Click here to close now.

Welcome!

Open Web Authors: Liz McMillan, Lori MacVittie, Gilad Parann-Nissany, Carmen Gonzalez, Mark R. Hinkle

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 been helping companies improve their application performance for 15+ years. He is a regular contributor within Web Performance and DevOps communities and a prolific speaker at user groups and conferences around the world. Reach him at @grabnerandi

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
VoxImplant has announced full WebRTC support in the newest versions of its Android SDK and iOS SDK. The updated SDKs, which enable audio and video calls on mobile devices, are now compatible with the WebRTC standard to allow any mobile app to communicate with WebRTC-enabled browsers, including Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Opera, and, when available, Microsoft Spartan. The WebRTC-updated SDKs represent VoxImplant's continued leadership in simplifying the development of real-time communications (RTC) services for app developers. VoxImplant (built by Zingaya, the real-time communication servi...
The IoT Bootcamp is coming to Cloud Expo | @ThingsExpo on June 9-10 at the Javits Center in New York. Instructor. Registration is now available at http://iotbootcamp.sys-con.com/ Instructor Janakiram MSV previously taught the famously successful Multi-Cloud Bootcamp at Cloud Expo | @ThingsExpo in November in Santa Clara. Now he is expanding the focus to Janakiram is the founder and CTO of Get Cloud Ready Consulting, a niche Cloud Migration and Cloud Operations firm that recently got acquired by Aditi Technologies. He is a Microsoft Regional Director for Hyderabad, India, and one of the f...
SYS-CON Events announced today that BroadSoft, the leading global provider of Unified Communications and Collaboration (UCC) services to operators worldwide, has been named “Gold Sponsor” of SYS-CON's WebRTC Summit, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. BroadSoft is the leading provider of software and services that enable mobile, fixed-line and cable service providers to offer Unified Communications over their Internet Protocol networks. The Company’s core communications platform enables the delivery of a range of enterprise and consumer calling...
SYS-CON Events announced today that GENBAND, a leading developer of real time communications software solutions, has been named “Silver Sponsor” of SYS-CON's WebRTC Summit, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. The GENBAND team will be on hand to demonstrate their newest product, Kandy. Kandy is a communications Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) that enables companies to seamlessly integrate more human communications into their Web and mobile applications - creating more engaging experiences for their customers and boosting collaboration and productiv...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Optimal Design, an Internet of Things solution provider, will exhibit at SYS-CON's Internet of @ThingsExpo, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Optimal Design is an award winning product development firm offering industrial design and engineering services to the consumer, medical, and defense markets.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Vicom Computer Services, Inc., a provider of technology and service solutions, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. They are located at booth #427. Vicom Computer Services, Inc. is a progressive leader in the technology industry for over 30 years. Headquartered in the NY Metropolitan area. Vicom provides products and services based on today’s requirements around Unified Networks, Cloud Computing strategies, Virtualization around Software defined Data Ce...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Ciqada will exhibit at SYS-CON's @ThingsExpo, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Ciqada™ makes it easy to connect your products to the Internet. By integrating key components - hardware, servers, dashboards, and mobile apps - into an easy-to-use, configurable system, your products can quickly and securely join the internet of things. With remote monitoring, control, and alert messaging capability, you will meet your customers' needs of tomorrow - today! Ciqada. Let your products take flight. For more inform...
What exactly is a cognitive application? In her session at 16th Cloud Expo, Ashley Hathaway, Product Manager at IBM Watson, will look at the services being offered by the IBM Watson Developer Cloud and what that means for developers and Big Data. She'll explore how IBM Watson and its partnerships will continue to grow and help define what it means to be a cognitive service, as well as take a look at the offerings on Bluemix. She will also check out how Watson and the Alchemy API team up to offer disruptive APIs to developers.
The 17th International Cloud Expo has announced that its Call for Papers is open. 17th International Cloud Expo, to be held November 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, brings together Cloud Computing, APM, APIs, Microservices, Security, Big Data, Internet of Things, DevOps and WebRTC to one location. With cloud computing driving a higher percentage of enterprise IT budgets every year, it becomes increasingly important to plant your flag in this fast-expanding business opportunity. Submit your speaking proposal today!
