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Successful Software

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Jonathan Matthews
Creator of DeepTrawl, CloudTrawl, and LeapDoc

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Bingo Card Creator

Integrate forum with desktop application

I'm looking at ways of building a community for users of my software.
The way things are at the moment is that users email me for support and I'd rather deal with this stuff on a forum to build up a repository of Q&As and also to allow users to help each other.
However if I start a typical forum i can see it being a ghost town and the silent majority will never find it.
So I was thinking of integrating it with my application so that there would be some forum status information displayed discreetly  such as '5 new messages today' and clicking on the status display would automatically log that computer into the form (it would be a members only forum), including transparently taking care of registration etc.
Is there  forum software that provides an API to do this?
I guess it might not be too hard to take care of the registration and log in stuff behind the scenes.
I was thinking of making the individual computers the 'members'
of the forum rather than the computer users.
Good idea, bad idea, any suggestions?
Drummer Send private email
Thursday, April 11, 2013
 
 
This sounds like an excellent idea. I have no idea how to implement it, but I can see how this could also be used to track usage and adoption of the software and also be used to track and enforce licensing.

I've been thinking of doing something similar with my products, but using a user log in area on the site with extra bonus material available to registered users.
Andrew Gibson Send private email
Thursday, April 11, 2013
 
 
Just FYI it's very easy to begin seeding the forum with your own support requests. I had a forum and even when I had like 30 users, it was busy because I would move all support requests to the forum. People don't mind, unless there are privacy issues in which case I encourage them to email me.
Bring back anon Send private email
Thursday, April 11, 2013
 
 
@BringBack Anon did you create a username fro the user that asked the question or just post the question yourself?

@Andrew, thanks for
The bones of the kluudgy idea I have is to have a webapp as well as something like a phpBB forum.
When the user clicks to go to the forum the program for the first time the program contacts the webapp which will create a username/password combo for that computer on the forum and then
pass these back for local storage. The computer would then log in to the forum directly from then on so it's all transparent to the user.
The webapp would monitor the forum and keep a statistic of the number of postings in the last hour and the local app would poll that regularly so as to update the display to the user.
Drummer Send private email
Thursday, April 11, 2013
 
 
No, I'd do something like this: if an email came in for support, I'd answer it on the support forum and direct them there for an answer. If they had more questions, they'd usually ask there. Also, the forum supports facebook login which a LOT of people seem to use which is weird. But whatever, yo.
Bring back anon Send private email
Thursday, April 11, 2013
 
 
@Bring back anon

Sounds interesting. Couple of questions:

- What forum software are you using
- When you post the initial support question, do you ask the person if they mind it being posted or just remove it later if they object?
- In the post where you ask the initial question, do you do it under their name or under some kind of admin name?
- Are you seeing an seo return on this? I'd see that as one possible upside although I bet that would vary a lot by product.
Jonathan Matthews Send private email
Thursday, April 11, 2013
 
 
Drummer Send private email
Thursday, April 11, 2013
 
 
> What forum software are you using

Uservoice

> When you post the initial support question, do you ask the person if they mind it being posted or just remove it later if they object?

> In the post where you ask the initial question, do you do it under their name or under some kind of admin name?

I reword it, post it and answer it under my own name. Never had an issue with someone asking me to take it off.

> Are you seeing an seo return on this? I'd see that as one possible upside although I bet that would vary a lot by product.

Haven't measured it, probably not.
Bring back anon Send private email
Thursday, April 11, 2013
 
 
As a side note, if you want to setup a Stack Overflow-like forum, the best alternative I've found is OSQA, and BitNami has what seems to be the best build of it.  If you don't want to run it yourself, the folks who originally started OSQA now offer a hosted service, but I don't know much about it.
Doug Send private email
Thursday, April 11, 2013
 
 
@Bring back anon, thanks, interesting approach.

@ Drummer

I think it's an interesting idea. Two suggestions:

- I'm not sure making the computer the member is the right choice. I'd more likely tie it to a person with a super easy signup (literally enter a name, username & password). The reason being some users might become quite active and resent losing their name / perceived reputation when they install on a new machine. Plus they can use their forum account on their other devices (phone, tablet etc) when they're away from their desktop. These are the users you want.

- I'd make sure that if the desktop software can't see the forum (network errors etc.) it gracefully just doesn't show the integrated forum features. If this experiment doesn't fly I wouldn't want to be tied to supporting the forum forever.
Jonathan Matthews Send private email
Friday, April 12, 2013
 
 
@Jonathan
Having thought about it some more I agree with you.
A much looser connection with the forum would be preferable.

Desktop app <-> webapp -> forum <- Browser

Forum would be set to not allow new registrations.
The webapp would allow new registrations by directly editing the database. It would also supply the desktop app with real time information on new posts etc.
Once registered users can log in to forum via desktop/web app or via a browser.
Drummer Send private email
Friday, April 12, 2013
 
 
Sorry I also meant to say that I agree with your point about users rather than computers being the  forum members.
Drummer Send private email
Friday, April 12, 2013
 
 
I don't understand why you guys just don't spend $10-$20/month and have someone else host it. Am I taking crazy pills?
Bring back anon Send private email
Friday, April 12, 2013
 
 
@BringBack Anon

That would be no problem but this is a niche market and the forum would be very quiet especially at the beginning.
OTOH there are 100s of users and they spend most of their day looking at the desktop appliction.
So the ambition is to entice them to use the forum by providing them with realtime information about new posts and also make it easy for them to visit.
Where the forum itself is hosted is immaterial.
Drummer Send private email
Friday, April 12, 2013
 
 
Too complex. Use my strategy if u get even one support request a day, it works.
Bring back anon Send private email
Friday, April 12, 2013
 
 

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