First, it's so good to be writing to the community again. I've been hibernating working on fun necessary projects. But before I share what's coming, I have a question: how many of you knew THWACK was born more than 16, almost 17 years ago? I've been at SolarWinds for 8-plus years solely working on the community and our user group program and I have to say, it's been a thrilling, inspiring, and eye-opening experience to witness what THWACK has become today.

 

But with age come changes. The external community vendor arena has grown sparse due to shifts in how businesses are engaging with customers, and few have been successful in building a community program to do what all of you have built here on THWACK. That said, here’s how we arrived where we are now:

 

  • July 2017, Jive (our current platform) sells to Aurea.
  • September 2017, Aurea breaks up the business and sells Jive-X (Jive external) to Lithium.
  • Following this, we went through a lengthy RFP process and ultimately signed with Khoros (aka Lithium), who hosts external communities for Cisco, HP, Microsoft, Spotify, and more.
  • December 2018 it was announced Lithium will EOL Jive-X at the end of 2020.

 

TL;DR we’re migrating platforms! We saw this coming and work has been underway to bring things to parity between the platforms.

 

GOING FROM HOSTED TO SaaS

 

Because I know this audience understands these annoying yet necessary circumstances, I'm going to geek out with you a bit.

 

Our current environment (Jive) is hosted. We were told for years we'd never be able to move to the cloud due to the number of customizations we house. Thankfully, our forever and always partner, sonofagum, came through with a plan.

 

All our customizations (the THWACK Store, Monthly Missions, SolarWinds Lab live chat, etc.) were previously written in Java and ran in-process in Jive, taking advantage of a rich set of available services and libraries. The new platform mandated all our non-trivial customizations run out-of-process and be hosted externally. This presented us with a lot of challenges: from authentication, to platform differences and migration incompatibilities, to scalability, to having to rewrite dependencies from scratch without the benefit of source code, all while learning the ins and outs of the new platform. Needless to say, we’ve been busy over here!

 

EVERYTHING has been rewritten in C# (.NetCore 3.0 on Linux) and Angular or Vue and now runs in AWS. There’s still a lot of work to do and everything may not be perfect on day one, but we’re committed to keeping THWACK the best user community on the interwebs.

 

WHEN?

 

The official migration date is February 20, 2020. That's right, 02.20.2020 or 20.02.2020 for most of the world. I don't know how that worked out, but I'm calling it next-gen binary. We'll have more updates in the weeks coming, but below is what you can expect.

 

 

WHAT’S CHANGING?

 

  • Khoros is a mobile-first platform, which is great for you and really, really painful for us. We’ve had to rethink our entire webpage structure—headers, navigation, body content, widgets, footers, etc. But it’s really helped us clean up some of the website real estate and we’ll be curious to see if mobile usage picks up. Currently <1% of you visit the website on devices smaller than an iPad or similar.

 

  • Forums are now called categories and each category houses multiple boards underneath it. Confused yet? Don’t read too much into the semantics, but I wanted to bring this up and share an example to help understand what this change means.
    • Current THWACK: Network Performance Monitor is a forum housing multiple types of content – discussions, documents, feature requests, etc.
    • Future THWACK: Network Performance Monitor is now a category and has three main boards underneath it (hierarchically speaking).
      • Network Performance Monitor – shows all content contained in the sub-boards but content cannot be posted here.
        • Network Performance Monitor Discussions – houses all NPM discussions.
        • Network Performance Monitor Documents – houses all NPM documents.
        • Network Performance Monitor Feature Requests – houses all NPM feature requests.
      • This means you’ll need to either follow the NPM category page or all the sub-boards depending on your preferences. Not a big deal, but something to note.

 

  • Polls and events are no more. I know what you’re thinking. Trust me, I grilled Khoros hard on this. Not too much to say here other than we’ll have backups of this content, but it won’t appear on the new platform. We may revisit later to assess what can be done.

 

  • Remember when I mentioned we’d never be able to move to the cloud due to the number of customizations we have? This is where things get real. Our entire gamification strategy is unique to SolarWinds. We invented something even experts in the industry have never seen done at the level we’ve taken it to, and successfully I might add. The Khoros gamification strategy is fundamentally different than what we’ve developed. Their ranking system is based purely on community activity and engagement whereas our current ranking system is determined by your point accumulation. Sure, we’re logging community activity and engagement, but it’s not apples to apples.
    • Before you start penning hate letters, your points are being carried over and the store will live on. I won’t go into detail as to how we made this happen, but we did. Going forward, you’ll continue to earn points, but there will be more defined ways upon which you can earn them. More to come on this later.
    • However, everyone’s level will start at 1 (Ready Player One anyone?). There’s simply no way to port the way your current level is determined to match how your level will be determined moving forward. The data is too different. It's like trying to direct connect a 300baud modem to an MPLS line. It's like trying to port your TRS80 Basic program to the cloud as a microservice. It's like trying to convert your "database" that was lovingly crafted from macros in Lotus 1-2-3 to SQL 2016. It's like trying to make Battlestar Galactica jokes to a bunch of overly-earnest LOTR fans. It's like... well, it's like trying to port a gamification system built from custom scripts and calculations into a completely different platform.

 

  • Oh, and you’ll need to reset your password the first time you log in on the new platform because security or something important like that.

 

ACTIONS YOU NEED TO TAKE

 

Prior to our migration date, February 20, 2020, you will need to take note on the following items:

 

  • You will need to take inventory of the places and people you follow as well as your bookmarks. These cannot be migrated with your profile details.
    • Steps to find the places you follow: navigate to your profile > click on “More” > click on “Places.”
    • Steps to find the people you follow is the same as above except you’ll choose “Connections”: navigate to your profile > click on “More” > click on “Connections.”
    • Steps to find your bookmarkers is the same as above except you’ll choose “Bookmarks”: navigate to your profile > click on “More” > click on “Bookmarks.”

 

  • You will need to save a local copy of any content currently in draft mode.
    • If you have any drafted content that won’t be published before February 20, save it off THWACK! Drafts cannot be migrated.

 

Once the migration is complete, we’ll publish instructions on how to get the items above set up on the new platform. I would recommend to follow the following people to ensure you get the latest or if you need to shoot us any questions: yumdarling, KMSigma, sonofagum, and me DanielleH.

 

I’m exhausted. The team is exhausted. Did we want to spend the last 12 months working on this (while continuing our regular jobs I might add)? Absolutely not, but this is technology and it’s a constant game of keeping up. Writing all of this on paper knowing I’ve purposely left out 90% of what we've done makes me so proud to call these folks my team. I hear this audience knows a thing or two about migrations... I’m hoping you’ll bear with us through this transition and understand not everything will be perfect, but rest assured we'll be working around the clock to make it right. The backbone of this community—you—is all we need.

 

Oh—and #darktheme is coming.