Let's move these forums to StackExchange

Hi everyone. I’d like to suggest we move this entire community over to become a StackExchange site.

For those that don’t know, this would mean we would have a SuiteCRM community that looks like StackOverflow, or ServerFault, or SuperUser. There’s a huge network of support sites there (including for CRM products), and we could be there also. They would host it for us, for free.

The advantages I see are:

  1. We would benefit from the best-in-class support-site software, with tons of advanced features.

  2. We would be better defended against bad-quality questions (a problem we do have here), because the quest for better quality questions is built-in to the very logic of those sites.

  3. We would benefit from a tried and working incentive system, with reputation points, badges, etc., those gamification tricks that somehow seem to work in fooling us to work for free : - )

  4. People using other StackExchange sites would see action happening in this site integrated into their overall experience. That means we would get attention without having to get people to lurk in our own forums; they can lurk in other forums doing other things;

  5. Content would be more editable, and better answers float to the top and get rated. This really helps build a knowledge base from past answers, and we are lacking that.

  6. Much better visual quality and user interface.

The process to enter StackExchange takes some hard work. We would have to start on Area51, their staging site, and earn our entry into the main network. In short, what does it take to enter? Plenty of users, plenty of participation. I think we could easily provide that.

(When I write “move these forums”, I don’t really mean move the content, that’s not possible. I would just open the new site, leave this one here for a while, telling people to move. We could copy-paste some stuff into answers there, and after a while shut this one down.)

What do you think?

Here are a couple of extra advantages that I thought of while I slept:

  1. Moderation is multi-level. We can have higher-level moderators and lower-level moderators for every day tasks. This facilitates that the community moderates itself, freeing up SalesAgility people from that task, while still retaining some control and quality.

  2. There is a chat-room feature that some people are asking for. The chats are public so that their content is of use to everyone.

Come on, nobody has an opinion on this, even if it’s against? Or are you all suddenly shy? : - )

I use stackExchange the whole time for php and javascript answers. Google is pretty good at indexing the site to give you close answers.

If it reduces task of moderation and server support by current site staff it would give them more time to answer questions :slight_smile:

Generally, if moving were to improve the overall user experience then I would vote “yes” because this current forum structure is less than ideal… it isn’t even representative of best-in-class forum implementation.

The only thing I would lift up is that sometimes the responses from “authorities” here can be fairly passive-aggressive which diminishes the “experience” of the community as a whole.

Folks need to remember that the best “open source” communities are those that offer friendly help even when the person asking the question is doing so in a frustrating manner… remembering that people who might be trying to implement a system like SuiteCRM may be doing so via a “turnkey” install and where they perhaps lack the technical skill to ask the best questions.

Generally speaking I feel like WordPress.org has done a good job of setting up a support environment for an open source solution. I would lift that up as yet another alternative example for how support requests and overall project documentation could be handled.

If SuiteCRM wants to be the WordPress of CRM, it needs to be well guided and well supported. Heck, the folks at Sales Agility could even do the same .org vs. .com split. .com would offer affordable turn-key and maintained SugarCRM hosting for a small cost and then the .org could be for the project, etc.

My first post so take it for what it’s worth . . .

Yes please. I get good results on StackOverflow (StackExchange sibling) and have become partial to search results form those sites.
I appreciate this site very much but have been very frustrated finding the information that I need.

I’m new to this community so not sure I’m qualified to reply, but here goes.

I would be against the move. The format of StackExchange, by design, causes participants to judge and criticize the postings and responses of others and thus causes them to judge and criticize the individuals. I am continually surprised by how rude people are to one another on StackExchange. The anonymity of the web combined with the structure of StackExchange is a toxic mix and I avoid StackExchange whenever possible.


I apologize if I’ve offended anyone.

LakeGirl, you aren’t being offensive. It is a legitimate concern. Certainly my desire is toward some kind of support environment that does a better job of organizing responses and that helps facilitate a better, more positive, more tolerant community.

