The State of the Community

Dear readers, dear community members,

As times goes by, then we also have to realize that we are not in "the good old days" anymore. This year is DUG (before that NOLUG's) 14th Birthday! And things have changed. Since our start the community has changed a lot. When I started this website in 1995, we basically had a monopoly on the internet, as the only Navision Community. That's not the way it is today.

The Competition

In the days of Navision Software, end-users were not allowed to receive any direct communication from Navision. Communities where not allowed, but accepted (and in some not 100% official ways supported). Today that's different. Not only have Microsoft finally opened up and have their own end-user oriented community sites and their end-user support site Customer Source. Microsoft is also awarding the Community Leaders (me included) with the Most Valuable Professional (MVP) title.

Today there are also many other great sites. In the good old days of our old site navision.net, we got a little brother MyNavision.net in 1999. This site is what later became mibuso.com. In the first years it was not much more than a great site to download Navision "stuff". Their forum did basically not exist. Today we must admit that DUG is number two and mibuso.com is number one, as the "Community Leader Site".

But you maybe also remember the slogan of the worlds #2 car rental company AVIS: We try harder! And that is basically what we do at DUG. We try very much to compete in a "market", where most of our competitors today have several full time employees to maintain their sites. We are still only a non-profit (our ads and sponsors just covers our expenses, for servers, software and traffic) with no employees. Neither I nor any of our moderators are getting paid for what they do.

The nature of the community has also changed

10-15 years ago all the community sites were based on the "forum" philosophy. Actually this was going back 20 years, before the internet, you had different BBS (bulletin board systems) systems, which you connected directly to with a modem and a dial-up via the phone line. You posted questions, and someone else answered. It was simple and easy. Usually just a few different forums. So all you need was to follow them was just to follow these one or two sites and forums.

Today many of the community leaders "JUST" post in their own blogs, and communicate only with those who comment their entries or they comment on other community leaders blog entries. We have many of the best blogs hosted here on dynamicsuser.net (Waldo, Gaspode, Stryk, Kine, Singleton and Marq's blogs etc.), so don't get me wrong, I still think that blogs are great. But many of them are hosted in many different locations, and just finding them is sometimes challenging. So some of them actually become their own islands.

Another problem is maybe also the quality of the posts. If we take the list I mentioned before (Waldo etc.), then the quality of these posts is very high. On top of that they are all also awarded with the Microsoft MVP title. They are the among the top 10 community leaders!

I think this actually scares of some of the beginners. They see these leaders. All with 10, 15 or even 20 years experience in the community. Why should they be noticed as the ones who always ask the same stupid questions and always getting told to "use the search function". So many of them just stay out.

But many people ARE USING the search function. In fact most almost 60 of our visitors are coming directly from Google. So they are actually doing their search directly on Google and then just looking up the page they are interested in, before they move on to another site, which maybe give them a bit more information about their problem. So most of the visitors at DUG, don't really stay for very long and are not what you in marketing would call a loyal customer.

Maybe this is good? Well I don't really know. I think that in the long run, then it will cause that most of the enthusiastic community members will lose their enthusiasm, when nobody shows any interests in their forums and blog posts. And if this happens then who really looses are the users. And of cause Microsoft, who maybe will realize all the value they are really getting for free from the community.

Comment List
  • I'm really agree it. There are so many different sources. The NAV is an Integrated system... but the forums and knowledgement are not!

  • Hi Eric,

    It’s funny, I was thinking about the different communities (as I am a member of three) lately and my opinion is that DUG is unique and extremely valuable. The important points are:

    • The DUG upgrade, in my opinion, has been a huge success and user interface is top notch. I particularly like the “Verified Answer” idea.

    • DUG’s categorization tends to encourage more beginners to post having their own section and reduces the amount of people apologizing (my personal pet hate – as we all had to start somewhere ) about starting as ironically that what we all want is fresh blood.

    • The E-Mail notification with the reply text is unique (to the three I’m a member of) and means you don’t have to follow link to get the info.

    • Microsoft own community forum has very poor footfall even though it’s been heavily promoted in Convergence, etc. I think people are afraid of getting the company line.

    Being the best is not about having the most members/posts – it’s doing thing correctly. If it’s any consolation DUG has gone from the last to the first user group I open.

    Don’t lose heart and keep up the good work !

  • Hi Dave,

    Thank you very much for your comments. Sometimes something very good comes out of running a standard solution (ex. Community Server or Navision!) Wink

    It's what you say about beginners, a few years ago we had really the same issues. Many new users asking the same questions again and again. And some of the more senior users was getting quite tired of that. Having the beginners forum, really calmed them down. Now it's very seldom that I ask someone to USE SEARCH. And looking at the website statistics reports, then I can see that search is used a lot. That's also why I invested the time in installed the new improved Enterprise Search Engine from Telligent. Much faster and more precise searches. We are actually running the exact same software for both searches and the community as Microsoft are doing on their own community/forum site.

    The real question is now where we should go next. What should we spend our time on improving? We are not a big organization which can spend lots of money doing market research, so asking here is one way to do it instead.

  • Hi Erick,

    I think i am old already... It was quite difficult for me to switch from previous interface to new one and i noticed that this was the reason why i start getting to the community less often.

    I think for new user homepage will look overcrowded… KISS – “keep it simple stupid” is very powerful methodology for WEB communities… I think we need to decide – are we more Forum, Blog or Download site and make it more clear for the “beginner” user.  

    But this is only my opinion… old guy who likes to go to the same (but good) restaurant each week and wear the same close.

  • Thank you Val, your comments are appriciated.

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