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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.

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!

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.

4 Golden Rules for asking questions on forums

OK, you posted your question on a user to user forum and it went into a black hole.  And then you assumed, mostly incorrectly, that your question was dumb and unworthy of a response. Before you condemn yourself to eternal damnation, it might be worth following these four golden rules.

Rule #1: Do your homework

Philosophers worth their latest Nirvana will tell you that the way you go about seeking answers is sometimes more important than the answer itself.

OK, I made that up but it does make a lot of sense huh?


Query answered already?

If you are Johnny come lately, chances are that your question has been done to death on the forum to an extent that it gives everyone the hives to answer it all over again. Look for the Search box. Use it.

You Google for everything from the person your favorite actor is dating to the possibility of human beings being aliens. Maybe it is a good idea to entrust Google with your problem too.

Your title, matters.

It is amazing how our actual behavior is completely in dissonance with, well, our actual behavior. Most of us never travel beyond the headlines of a newspaper, and yet, assume that titles such as  Adobe Problem, Help!, Adobe CS5 will have people rushing to answer us with floral scented candles.

Go back, rephrase that title, and get the pheromones oozing out of it.

The details, you devil!

What’s the software; which version? What Operating System; which version? Anything that changed on the computer before it got all wonky? Provide as much ammo as possible.

The more you give the more you get – this couldn’t be truer for forums. But avoid writing a soap opera.

Rule #2:  Don’t multi-post


Heard of the law of diminishing returns? If you got Rule #1 right, you are not going to be ignored. And if you are, just go back with a second appeal – on the same post.   Some communities can be very unforgiving of people that post the same question multiple times. Death by Ostracization is not unheard of.

Rule #3:  It takes time to answer. Wait.


The submit button is not the equivalent of your confirming the order with a waiter. You have done your bit; now wait. People on a forum will help you when they have the time for it. It might take a couple of hours; maybe a day. They are doing it for free remember? And in most cases, all that they are getting for their head banging is your not-so-guaranteed thank you.

If people that work for free to answer your question can stay composed, so can you. They have other problems too + your problem.

Rule #4: Are you at the right place?


If you have the latest version of the software and need a solution urgently, you should probably be picking up the phone or chatting with a customer service representative. Caveat: Ensure that you have followed Rule#1 before you do that.

Long wait times? Did you check if the company has a Twitter handle or Facebook account? Did you try using the callback option? Did you try chat support?

Socially yours…

It has been quite some time since I blogged, and in this time, I have moved from being content creator to the online social lead for web products. Essentially, what that means is that I will be responding to user queries posted on various social media platforms in collaboration with other experts at Adobe.

I will be using my blog to communicate all information about web products that I am allowed to share.  And needless to say, if I inadvertently state something that isn’t entirely correct,  it has everything to do with me and nothing that has been endorsed by Adobe. Having said that, I will stay clear of such misadventures.  I am trying to account for Monday mornings and bad hair days.

The information that I share is however, not for just your consumption but is meant to be shared, retweeted, reblogged, recycled, whatever. I will try to ensure that it is all worth your effort, time and space.

If you have anything that you want to share, please use the comments section to do that. Anything that is positive and constructive will be given immediate thought and attention.

I will try and notch up a blog post a week, and it is one of my commitments I hope to keep.



Other troubleshooting docs for Adobe Premiere Elements 9

“Reinstall the QuickTrack Importer module” message appears when Smartsound is selected.

No Audio Effects available for 5.1 audio

DSLR camera does not appear in the Video Importer dialog after it is connected

Premiere Elements does not launch

Playback error when trying to play some exported AVI files

Error message when installing Premiere Elements on Windows XP (non-English OS)

Error message: WMVCore.dll missing during launch

[MAC]: “Codec Missing” message appears when a specific Flip file is imported

Troubleshooting docs for Adobe Premiere Elements 9

A host of documents have been created to improve  your quality of experience with installing and using Adobe Premiere Elements 9. Let me know if you have problems using any of these documents.

Silent Install Instructions for Adobe Premiere Elements 9  (Volume license version on Mac OS)

Silent Install Instructions for Adobe Premiere Elements 9  (Volume license version on Windows)

Troubleshoot installation problems Adobe Premiere Elements 9/Photoshop Element 9 Windows

Troubleshoot installation problems Adobe Premiere Elements 9/Photoshop Element 9 Mac OS

Adobe Photoshop Elements 9 and Adobe Premiere Elements 9: Download and install trial versions

Supported file formats in Premiere Elements 9 and Phtoshop Elements 9

Read Me for Premiere Elements 9.0