If you're reading this, you are likely aware of the ongoing debates, complaints, failures and the general situation around the SAP Community platform and the state of this very community in general, which is why I am not going to point out the many technical and organisational deficiencies. Others have done that well and often.
Very unfortunately, this, sometimes tedious, feedback did not lead to the expected changes but instead to the perception that "SAP is not hearing it" (why-oh-why.html, what-weve-got-here...)
brian.ellefritz, the new Head of SAP Community , promised betterment and received sceptical encouragement and "good lucks".
Many, including myself, believe that he means what he writes and that he will try to improve the situation.
Do I trust him with this, though? No, I do not and cannot.
And that is not because of Brian or what he has done, not at all. Frankly, I don't personally know him so the trust that I could feel would be for his role and this role does not mean a thing to me.
I believe it does not mean much to the vast majority of community members either.
In my case, the distrust reaches further and covers the whole area of people, processes and decision making behind the organisation of SAP Community (let me refer to it as SAP-Community-ORG for this piece).
I simply don't understand, on a very basic level, what the motivation of SAP-Community-ORG for providing and operating a platform for the community is.
What drives the actions and plans to win back active and engaged members?
Why does SAP-Community-ORG want to host the community platform?
I don't know or feel their goals at all.
Don't rush for answers
Now, before this question gets addressed with answers, let me point out that at this point I am not looking for quick and easy answers, but that there simply does not seem to be any explicit statement that explains to me and everyone else who might be interested in this community, what SAP-Community-ORG stands for. "About SAP Community" does not provide this but is rather the digital version of a product leaflet ("look feature A, B, C...", "this is what we have, this is how we do").
I believe that the lack of this core "Why Community" is pretty much at the heart of all current problems.
The reason for me to believe this is how I think I pick the communities I am active in or which ones to not engage with.
I very much value knowledge sharing and exchange.
I have profited a lot of other people's knowledge sharing in my life so far and I want to "give back" and contribute myself.
I learned and improved on public writing, about the different kind of people you find in forums and to try and see what someone like to achieve first instead of handing out a copy-from-the-manual-answer to a question.
I like the recognition I receive and feel very excited when I find out about things that I did not know and that I find interesting. These questions take me away from my normal business as usual problems and give me the chance to learn a lot more about the technology that I spent most of my waking hours with and on.
I also like to see how other members get similar benefits and sometimes develop from "mostly receiving/reading" to "active contributors". That is probably one of the most motivating aspects for me: helping others to have positive experiences with communication in a forum.
When I find that these are the things that I can get from a community, that gets me interested.
Much noise, little signal
For several years now I have been active in different forums (SCN, stackoverflow, SAP internal JAM site around HANA) and became dormant in others when I felt that the forums did not follow the same goals and did not share the same values as I do.
In the case of SCN, I have been considering for the last two years what I get out of it and how many of my own values I still find a match.
Coming up with an answer for this question turned out to be difficult. There was so much noise due to the technical platform change, the bugs and the aftermath of all of this, that the usual signals for the values were and are very hard to see.
The few "signals" I find (a big shout out to the active moderators and the few remaining non-corporate contributors in the HANA-tag space!) are washed over by a wave of noise.
That frustrates and disappoints me and is the major reason for me for reducing my efforts in SCN and rather spending time elsewhere.
I cannot know that this is the same or similar for most members, but I believe many will have values and reasons to actually be active in the community beyond "what is the answer to my question?". The latter can be solved be googling long enough, but no amount of search engine usage can provide any of the outcomes I described before.
It is pretty clear that the technical failures annoyed and keep on annoying the users of the platform. But I don't think that this is the reason for anyone who was interested in active participation to turn around and leave for good.
There are many comments where the author mentioned to have returned after a hiatus of 1, 3 or 6 months to see if the "toothing pains" were gone.
What I think, made them turn away again, was the impression that not only had the feedback not lead to enough improvement and that they could not find their own values in this community anymore. It is maybe just hidden behind too much noise, but the effect is the same as if the values are not there in the first place.
It looks, tastes and feels like these values are gone.
This lack of values, the "Why" of the community, is what prevents people to engage and to feel that this is a place where their own beliefs and values are shared.
Come with your vision and your values
What I see so far in terms of "community recovery" is very much focussed on organisational matters and in reducing the technical noise.
But what is needed, I believe, is that SAP-Community-ORG finds their own values and makes those unmistakable clear.
These values and the motivation behind SAP-Community-ORG need to lead the decisions made for the community and its platform.
Don't hand out merchandise and gimmicks (everyone will take it, sure) and expect that this can buy engaged members.
Come with the vision and the values for what this community should be in your eyes instead.
That would be something one can relate to - or not. But without it, there is just nothing behind a lot of noise.