Author Archive: Preran Kumar

Considerations for creating an online community

Before you proceed to create an online community for your product or service, ensure that you have given it much thought and deliberation. Communities that are created without a plan and purpose often fall by the wayside, becoming deserted islands that live on the Internet to fade away into insignificance.

While the topics discussed below are mainly for profit driven organizations, some of them hold good for altruistic communities as well.


Identify how the creation of an online community maps to your company’s or team’s business goals. Ensure that your plan speaks to either minimizing costs or maximizing profits. Create a vision statement that reflects the purpose of your project.

Communities that are created without a plan and purpose often fall by the wayside, becoming deserted islands that live on the Internet to fade away into insignificance.

Communities that are created without a plan and purpose often fall by the wayside, becoming deserted islands that live on the Internet to fade away into insignificance.

Metrics that you put in place to track the progress and success of your plan should be specific, measurable, agreed upon, realistic, and time-based.


The quality of discussions in a community are driven by the kind of people that will stay involved with what’s happening in that space. You will have to think upfront about how you will drive members with similar interests to your space and keep them invested.

For audience to stay involved and committed, they need a shared purpose and goal. The community should add value to their lives much as their discussions add value to your organization. Content seeding may sometimes be necessary, especially during the initial stages, to keep the community alive.

Manpower and resources

While an online community is mostly made of people from outside of your organization, you will need people from within to manage, monitor, and report from online channels. They will need a training plan to ensure that they are able representatives of the company and are well versed with policies governing online communication.

People that you are wanting to hire will need a career roadmap, well-defined job responsibilities, and an organization structure before they accept. You will be competing with teams that are more well-established and are considered “safer” options.

Online community managers

Online community managers are responsible for ensuring smooth interactions among members of a community while reporting about the state of affairs to senior management. Depending on the size of the organization, they may have a team responding to regular queries leaving them with time to formulate policies and replies around more complicated questions.

Related teams in your company

You will be needing buy ins from other teams that you will be working with such as legal, human resources, finance, public relations, customer support, IT, and product teams before you get started. Consider the concerns that they are likely to come up with, and have a plan.

You will probably not be prepared for everything that comes your way, and that is OK. Ensure that you stay true to your answers with a promise of more information if you don’t have it at hand.

Senior management

If your company is investing in social media for the first time, you will have to identify members within your organization that will buy into your mission. You can start with one-to-one discussions and identify their concerns before you proceed to pitch your plan to a bigger audience for approval.

Companies often resist changes to the way they operate, and your plan will have to anticipate all reasons for refusal, and address them upfront. Online communities are challenging and open up the company to all sorts of legal hurdles they have not imagined. Consider your battle half won even if they walk away with the promise of considering your idea.

Online communities and their benefits

Image depicting online communities

An online community is a group of people that use a shared space on the Internet to discuss topics and information related to their area of interest.

An online community is a group of people that use a shared space on the Internet to discuss topics and information related to their area of interest.

Because the community is virtual, its members are not restricted to limitations across time and space. For example, Jazz music lovers from across the world can come together on the same platform to discuss and share information about latest albums, trends, concerts, and such.

In the world of technology and retail, companies often create spaces on their website where their users can discuss and provide opinion on their products. They help companies get feedback directly from the customers while also allowing their user base to share opinions and help each other.

There are so many online communities on the Internet today that the chances of you not finding one on your area of interest are remote. From ice chewers to skateboarders to geeks, there is something for everyone, if you can only summon yourself to find it.

Online communities can be both public and private.

Public communities don’t place restrictions on access to its members. The ability to post may sometimes be conditional such as registering with the group or accepting their terms and conditions. Other than that, access is free and the content in these spaces is readily available to search engines such as Google and Bing.

Examples of public communities: Adobe Forums, Jazz Music Forum

Private communities, on the other hand restrict access to their discussions through an invitation based system. Content in such spaces is beyond the reach of search engines. Many companies create subspaces within their ecosystem where confidential information is discussed and shared with people that have signed a non-disclosure agreement.

