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As use of our product grows internationally we are beginning to see participation our our community by users whose first language is not always English and who may not even speak English proficiently.  Catering to them in a way that balances their needs with a goal to driven engagement in one global community is turning out to be a big challenge.


For now we have created user groups within our community that focus on the needs of Spanish speaking users, Norwegian speakers, etc.  As we expand southward in the Americas we anticipate that Spanish will be our second most prevalent primary language of our users.  We're just starting to get people posting in forums, etc around the community in Spanish and have so far just responded in kind wherever they post.  In the system settings under Locale, we enabled multi-language search and set "en" and "es" as allowed language codes.


We currently have a hidden sub-space español for that we'd like turn on eventually that we would then move the current Español group into.  Challenges that we are currently thinking about include:

  • UI - can we set navigation links, etc to a specific localization per sub-space?
  • Search - we'd a way for Spanish and English language search results not to invade each other's search results.  We can use a custom html search widget to search only one sub-space or the other but is there a way to control global search by sub-space.  Also, we'd rather get away from widgets if possible.
  • We use a program called Screensteps, made by Blue Mango, to manage our product documentation.  Our product changes in production every three weeks so keeping all the guides and release notes up to date is really important.  Currently we have an integration that pushes updates in the English Screensteps site into a sub-account as Jive documents.  Español documentation lives in a separate ScreenSteps site.  We don't think pushing from one ScreenSteps site into a Jive sub-space while pushing from a second ScreenSteps site into a second sub-account will be a problem but it hasn't actually been tested yet.


As our company continues to localize we are acquiring people from across our Client Success division who speak Spanish fluently (support, account reps, integration specialists).  As we think about internationalizing community I'm curious to learn more about how others have proceeded with this?

About a month ago, I wrote Ideas for Instructure, which described our process at a high level.  After speaking with Deepti Patibandla about our process and some of our specific challenges I thought I'd share a more step-by-step description of our process now and some the things we'd like to do in the future.


We provide Canvas LMS as software as a service.  Canvas is cloud based, agile, and changes in production every three weeks.  Anyone in the world with a Canvas login (including free users) can come to our community and suggest an idea for improving Canvas.  Once a month, all the ideas that are not duplicates or something that hasn't already been voted on and responded to by our product team, opens for vote.  Any idea that gets a net 100 votes moves into a stage where our Product Managers will formally respond to it.  Sometimes they say, yes, this thing is already in development.  Sometimes they say, no, we won't build it and here is why.  Most often they say, that they like the idea and will file it away for when we refactor that area of the product.   Any idea that is open for vote for three months without getting 100 net positive votes is archived.  People can resubmit ideas that get archived for lack of votes but their vote count starts fresh for the next voting round.  Some times an idea's popularity will increase over time.  You can learn more about our process, if you are interested, at:

  1. What is the feature development process for Canvas?
  2. How does the voting process work for feature ideas?
  3. do I create a new feature idea?


Some of our challenges:

  1. Its complicated for us -
    1. we do a lot of manual opening and closing of idea voting, tagging by user role, new vs modify and product area. 
    2. Many newly submitted ideas are not complete or are duplicates
    3. Irrelevant ideas create clutter and noise

  2. Its complicated for users who, if they want to stay current, must read 100s of ideas each month and search across more than 3700 ideas


Ideation Features we would love to have:

  1. Ability to affect (open/close) cohorts of ideas all together
  2. Idea brackets or voting rounds - everyone gets one vote on all ideas and then in round two, gets to vote again on only the top however many ideas
  3. Vote allowance - one user can only vote so many times in a month for example
  4. Point system - each idea gets a point value and a given user can 'spend' a given allowance of points
  5. Topic related discussions and ideas - for instance we could say that we are getting ready to refactor a certain area of the product and anyone can submit discussions or ideas related to that area.  There could be a description of the area with the top ideas and discussions related to it that could auto sort by vote count or comment totals scrolling down below the description.
  6. Non-global idea stages - let us use ideas differently in different spaces.

Avi Goldberg recently publish Ideas for Jive | You can't always get what you want...., which got me thinking about our own process (as well as going to the web to this check out ).

Screenshot 2016-03-04 14.29.10.png


Good products usually start with an idea that is simple but makes people’s lives better in some way.  Early on, one or a few people work to make that vision a reality.  In a software startupenvironment, early employees and clients talk frequently. It is relatively easy to chart a course and decide how much effort should go into potentially groundbreaking new functionality, incremental feature improvement, and fixing bugs.  If a project is good (and lucky) the number of new ideas and competing priorities both increase as the project gains critical mass. Individual sparks come from many sources and often take more than one strike to ignite. As time goes on, dedicated product people are needed to gather these sparks together and coax them into a blaze.


