Thoughts on new MVDBMS forum

I didn’t intend for this to be a big deal (see prior post about comp.databases.pick) but as soon as it got started it sure turned into one. I’m committed to making the new MVDBMS forum a centerpiece for this community. Here are some related thoughts. I’m sure I’ll follow-up with more later.

The initiative is not just for getting CDP people to move to a new venue. The overall problem is that participation in CDP is down, people have left, and the central “watering hole” for the entire community is almost non-existent. It’s a helluva situation for some new MV prospect to stumble upon that forum while doing due diligence, when a VAR is trying to sell them a new application. The question “who uses this platform” is left woefully unanswered. VARs should be able to point to their own product-specific forum as a sign of life, though most of these are seriously under-used. Even in the case of a lively forum like the U2 group, the question about the platform itself remains. It’s the difference between “who uses SQL Server” and “who uses SQL”. Not only are there SQL Server forums, thus helping to position the product, but there are tons of SQL forums to validate the platform. We don’t have that in our market (anymore). If someone wants to sell mvBase they can (wishfully) cite 1-2 million users of the MV platform worldwide, but most of those users are probably on U2. We need a place that a VAR can reference as a vibrant user/developer community, without sending prospects to the competition.

So I’ve posted notes to other community forums (jBase, Reality, D3/MvBase, and Universe/Unidata (U2)) in the hope of drawing people to the new resource, not as a replacement for what they use, but as an additional resource from which all of us can benefit. I’ve invited DBMS vendor employees (not directly but via those forum postings) to contribute their expertise for the greater good, with respect for their company policies.

We need a place where someone who uses MV can say “I need SQL” and get responses from a wider variety of people on a wider variety of platforms. We need a place where the response to “how do I create a web service” isn’t lost in a single platform-specific repository, to be repeated in different ways and by different people in other forums, with no one getting benefit from really great responses and existing information in other places.

Of course if the answer to a question may be presented in a platform-specific manner. Not as in “here is how you can do it” but “here is how I do it with my system”. In this scenario, the platform that is best suited to the task is profiled positively. We don’t get that experience anymore. Some DBMS vendors may find this to be negatively competitive. I think that rather than migrating for FeatureX, dedicated customers will ask their existing vendors for features found elsewhere. This is how innovation happens – it’s another thing we don’t have anymore because people only seem to ask their vendors for what’s already in their scope of experience. Some of the MV platforms have stagnated because they aren’t being driven to innovate.

We also need a more welcoming place for newcomers. We need a place where we can invite people just learning about the Pick model and BASIC for the first time. (Oh yes, and we need to start inviting people to learn about Pick and BASIC, but that’s another agenda that I’ll pursue in 2012.) CDP has always been a good place for that, but with the way it is these days, who wants to post a question to a dead forum? And who wants to spend any time learning to use a platform that looks like it’s dead? A new forum for a general audience is a stepping-off point for newcomers to learn about the platform, and about all of the various products which implement the model.

Finally, we need a place where vendors in the community can offer their products to a wide audience, and get good feedback. CDP used to be that place, but these days anyone who knows about CDP dismisses it with rolled eyes and pure disdain. It’s a place that’s not regarded seriously as a source of prospects or as a source of good feedback.

I’m hoping that with a “new and improved” membership representing a broader spectrum of our market we can change the culture and the impression of the culture, from what CDP has become into something much more positive.

So as you can see, it’s not “just” about shifting from Usenet, not “just” about using a group via “email”, not “just” about avoiding spam and porn, not “just” about using a more popular medium. It’s about all of that plus a more holistic agenda for improving the marketplace in which we all earn our living. Healthy marketplaces are exemplified by healthy communities. Our community is fragmented down into small pockets which don’t represent the whole. I think this problem needs to be fixed. This is one of my approaches toward that end.

If you have any better ideas, please put them on the table. Until then my position remains, with all due respect: lead, follow, or get out of the way.

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