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
The major cloud platforms defy a simple, side-by-side analysis. Each of the major IaaS public-cloud platforms offers their own unique strengths and functionality. Options for on-site private cloud are diverse as well, and must be designed and deployed while taking existing legacy architecture and infrastructure into account. Then the reality is that most enterprises are embarking on a hybrid cloud strategy and programs. In this Power Panel at 15th Cloud Expo (http://www.CloudComputingExpo.com), moderated by Ashar Baig, Research Director, Cloud, at Gigaom Research, Nate Gordon, Director of T...
The definition of IoT is not new, in fact it’s been around for over a decade. What has changed is the public's awareness that the technology we use on a daily basis has caught up on the vision of an always on, always connected world. If you look into the details of what comprises the IoT, you’ll see that it includes everything from cloud computing, Big Data analytics, “Things,” Web communication, applications, network, storage, etc. It is essentially including everything connected online from hardware to software, or as we like to say, it’s an Internet of many different things. The difference ...

ARMONK, N.Y., Nov. 20, 2014 /PRNewswire/ --  IBM (NYSE: IBM) today announced that it is bringing a greater level of control, security and flexibility to cloud-based application development and delivery with a single-tenant version of Bluemix, IBM's platform-as-a-service. The new platform enables developers to build ap...

Cloud Expo 2014 TV commercials will feature @ThingsExpo, which was launched in June, 2014 at New York City's Javits Center as the largest 'Internet of Things' event in the world.
An entirely new security model is needed for the Internet of Things, or is it? Can we save some old and tested controls for this new and different environment? In his session at @ThingsExpo, New York's at the Javits Center, Davi Ottenheimer, EMC Senior Director of Trust, reviewed hands-on lessons with IoT devices and reveal a new risk balance you might not expect. Davi Ottenheimer, EMC Senior Director of Trust, has more than nineteen years' experience managing global security operations and assessments, including a decade of leading incident response and digital forensics. He is co-author of t...
Explosive growth in connected devices. Enormous amounts of data for collection and analysis. Critical use of data for split-second decision making and actionable information. All three are factors in making the Internet of Things a reality. Yet, any one factor would have an IT organization pondering its infrastructure strategy. How should your organization enhance its IT framework to enable an Internet of Things implementation? In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, James Kirkland, Chief Architect for the Internet of Things and Intelligent Systems at Red Hat, described how to revolutioniz...
Technology is enabling a new approach to collecting and using data. This approach, commonly referred to as the "Internet of Things" (IoT), enables businesses to use real-time data from all sorts of things including machines, devices and sensors to make better decisions, improve customer service, and lower the risk in the creation of new revenue opportunities. In his General Session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Dave Wagstaff, Vice President and Chief Architect at BSQUARE Corporation, discuss the real benefits to focus on, how to understand the requirements of a successful solution, the flow of ...
The security devil is always in the details of the attack: the ones you've endured, the ones you prepare yourself to fend off, and the ones that, you fear, will catch you completely unaware and defenseless. The Internet of Things (IoT) is nothing if not an endless proliferation of details. It's the vision of a world in which continuous Internet connectivity and addressability is embedded into a growing range of human artifacts, into the natural world, and even into our smartphones, appliances, and physical persons. In the IoT vision, every new "thing" - sensor, actuator, data source, data con...
"BSQUARE is in the business of selling software solutions for smart connected devices. It's obvious that IoT has moved from being a technology to being a fundamental part of business, and in the last 18 months people have said let's figure out how to do it and let's put some focus on it, " explained Dave Wagstaff, VP & Chief Architect, at BSQUARE Corporation, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Nov 4-6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Focused on this fast-growing market’s needs, Vitesse Semiconductor Corporation (Nasdaq: VTSS), a leading provider of IC solutions to advance "Ethernet Everywhere" in Carrier, Enterprise and Internet of Things (IoT) networks, introduced its IStaX™ software (VSC6815SDK), a robust protocol stack to simplify deployment and management of Industrial-IoT network applications such as Industrial Ethernet switching, surveillance, video distribution, LCD signage, intelligent sensors, and metering equipment. Leveraging technologies proven in the Carrier and Enterprise markets, IStaX is designed to work ac...
"There is a natural synchronization between the business models, the IoT is there to support ,” explained Brendan O'Brien, Co-founder and Chief Architect of Aria Systems, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at the 15th International Cloud Expo®, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
C-Labs LLC, a leading provider of remote and mobile access for the Internet of Things (IoT), announced the appointment of John Traynor to the position of chief operating officer. Previously a strategic advisor to the firm, Mr. Traynor will now oversee sales, marketing, finance, and operations. Mr. Traynor is based out of the C-Labs office in Redmond, Washington. He reports to Chris Muench, Chief Executive Officer. Mr. Traynor brings valuable business leadership and technology industry expertise to C-Labs. With over 30 years' experience in the high-tech sector, John Traynor has held numerous...
Bit6 today issued a challenge to the technology community implementing Web Real Time Communication (WebRTC). To leap beyond WebRTC’s significant limitations and fully leverage its underlying value to accelerate innovation, application developers need to consider the entire communications ecosystem.
The 3rd International @ThingsExpo, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that it is now accepting Keynote Proposals. 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.
The Internet of Things is not new. Historically, smart businesses have used its basic concept of leveraging data to drive better decision making and have capitalized on those insights to realize additional revenue opportunities. So, what has changed to make the Internet of Things one of the hottest topics in tech? In his session at @ThingsExpo, Chris Gray, Director, Embedded and Internet of Things, discussed the underlying factors that are driving the economics of intelligent systems. Discover how hardware commoditization, the ubiquitous nature of connectivity, and the emergence of Big Data a...
Almost everyone sees the potential of Internet of Things but how can businesses truly unlock that potential. The key will be in the ability to discover business insight in the midst of an ocean of Big Data generated from billions of embedded devices via Systems of Discover. Businesses will also need to ensure that they can sustain that insight by leveraging the cloud for global reach, scale and elasticity.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Windstream, a leading provider of advanced network and cloud communications, has been named “Silver Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9–11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York, NY. Windstream (Nasdaq: WIN), a FORTUNE 500 and S&P 500 company, is a leading provider of advanced network communications, including cloud computing and managed services, to businesses nationwide. The company also offers broadband, phone and digital TV services to consumers primarily in rural areas.
SYS-CON Events announced today that IDenticard 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. IDenticard™ is the security division of Brady Corp (NYSE: BRC), a $1.5 billion manufacturer of identification products. We have small-company values with the strength and stability of a major corporation. IDenticard offers local sales, support and service to our customers across the United States and Canada. Our partner network encompasses some 300 of the world's leading systems integrators and security s...
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...
Cloud Expo 2014 TV commercials will feature @ThingsExpo, which was launched in June, 2014 at New York City's Javits Center as the largest 'Internet of Things' event in the world. The next @ThingsExpo will take place November 4-6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center, in Santa Clara, California. Since its launch in 2008, Cloud Expo TV commercials have been aired and CNBC, Fox News Network, and Bloomberg TV. Please enjoy our 2014 commercial.