Impact 2008: SOA Jam – “Foster an External Community for Practitioners”

I’m going to use this post to record the discussion that generated during the Impact 2008 SOA Jam for my idea about “How IBM can foster an external community”. Now that Impact is over, I’d like to keep a copy of it’s point in time, and also allow any future readers to add comments.

Foster an external community for non-IBM practitioners
Dan Zrobok 10 Apr 2008


As a non-IBMer who works within the product stack, I find it next to impossible to get the information that I need to make the products a success. The goal is to have IBM create a vibrant external community that is equivalent to the internal one.

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.

1) Google.
2) DeveloperWorks
3) 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). 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.


SOA Consortium Community of Practice (2 Replies)

IBM was a Founding Sponsor of the SOA Consortium — now it has 6 sponsors, and over 90 members ( So it’s already external to IBM, though supported by IBM (and HP and Sun and Savant and Sparx and SAP and CISCO, note!).

This year-old group already has a thriving community of practice to share experiences. But I do like the idea of a completely open discussion group, perhaps leveraging a social network like LinkedIn.


LinkedIn experience

I have found LinkedIn to be extremely useful so far and have found lots of Digital Signage people there. The main problem I have with IBMers is that our solution doesn’t fit into any traditional IBM area and no one seems to think it falls into their category of responsibility. Spefically, we produce software that replaces traditional sound systems and opens up a whole new programmable and network controllable world to IT and SOA in all sorts of areas but no one understands where it can fit in. Here is our application:


It has to be more than ‘just another group’

The way I interpret IBM’s place in the market is that the company holds all the cards and all the information, especially when it comes to their own product stack.

Creating yet another community that only involves “people in the dark” isn’t going to get us anywhere. This is why my resolutions to the issue involve a more active stance from the company. Passive facilitation won’t solve the problem, but a commitment from IBM to get more active by increasing (technical) transparency will.

I didn’t mean this as anything against the SOA Consortium, I’m going to check out the links for sure. My issue as a day-to-day practitioner is that I feel like my hands are tied when I actually want to implement projects.

Status (0 Replies)

Status changed from “1. Peer review” to “2. Accepted by a catalyst”.

IBM Support Assistant – this tool will simplify your life! (0 Replies)

Have you haard about IBM Support Assistant, Ecplipsed based toold, or support desktop? First, it is FREE and available for download from here:

Second, this tool can be used to support ANY IBM software product. After downloading and installing the IBM Support Assistant, you then download product of your choice ploug-ins (you do it from the tool).

The IBM Support Assistant is a free local software serviceability workbench that helps you resolve questions and problems with IBM software products. The Support Assistant allows you to:

Search for an answer to your question or problem in many different locations at the same time.
Get speedy access to critical product information.
Run free troubleshooting and diagnostic tools on your troublesome application.
Shorten the amount of time it takes to resolve your problem with automated data gathering and submission.
Organize your troubleshooting efforts and allow one-stop access to all your problem determination needs.

Try it and you will see how simple it is to find information, etc.

IBM’s Internal SOA Community of 6000 (0 Replies)

This is a topic we have been considering for some time now. I lead the internal IBM SOA community of practice . I will look into this.

Pls follow-up with me on (Ali Arsanjani)

Twitter (1 Reply)

I’d like to have a strong Twitter connection in the Smart SOA Social Network. How many of you are using Twitter? Is there any interest in that linkage?


Just started twitter for the first time during Impact..

.. and I see a lot of usage of the #impact2008 hashtag ( such that I’m not a physical attendee but I feel like I know whats going on.

Author: dan


  1. I appreciate your thoughts on how to build a better community for practitioners. I have shared them with some folks who are working to achieve this very goal.

  2. Hi Dale,

    Thanks! If there is anything I can do, please feel free to send me an email. This is an issue that’s close to my heart 🙂

  3. Really good ideas here. We are addressing some of these (such as developers on the forums, open bug db, etc) in our IBM project, Project Zero ( (Which is the development community for the recently announced WebSphere sMash.)

  4. Hi Dan,

    Thanks for the kind words. What I am starting to notice is that the kind of external support you get varies based on the product. The community around a platform like eclipse is fantastic, vibrant and meets most of my desires from above. Contrast that with the community built around Process Server or Rational Application Developer. Same company, completely different external interaction models.

    The fact that Project Zero is one of the vibrant communities pulls me towards wanting to get involved and learn more and I think that is an effect that IBM undervalues currently across the board.

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