I’ve posted my idea for an External Practitioners Community to the Impact 2008 SOA Jam.
For those of you not inclined to participate, I’ve included the text below:
What would implementing this idea accomplish?
Currently, if I am a non-IBM practitioner on the WebSphere stack, I have about three ways to resolve an issue.
3) ibm.com support
4) open a PMR
Result #1 is insufficient as there just aren’t yet enough users out there sharing information.
DeveloperWorks is great, but I only get articles on topics that the authors find value in, not what I need to know. In addition, the turnaround for articles is very long (4+ months to get a topic approved).
ibm.com support pages are good if I know the exact technical reason for my exception trace. Most APARs though get published with titles that don’t reflect the situations of the problem.
PMR’s are great for me as a user but terrible for IBM as a company as someone now has to be dedicated to ‘single handedly’ resolving my problem. Most developers would prefer to be given the tools to problem solve on their own, not have to open a PMR and spend 2-3 weeks in resolution.
There was an external community filled with practitioners, it’s highly likely that I wouldn’t be the first person to run into the problem, and for the work of one reader with experience I may save myself and the IBM corporation significant time.
How would it work? How might it be implemented?
I have a list of ideas on how I believe the idea of an external community could be implemented.
1) A weekly external conference call for practitioners. This could begin as IBM-hosted and when the community hits critical mass, it could be offloaded.
2) Expose the PMR system to the web. Stop the charade of “My PMR is the only one in the world”. All I want from my product is to enable me to succeed for my customer. Give me the ability to see if what I’m running into has already been reported. As it stands now, I’ll spend 3-4 days explaining and re-explaining my problem to support before arriving at this stage.
3) Make developers available for an hourly chat on a rotating basis. Developers need more exposure to the actual users in the field. I say rotating because you don’t need the same people every week, but a once a month or two would be nice.
4) Officially support the DeveloperWorks forums. They’re hosted on an IBM server, but a lot of legitmate questions go unanswered. This leaves these people either disenfranchised that IBM doesn’t care, or to open a PMR. PMRs should be allowed to occur from the forum or monitored in some official capacity.
5) Feature Request System – Exposed. The turn around time from feature request to product implementation is proably on the order of two years. Most customers feel like it’s pointless to bother opening them. Let them see that the feature is being considered for inclusion, what level, or even a reason why it’s not valid or can’t be addressed. Stop treating us underprivileged citizens how don’t have a need to know.
6) Article Request System – I’d like to be able to both propose article topics and write my own article topics based on the demand from the community. Right now, I don’t see that capability anywhere.
7) External Product Wiki – Wikis are valuable centers of information, yet none exist for WebSphere. Or they do and are outdated. Lets get an official editor in there. Maybe even convert the infocenter docs for each release into a wiki format. Documentation is a living thing, shipping timeslices of it doesn’t solve cutting edge problems.
What are the benefits to the stakeholders of this idea?
I’ve written a post on my blog about what I think the benefits to IBM are. In summary, I believe that a thriving external practitioners community will lower support costs, increase product quality and enrich practitioners both internal and external.