Benefits of joining an online community

–          Latest information on topics related to your area of interest

–          Freedom to access and share content at your time and convenience

–          Access to members from across the world for help and advice

–          Establish credential among peers

Benefits of hosting an online community (for organizations)

–          Direct feedback on products and services from users

–          Customer retention – customers are more likely to trust companies that they can have a direct conversation with

–          Cost-effective marketing – by allowing users to come to you, you have more targeted and focused discussions around your product and releases.

–          Product issues and feature sets –  by providing pre-release builds to select members of the community, or by asking for opinions around a feature, you identify bugs and feature requests that most matter to your users

–          Honest ratings and opinions

–           Reduced support costs – Allowing users to share information and help each other reduce the number of people that will pick up the phone to call your contact centers

We will be discussing more on each of these topics through the course of my blog posts. Hold on for now. We are just getting started.

My new series – Art of managing support forums

Bulb with idea pods

Managing support communities can be challenging. This blog series will try and simplify that.

Purpose of this blog series

It has been five years since I joined the social media support team at Adobe, which among other things, manages Adobe’s online forums for our products. In these years, I believe I have come to have a fair understanding of the intricacies of managing and participating in public forums. It is my desire to share these learnings with you. I hope you find them useful.

My initial blog posts will broadly touch upon online communities and their benefits. Moving forward, my blog posts will mostly be focused on forums created with the primary intention of users to share information with and help each other.

I will also try and touch upon aspects of social psychology and how it can be effectively utilized to manage public forums.

These blog posts mainly derive their content from my experience. I will also be using materials from the Internet to verify my writing before posting it. I will rely on you to correct me when I go wrong, and I will ensure that all constructive feedback is taken into consideration in future posts.

It would be wonderful if I can get all these posts published as a book at some point in time. But I am getting ahead of myself already.

Who are these blogs meant for?

If you are responsible for creating and managing public forums, I believe that you will have significant value to derive from my blog posts.

These blogs will also be useful to those wanting to venture into the world of online support forums but haven’t done so far because of various reasons, including the fear of change and the potential harm that public exposure sometimes brings with it.

Parts of these series will probably go beyond the audience I have set for myself, and I do hope that whoever comes to visit will benefit from their visit.

Being happy and staying that way


Why should I be happy?

Happiness is a good predictor of a longer and healthier life. If that doesn’t seem good enough, being happy makes you more productive and efficient in your personal and professional life. People around you benefit as much from your being happy. It’s so important that the Pursuit of Happiness finds a mention in the United States’ Declaration of Independence.

So, why aren’t we naturally happy all the time?

Many reasons actually. Some of us believe that being happy is a surefire route to inviting an unlucky charm work against it. We look at other people around us and constantly compare our levels of happiness with theirs. We hold on to a negative portion of our past because our evolutionary mechanisms make us not forget things that hurt us. We are curious about our future and are constantly imagining it through the negativity of news channels. Bad news sells more than the good and newspapers don’t run on charity. But we don’t consider that.

Do you know Ms. LuckyJane?

Do you know Ms. LuckyJane? Or Mr. LuckyJohn? I would be surprised if you didn’t. It’s your friend, the one that seems genetically predisposed to get the better things in life that you always craved for. Her Facebook posts read like the liturgy for an ideal life – the most expensive vacations, cars, and exotic food with loved ones at plush locales.

Of course it buggers you – you started off as equals in childhood. You did relatively better in college, and while not exactly a magnet, had your fair share of relationships before settling for one that had the most potential. And yet, somewhere down the line, the proverbial tortoise, Ms. LuckyJane beat you to the goal post.


Is your idea of success and happiness relative?

You see a post from a friend that has switched jobs – rumor has it that he will be paid twice than what he did in his previous organization. Discounting the exaggeration factor, you still believe that he got a great deal. You feel cheated at not getting your due. You get up on Saturday and browse the job listings.