With IoT exploding, massive data will transform businesses with opportunities to monetize almost anything that can be measured. In this C-Level Roundtable Discussion at @ThingsExpo, Brendan O’Brien, Aria Systems Co-founder and Chief Evangelist, will lead an expert panel of consultants, thought leaders and practitioners who will look at these new monetization trends, discuss the implications, and detail lessons learned from their collective experience. Finally, the panel will point the way forward for enterprises who wish to leverage the resulting complex recurring revenue models, adding valu...
How is unified communications transforming the way businesses operate? In his session at WebRTC Summit, Arvind Rangarajan, Director of Product Marketing at BroadSoft, will discuss how to extend unified communications experience outside the enterprise through WebRTC. He will also review use cases across different industry verticals. Arvind Rangarajan is Director, Product Marketing at BroadSoft. He has over 19 years of experience in the telecommunications industry in various roles such as Software Development, Product Management and Product Marketing, applied across Wireless, Unified Communic...
Buzzword alert: Microservices and IoT at a DevOps conference? What could possibly go wrong? Join this panel of experts as they peel away the buzz and discuss the important architectural principles behind implementing IoT solutions for the enterprise. As remote IoT devices and sensors become increasingly intelligent, they become part of our distributed cloud environment, and we must architect and code accordingly. At the very least, you’ll have no problem filling in your buzzword bingo cards.
Internet of Things (IoT) will be a hybrid ecosystem of diverse devices and sensors collaborating with operational and enterprise systems to create the next big application. In their session at @ThingsExpo, Bramh Gupta, founder and CEO of robomq.io, and Fred Yatzeck, principal architect leading product development at robomq.io, will discuss how choosing the right middleware and integration strategy from the get-go will enable IoT solution developers to adapt and grow with the industry, while at the same time reduce Time to Market (TTM) by using plug and play capabilities offered by a robust I...
@ThingsExpo has been named the Top 5 Most Influential Internet of Things Brand by Onalytica in the ‘The Internet of Things Landscape 2015: Top 100 Individuals and Brands.' Onalytica analyzed Twitter conversations around the #IoT debate to uncover the most influential brands and individuals driving the conversation. Onalytica captured data from 56,224 users. The PageRank based methodology they use to extract influencers on a particular topic (tweets mentioning #InternetofThings or #IoT in this case) takes into account the number and quality of contextual references that a user receives.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Dyn, the worldwide leader in Internet Performance, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Dyn is a cloud-based Internet Performance company. Dyn helps companies monitor, control, and optimize online infrastructure for an exceptional end-user experience. Through a world-class network and unrivaled, objective intelligence into Internet conditions, Dyn ensures traffic gets delivered faster, safer, and more reliably than ever.
IoT is still a vague buzzword for many people. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Mike Kavis, Vice President & Principal Cloud Architect at Cloud Technology Partners, discussed the business value of IoT that goes far beyond the general public's perception that IoT is all about wearables and home consumer services. He also discussed how IoT is perceived by investors and how venture capitalist access this space. Other topics discussed were barriers to success, what is new, what is old, and what the future may hold. Mike Kavis is Vice President & Principal Cloud Architect at Cloud Technology Pa...
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...
The WebRTC Summit 2015 New York, to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York, NY, announces that its Call for Papers is open. Topics include all aspects of improving IT delivery by eliminating waste through automated business models leveraging cloud technologies. WebRTC Summit is co-located with 16th International Cloud Expo, @ThingsExpo, Big Data Expo, and DevOps Summit.
As Marc Andreessen says software is eating the world. Everything is rapidly moving toward being software-defined – from our phones and cars through our washing machines to the datacenter. However, there are larger challenges when implementing software defined on a larger scale - when building software defined infrastructure. In his session at 16th Cloud Expo, Boyan Ivanov, CEO of StorPool, will provide some practical insights on what, how and why when implementing "software-defined" in the datacenter.
While not quite mainstream yet, WebRTC is starting to gain ground with Carriers, Enterprises and Independent Software Vendors (ISV’s) alike. WebRTC makes it easy for developers to add audio and video communications into their applications by using Web browsers as their platform. But like any market, every customer engagement has unique requirements, as well as constraints. And of course, one size does not fit all. In her session at WebRTC Summit, Dr. Natasha Tamaskar, Vice President, Head of Cloud and Mobile Strategy at GENBAND, will explore what is needed to take a real time communications ...