TechWhirl Community Forum — Bridging Islands

Uniting TechWhirl Communities

TechWhirl Community Forum – Center of All Discussions

Yesterday, we publicly announced TechWhirl’s Community Forums. As many of you know, “Go-Live” is a pretty frantic time on a project. From final configuration to QA checks there’s a lot happening, as the days become hours, which become minutes, which become the moment. We’re now through that all-important moment so we can breathe a little easier and dive into some of the details.

We’re extremely proud of our little forum even if it never gets another visitor because a) we had to crash the timeline from a rushed six weeks to a frantic four weeks b) without much coding capabilities we were able to find a near-perfect solution to unite TechWhirl.Com’s content and our TECHWR-L Email list in an elegant way.

A quick background on some stuff you know but we need to explain our central premise and ultimate Go-Live pleasure. TECHWR-L (ahem TechWhirl) started as a pure-play email discussion list back in 1993. Later, as the web was leaving the early soup of Lynx to greater popularity Techwr-l.com went live in 1999. From that day, the two operations have been united in name and ownership, but were never really united.

Whirlers on the Email Discussion Group asked their questions, solidified Tina as a permanent fixture in Dilbert cartoons and rolled as the largest professional group for technical communicators in the world. The list’s little-brother website gained popularity via the Email List archives (over 450,000 entries right now) and some of the published articles such as the Writing Software Requirements Specifications are timeless classics on campuses around the world.

But, for all intents and purposes, the groups remained on separate islands. The reason was simply that the technology wasn’t there to unite them in a reasonable way. TECHWR-L runs on robust email discussion software (Mailman these days) and the web made the journey of HTML to a web CMS platform.

This gap in technologies finally changed about a year ago, but it took us some time to become ready-to-risk the list frustrated with our Email Archives indexer and secure the funding (thanks to Doc-To-Help) for the move. These days the Email Discussion List indexer is dropping about 50% of our discussions (when you see 300 conversations in a month, it’s more like 600 – 800) thanks to – who knows why – and then the good people at Doc-To-Help agreed to underwrite the larger than a company our size can afford cost.

All that leads us to yesterday when we were able to replace TechWhirl.Com system with its new online forum solution. Now, every post to the site becomes a discussion topic inside of the Community Forums after the first website comment. We have now linked one island of our community, the website to a new central island, the Community Forum.

The final piece of the linking comes later this autumn when our vaulted Email Discussion group joints the Forum. Earlier we mentioned elegant and here’s why: our list members will see virtually no change to their interactions with the list. For them, if they so choose, it’s just an underlying platform change.

They’ll use the same email, submit the same way and generally continue rolling in year 20.5 like they did in year 0.5. The only difference is that commenters to our articles and those who find us by Google, Bing, DuckDuckGo and Yahoo will join them in discussions.

For the first time in 20 years, our islands will be connected.

We invite each and every one of you to visit our Community Forum and join (no charge friends). We’re already 400 strong thanks to our migration of our old comments and the only thing that could make that better is if we had you with us.

Over the next week or so we’ll be posting more information about the Forum capabilities and plans. We like to practice what we preach about using Support / User Assistance for Content Marketing and frankly some of the Forum’s capabilities are clever enough to warrant a full post.