Phillip Smith

Creating a "commons" for your product or service

As the software landscape shifts from installed software to Software as a Service (SaaS), and as "support" for those services moves from asking a question on a mailing list to professional support teams -- the one thing that is sometimes lost is that sense of connection to other people using the software. So, when I see innovative software providers like Democracy in Action launching a full-fledged networking and collaboration platform for their user community -- I'm left inspired by what's possible when engaged people put their minds to it.

April Pedersen introduces the initiative like so:

As part of our effort to promote cooperation and community among Salsa users, we're excited to launch Salsa Commons, a site dedicated entirely to YOU. Our hope is that it becomes the most robust online community around a technology platform that anyone has ever seen. After many laborious hours of planning and building the site, we are thrilled to announce we're ready for you to jump right in and start participating!

The new Salsa Commons platform offers a way for different DIA customers -- from campaign managers to developers -- to all collaborate and grow their shared knowledge pool about the Democracy In Action "Salsa" advocacy platform. And, more importantly, it puts the user community in control of the conversation -- which is an incredibly brave and innovative thing to do. So kudos to the folks at DIA for innovating in this space.

Some other SaaS providers have also explored -- to one degree or another -- connecting their users, e..g:

However, most provide little more than allowing customers to comment on a blog, or barely-used discussion forums. Not exactly "enabling," and certainly not exciting. And, there are many, many, providers that provide virtually nothing at all.

Having started a little WhatCounts "knowledge sharing" community about two years ago -- and seeing the benefits that bringing users and customers together can make possible -- I only wish that WhatCounts -- a relatively large, and well-resourced, software provider -- would do something even 1/10th as innovative as folks at (non-profit) DIA have done with Salsa Commons.

Do you have other great examples of software companies providing innovative community tools to their customers? If so, pop 'em in the comments below.


Hi, I'm Phillip Smith, a veteran digital publishing consultant, online advocacy specialist, and strategic convener. If you enjoyed reading this, find me on Twitter and I'll keep you updated.


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