Communities are booming these days. Social networks and Web 2.0 unlocked the potential of interaction online and the idea of gathering people in a community went to mainstream. However, the original idea has nothing common with web. We can go back to organization of elite clubs, unions, discussion groups and many others. The internet makes it easy, by allowing everybody sharing content and subscribe on changes. Nowadays, we are learning how addictive this type of behavior could be. Facebook’s statistics can give you an idea of that. If you interested to know more facts, navigate to the following Mashable article – How to Tell if You’re Addicted to Facebook. I found the following passage interesting:
“The use of Facebook has increased rapidly. We are dealing with a subdivision of Internet addiction connected to social media,” said Cecilie Schou Andreassen, who conducted the study. Andreassen heads the research project “Facebook Addiction” at the University of Bergen (UiB) in Norway. The results of her research have just been published in the journal Psychological Reports.
Following public web, enterprise software companies are looking how to turn the power of communities to their advantages. The community of users was one of the most straightforward steps for many of them, but I don’t see it as a very successful one. Most of the discussion groups were limited to active users, which limit the ability to growth viral. Restrictions and social networks are not working well together.
I can see some interesting and innovative examples of community building in the space of CAD/PLM software. Aras Corp., a provider of enterprise open-source software is trying to leverage their wide free user base by organizing a community of so-called Aras Open Users. Navigate to the following link to read – Who is the member of Aras Open User Club. Aras is trying to addict users by free licensing and open resources helping to run a successful implementation. The following passage grabbed my attention:
Go to the self help section, absorb all of the information on our website, watch demos, check out the forums and learn all about the capabilities of Aras. Share this info with members of the tech team and eventual users to help them get familiar with Aras. Next, you need a roll out plan that includes how you intend to get everyone on board. The good news is that once your users understand their roles and how this powerful tool is going to help them get more done faster with better information, there will be no stopping them. Check aras.com for tips on roll out plans too.
Another example is the community of engineers built by GrabCAD. A startup company, GrabCAD is trying to follow “facebook” style allowing to engineers to upload and download CAD models for free. Funded by VCs and CAD industry veterans, GrabCAD demonstrates a very interesting way to organize engineers into community.
Together with some critics related to IP protection (read here), GrabCAD shows very impressive numbers – 250K registered engineers, 40K CAD models and 3M downloads.
What is my conclusion? I’m sure you’re familiar with “Let-go Threshold” term from your electricity school lessons. The ultimate question to all “community builders” is how to develop addiction to the network / community. Facebook did it. Some other social networks missed the point on their way and failed. In my view, the most successful communities were built around mainstream products such as SolidWorks and Autodesk. To have the right content is a key factor. A potential CAD / PLM community content is sensitive. Very often it related to IP ownership and company product development and manufacturing practices. It is not a simple place to innovate. Do you think “social innovation” is just in the early beginning of the innovation spiral? Will PLM companies be able to develop the volume of content going beyond “let-go threshold”? This is an interesting place to innovate. Just my thoughts…