One of my most popular diatribes is my rant on the irrelevant corporate website, in summary, I suggest a gap between the reality of the public conversation and the biased marketese on company websites. Today, I’m starting to see more websites evolve, from Sun’s aggregation of public blog posts, to many companies launching social network features for their site.
Two of my former colleagues, Carlos Soares, and my former manager Peter Simonsen (Update: other team members include Jim Price, project leader, and Suzie Im, web designer extraordanaire) are now spearheading the web efforts at Cadence, and have launched a new website that puts the community front and center right on the homepage. You’ll find headline aggregation of corporate bloggers on the homepage, as well as a link to a budding community forum. They’ve organized blog and community discussions by topic area, making it easier for folks to find information. Recently, they hired Tom Diederich, as the community manager, sounds like they’ve got their work cut out for them.
Above: Cadence prominently features blog posts from employees, as well as one click links to community forums
Why community for Cadence? Their description says they “Provides front-to-back design tools and services for all aspects of semiconductor design”. Essentially, a developer community of engineers is who they are often going to serve, as such, developers will tend to communicate, ask and answer questions, and self-support each other. I’d guess this is a ‘supporting’ (forums) strategy followed by ‘talking’ (blogs) objective, using Groundswell terminology.
Above: Although just getting started, the forum is seeded with topics, has member profiles, as well as tags and unanswered questions.
A deeper look into the forum features you’ll see on the right nav a listing of unanswered questions, as well as ‘popular tag’ content modules. The former to encourage self-support from members, and the latter will help identify popular topics in the community. Also you’ll find a rating and ranking system for popular discussions, such as this comment marked three stars.
What’s promising is the ability to leave comments on any of the blog posts, or within the forums, all just one or two clicks from the corporate webpage. I asked Carlos Soares “How do you deal with negative comments” and he responded: “Comments are pre-moderated. There are terms and conditions that people who leave comments should abide by. If off-topic we may address it directly with the user leaving a comment or not depending on the nature of the comment (spam, obscene, personal attack, etc.)”
What are some potential next steps for Cadence? To continue to reach to their community by aggregating all of the discussion in their market, not just Cadence centric content. By becoming an industry discussion hub, they could take expand mindshare from other competitors and customers. Examples of this would look like aggregating content from other blogs or forums that are not hosted at the Cadence domain. Perhaps another method is to invite engaged customers to lead blog posts and prominently feature them discussing relevant –and sometimes controversial –discussions on the site. Currently, there is not enough user interaction, most of the forum discussions appear to be pre-seeded by Cadence (a good practice) but Cadence should have a kick start plan, to attract, and promote community members (I addresses this in my Online Community Best Practices Report). Lastly, the forums don’t have social networking features, I highly suspect that engineers will center around specific activities and will want to connect with each other, therefore Cadence forums could evolve to a white label social networking platform.
In any case, this is truly a step in the promise of putting people and the discussions they have in the foreground, let’s revisit this in a few months and see if they community has taken the lead.