I personally don’t really have a stake in the underlying platform… it just needs to be “better” whatever it is…

Would that not mean that us at the SalesAgility team would loose control over the forums though?

That’s a fair question except what good is control if questions are unanswered for weeks at a time?

For example, this particular thread sat without a reply from anyone at SalesAgility for more than 3 weeks.

If SalesAgility wants to see SuiteCRM continue as a viable forked alternative to SugarCRM, vTiger, etc., it needs to have better processes for dealing with the flow of questions and topics being presented within this community.

By having a myriad of documented examples within this forum of requests taking weeks or even months to be responded to and resolve (if there’s ever a resolution), it doesn’t exactly instill confidence that the commitment to the SuiteCRM project is really robust.

Again I strongly suggest that SalesAgility needs to benchmark itself against other models in the open source community that have worked and then take it from there. For example, SalesAgility clearly needs to think about whether it is trying to “own” SugarCRM or if it is trying to nurture a community around SuiteCRM.

Then it needs to decide how best to support massive adoption. Remember what happened to Mambo after the whole Mambo / Joomla debacle? Compare that with how WordPress quickly secured the #1 CMS spot in spite of its platform shortcomings. Why? Killer support. Massively active development. Reasonable revenue model. Clear vision that the development community could get behind and support.

WordPress would not be where it is today if it took days / weeks / months to get help. SalesAgility needs to take notes and to think deeply about what it is trying to accomplish and whether the current systems in place are adequate for that desired outcome. Ultimately whether the answer lies in StackExchange or some other platform becomes a secondary consideration to the broader desired end results…

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Thanks for so many valuable contributions to this discussion. I’ll answer each person in a separate post.

@Lakegirl: I’ve felt that negativity there a few times myself!

Maybe a few times I was just taking a simple downvote too seriously. Other times some people were being idiots, I guess.

However that doesn’t taint my overall impression of a positive community, with judging done right, i.e., keeping up content quality, with objectivity. I sincerely hope that a smaller, closer community, like SuiteCRM would have there, would be nicer and gentler than huge communities like Stack Overflow or others. But you express a very valid point that we should all consider.

@larsenja: I believe our evaluation of the job SalesAgility is doing with this will vary depending on what sort of expectations we have. I think they’re doing a great David-against-Goliath job. They’re putting people and processes in place. It takes time. I want them on the forums helping me, but I also want them away from the forums, working on code. They’re brave and audacious but they’re trying not to risk their whole company on this crazy project, I assume. They’re not big enought to just go out there and come up with a very perfected experience for everyone. Yet.

The truth is that the SugarCRM CE experience was pretty much like this. Most people trying to implement it would fail, except if they invested serious money and looked for professional help. But now things are improving and I hope for a lot in the future. I’m here to help. Anybody who thinks they can do better can fork the project. Anybody who thinks this isn’t enough can move to another better, free CRM, if they can find one. We can nudge SalesAgility forward but we can’t demand of them like if we were paying for this… imho.

You are quite right, though, that the present state of things is insufficient and frustrating for many people. SalesAgility also know that, they feel the pressure and they’re acting on it.

Anyway, Id’ prefer it if we keep that generic discussion on it’s own thread, started by you: https://suitecrm.com/forum/site-feedback/9570-suitecrm-needs-to-improve-response-times-on-forums-for-suitecrm-to-be-taken-seriously

This thread here is about Stack Exchange (SE), which is more than enough for one thread : - )

@andy: your question is very pertinent, and difficult to answer. I wish I knew more about SE. I believe SalesAgility would lose control to some extent. SE communities are self-managed. However,

  1. SalesAgility people would naturally tend to be leaders in that community, having the inside information, having the expertise. You would be a sizeable, coordinated group inside the community, so you can upvote yourselves mutually to guarantee your voice.

  2. I believe you have good community support, people are on your side. Maybe that isn’t always voiced, or not as much as the rants, but when people stop and think, they know there is no route to do SuiteCRM against SalesAgility. It has to be done WITH SalesAgility. You can ask for a Genleman’s agreement that people going into that site will try to promote SalesAgility people and vote for them as moderators. I think it would work naturally. And it is the “open” way, it fits this project’s nature.

