“Can the software do X?”
In the more than a decade of time we’ve worked with online community owners, while selling and servicing vBulletin, this question was often asked by customers wanting to do more with their online communities.
“X” was always some idea or problem the customer wanted to solve above and beyond just a forum application. More often than not the answer was, “Sorry, unfortunately it doesn’t do that.” Or on some occasions, we could reach back to the wealth of vBulletin add-ons available and were be able to say, “You can try this add-on!”
Sometimes the add-on was exactly what the customer wanted too. But, too often it wasn’t.
There had been questions asked to us, like anything from “Can I create a tire database?” to “Can I add a download section to my community?”
A tire database? That one gave me a chuckle. The answer to this customer was of course, “Sorry. Nope.”
But hey, there was an add-on for downloads! It was naturally offered as a solution to the customer, but he said he wanted something different. The add-on simply didn’t fit his needs.
If there was ever a point in time where I felt we had let the customer down, it was usually at that point.
We certainly wanted to help, but we were too busy with supporting vBulletin to take on extravagant “programming” jobs. It wasn’t our strongpoint either really, despite having a great programmer on staff running our own add-on community. Also, the customer usually wasn’t ready or able to pay for that kind of customization work. So, the customer would either give up on the idea or go look for less expensive solutions and usually would come up empty.
In the many years of working with community owners, I noticed only a very, very small percentage “customize to success”, meaning, they could add applications to their community to gain traction with new users. This small chance for the select few is what I really feel needs to change.
Although determination is always needed in any endeavor, hard core determination, or special skills or a lot of money simply shouldn’t be a necessity to create a very successful online community.
The other day I ran into a pretty cool developer blog called Culttt.com written by Philip Brown, who seems to be a “wordly” chap with great insights, not just on programming, but also on running a business and a successful website. I actually ran specifically into his excellent blog post about Domain Driven Design and the Domain Model and it basically explains exactly what Skooppa is all about. Solving “business” problems.
You see, the data object premise of Skooppa, with workflows and other available systems, will give site owners the ability to put their ideas to solve their business problems, the “domain models”, into reality. Oh, and even with just point and click functionality too.
In his blog post, Philip goes through an example of a domain model. He uses project management and the “workflow” of giving tasks to hit home what a domain model is all about. As he puts it.
… the Domain Model is the structured knowledge of the problem.
Structured knowledge of the problem. It is the whole idea on how to solve a problem. I think every online community owner has come up with some idea at some time themselves. It hits them, “Oh, gee. If I could get this done, it would make my community even more interesting.” It doesn’t matter what IT is, that “IT” has happened and it usually hits them more than once too. This issue is always the same. The ability to move on that IT is unfortunately missing.
Philip then goes into details of solving the problem and explains what data is needed like Road Maps, Project Managers, Employees, Teams, Sprints and the workflow of assigning Tasks. Well, in Skooppa, these are all Data Objects or Record Types and you will be able to create them all with Skooppa’s Modeling System along with the customized workflow needed to assign tasks to teams and/ or single employees. The cool thing about it? It is all up to you and your “structured knowledge of the problem“.
Why is this concept different than anything available out there now?
Because the software you find today ALL determine the Domain Model for you first. You buy or “get” a blog, a forum or an ecommerce system to solve those specific “problems”. They are built well to solve those special problems and always leave the site owner wanting more, when they come up to certain other problems. This “need for more solutions” is often what drives the building of add-ons, which in turn, also force the siteowner again into pre-defined domain models.
Skooppa aims to change that.
Some of you are saying, but does that mean there won’t be applications or add-ons anymore? Absolutely not! As it is today, some domain models are very common. You do want to blog or sell products. That is standard. However, extending these domain models is also a chore with current software. That is also going to change with Skooppa.
Now, some of you might be saying, “Scott, you can only go so far with point and click functionality”. That is absolutely correct and a good argument to be skeptical of Skooppa and it is also why programming is still the true basis for Skooppa. If you really want flexibility in realizing your domain models, you must be able to code. But, for those simpler problems, why do you need to ask…
“Can the software do X?”
How about you just do it?