You get the job, albeit with a hike much lesser than wished for. You nevertheless post your manufactured happiness on social media for the envy of those that behold.  A week into the job your colleague states in passing that your negotiation skills are poor; the HR folks got you easy. And you start to wonder, all over again…

I could tell you that you lead the kind of life most kings a century ago would envy. You don’t face the risk of war, disease, or uncertainty as much as they did. You eat a greater variety of food, have technology to assist you, and have the chance to predict your life in ways they couldn’t have. But you would still be unhappy because your reference is Mr. LuckyJohn, and you are not as lucky as he is.

The reason behind our dissatisfaction and unhappiness is because we are not comparing our success against our personally set benchmarks. We are constantly looking for external validation from people whose ideas of success are very different from ours, and keep changing.

By constantly readjusting our goals and our needs, we set ourselves for a lifelong journey of reward seeking without pausing to enjoy the journey or our accomplishments.

Why the perfect life doesn’t exist, and why that is good

You are born to rich and happy parents; you are a good looking baby and an intelligent and handsome adult; companies crave to recruit you, and you choose the best. You marry the person you love, you provide your children with the same kind of life that you had, and you die in your sleep, content at having lived your life to the fullest.

This kind of life is very rare, if it happens at all. The more likely scenario in the above case is that you would be spoilt for choice as a kid and an adult.  The choice, by itself  would be confusing and make you unhappy because you wouldn’t ever know if you picked the right option. You would always wonder if your success is because of your parents, and discount your looks to genetics.  You die wondering if your whole life was just about you being lucky.

Truth is, most of us will be born under more unfortunate circumstances, will be thrown to unforeseen winds, and will be left making sense of what we have and where to go. And while that sounds depressing, taken at the wind, these situations are what make our lives interesting. The way our life unfolds can best be predicted from our ability to maneuver ourselves from adverse situations, like any hero from any story worth telling.

We can be happy most of the time, if we try

Happiness isn’t a byproduct of something that will be attainable to us in the future, if we tried hard enough.  It’s not a permanent object that will suddenly be ours to keep because we got the best job, married the most beautiful person, or have the most amazing kids. The truth is that our brain soon gets used to new situations, however fantastical they may be.

There isn’t much difference in the happiness quotient of a person that won a lottery and the one that was injured in an accident after a period of time. Hedonic adaption, the tendency of human beings to return to a relatively stable level of happiness, holds true for both you and Ms. LuckyJane.

Want to be happy and stay that way? Try these

There’s sound logic behind these suggestions, but let’s not discuss them now. And the order doesn’t matter as long as you get started.

  • Write down things that you overcame in life; things that made you feel proud of yourself even if you won no applause for them. Imagine yourself as a celebrity being asked this question, “Tell us your story, Mr. Achiever. Surely your success didn’t come easy?”
  • Make a list of people that have helped you and stood by you. Send them a Thank You note.
  • Create things using your natural interests. Cooking, gardening, carpentry, and music are some options.
  • Invest in your physical fitness. Use bite-sized fitness goals, and maintain a healthy diet regime.

Happiness isn’t instant coffee; you have to work for it, and work a little more to keep it. And why should you believe me? These suggestions are based on expert advice, and research articles on happiness. Following them has made me more content and happy for longer periods of time, and reduced my bouts of ill-temper. At the best, you will reap much more than I have from this advice. At the worst, you will lose nothing. I bet a million on your win right away.

Dreamweaver FAQ2: What’s the ideal size of a web page?

We will get to the answer you are looking for, but get yourself through the beginning paragraph first.

In today’s world, it is very difficult to predict the devices on which your web pages will be ultimately viewed.  That’s why it doesn’t make much sense to tailor fit your website to the dimensions of a single device. To understand the most likely device on which  your web pages are going to be viewed, you must do your research well. Your research will save you time when prioritizing the design for your website and the benefits you will get from it.

