing, IoT & Big Data for the enterprise. Speakers from all over the world will be hand-picked for their ability to explore the economic strategies that utility/cloud computing provides. Whether public, private, or in a hybrid form, clo...
SYS-CON Events announces a new pavilion on the Cloud Expo floor where WebRTC converges with the Internet of Things. Pavilion will showcase WebRTC and the Internet of Things. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the most profound change in personal and enterprise IT since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago. All major researchers estimate there will be tens of billions devices--computers, smartphones, tablets, and sensors – connected to the Internet by 2020. This number will continue to grow at a rapid pace for the next several decades.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Gridstore™, the leader in software-defined storage (SDS) purpose-built for Windows Servers and Hyper-V, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Gridstore™ is the leader in software-defined storage purpose built for virtualization that is designed to accelerate applications in virtualized environments. Using its patented Server-Side Virtual Controller™ Technology (SVCT) to eliminate the I/O blender effect and accelerate applications Gridsto...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Red Hat, the world's leading provider of open source solutions, will exhibit at Internet of @ThingsExpo, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Red Hat is the world's leading provider of open source software solutions, using a community-powered approach to reliable and high-performing cloud, Linux, middleware, storage and virtualization technologies. Red Hat also offers award-winning support, training, and consulting services. As the connective hub in a global network of enterprises, partners, a...
As the Internet of Things unfolds, mobile and wearable devices are blurring the line between physical and digital, integrating ever more closely with our interests, our routines, our daily lives. Contextual computing and smart, sensor-equipped spaces bring the potential to walk through a world that recognizes us and responds accordingly. We become continuous transmitters and receivers of data. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Andrew Bolwell, Director of Innovation for HP’s Printing and Personal Systems Group, will discuss how key attributes of mobile technology – touch input, senso...
The Internet of Things (IoT) is making everything it touches smarter – smart devices, smart cars and smart cities. And lucky us, we’re just beginning to reap the benefits as we work toward a networked society. However, this technology-driven innovation is impacting more than just individuals. The IoT has an environmental impact as well, which brings us to the theme of this month’s #IoTuesday Twitter chat. The ability to remove inefficiencies through connected objects is driving change throughout every sector, including waste management. BigBelly Solar, located just outside of Boston, is trans...
Connected devices and the Internet of Things are getting significant momentum in 2014. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Jim Hunter, Chief Scientist & Technology Evangelist at Greenwave Systems, will examine three key elements that together will drive mass adoption of the IoT before the end of 2015. The first element is the recent advent of robust open source protocols (like AllJoyn and WebRTC) that facilitate M2M communication. The second is broad availability of flexible, cost-effective storage designed to handle the massive surge in back-end data in a world where timely analytics...
Internet of @ThingsExpo Silicon Valley announced on Thursday its first 12 all-star speakers and sessions for its upcoming event, which will take place November 4-6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in California. @ThingsExpo, the first and largest IoT event in the world, debuted at the Javits Center in New York City in June 10-12, 2014 with over 6,000 delegates attending the conference. Among the first 12 announced world class speakers, IBM will present two highly popular IoT sessions, which will take place November 4-6, 2014 at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, Calif...
The Internet of Things (IoT) promises to evolve the way the world does business; however, understanding how to apply it to your company can be a mystery. Most people struggle with understanding the potential business uses or tend to get caught up in the technology, resulting in solutions that fail to meet even minimum business goals. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Jesse Shiah, CEO / President / Co-Founder of AgilePoint Inc., will show what is needed to leverage the IoT to transform your business. He will discuss opportunities and challenges ahead for the IoT from a market and tec...
SYS-CON Events announced today that TeleStax, the main sponsor of Mobicents, will exhibit at Internet of @ThingsExpo, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. TeleStax provides Open Source Communications software and services that facilitate the shift from legacy SS7 based IN networks to IP based LTE and IMS networks hosted on private (on-premise), hybrid or public clouds. TeleStax products include Restcomm, JSLEE, SMSC Gateway, USSD Gateway, SS7 Resource Adaptors, SIP Servlets, Rich Multimedia Services, Presence Services/RCS, Diame...
From a software development perspective IoT is about programming "things," about connecting them with each other or integrating them with existing applications. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Yakov Fain, co-founder of Farata Systems and SuranceBay, will show you how small IoT-enabled devices from multiple manufacturers can be integrated into the workflow of an enterprise application. This is a practical demo of building a framework and components in HTML/Java/Mobile technologies to serve as a platform that can integrate new devices as they become available on the market.
SYS-CON Events announced today that O'Reilly Media has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. O'Reilly Media spreads the knowledge of innovators through its books, online services, magazines, and conferences. Since 1978, O'Reilly Media has been a chronicler and catalyst of cutting-edge development, homing in on the technology trends that really matter and spurring their adoption by amplifying "faint signals" from the alpha geeks who are creating the future. An...
The Transparent Cloud-computing Consortium (abbreviation: T-Cloud Consortium) will conduct research activities into changes in the computing model as a result of collaboration between "device" and "cloud" and the creation of new value and markets through organic data processing High speed and high quality networks, and dramatic improvements in computer processing capabilities, have greatly changed the nature of applications and made the storing and processing of data on the network commonplace.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Aria Systems, the recurring revenue expert, has been named "Bronze Sponsor" of SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4-6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Aria Systems helps leading businesses connect their customers with the products and services they love. Industry leaders like Pitney Bowes, Experian, AAA NCNU, VMware, HootSuite and many others choose Aria to power their recurring revenue business and deliver exceptional experiences to their customers.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is going to require a new way of thinking and of developing software for speed, security and innovation. This requires IT leaders to balance business as usual while anticipating for the next market and technology trends. Cloud provides the right IT asset portfolio to help today’s IT leaders manage the old and prepare for the new. Today the cloud conversation is evolving from private and public to hybrid. This session will provide use cases and insights to reinforce the value of the network in helping organizations to maximize their company’s cloud experience.
As a disruptive technology, Web Real-Time Communication (WebRTC), which is an emerging standard of web communications, is redefining how brands and consumers communicate in real time. The on-going narrative around WebRTC has largely been around incorporating video, audio and chat functions to apps. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Alex Gouaillard, Founder and CTO of Temasys Communications, will look at a fourth element – data channels – and talk about its potential to move WebRTC beyond browsers and into the Internet of Things.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Gigaom Research has been named "Media Sponsor" of SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4-6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Ashar Baig, Research Director, Cloud, at Gigaom Research, will also lead a Power Panel on the topic "Choosing the Right Cloud Option." Gigaom Research provides timely, in-depth analysis of emerging technologies for individual and corporate subscribers. Gigaom Research's network of 200+ independent analysts provides new content daily that bridges the gap between break...
The Industrial Internet revolution is now underway, enabled by connected machines and billions of devices that communicate and collaborate. The massive amounts of Big Data requiring real-time analysis is flooding legacy IT systems and giving way to cloud environments that can handle the unpredictable workloads. Yet many barriers remain until we can fully realize the opportunities and benefits from the convergence of machines and devices with Big Data and the cloud, including interoperability, data security and privacy.