Ask 10 people "What is community?" and you may get 11 answers. I am no anthropologist but I suspect this isn't necessarily a bad thing; the concept has both breadth AND depth around the world. Communities may appear diffuse and fluid but, for any individual, their community may be particularly personal.
Our community has an assortment of people who do many things in and around F5 software and hardware: we manage or care for infrastructure, we secure networks and develop apps, we optimize traffic, deliver business value from home, and consult with governments. Our site has one-time visitors, people who stay for years, people who work for themselves, and people who work at F5.
Despite the buffeting winds of technology, organizational pivots, a diverse membership, and even world-level disruption the Community Team remains steadfast to our sense of what we hope the DevCentral Community can deliver - for you; a supportive and organic environment for people who are learning, exchanging ideas, and solving technical problems - together.
In this article I won't describe in detail how to use the site because @Leslie_Hubertus covers that inGetting Started and @JRahm plowed through every part of our Help section to ensure you can operate the basics.
Instead, I will observe our new home "from the street" and open a conversation with the community regarding the landscaping, the schools, the appliances, and all the rest. On January 25th we completed a months-long migration to our new home on community.f5.com and that was only possible with the support and explicit intention of many people inside F5, consultant and vendor teams outside F5, and indeed several suggestions from our very own MVPs.
Our stated goal was balancing the functions of our new home, to serve our community, with flexibility, usability, maintainability, and scalability. Every decision, to make a change or not, came with tradeoffs and we consider this experience to be a minor adjustment to the information architecture allowing space for future enhancements. We moved to leverage some new tools and deliberately put others back in the box (for now) so that we may grow and pivot together. This way, we can all come to recognize the old patterns we prefer and the new patterns we require - together.
Where we go next will be informed, in large part, by you.
One thing is clear, this new home contains a good and proper environment designed for growing and adapting alongside our diverse community. The foundational elements are Discussion Styles. There are four discussion styles at the heart of our community experience: Forums, Articles, Events, and Suggestions. I'll briefly describe each one and touch on our thoughts for how they may evolve.
Forums and Articles discussion styles, are direct descendents of long time components in the community.
Forums are where questions are asked, conversations are made, and solutions are found. You trend technical, we want to reinforce that, and the Technical Forum is the center of activity on DevCentral. For fun, we put a Water Cooler in the corner for wordle and awkward family photos.
We prefer one big room for our forum designed to reduce conversation fragmentation and limit arbitrary information architectures that tend to cause confusion. We hope and expect that this enables finding solutions AND discovering solution-adjacent-information. That said, we will watch the Technical Forum for signs that it is getting over-crowded and if that happens we may look for a natural fault line and make a split.
When we take time to write something with a beginning, middle, and end - it's an Article. Technical Articles stay focused on the how you can achieve specific goals with F5 technology. There are no neon-signs here but nearly everything comes from F5 experts. CrowdSRC is an expansion of our former CodeShare feature containing everything in the former codeshare BUT we increased flexibility here, enabling any registered member to share code using a handy template OR provide a more general document sharing their knowledge. Not gonna lie, GitHub has a good grasp about what 'sharing code' is all about and we want to figure out how best to work with GitHub in the future. And lastly, the community itself has news, announcments, and things to say from time-to-time; that information can be found in DevCentral News.
The next two discussion styles, Events and Suggestions are new to DevCentral, arriving with more speculation and hopes about what can be achieved and how they will be useful.
Events are scheduled conversations on a calendar. We are starting slow, at the community level, but you may expect things like virtual meetups, AMA events, zoom calls, and other professional (or fun) talks to start showing up on our Events calendar. With handly invite links, Add To Calendar, and subscription notifications we think this will enable, for those who want it, some valuable, and occasionally entertaining, real-time conversations. More to come here for sure.
If you have ever had an idea and were put off by the notion of sending an email into the abyss of
firstname.lastname@example.org then fear not - we offer you the singular reward of public speaking! Enter Suggestions where we aim to help overcome all fears. 😉
In all seriousness, tell us you want XYZ, how you want ABC, when you want 123, and we will take a look.
We believe having public-facing community suggestions is part of the same lifeblood making our forums great. The only ideas we will not entertain are the ideas we don't hear about so please don't be shy. Stay professional, be constructive, and give us your thoughts. We truly think airing suggestions publicly increases our collective level of accountability for the choices we all make, for each other, in our community. The only thing frightening me personally is not being able to keep up. Bear with us as we dive in headfirst, sort out our procesess and priorities, and really make suggestions a valuable place for reflection and progress.
Groups are an organizational mechanic for purpose-built conversation spaces around a central principle. A group may contain up to one of each of the four main discussion styles.
Out of all the new features, Groups has the biggest long-term potential for power, scale, and also confusion. Groups may theoretically fragment conversations and chop discovery in ways that we explicitly chose to keep together in the Technical Forum. We are aware of this tension, we will be watching closely, and we are intentionally and deliberately starting with a safe to fail mentality. The organizational principles may be geography, content-specialties, languages, or other logical representations - but, a groups' purpose shall always elevate "service to the community" over other factors.
The DevCentral team can advise on the details of the available discussion styles, which style(s) make sense for a given organizational principle, and soon we will have more robust guidance on factors like discoverability and liveliness. We do want to enable focused conversations where they make sense while we do not want to grow so big and so fast that we are unable to support that growth.
Groups will require some time-investment and may require F5 sponsorship for group creation and moderation functions. We are still working on guidance so if you feel strongly, tell us what you think. In the first weeks, our only group is our Community MVP group but watch this space for more activity in the near future.
If you have an idea for a group - please make a considered request on the DevCentral Suggestions box.
After all that, if you are still reading, let me be clear - we are excited, hopeful, and emphatically not bolted to the floor. We have hopes and dreams for the service we can provide, with your guidance, for the benefit of this DevCentral Community.
Some immediate next steps include cleaning up historic cruft, tidying up and integrating search, reviewing capabilities around external integrations, leveraging content meta-data better, detailing personalization options, and launching some new groups. Look for those in the near future and please drop suggestions and thoughts into our Suggestions box.
IF for any reason you are unable to get logged please Contact Us here for support and don't forget about our onboard Help feature. Thank you for being part of our community.