Thought I would just quickly update you with our plan for core releases of Lithium-JX moving forward.
Cloud (2016.3.10.4 at present):
Our plan is to release updates to the Cloud platform on a quarterly cadence, with a new naming scheme that makes more sense. These releases will not have any new features in them, but will have bug fixes that are decided to be critical by the Engineering and Support teams. The first of these releases (2018.7) is tentatively scheduled for the end of July, pending our ability to release and upgrade Cloud instances on our own.
We do not plan to release any more versions of Hosted and On-Prem. We have just released 8.1.0 and 9.0.4 which have key security fixes and GDPR features, and our plan is to have those versions be our last for HOP. If customers are running into bugs on a HOP version, and the bug is considered to be business critical, we will try to fix the bug in the latest HOP release and assist in backporting to whatever version you are running.
Let me know if there are any questions about any of the above.
I don't think any single person in this Lithium JX community is a stranger to the pain points of the original Jive Community Manager Reports. As your single native out-of-the-box solution on the original Jive-x community platform, the Community Manager Report plugin offers only an ultimately meager window into the success of your community.
At SolarWinds, we've been playing with and finding creative ways to show community statistics and raise internal awareness about our community's value to our leadership teams. I noticed a tremendous amount of frustration about accessible analytics this week at the Austin Lithium Customer Advisory Board meeting, so I'm here to share! I should probably add a painful disclaimer that many cloud-based communities may not have access to add the same functionality.
SolarWinds has built their overall web philosophy around a container-based layering. Our web properties are all housed within a parent container we manager through Adobe Dynamic Tag Management (DTM). This container allows us to add event-based and page load rules to pages. We then built some basic analytics code to capture whenever an action or page load is completed. We then have the ability to track all activity occurring within THWACK in a semi-standard Adobe Analytics dashboard.
Depending on who you are, this either sounds easy but isn't easy, or sounds difficult and is difficult. If there's one lesson you should be able to take away, it's that thinking outside the box can get you the data you need. Don't let the generic platform dictate your ability to defend the work you do.
Side note: DTM also allows us some additional page load opportunities to deploy social retargeting pixels, and some fun marketing tools like munchkin codes. This way, visitors to specific portions of our site can have Facebook and LinkedIn ads displayed to them which speak directly to some of the product pages they were peeking at on THWACK. Munchkin codes, on the other hand, auto-populate any available Marketo data.
2. CMP Code URL Appending
Yeah. You read that right. We love our acronyms. What this translates to, is that we add a code to our URLs when a user visits THWACK. If anything they visit is related to a specific marketing campaign, the CMP code tells us at the time of a product trial download or purchase what from THWACK triggered the purchase. Why is this important? We can attribute all business the community helps close. Hello ROI.
Apologies for not being able to go super in-depth. It's part of our secret sauce, but I wanted to at least tell you there are more options out there than guessing analytics.
Here's a reminder of how terrible the Community Manager Reports are, just in case you've been avoiding them.
I like to think SolarWinds has a pretty solid corporate sense of humor, especially surrounding that little four-letter word: GDPR. From the placard on the door of my boss's office reading "GDPR Readiness Valedictorian" to the various satirical Game of Thrones "GDPR is Coming" knockoff stickers you can find in various cubes, it's hard to miss the ominous feeling.
Don't feel dread, get read...y. Get ready. GDPR doesn't have to be painful, but it's also safe to say it can't be a one-size-fits-all solution. What you need to do is get yourself a plan. Plans solve problems, prevent breakdowns in communication, and (most importantly) cover you, your community, and your company's **bleep** in the scenario that you do eventually come across a request to be forgotten, or a request for data portability.
Oh, yeah, those. If you're catching up on the Geedz (pronounced "jeedz" - it's something only I call GDPR, but feel free to help it catch on), the General Data Protection Regulation entitles European Union citizens to certain rights with their data. Of which, things like the right to be forgotten and the right to data portability are covered.
Now, in the words of any good Texan, "I ain't got no legal expertise, so y'all will want to consult yer company legal teams on this."
To me, there are a couple of steps you can go through to make this easier than starting from scratch:
Meet with your company's legal team. They're busy people, but they'll appreciate you being proactive about this. As with all laws, GDPR is up to interpretation. Some companies will opt to read the law in its strictest form, some may be a little lax. Your legal team will be able to give you guidance as to how your company will comply.
Complete a discovery and write everything down. What systems are you using? What private information do those systems capture and store?
Make a plan. Given how your company wants to comply with GDPR, what systems you're using, and what information those systems have, how are you going to comply with the various facets of GDPR? If you want an example of a plan, I posted mine here for you.
I guess you can party, at this point.
I know this isn't migration-related, but I hate seeing y'all suffer. Welcome to 'compliance'!
There comes a time in every man/woman/undefined's life when we succumb to the masochists who fill the desks in our accounting departments and set our annual budgets. I'm using the term "masochist" with adoration. These people sign my paychecks.
