We've deployed Jive at our organisation about a year back and I must say the community uptake has been phenomenal. If the activity stream is much to go by, it zips past me before I know it. We've got a great team of community managers, several engaged users in the community, brilliant exec sponsorship and excellent leadership from the ground up. There is one problem though - email.
We're primarily a developer centric company - it's safe to say that 70% of our audience is absolutely die-hard software-technologists. Traditionally developers are quite used to the mailing lists. Quoting from Jono Bacon's Art of Community:
"Software developers generally prefer content to be delivered directly to them. They are generally most comfortable with mailing lists and RSS feeds (updated content from websites and online resources) and don’t like to have to refresh a browser to see if new content exists. This is part of why many (typically western) developers don’t get on very well with forums."
Not surprisingly, several developer communities run on mailing lists already - open source projects, user groups and the like. This basically means that most developers are used to a set of behaviours when it comes to organising their community discussions by email, inline/ trim posting, cross-posting, formatting code online and the like. This is where Jive is coming out a bit inadequate, because for developers who live their life on other communities related to their craft by email, this is a completely different collaboration experience. To add to it, Jive has a bunch of problems related to email interoperability:
- can't crosspost emails to various groups
- can't bottom post on emails or post inline, because Jive requires the user to top-post - this makes deep technical discussions around code snippets quite tough
- creating discussions by email is quite tough because
- Jive email addresses are quite cryptic to type out: firstname.lastname@example.org for example
- Jive drops all HTML formatting that comes through email
- every new message on Jive comes through only with the top posted new message but misses the prior context which makes it difficult to forward over the conversation to another group - in that technical discussions can get quite silo'd - quite the opposite of what we'd like. Moreover, Jive drops the detail in forwarded emails since it trims out content below the email headers (by design).
- if someone responds to a thread on the web interface, it doesn't catalogue back on his email thus making the email conversation view itself miss important detail.
In addition, email is quite friendly and ubiquitous - we aren't getting rid of it anytime soon and people definitely look at it every day. Everyone's phone's configured with email and it's a great solution (with offline capability) for our traveling consultants who are always on the road.
Now traditional wisdom would say that we conform to the behaviours of our users instead of trying to have them conform to our mental model; but we don't want to lose our biggest community by letting them move back to a mailing list - which they might be quite happy with. The domino effect from here could be that several other communities follow suit and our social business platform becomes a graveyard. On the other hand, having these conversations on an open platform where users can be part of discussions without necessarily joining a group is quite valuable. In addition it helps conversations sit in the same context as content (blogposts and documents) and brings a nice, integrated approach to learning in the enterprise.
So, here are some questions I have for the group:
- Are you facing similar problems when facilitating a primarily developer centric community?
- What strategies do you suggest for the situation I've outlined?
- What technology solutions could we implement to bring the email and Jive user experiences closer? Have you deployed anything of the sort? I noticed on the EMC2 case study that they're deploying a Jive-mailing list bridge solution. Are there other software consultancies out there using Jive who are trying something of this nature?
- How do engage your developer centric community if you manage one?
This is perhaps the next big challenge on our social business journey - so I'd really appreciate your responses.