I would like to talk about how VMware Community compares with (and complements) other social networks and media. I'm a VMware Community Moderator, but I'm writing this post as a "normal" Community user. I do not consider myself a social media guru, but just a beginner.
If you want to be precise, the title of this post is not exactly correct, because the Community is just another form of social network. However, there are differences between the Community approach versus the other tools that have become popular over the past few years, such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc.
As you noticed, the latest release of the VMware Community platform, introduced at the beginning of the year, integrates many social channels. Just look at the Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and blogs tabs on the Community home page or check out the “Share This” box on every thread. This may make you think that the world is now revolving around all these new tools, and that our Community forums are going out of fashion. But is this really true?
As I’ve said earlier, the VMTN Community has a different approach to sharing: the biggest difference being that our Community is a collaborative tool with a common objective to provide users help and knowledge. The VMTN community is made by the people for the people of the Community itself; and while the individual people contributing to it can change, new users can join, and some may leave, but the Community will live on as long as people will continue needing help with their problems, and as long as others will continue to share their knowledge and help.
There is something to do for everyone. If you are just starting out, you can be a lurker at first, and begin to contribute as you learn more about VMware technology. If you keep at it long enough, you may reach the status of guru one day. Those who want to get even more involved can become volunteer Community Moderators. You may not know this, but VMTN moderators are elected from the Community.
Other social media frequently use an individualistic approach, in some cases focusing on increasing your own visibility and popularity. Oftentimes this results in some really good contributions, but also in a lot of cross-references, information redundancy, while the information is mostly unstructured.
Some of us can be really active in multiple social networks and provide great contributions to the VMTN Community, such as Duncan Epping and William Lam, to name just two who have an active presence in VMTN forums, as well as on Twitter and their personal blogs.
Another big difference is that each social tool has a certain context for its application and usefulness. Just like in the physical world, there are tools appropriate for some tasks, and at the same time not do very well when used out of context. To give you an example, providing detailed help and support on Twitter may be very hard, but it is perfect for sharing a link to the appropriate discussion thread in the VMTN Community or just encouraging the user to post a question on the forums.
While tweets are not very well threaded, they can reach your audience faster, but whenever you want to have a longer conversation, the threaded discussions on the forums are the better way to go. Where Twitter brings speed and conciseness, the forums bring structure, unlimited characters in a post, and more permanent storage for detailed technical discussions.
As it happens, some VMware related topics are actually very active on Twitter, and a number of interesting posts are made there, such as information about VCAP and VCDX. At the same time, some people are using the Community forums to post content, and then utilize Twitter to share interesting posts; this happens quite a bit in the VCDX area.
Facebook can be used as a single account to login to several different web services and to share content and recommendations with one click. There is a number of Facebook pages maintained by corporations including VMware, but there is only a little overlap with VMTN Community functions such as technical discussions.
YouTube complements the Community forums nicely because you can very simply add a video to a thread, a document or a blog post.
For those of us with a lot to say, VMTN community platform supports blogging, but there are also many blogs that are hosted externally. If you are worried about finding them all, it’s not a problem: most influential blogs post are aggregated on Planet v12n and there are of course good VMware internal blogs, which both are linked from blogs.vmware.com, such as the VMware Storage Blog.
There is a wealth of other social networks out there, which I don’t have the time to cover in this post. In closing I would like to encourage you to share in your comments all the different tools that you use to collaborate with people from around the world who make up the VMware Community.
Andrew’s short bio:
Andrew Mauro is an IT specialist focused on operating systems, networking, storage, security and virtualization. He holds a number of technical certifications and accreditations (such as VCDX and vExpert) and is a VMTN Community moderator. You can find more about Andrew here: http://about.me/amauro