Last week, the New York Times web site ran a Readers' Opinions column, asking readers: "Is there a product you loved that you can’t find anymore?"
In light of Apple's iPhone and the constant release of new and improved technology products, the NYT wanted readers to wax nostalgic. In just 14 hours, 34 minutes, the newspaper received 1403 answers from people who missed, among other things:
Honda CRX, 1971 Volvo 1800 E, Acura Integra, Datsun B210 hatchback and a slew of other cars. Several longed for their first car, whatever the model.
Collard and Bowser’s English butterscotch toffee and licorice
Wilson T2000 steel tennis racket
Spice Girls edition of the Chupa Chup’s lollipop
Analog tuner controls on car radios
Coca Cola made with real sugar
Hewlett Packard HP 11C and 15C calculator ("the perfect calculator!")
Word Perfect for DOS (One person even missed his 386 computer, on which he says had the best experience playing Tetris.)
I bring all this up because SDN also is not what it used to be, even from 1 or 2 years ago. On one hand, it is much stronger, bigger, richer -- as all the statistics on cuncurrent users, forum posts and blog views show. And Mark and Craig remain at the top of their game. Yet, some of the magic has been lost.
SDN Has Come a Long Way
Just a year ago, when I was at the SDN community day at Tech Ed in Amsterdam, SDN seemed more intimate and, dare I say, fun. BPX was just starting, and there were just a couple hundred people for SDN day. I loved how Mark asked for ideas for sessions, and simply wrote them up on the chalk board, changing them at a moment's notice when necessary. We were kind of winging it, but that was kind of the charm of it all -- Mark was great simply because he was great -- not because he had a fancy PowerPoint.
A couple a years ago I got involved in SDN, and started answering questions on the Portal Content Development forum, one by one. Though I could never challenge Detlev (and wouldn't even try), I moved up the ladder of points and helped a lot of people and met even more. I learned alot about the portal, and about customers in the real world. At Tech Ed, I posed on the main Tech Ed stage for a group picture of the top SDN contributors, which was a thrill.
Now, everyone has discovered SDN. There are a ton of changes in store, many very exciting and some, well, less so. SDN will soon be used for rolling out official information, making SDN, at least a part of it, less a community and more a channel for SAP product management. SDN has been so successful that there is more and more information and people, but also -- as with any big venture -- more moderators, more rules, more problems, more meetings, more procedures, more marketing, more points and more arguments over points.
Not Better or Worse, Just Different
Everyone looks back at their youth with longing; even the disappointments seem sweeter with time. SDN, in its infancy, was really cool, free-wheeling, friendly, open, innocent. OK, not all of that has changed, but some has, and let's admit it.
At the same time, I remind myself that SDN is simply evolving, naturally, into something different, not necessarily better or worse, just different. It is becoming larger, potentially grander, perhaps more relevant, and with all that, more corporate. So I also remind myself that I must evolve with it, to find the new areas of SDN that are special, and to help build and foster a new, different and hopefully richer community.
In my blogs I like to refer to movies, and so I end with a reference to "Splendor in the Grass", with Natalie Wood and Warren Beatty (he was introduced in this movie). The title is taken from a poem from William Wordsworth.
"What though the radiance which was once so bright Be now for ever taken from my sight, Though nothing can bring back the hour Of splendor in the grass, of glory in the flower; We will grieve not, rather find
Strength in what remains behind."
Let's admit that things at SDN have changed, not always for the better. But let's all keep trying to make SDN even better.