#TheGreatMigration is no exception. SolarWinds has always been incredibly generous in ensuring we have enough budget to continually grow and develop our THWACK community. Not all companies are as generous - either they struggle with the concept of a community investment having significant ROI, or they believe a community is a one-time cost during setup, takes only meager moderation efforts, and can self-sustain itself until the end of time.
Even in our current state of abundance, we have to make some tough quarterly decisions on just what should be prioritized in our development budget.
What's more valuable? Allowing a user to open a support case from the community, or driving one of our biggest community engagement initiatives of the year? What's more critical? Solving a bug affecting blog posts, or doing A/B testing to determine if a new feature is worth spending money on?
Here's one place I've failed: I set a goal every six months to do the work necessary to modernize THWACK into a mobile-first experience. Is it critical? No. Is it valuable? Yes. Does my boss want it? Yes. Does my boss's boss want it? Super yes.
Have I delivered it? ...no.
Well then, how do I ever go about prioritizing the budget it takes to migrate my community? It's not easy. You have to say 'no' to things. In the same way you pinch pennies your professional life in order to live it up in retirement, it's a time and effort investment that will pay off. We watched Jive and Lithium go head-to-head for years in the external community space. When all the chips were down and it came time to show cards, Jive sold out, and Lithium doubled-down. It's only a matter of time before the Lithium platform grows exponentially out of the tier it currently shares with the JiveX-turned-Lithium JX product.
It's always going to have it's pain points, but I'd rather be at the bleeding edge of technology than be the community that couldn't catch up. So I make the cuts. I say "no" to feature requests. I do the work.
Who else out there is struggling to build a budget for their switch? What kind of cool features are losing out to your migrations? What kind of cool features are taking priority over a migration? I'm excited to hear what you think!
I'll be honest, Lithy, I missed you last week. Things went a little crazy on our creative side, so I found myself working on some cool deployment projects instead of writing for my favorite blog.
What's new? I'm glad you've asked! You'll notice the next entry of this blog has changed to a new name, #MigrationMondays. That being said, this week I'm making this much less about migration and figured I'd share one of my favorite initiatives we run each year on the THWACK community.
March is coming, and we all know what that means. March Madness!
A few years ago, some genius at SolarWinds (not taking credit, I wasn't event here at the time) decided it would be cool to let the community participate in a Bracket Battle of it's own. They picked a category, set up a bracket of people in that theme, put up polls for each matchup, and launched. Since then, we've done a number of battles, from Sci-Fi to Villains, Captains to Sidekicks. We're all super excited for this year, but our category is still hush-hush for a few more weeks.
Want to see who won each category? You can peek using the links below. Spoiler alert: our community is a bunch of geeks. We use that term lovingly.
Conceptually, setting these up is super simple in Lithium JX. You have a graphics-savvy employee build a bracket image and deploy vote buttons, which lead to specific polls where users can vote on each matchup. Once you close a specific round of voting (polls can be scheduled to close and open at specific times), you post vote links to the next round of polls, where users vote on only the winners of the previous round. On, and on, until you users have once again made sure yet another Star Wars character wins. Four years in a row.
Whatever we do, we'll make sure no Star Wars characters are in the brackets this year. *evil laugh*
This year I've worked hard in moving our static image to HTML and CSS, so we can have a responsive bracket that looks good 100% of the time. Warning: Not for the faint of heart or the faint of code.
To be honest, we haven't conceptualized what this will look like in Lithium when we migrate next year, but I'm looking forward to the challenge.
By the way, Lithy, I'm out next week for some snow time in Eastern Washington State. I wish you the best, and can't wait to write another post when I'm back. Behave yourselves out there!
Remember blind dates? Yeah, I don't miss them, either. I’m so grateful for dating apps.
A couple of weeks ago I had a brief interaction with my new Lithium TAM on a call with Aurea. The meeting was quick, the interaction was limited, and the mood was nervous, but that feeling of butterflies in my tummy never went away. It’s that same feeling you get on a blind date – you know nothing about this person, who they are, where they’re from, if they have a human hair collection, or if you’re fated to spend the happily spend the rest of your lives together.
In those blind dates, you just live in the moment, smile, make jokes, ask questions, and power through.
Well, I met my new TAM for a solo call today, and we Jived. And yes, that pun was intended.
That’s Marty. He’s cool.
When going through any open cases, we settled on a quick conversation about case history. In case (this pun not intended, nor wanted) you haven’t been through a platform migration before, lifting and shifting content can be rewarding and simple, but it’s not always super easy. With the news that Aurea and Lithium won’t be transitioning closed cases to the Lithium version of the case ticketing system we’ve all learned to love and hate at Jive, I find myself interested in capturing our case history for future use.
I mean, how often does one of our prairie dog behaviors pop back up and need to be whack-a-mole’d down again? Not super often, but often enough to want to extend the curtesy to our new TAM Marty (now and forever referred to a ‘TAM Marty’ on this blog), to provide case history for some of the things we are sure may pop back up. For example, we used to need Jive to restart our EAE server every couple of months because our UAT environment was getting a little slow. Why make Lithium troubleshoot from ground zero, when Jive already had a solution?