This article, Best Screen Resolution to Design Websites, provides an insight into popular screen dimensions for 2014 and previous years.

After you have an idea about the device that you will be primarily designing for, you can start designing in those dimensions while allowing your design to load/transform gracefully  on devices with other dimensions. This approach is known as Responsive Design.

Examples of responsive websites:

To check if a website is responsive, drag the handles of your browser window to see if the web page inside morphs itself to fit the new dimensions of the browser window.

Responsive design uses a single website with multiple CSS files. The media query information in the CSS file specifies the dimensions of  the display device for which it should be used. This media query in the CSS file tells the browser, “Hello browser, use this CSS file if your display area is N pixels”.

<link rel=”stylesheet” media=”(max-width: 800px)” href=”example.css” />

CSS files combined with media query helps  you create a single website that caters to display devices with different dimensions.

Before you start designing your website, do a deep dive into Responsive Web Design. If you are going to be a web designer for a sufficient period of time, the principles of responsive design will keep you in good stead.

Happy designing!

Dreamweaver FAQ : How do I center align a web page in Dreamweaver?

Purpose of this tutorial

Create a page in Dreamweaver and center-align the contents of the page. If you are looking for the code to center your page, dive directly to the section “Center the Content”. However, if you are new to web design and are getting started with Dreamweaver, I suggest that you go through every step of this tutorial.

Can I do it without knowing CSS?

No. If you aren’t conversant with CSS, I advise you to take a quick class on CSS and come back. You don’t have to go into a lot of depth, just read the essentials. It should not take you more than an hour or a couple of hours at the most.

How do I center a page?

You create a container (DIV) for the other DIVs on the page. When you center-align the container DIV, the rest of the content gets center aligned as well. Simple! While it is not necessary that you use Dreamweaver for the tutorial, some of the steps that are mentioned are very specific to the use of this software. If you are conversant with HTML and CSS, you will do just fine without these steps using the editor of your choice.

Create a new site

Before we proceed to create a page that centers itself with respect to the display, we will first create a site to store all the files we will be creating hereafter.

Before you proceed, create a folder or directory on your computer called FAQ_Tutorials. I am on a Windows computer, and I have created this in my C drive.

  1. Select Site > New Site.
  2. In the Dialog Box that appears, enter the following information.
    1. Site Name: Tutorials on FAQs
    2. Local Site Folder: Click the Browse or Folder icon. Navigate to the FAQ_Tutorials folder on your computer. Click Select Folder.
  3. Click Save.


That was simple! You now have created a Site with the name Tutorials on FAQs, and the files for this site will reside in the FAQ_Tutorials folder. Great job!

Create a new page

We will now create a web page that we will save in the FAQ_Tutorials folder.

  1. Just to make it easier to manage your files, create a subfolder called “FAQ1_center_webpage” in the FAQ_Tutorials folder.
  2. In Dreamweaver, select File > New. Ensure that the options Blank Page, HTML, and <none> are selected in the New Document Dialog that is displayed.
  3. Click Create.
  4. Select File > Save As.
  5. Navigate to the FAQ1_center_webpage folder.
  6. Save the file with the file name “centering_a_webpage”
  7. Click OK.

Create the Container and Header

For the web page, we will create a container div that will hold the contents of the page. When we center the container, all the contents inside get centered as well.

In the container, we will include three DIV tags: Header, Body, and Footer.

  1. In Title, replace “Untitled Document” with “Centering a web page”
  2. In the Insert panel, select Structure from the menu.
  3. Click Div.
  4. In the Insert Div dialog, enter container in the ID field. Click OK.
  5. Delete “Content for id “container” Goes Here”.
  6. Ensure that the cursor is within the Div. Click Header in the Insert panel.
  7. In ID, select Head and click OK.

You now have a parent container with the Header div tag inside it. Great going!

Style the Header Tag

Let’s style the Header tag so that we can differentiate it from the other Div tags that we are going to create. And for this, you guessed it right; we are going to need some CSS love.

