Another way of asking that question: What is Thwack?

 

An obvious answer: Thwack is the online IT community where you get information on and share your experience related to SolarWinds products that you value. Of course, if you’ve been visiting Thwack for awhile, you have your own specific answer; and if I don’t touch on yours in this post, I would look forward to reading your comments.

 

You go to the NPM forum , as a user of that product, to get help from others who work in their company’s network operations center (which might be just you in your cube and them in theirs), fielding the alerts NPM sends about network devices on a specific LAN. In the SAM forum other Sys Admins answer your questions and share their experience with templates they are using to keep track of issues with key applications across their respective businesses. If you manage network devices, and NCM fails to back-up a config for one of your devices, your forum’s MVPs confirm your problem or offer you a solution they found. In all cases, you’ll often hear from SolarWinds engineers, product managers, information developers and others with a stake in you getting the best information and as quickly as possible.

 

With an eye on the future, as part of revealing the kernel of why we’re on Thwack, I want to cover a little history.

 

The Future is Always Getting Ready

 

William Gibson famously observed that, when it comes to technology, the future is already here but it’s unevenly distributed.

 

As Facebook surpasses a billion users worldwide, let’s consider why; especially since we all complain about Facebook not offering a very satisfying social experience.

 

As someone who worked there at the time, I remember that in 2004 Yahoo! had the most registered users internationally of all internet sites. While Yahoo! was serving up a portal experience, Zuckerberg had just launched Facebook and had staff working out a small space in Palo Alto. Just 8 years later Facebook is synonymous with social networking and Yahoo! seems on the verge of being sold off as piecemeal services that someone might figure out how to grow as specific online communities. Even with the enormous leverage of users already participating daily within its dotcom footprint, and through a mutually reinforcing aglomeration of services, Yahoo! failed to remain a leader in the era of the social web.

 

Why is the social web so much more valuable than a place where you simply go to use a service or retrieve information?

 

While Yahoo! still offers an evolving set of services and experiences in which users rapidly publish and exchange an ongoing and cumulative stream of information—text, audio files, photographs, videos, links to other content—both asynchronously and in real-time, what it does not offer, or began to offer only belatedly, are exchanges within a community in which information comes with value already attached by the community itself.

 

Simply put, successful social web sites are those that use reputation and ratings systems to control access and value related to both interaction and information exchanged through interaction.

 

For example, think of the different editorial value implied in getting the same news story through digg.com and CNN.com. Crowdsourcing, in a word, makes the creation of value within the community accessible to everyone in the community.

 

If Facebook declines as the leader of the social web it will be because it fails to safeguard the integrity of the social experiences it makes available. My colleague today told me that she doesn’t use Facebook anymore because her parents are on there. Users who stop trusting the interactions and information that the community offers them will migrate to another where the value is higher.

 

Online, Trust is Almost Everything

 

Like SolarWinds products themselves,Thwack is only as valuable as the trust you create while here; and that trust depends on how you and others interact and especially on what information you share and how you share it.

 

If you think of ubiquitous computing as an evolving inevitability, then you are already attuned to technology-mediated relationships becoming increasingly pervasive, so that the computing infrastructure itself tends to disappear into the environment much as urban architecture does.

 

As IT professionals, we are the ones for whom computing technology will never become invisible, no matter how much out of sight. Even so, perhaps more so than everyone else, we will depend on our technically savvy community to vet issues of mutual importance in figuring out how to make technology better serve its users.