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ChChChChanges... Coming to THWACK in February 2020

Community Manager

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.

100 Comments
MVP
MVP

Looking forward to it!

Level 11

Great work guys, Great write up DanielleH​.  Good luck with the Migration

Level 12

wow, i'd love it.

MVP
MVP

this is a huge migration, thank you for all the work you've put in - can't wait to see our new home

Level 14

Looking forward to my first test drive!

MVP
MVP

DanielleH

Best of luck to you and the team on this transition. THWACKnation stands by, ready to assist where we can!

Level 8

Wonderful write up, i feel we transitioned the whole 17 years together in 5 mins.

Holy shnikies. You guys are brave. I can't even imagine what this undertaken must have felt like, and will say for everyone, "thank you!" Mobile was painful to the point of barely being usable, and none of us want to be investing our time and energy in an EOL platform. Change is tough, but I'm looking forward to seeing the new side of Thwack.

AND DARK THEME! Haha. Does this also mean Solarwinds D20s in the store?!

Level 12

That is a lot of work to keep the community going! I appreciate it!

MVP
MVP

Kudo's on all the work that I know has gone on in the background.

I am sure there will be some growing pains as a result but we will be here to perceiver!

Level 11

Thanks for taking your community seriously through all of this. The point system is a BONUS, and not required. The fact that this community was such a HUGE part of the migration consideration is a testament to what you all do and thank you for that. Not many others I know would have taken as much time and effort to do so.

Level 9

Thanks for the heads up and good luck!

Level 14

Thank you Danielle (and team). Appreciate the heads up and hard work. Since I have been out here for like, forever, I realize change is inevitable and not always smooth. While there will be growing pains we will survive and get through them - together. Or not .

Level 12

Hello! Very curious and as always, looking forward to the change. We are borg! Resistance is futile 🙂

MVP
MVP

This Jive platform has served so well for so long, but if there is an absolute in life (and especially IT) change is inevitable. Change will no doubt bring challenges, more to the Thwack team I suspect than anyone else, and 'why did this change' but nothing that I am sure will detract from the huge benefits SolarWinds users get from this community.

Looking forward to seeing the fruits of your hardwork and did someone mention DARKTHEME?!

Level 9

Congrats DanielleH​ and team! I can't even begin to wrap my head around the amount of custom code required to do the crazy things here on thwack, and getting it to a standards system must have been brutal. I will say I'm particularly excited to the mobile optimizations and dark mode! My free time is crying but my eyes are saying thank you!

Level 16

I hope I get to take my Thwack points along with me

Community Manager
Community Manager

Before you start penning hate letters, your points are being carried over and the store will live on.

Level 16

Thanks! No hate letters form me

Level 13

Thanks for a very thorough explanation and all the work you and the migration team put into this.  Sounds non-trivial to say the least.  We appreciate you all and look forward to moving into the new digital digs.

Great effort so far. Like all of us in IT these projects only continue to build the stress as the cut over approaches and for days and weeks after. Here is wishing you all the best as this moves forward. I know you all will handle it with grace and professionalism.

It is great to see the community continue to grow and I'm excited to see how we continue to grow.  THWACK is an amazing resource, unlike any other vendor community I've seen and to know it's only going to get better (which a little pain) is amazing. 

Level 9

H

A

T
E

there I penned my HATE letter, deal with it. 

Level 9

All of your hard work is very much appreciated.

Level 9

Thanks for the heads-up!  I'm excited to see how point accumulation will work on the new platform.  Will the monthly missions live on?  As part of my daily routine, it'd feel like wandering through space (translation: Middle-earth) without it.

DanielleH​, it would be fun to see some stats about the current platform. (Maybe you've already planned these for the eulogy post?) Would love to see # of users, # of discussions, # of ideas, # of average daily visits, etc.

Level 20

So essentially this is going to be Thwack 3.0... I remember when this version got rolled out I'm afraid to say how many years ago!  I hate full blown changes like this... I can only imagine what it's like for you but I can relate to having like 4 or 5 jobs now o.O!

The only constant is change, looking forward to new and exciting things from Thwack!