The good news? Aurea Works has a great ‘export all cases’ option, so we’re going to save these ol’ things for later. Just an FYI – the feature isn’t working great right now, but Lithium and Aurea are working on getting it back up and ready to go by the time cases transition on March 18th. I totally suggest you join the fray and save your cases. They may be super helpful later on!
Dear Journal: It's been three days since I last spoke to my Jive TAM, and I don't find myself missing him. I mean, he was a great guy, but life has gone on without him. I wonder if he misses me? Has he made new friends? Does he think about me often?
I promised you in my second entry that I'd talk about THWACK's customizations. Boy, it's a whopper of a subject. We have 355 spaces, 186 groups, 1862 defined system properties, and 23 custom plugins. Those plugins include everything that makes THWACK special:
A store in which users can purchase swag with points gained through gamification. The store is even integrated with a fulfillment vendor so items are automatically shipped and tracked.
Unique customized widgets.
Extended API and integration with our products to pass content and RSS feeds back and forth.
Special missions allowing daily questions to unlock, be answered by users and give them rewards, select winners, and automatically ship them prizes.
Integration with live chat services for our webcasts and live events.
Integration of event registration with Marketo.
The ability to change ownership of a content piece, in scenarios where our content team is posting something on someone’s behalf.
Counting downloads of a content piece.
Locking content from future commenters.
More in-depth spam moderation.
An SSO with our customer portal, allowing users to view and possibly manage their licenses from the community.
Validating product licenses and allowing users into a group based on products they own.
From a functionality standpoint, these are all things that are very simple in concept, but drive our unprecedented interaction on the website. For example, THWACK visits just hit 7+ million last year. When faced with the idea of losing this functionality to the constantly changing idea of a cloud platform, we trembled in fear of what the consequences would be.
Remember that dream team I mentioned in my second entry? Well, they talked us through how other clients are solving these problems. For example, using another cloud service like AWS to provide the middleman (or woman) database to store information we would’ve otherwise stored as an extension of Jive’s database.
We’re not through the woods, and have a ton of meaningful work to do in order to actually get these things moved over, but we’ve seen light and are wrapping our heads around how to actually get this done. No longer will we tremble in the dark corners of the internet as the Cloud’s rain encircles us.
I’ll talk about how we plan to address some of these other customizations in my next entry. Until then, stay thirsty, my friends!
One of our biggest concerns, heading into the Lithium acquisition of Lithium JX (Jive-x) from Jive, was that we are a hosted community, and tout ourselves as being drastically more complex than a cloud-based community.
The truth? We are. The fallacy? It doesn't mean we can't move to the cloud.
SolarWinds benefits from having one of the best Jive platform developers in the history of Jive-x (and now Lithium JX). The instant the acquisition was announced, he starting working the phone lines, emails, and LinkedIn accounts until he was able to get some time with anyone at Lithium who may have some answers. Simultaneously, Lithium was zippy in getting us some face time with @RikusP, @DebbieC, @AndreaC, and @MichaelP.
At this point, I'm calling these four the dream team. If Lithium hadn't been so responsive, we were just a snap of our fingers away from leaping over to a competitor and forgetting our life with Jive and the Lithium JX sale.
All it took was an hour with the dream team and a sync with our amazing dev partner to know, cloud wasn't just an option - it would be more scalable, cheaper, and velcro-ing us much more closely to the bleeding edge of community platform innovation. Here's another way to look at it: Jive and Lithium went head-to-head for years as the two dominant external community solution providers, and only Lithium is left standing. Where Jive folded to Aurea, and Aurea folded to the competition and retreated to the safety of internal communities, Lithium doubled down on their investment in the future of the industry. This, in addition to spending a reported $200 million on Klout a few years ago, means we've taken sides with the powerhouse. Lithium is the New England Patriots of external communities. It hurts to say, as a Seahawks fan, but it's true.
Why did I mention we were so complex? What are we doing that creates such a hindrance to moving from a hosted JX instance to the cloud? Stay tuned in Entry 3, coming soon.
That was my first thought this morning. Hi. My name is Ben Garves. I'm a Senior Product Manager at SolarWinds, overseeing the success of our THWACK online community for IT professionals. I have decided to embrace this transition from Jive's Jive-x, to Aurea Jive-x, to Lithium JX, and eventually Lithium, itself.
I am obsessed with community. You could say I'm actually addicted. Alcoholics have AA, narc-aholics have NA, spend-aholics have BA, workout-aholics have BO (but that's another story), we the community addicts have the Lithium Community. The SolarWinds THWACK community, named after the sound you make when restarting your computer solves every tech problem you have, resulting in a facepalm, has about 150,000 members, is external, open, and heavily customized. We're currently a hosted solution at Jive...er...Aurea...er...Lithium-ish, and it's given us the ability to do SO. MANY. COOL. THINGS. Because of that, we've always been afraid of what moving to the cloud would mean. Join me as I document this journey through posts to the Lithium Community.
Man. I would love to post this as a blog. I just can't even figure out how to.
I'll learn. We'll all learn. That's the genius of Community. Thanks for reading, and I'm excited to share with you again in my next post.