June 1, 2011

Slashdot founder spearheads Perforce Ecosystem

MERGE User Conference

Known for peerless customer support, Perforce is no slacker in the community-building department either. But while many SCM users have a slightly above-average fondness for command-line interfaces, the world around them has changed. Perforce is ready to embrace the lessons of social media to create what it calls the Ecosystem. They’ve brought Jeff Bates, co-founder of Slashdot.org, to spearhead the effort.

Ecosystem by James Creasy and Jeff Bates
James Creasy (left) and Jeff Bates (right) unveil plans for new Ecosystem.

While the Perforce “mailing list” user forum has been up for a decade, it has been primarily a haven for admins and no one else. “I learned from my time at Slashdot that for every problem that was out there, there were going to be 1000 people on the internet who would know better than I did how to solve it. My job is to bring those people together,” said Bates.

He hastened to add the mailing list “is still there for people who like text interface – there was some angst about that.” But along with a pretty new GUI, there will be a searchable index of the interface (“I found the top question had been asked and answered 47 different times.”), recognition of top users (curators), expansion of forums, a Perforcepedia, and elements to encourage new development such as the App Junction.

Elements of the ecosystem: App Junction

While the engagement of the P4 blog and Twitter have grown over the years, the Ecosystem will bring together different silos of content into one stream, Bates explained. Some of the most exciting content will be executable.

“From the polling and talking that I’ve done with customers, the App Junction is one that’s very interesting to you,” said Bates. Building on existing tools such as the public depot, download site and other sources, Perforce is also looking internally to expose tools its own employees use to its customers. And it’s releasing some proprietary code to open source to get the juices flowing. These community-built tools, both internal and external, will help connect developers and users.

James Creasy, manager of the product technology team, stepped up to explain a bit more about the company’s vision for “widening the net, gathering community and funneling up.” While the suggestion box – which dates back to the 1770s British Navy, Creasy said – captures too little information with too much anonymity, today the ideal solution is “you capture a bit of code. It forces validation of code, it identifies an owner to the idea and it’s far less ambiguous than written words.”

“Bringing it back to ‘version everything,’ in the ecosystem that means bringing together admins, developers and non-technical users in a virtual community where we discuss best practices -- how you get stuff done,” said Bates.