The New Relic Community Forum is one year old today! A lot has happened since we debuted on April 2, 2014, so to get the full update, we sat down with the two people at New Relic who know it best: JP Gordon, senior technical support manager, and Lisa Wess, online community moderator, both of whom work out of our beautiful Portland office. JP and Lisa shared some impressive stats, introduced us to a few community leaders, and pointed toward an even more engaging future for our Community Forum.
Q: Can you tell us a little bit about the early days of the New Relic Community Forum?
JP: We established the New Relic Community Forum to provide a central place for New Relic users to ask questions, exchange ideas, and help each other use New Relic products to make better decisions for their applications and their businesses. We also hoped to build a living, searchable, ever-growing public knowledge base.
The forum was built with a hosted version of an open source product called Discourse, which we chose because it is quick to set up, easy to customize, and has killer search functionality.
The forum went live on April 2, 2014, originally in support of the beta version of our New Relic Insights product. A number of early forum users gave feedback about their experiences with Insights, and they asked a lot of questions about its design and features. This was the perfect scenario as it helped us to iron out the initial kinks with the forum while providing value to our early community members.
Since then, our community has grown steadily:
We’re happy with that organic growth, but we have some ideas in play to really accelerate growth in the coming year.
Q: How would you characterize the Community Forum’s first year?
Lisa: Community growth can be a tricky thing to encourage and build, but we have definitely exceeded expectations.
While we are a very metrics-oriented company, when it comes to community, qualitative metrics matter, too: Are people impassioned, excited, and engaged? Do they feel comfortable enough to challenge the status quo and know they’ll be taken seriously?
We’ve seen an increasing number of wonderful conversations, including ongoing discussions, cooperative solution creation, and debates. Our community is maturing and coming together at a rapid pace—and I am proud to be a part of it.
Q: How is the forum organized, and how to do users submit questions?
JP: The community is organized into categories corresponding to specific New Relic products. Plus, we also have other categories for more general conversations:
- Meta for topics about the community
- Dev Chat for non-New Relic technical discussions
- Events for information about New Relic public events
- Uncategorized for topics that don’t fit naturally anywhere else
Members submit new questions by clicking into a category and selecting “New Topic.” You can also submit new comments/questions for an already existing topic by clicking into the desired category topic and selecting “Reply” to extend the thread. One of our community’s big advantages is that you don’t need to ask questions to get answers—you don’t even need to log in! Just use our excellent internal search feature or simply Google what you’re looking for.
Q: Lisa, what is your role as New Relic support moderator?
Lisa: My role focuses on keeping in touch with the community, helping forum participants get the help they need, and being a reliable presence on the forums. Every day I work to make the forums free of spam, interact with community participants (wearing both technical and non-technical hats), and work on boosting momentum and participation in our community. My primary personal goal with our community is to ensure that our members have a place where they feel safe and encouraged to ask their questions, help each other, and discuss all facets of New Relic.
Q: What are some of your favorite forum threads?
Lisa: The coolest threads, for me, are the ones where the community really shines and takes a moment not only to ask for support, but to give it without expectation of anything in return. One such thread addressed automating server removal. Two community members stepped forward with scripts to help others automate this task.
Q: What has been one of the best things about the forum so far? Has something happened that you didn’t expect?
Lisa: We’ve had a few absolutely delightful moments on the forum. Once, I posted a digest including a “thank you” to a few members for their assistance. That digest included a call out thanking Hobbit_71 (Martin) for his assistance and interaction with the community. Martin then stepped up to become our very first Forum Hero. A Forum Hero is a community member who has repeatedly gone a few extra steps to help out fellow community members. He’s helped others a number of times with troubleshooting and encouragement. He is also working on a guest blog post for us. Thank you for your passion and contributions, Martin!
We’re always seeking more Heroes, and while I can not possibly list all of our incredibly awesome contributors, I’d like to recognize a couple who have made significant ongoing contributions: Todd Saylor and Trevor Dearham.
Q: Who at New Relic contributes most to the forum?
Lisa: Me! The forum community is my home. I’m in there all the time to interact with each of you! While an increasing number of questions are being answered by non-New Relic community members, many of the questions are fielded by our technical support engineers (TSEs) and our product managers. And we do see other Relics address questions as well—including our founder and CEO, Lew Cirne!
Q: What are some of the issues frequently raised by community members?
JP: The community asks a lot of very specific “how does this feature work with this framework?”-type questions. We also get a number of questions related to using New Relic Query Language (NRQL), the simple, SQL-like language used in New Relic Insights.
There are questions relating to performance, security, and UI interpretations as well as questions around extensibility (“How can I use your API to …”). Additionally, we get a lot of incredibly useful feedback around features and feature usage—much of which has resulted in significant improvements to our product set.
Q: Now that the New Relic Community Forum is celebrating its first birthday, what can we look forward to next?
JP: We want users to come to the community to not only ask for help, but also to share experiences, interact socially, and help each other. To support that, we plan to introduce a reputation system where users earn points for their contributions to the community. Contributions vary, but would include responding to other users’ issues, creating forum posts promoting best practices and tips, initiating lively debates, and so on. Our approach to reputation will be mindful. We believe the reputation scores that incentivize increased contributions are those generated by the quality evaluations from other users.