We will style the header to give it a blue background color with white text.

  1. Just after the Title tags in the code view, we will enter the style tags <style></style>.
  2. In between the tags, we will enter this piece of code:





  1. Click in the Design view. Do you see a blue box with white text in it? Good!

Create the body and the footer

Let’s go ahead and create the other two DIVs below the header.

  1. Ensure that the cursor is after the closing div tag for the header (</header>).
  2. Click Div in the Insert panel.
  3. In the Insert Div dialog, select After Tag and <header id=”head”> from the Insert options.
  4. In ID, enter body, and click OK.
  5. In the Insert Panel, click Footer.
  6. In the Insert Footer dialog, select After Tag, and <div id=”body”> from the Insert options.
  7. In ID, enter foot, and click OK

You have now created a container DIV with three child DIVs (Header, body, and Footer). When you center the container DIV, all the three child DIVs get centered as well.

Style the body div and the footer tag

Follow the procedure described for Header in “Style the Header Div” to add styles for the body and footer Divs. Add the styles below the style for the header.









You should now see three boxes blue, yellow, and red one below the other. If you don’t, go back and see where you went wrong.

Center the content

Now that we have the contents ready, we are going to center them with respect to the browser they are displayed on.

This is what we will do: Define a width for the container, set the top and bottom margins to 0, and the left and right margins to auto. This clears the space to the left and right of the margin allowing the browser to calculate the margin.

While you can add the style for the container tag anywhere, I suggest that you put it above the style for the header because this is the parent tag.


                    width: 980px;

                    margin:0 auto;


Preview the page in a browser

  1. Select File > Preview in Browser.
  2. Select the Browser in which you want to preview the page.

The contents of the page should now be center-aligned. Some of the older versions of Internet Explorer might not work with this code. As a workaround you might have to create a class for the body and center-align text. Unless there is a real necessity to support really older versions of browsers, this step is not necessary.

body {                          




Some useful notes on linking CSS files

In this tutorial, we have used CSS on the same page as that we have designed. However, it is not a good idea to have CSS on every web page if your website has many pages. A better idea is to create a single or few CSS files and link it to the HTML pages. That way, you can make changes at one location and have them reflected across multiple pages.

For example, you can create a CSS file called theme.css and link it to your HTML page.

<link rel=”stylesheet” type=”text/css” href=”theme.css”>

Here, the theme.css is the name given to the CSS file. You can choose any name you want. The CSS file here is on the same path as the page to which it is linked. However, if your CSS file is within a folder called CSS, you will have to specify the path as say, “href=/css/theme.css”. See for information on relative paths.

No one responding to your post? Your title could be the culprit.

Why don’t people respond to posts?

Posted something on the Internet and did not receive any response? You are not the only one. Many like you are part of what is infamously referred to as the World Wide Wait. And yet, the laws of eliciting a response on the Internet aren’t very different from that in the real world.


Much like your decision to read a book from an unknown author is partly based on the cover of the book and its title, the decision for someone to read your post depends to a large extent on how interesting the title of your post is.

Before clicking on a title, a person usually asks the following questions to oneself:

  • Do I understand the title?
  • Is it interesting? Is it compelling enough?
  • If the author is inviting comments, do I have what it takes to contribute?

Keep your titles short but comprehensive

More effort must go into the title of your post than its content. Go through the body of your content and write down a working title for your post. Then keep shortening and simplifying it until you have an interesting title.

Working title:

Computer crashes immediately after updating to the latest version of Windows and opening the 2.1 version of XYZ software on my computer.

Final title:

Computer crash after latest Windows update | XYZ 2.1

Avoid generic titles like “Help”, “I am lost”, “XYZ software”

Such titles do not give any idea about the content of the post. Such titles could also be mistaken to be spam.