At Instructure, user input has always been an important part of how we determine our priorities.  Being open and listening to the people who use our products is a big part of our culture. Millions of people around the world now use Canvas, and the ideas that come from our customers are as important now as they ever have been.


These ideas come in from multiple channels but one major conduit is the feature idea forum in the Canvas Community. Every month around 750 ideas are submitted and evaluated by thousands of Canvas users from around the world. Without the forum and crowdsourcing help from community members we couldn’t possibly hope to thoroughly evaluate and prioritize all of the ideas that come in.


Screenshot 2016-03-04 14.22.01.pngThe process at its core is fairly simple. Anyone in the world with a Canvas account can suggest an idea.  All new ideas are put up for vote, with one new cohort opening each month. Anyone can add one vote up or down on each idea.  If an idea gains a net 100 votes within three months, it moves on in the process.  Any idea that doesn’t get 100 votes is archived (although users are free to re-submit an idea for another run).  As soon as an idea reaches the 100 vote threshold it is formally assigned to a product person who will research it, determine how much work it would require and how it fits with other goals.  About five percent of the ideas originally submitted make it through to this stage, allowing our product managers to focus on the ideas with the most community support.  Taken collectively, all the ideas submitted, along with the comments, questions and use cases added by other users constitutes a body of reference knowledge that helps us to understand the diverse needs of Canvas users when prioritizing upcoming work and future projects.


Getting 100 votes does not guarantee that an idea will be developed, but forum ideas are one of several key sources of input for our Product team (remember the sparks coming from many sources?).  No process is perfect. We’re constantly re-evaluating the model.  But this process is open to everyone, including you. We invite you to come help make Canvas better.


New User Message

Posted by scottwdennis Feb 12, 2016

At the request of a field admin we wrote the following welcome/description message.  I thought the format or level of specificity might help others and so am posting it here.


I initially posted it on my blog at:

Scott Dennis's Blog: What is the Canvas Community? | Canvas Community


Perhaps you recently learned that your institution will be switching from your old learning management system to Canvas LMS.  Perhaps you have also heard people talking about Canvas Community.  If you are a teacher or professor you might be asking yourself, ‘What does this mean for me?”


In the Canvas Community, you can:


Find answers. Quickly find answers to questions you might have about Canvas and how people use it.  You’ll find 1000s of Guides articles and videos. We keep them up to date as Canvas changes.  You’ll also find thousands of your peers, including Canvas Coaches, ready and waiting to answer questions and share best practices. 


Join groups. There are dozens of user groups in the community that you can join.  You might join a group for people who teach the same subjects that you do, or a group for a specific user type such as Canvas Admins or Instructional Designers.  You might want to ask people in groups how they use Canvas and other technology in their own teaching.  What works especially well? What is challenging?


Share ideas. As you begin using Canvas, you might have an idea about how to make the software better.  You can submit these ideas in a special forum and read through ideas submitted by other Canvas users.  By voting ideas up or down, you can help shape the future of Canvas. Our Product team watches the Community closely and a majority of the new features can capabilities that we deliver begin as ideas submitted in the community.


Some people never visit the Canvas Community.  Others come once or twice for one specific fact or piece of information and then never come back.  Still others come to find that participating in the Community to be an integral part of their success with teaching and learning in Canvas.  No matter what your needed level of engagement is, the Community will be there for you.

Response to2016 CMAD Love to Jive Community Managers

At Adam Mertz and Becky Leung


At Instructure, Jive is the medium for the relationship with our customers and them with each other.  Individual customer success managers, and to some extent sales and product people own relationships with individual customers but the relationship as a whole lives in Community.


Clients can find answers, share ideas and join groups:

Screenshot 2016-01-29 15.33.28.png


In 2015, as we implemented Jive, our community grew from about 3 - 500 active participants with about 75 contributors to have over 50k registered users with a peak during our busy season of about 13k active members and almost 1000 contributors:

Screenshot 2016-01-28 12.43.46.png


Our Community and Product teams (Prod-mmunity) get the best, most popular ideas, as crowd sourced by the community and put the best ones into development:

Screenshot 2016-01-29 15.12.17.png


Over the same time period the total number of page views hitting our site increased but the percentage of "non-guides page views" that is page views in parts of the community other than on our user documentation guides increased as a faster rate:

Screenshot 2016-01-29 15.40.10.png


Looking ahead to 2016 we plan to dig into the rich trove of data in Jive and data warehouse it with other sources of data to hopefully learn a lot more about our community members - how they use our product and what makes them tick and use that information to drive a better engagement strategy.