  3. Other people could become prominent members by contributing a lot, and well. But how would this hurt you? The requirements of SE guarantee that participation must be objective. People can’t just go there and rant, and spread slander, like they could on forums. They need to stick to the topic which is technical SuiteCRM stuff. So if you imagine a worst-case scenario, with a majority of moderators there angry at SalesAgility for some reason, what could they do? They could fork the project, but they would have to give it a different name and so, have to use a different SE site. Even if the place turned really nasty, and SalesAgility people had to turn away from it, the community would have to follow you… Or suppose a group of people bans a SalesAgility employee from SE. All the other employees could threaten to leave SE at the same time, severly reducing the value of the community. People wouldn’t want that. In short: the control is decided by project forks, not by forum hijacking…

  4. The initial stages, where the forum rules and allowed topics are defined, are important. It our SE site is about SuiteCRM (and only SuiteCRM, not subsequent forks) , and is about objective technical questions, we should be ok.

Perhaps other people who know more about SE moderation and elections can help and give some insights here?

@pgr, thank you for your well considered responses. I apologize if it looked like I was trying to hijack this thread. Nothing could be further from my mind and I completely agree that this should be about StackExchange.

I was attempting to document underlying reasons why considering such a move to SOME alternative “system” is a good idea while at the same time challenging the notion of “control”.

I know it is a big deal to “adopt” SugarCRM CE and I know there are a few other “forked” projects out there attempting to do the same thing. I decided to back SuiteCRM because it seems to me to have the right intent backing it… and because I’ve watched the Sales Agility folks for years… and they’ve earned my confidence. It is perhaps in part due to the esteem I have for Sales Agility that I’ve been a little critical in how well things have been handled here…

Ultimately change for its own sake won’t help… but I believe what you are proposing makes a lot of sense as long as the result yields improved broad support and minimizes snarky behavior. :wink:

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@andy I’ve been looking at other options and there’s a Q&A software that is practically a clone of Stack Exchange called Askbot.

You can see an example question here, to see how it looks, and at the same time check out a few of the names of communities using the software (notably Fedora and Libre Office).

It’s free, it’s open source (GPL v3), SalesAgility could host it, decide all the rules, edit the code to fit your needs, import all the current user base, etc.

I don’t see all that much to be gained by moving the forum.

If it’s not broken… don’t fix it.

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In my original post I made an effort to mention several advantages one by one.

I didn’t stop to describe the problems with the current forums, but there are (repeatedly) complains about this actually “being broken”:

  • on the surface: the visuals are terrible, and the usability is not that great

  • questions are often left unanswered

  • question quality is extremely low, and nothing is nudging the users to ask better questions

  • answers are a lot of work, and are very repetitive (check permissions, check the logs, tell us your version). I feel like a hero, a martyr, when I’m doing “forum duty” for the noobies. mikebeck is certainly a hero. But leaving everything unanswered would be terrible for this project. I know I was a noobie not that long ago.

  • it doesn’t seem like a useful resource is being built; all of this answering doesn’t seem to be adding up to a resource that can be easily googled for. Everything is too specific, too broken, to be useful to others.

Of course this is not all the fault of the forum software, but I think it is partially to blame; at least, I believe better software would introduce better incentives both for askers and “answerers”; it would promote generalization of knowledge (not just my little question on my system), and help sort out the useful content from the rest (upvotes, etc.).


Thank you for highlighting the issues pgr. Hopefully someone is listening.

is it possible to hear a view from salesAgility on this one?

this thread has been about the positive benefits of a change to Forum handling.

Not wanting to lose that positive focus: there is another less-than-good thing about the current forums: that they would benefit from someone preventing one forum being polluted with issues that being elsewhere.
Eg this forum seems wrongly to contain run of the mill ‘help me’ questions