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Business case for software online user group

edited July 2007 in Vanilla 1.0 Help
Does anyone have a business case that they can share with me about offering an online software user group via Vanilla or some other online community forum? I am trying to make my case to my management team and would like to see what others have said when making the same argument.

On the other side of the coin, has anyone rolled out an online software user group discussion site with less than stellar results?

thanks for your help

- david

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    edited July 2007
    I work for a Web Design company and use Vanilla as our project manager, both for client-staff discussions and inner-office communication and assignments. Here is how I set it up:

    6 Categories:
    1. Site Creation (for design review/approval and resource collection)
    2. Site Maintenance (for work orders pertaining to keeping their site up to date once live)
    3. Technical Support (for tech support and requests, such as the site being down or emails needing to be created/troubleshooted)
    4. Staff Discussion (for all staff, such as my higher-ups and people on my build/design teams)
    5. Announcements (anything that pertains to everyone, such as holiday business hours, new features/products. We close the discussion as soon as its posted.)
    6. Documentation (how to setup pop3, how search engines work, the overall design process, etc. We close the discussion as soon as its posted.)

    5 Roles
    1. Site Creation (only has access to the Site Creation, Announcements, Docu and Tech Support categories)
    2. Site Maintenance (only has access to Site Maintenance, Announcements, Docu and Tech Support categories)
    3. Administrator (me, so I can do whatever I need to do to keep the forum functioning)
    4. Staff (has access to all categories, but no settings)
    5. Inactive (past clients who don't have access to anything)

    I handle everything through whispers. So, I create an account, assign it a role and create two whisper discussions for them: 1 for whichever phase they are in (creation/maintenance) and 1 for tech support. That way, when the log in, all they see is their specific whispered discussions and announcements. Then we provide the login to the client. There are no public discussions except the documentation and announcements category, however they are closed as soon as they are started (labeled "Read-Only"). And, the clients can not start discussions. Only staff can. Staff isn't whisper-only, but it doesn't need to be. Staff is for work logs, general conversation and report posting.

    We use the following extensions:
    - Announcement (to remind people to update their emails or other small things)
    - Attachments 2 with Multi File Upload (so we can upload designs and they can upload photos/docs/zips of their content for their site design and updates)
    - BBInsert Bar and Better BBCode (for formatting, normally I am the only one to use this)
    - Discussion Overview (globally turned off since most users only see 3-10 conversations, with 7 of them in documenation or Announcements. Allows us to see an overview, but not necessarily applicable to clients.)
    - Edit Protection (staff can edit, clients can't)
    - Global Preference Setting (very nice to have when you can figure out what the call tags are)
    - Mark All Read
    - Notify (allows us to easily notify our clients when there is a change they need to see)
    - Nuggets (hooked up an iframe above the discussion list so that we can have a calendar (run on google calendar)
    - Page Manager (made a link directly to the upload area each month for easy access for our build team. Also built a page for live support, which is run on Meebo)
    - Who's Online (only staff/admin can see, clients can not)
    - Members List (alpha sorted)


    Now, granted, I was doing it like this before Jazzman's issue tracker. So, I'm sure you might be able to configure his to do just about the same stuff. But, if you want an easy method to use as a project manager that is secure and easy to use both by your staff (we have a staff of 5 people, 3 being computer illiterate and have had no problems) and clients (we work primarily with small businesses who are 9 times out of 10 1-2 man shows who barely have time to check email and are able to use it - despite still working with AOL dialup).

    That's what I have used it for. I run a few personal forums on it as well. One for just friends, one for personal use/testing and one for an RPG group. I would recommend using it for what ever you need.
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