Do not capitalize all letters in the title, and avoid multiple exclamation marks

Even if you are frustrated, unleashing it on the whole world serves no purpose other than putting people off altogether. Keep your titles unemotional and relevant. Interested people will get to it ultimately.

And that’s it. You have all that you need to get you going.  All the best!

When we ask you for your files, or a link to your site…



Much like the good doctor needs to examine the patient before coming to a diagnosis and very much like a detective that needs sufficient clues to nail the victim, it is important for us to go through your files to come to a correct conclusion on solving the issue at hand.

It is possible that sometimes, the issue that you are facing has everything to do with your code, and nothing to do with the software in particular.  Many times, it helps us improve the software after we have researched a particular bug that you have reported.

And yes, the files that you send us are not shared with anyone inside Adobe or outside of it except for the primary people involved in troubleshooting the problem.

For websites, you could stage your content on to to a staging server and share the link with us. The log in credentials that you provide us will be treated with utmost secrecy.

The do’s and dont’s when posting on a public forum

On a public forum, what you ask is as important as how you ask it. Ensure that you have done all that is possible at your end when asking the question before you seek answers.


Work on your title

As flowers attract bees through their vivid display of colors and scents, posts attract visitors by their titles. Ensure that you have captured the essence of your query in your title. Think over what it would take for you to click on the title if you came across it. For example, if your issue is related to a problem with a software not responding at launch, you can title it, “Adobe XYZ software doesn’t launch on the latest version of Mac OS (Maverick)”. People are more likely to click a link if they understand what the title is all about.

Provide all information that you think would help solve the problem

Solving a query on a forum is detective’s work. Provide as many clues as possible.

  • When did this happen?
  • Was this working normally previously?
  • Did you make any changes to your computer before this problem surfaced?
  • What is your software version, which OS are you using it on, which version of the OS?

The more clues you provide, the better will be the quality of your responses.

Insert screenshots where necessary

Absolutely, when necessary. Use the provision to insert images (click the Camera icon) to insert screenshots into your post. This way, you don’t have to type a whole lot of text. And if you are good at capturing videos of your screen, that would be equally wonderful. Just make sure that the video is crisp and captures most of the information that the experts will need to solve your problem.


Do not divulge confidential information

Public forums, are well, public and accessible to everyone across the world.  To avoid your contact information being misused ensure that you do not divulge any confidential information such as your contact details, your serial number, your credit card details, and so on. Most forums have an option to send a private message. You could use that to provide information to trusted people on the forum.

Acknowledge help received on the forum

I cannot say this enough: Please, please acknowledge answers by marking them as correct or helpful whenever relevant. This provides other users with an insight into solutions that helped, and the next reader does not have to read the entire length of the post to arrive at the correct answer. And of course, it encourages the person that answered the question. Also, most times, people are helping you for free and this gesture can be rewarding in more ways than one.

Have patience

If you have asked the question well, it shouldn’t be long before someone answers your question. Just in case your question is ignored, do not panic. Go back and ask if people on the forum need more insight into your problem.

Go back and help other users

If you have enough expertise on the topic, enlist yourself for helping other users. Keep aside some time to help other people in your community. It can be a highly rewarding experience.



Date for the next update? Hard to tell


Much as I (we) understand your need for information on the next update, it is not possible to do so for a variety of reasons. No one understands better than us your need for fixing a bug that is bothering you. But when we do that, we want to make sure that the other person who needs a different fix is also taken care of.

In an unrealistic world, the bug fix would sneak your way into your software the next time you opened it and an equally sneaky message would inform you about the transgression.

In the world as it exists today,  product teams usually have to co-ordinate a lot of things and make sure things are perfect before they announce a release date. And things could go terribly wrong at the last minute prompting a change of plans.  That is how everyone’s world works too, right?

This is the reason why the product management team is the only team that has to make that call and announcement. People like me can broadcast it only after that is done. Think of it like a nuclear deal signed by the head of your country. The journalists probably have a clue about the details but they are not authorized to reveal it until the deal is done. There can be consequences.