Community Manager
Community Manager

They will continue on in the new platform. Missions are part of our heavily customized Jive environment but they're a critical component to the community and as such, they're coming with us.

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.

Community Manager
Community Manager

I was here for the last migration.

Level 20

The biggest concern is always is it going to scale at least as well as our own platform did?  It's nice to not have to patch and run your own infrastructure but that also involves trust and letting go of some control as well.  I know people keep telling me cloud cloud cloud... I'm not sure i'll be telling little kids about the old days when we ran our own computers anytime soon.

Although there is even classified development happening in some "special" clouds now so who knows?

We're seeing if we can stay in a hotel during SWUG next week... even though we live here in town.  It's sorta on the other side of town for a couple of us.  I live up in North Scottsdale so it might be nice to not have to drive both days but we'll see!

Level 9

So, then, are you making the change at 20:20:20 the night of 2/20/2020? Or is that 2 much 2 ask?

Level 10

Good Gosh that sounds like a headache! I was an observer on my personal life's forums (penny arcade) getting moved to Vanilla, and that seemed like a pain and a half... and they don't have nearly the gamification that is here.

As long as the people remain and the content is accurate, I'm sure everything will be fine. Though... hopefully, maybe some redirect magic to make old links to KBs and articles work with the new naming scheme?

Community Manager
Community Manager

Native THWACK links will be redirected. KBs and documentation articles are hosted on support.solarwinds.com so those links should be fine.

Community Manager
Community Manager

I hear you. THWACK is currently hosted (we don't run our infrastructure) but regardless cloud was not appealing to us at first. There have been some perks along the way, though. We will probably still be the most customized cloud customer the new platform has.

You should definitely take up the hotel stay option if you can swing it. Approximately 60% of attendees travel to SWUGs now and even locals prefer to stay near the venue to avoid lengthy commutes. We could've hosted in Phoenix proper or Scottsdale, but there was slim to no availability and the nightly rates were $400+/night. I lived there for 6+ years and I'm sure you understand why costs soar this time of year. We definitely aim to keep things as economical as possible.

Level 7

Oh—and #darktheme is coming.

The most exciting new feature

Level 14

Wow. If every migration was documented and explained to the users like this we'd have far fewer problems.

Well done Team Thwack. Looking forward to the next-gen binary cut-over.

Level 12

If Events will be no more, how will Solarwinds Labs and thwackCamp be handled?  I know I am among the many who finds these learning opportunities invaluable.

MVP
MVP

They're just going to have to set up a Twitch account for Thwackcamp haha

Level 8

I had a flashback to the 80's.  Really thought the title was going to say Chchchchia! 

Chia Pet - Wikipedia

Original Chia Pet Commercal - YouTube

Community Manager
Community Manager

Was going for a different era. The 70s: david bowie - changes - YouTube

Community Manager
Community Manager

When I mentioned "events" are going away, I'm referring to the content type. This is what's going away: Community Events, Webcasts &amp; Training​. We will still publish events on THWACK but they'll be blog posts that link off to where you can register for said event.

This should have no impact on you as registered members cannot create events today. This also has no impact on SolarWinds Lab or THWACKcamp.

Community Manager
Community Manager

Allow me to clarify - timing is TBD. It will not be available when we go live on the new platform, but I've seen the site in dark mode and we're working on a toggle so user's can choose their preference.

Level 10

Ok cool then...

Level 12

WTB export of my sweet sweet point history

exciting times! Looking forward to it!

Community Manager
Community Manager

Before you start penning hate letters, your points are being carried over and the store will live on.

Level 12

DanielleH​ sorry it was intended to be a joke.  I wish you and all the other community team good luck on your migration. 

Community Manager
Community Manager

Image result for laughing but crying meme

MVP
MVP

You have my full support!!  I am bummed .. I have been working hard to climb the ladder ... I am 200something ... its all good.  Can't thank you all enough for your had work and dedication to the project.  This truly is a special community!  Please pass on a thank you to those that don't ever get to see these comments!!! LOTS OF LOVE TO YOU AND YOURS!!!