Does your external community include a product development component?  How do you include developers?


Our external community is a place for users of our cloud based learning management system; Canvas.  We have places in the community designed for a variety of users but if we had to narrow the focus to just one role our target demographic would be someone we refer to as the "Field Admin."  Some of the institutions that employ Canvas are large enough to have dedicated and diverse eLearning support staff organizations with differentiated roles.  Others have one person acting as both head cook and bottle washer, often as an additional duty, to perform all administrative functions and support for their LMS instance. These field admins, then, may be working in isolation or part of a local team.  Our goal is to create spaces and groups that cater to all, regardless of how deeply they have the time to engage.


The role of developer can also have a fair amount of variation.  We have product and engineering folks working inside our company to develop and improve Canvas.  We have developers who download the code base of Canvas, which is licensed open source, so that they can run it locally and in some cases contribute back improvements to the core product.  And we have people, working outside the company who develop integrations and works with Canvas APIs.


Our company provides or supports different opportunities for different developer and admin sub-groups. We have a general admin group and a group specifically for external developers, many of whom are creating integrations or doing cool things with the APIs.  There is also an open source developer community on github that exists for a sometimes different crowd. There has been mention in this thread about engaging internal engineers and product folks with customers via community.  There are exceptions but in general our employees also do not have the time or bandwidth to hangout in the community in general.  Instead we have a more formal ideation process where ideas are suggested and crowd-source prioritized by the community at large and then our community and product folks (Prod-mmunity) engage with those ideas with a formalized interaction plan.


Do you use Jive as the main hub of your developer community?  Or are there good reasons to have a separate website with Jive focused on just the discussion board / collaboration features?

~Yes and no.  Our developer group in Jive is picking up steam but there are also good reasons for us to use Github as our software is OS and we have an active group of OS developers


How do you use spaces versus groups for organizing your content when you have a large number of products / APIs?

~We use more than one instance of Jive to support multiple products/platforms.  We have internal and external facing spaces in our main community.  We have many groups in several spaces.  In general we use spaces to control settings and permissions and different groups for people who have differing interests, and needs - spaces are the landscape and groups are for the people in the landscape.


Do you also have an internal developer community?  If so, how do you keep from overwhelming your internal developers by giving them too many places to go?

~Our internal developers don't use Jive.  They have other platforms and ways of communicating that pre-date our external community platform.


How do you incent your internal developers to spend time in your external community?  Especially when their managers have set aggressive coding deadlines...and they just don't have time.  What about your professional services teams?  These folks are the practitioners that likely have very strong experiences to share, but due to billable utilization targets they often don't have the luxury of time to answer questions or write blogs.

~ We don't directly.  Community Managers and Product Managers and marketers have externally facing roles.  Developers do occasionally participate in promotions (Part I and Part II) and claim rewards for completing development projects identified as high priority by the community


What type of 3rd-party integrations (such as GitHub4Jive ) are useful to consider?

~We use our LMS as the idp for SSO with our community.  The Zendesk integration is about to get a lot more important to us.  We have an integration for our documentation software, Screensteps by Blue Mango, to push content into JiveX


To summarize we have found that it makes sense for us to encourage different kinds of developers to participate in different ways and spaces in our community as opposed to shooting for a one size fits all approach.


Online Community

Posted by scottwdennis Dec 11, 2014

People are communal by nature.  How different is the act of joining an online community from joining an on-ground club or social network? Is the way people interact in online communities versus on-ground changing the way we teach and learn or are changing in online community participation and in education simply correlative? 


Over the past ten years education in America is begun to change in dramatic ways, with some using a "guide on the side vs sage on the stage" analogy to describe how students increasingly expect to be a part if of the active construction of knowledge and meaning rather than only being passive recipients of distilled wisdom. During the same time interval, online education has grown exponentially while traditional participation rates have remained static or declined?


Is it possible that the dramatic increase in online community activity rather than individuals more often relying on traditional documentation and one to one interaction with support technicians could be a reflect a similar trend in how people want to find information about the products and services they use?

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