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So Esri has taken down its vBulletin based Forums and put up a Jive (v7) based collaborative site called GeoNet. Threaded content of the June 2010 - June 2014 epoch forums was migrated over the July 4th weekend.

A bit of square peg - round hole in forcing the well defined vBulletin Forum topics into broader Jive "Spaces", but as Jive is more about tag driven filtering and search it is not that difficult to find specific content.

What is less clear is how much of a knock the Esri hosted forums will take with the migration to Jive's much less focused format. And, I guess conversely how well is GIS Stack Exchange positioned to take up the slack?

The new GeoNet has some nice features compliments of its Jive underpinnings (blog and document content), but are users going to wade through some of its sludge to get answers to their questions, or use it to follow discussions? Are heavy contributors going to stay on?

I don't know--I do have some skin in the game. But the Esri forums have lost their one major advantage over GIS SE--that is a well structured hierarchical and historical archive of technical support exchanges. It has now joined GIS SE as an index and tag driven search engine. Frankly the Stack Exchange based model has that aspect mastered.

I'm just not sure if either is going to be very efficient in walking folks through installation and configuration steps that seem to have become my lot in supporting GIS. Not so sure it is going to be worth the effort, but you're welcome to visit with me on GeoNet ArcGIS for Desktop Installation support group if you like.

  • Just went on there today to look for help with HTML/CSS for our arcgis online story map. I find it impossible to navigate - since there is no (or I can't find) the dedicated forum. I don't like it. – GISKid Jul 9 '14 at 13:25
  • the closest thing to a 'dedicated' forum is the 'Discussion Lobby', which includes information to help users post questions, search for answers and set up custom streams to track tags of interest geonet.esri.com/community/discussions-lobby – John Gravois Jul 10 '14 at 18:05
  • I found this interesting community.jivesoftware.com/thread/243136 – PolyGeo Jul 11 '14 at 6:16
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    Off topic, surely? – Martin F Jul 11 '14 at 22:05
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    GeoNET user quote "I find gis.stackexchange a little over-regimented but it is really easy to use"... – Mapperz Jul 15 '14 at 17:13
  • Note, this thread is linked on GeoNet geonet.esri.com/polls/1059 – GISKid Jul 16 '14 at 15:10
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    @Mapperz, that's my opinion you quoted. Probably should've said stackexchange sites in general, rather than singling out gis.se. I'm not complaining though, it is what it is, and the SE format does work. – user2856 Jul 17 '14 at 4:38
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    @Luke the regimented part works there is a lot more to keeping the stack exchange sites clean of spam, thanks to high rep users notifying moderators. Questions are closed mainly due to lack of research or the question being to broad. Thanks for highlight the GeoNET site in comparison to GIS.SE – Mapperz Jul 17 '14 at 13:49
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Adapting to change is hard, even when it is for the better. I am going to hold off judgment until I have had a chance to work with the new site, observe how others use it, and see how well ESRI fixes and adapts to the inevitable bugs and quirks that attend such rollouts.

What most impresses me is how ESRI has gradually been moving towards involving its active user community in its help forums. Twenty years ago it maintained a tight corporate grip on the Arc*-L list servers, its automated e-mail based user help system. (Many of you might recall how, one evening 15 years ago, I became so frustrated with the cavalier and draconian moderation that I started an alternative competing list server, which overnight picked up over a thousand users. It continued to grow and remained active for several years until Web-based forums took over.) ESRI's original Web-based forums (now defunct and rarely used) were a little better but were still managed entirely by ESRI with almost no involvement of the users. The subsequent system--the one they are now replacing--began to capitalize more on user involvement and was run by people who seemed genuinely respectful of the users and responsive to them.

This newest ESRI help site goes much further along that evolutionary path, clearly borrowing, adapting, and improving on many ideas from StackExchange. (This debt to SE is openly acknowledged within ESRI.) We ought to watch it closely to see what works and what could be changed for the better. What we learn can only help both ESRI and SE and thereby benefit GIS users everywhere.

  • My only concern is the difficulty to focus in on a specific subject. I like the format of SE wherein you get answers quickly and effectively. However, I did use the ESRI forums for questions which were specific in nature where an ESRI rep may be more inclined to answer. I posted a topic on their new forum let's see if it gains any traction geonet.esri.com/thread/103865 – GISKid Jul 9 '14 at 13:48
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    I agree and will certainly try to make my own assessment of GeoNet. However, if I were to consider a transition to it then I would have far preferred to see an "ArcGIS SE" to a paradigm shift which from quick testing so far does not seem to offer a compelling case to do that. In contrast the move from the Esri Discussion Forums to here for me happened almost overnight because the way it works had immediate appeal and continues to evolve relatively rapidly. – PolyGeo Jul 9 '14 at 22:15
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    I think once ArcGIS users get the hang of it they might like it, and I would hope that more ArcGIS users would go there first before coming to GIS.SE, especially with support-like issues which seem to be popping up more and more on GIS.SE. – DPSSpatial Jul 10 '14 at 15:21
  • @mapBaker Yes. It's a pity there isn't an analogous site for QGIS and other open source users to go to for routine support... . – whuber Jul 10 '14 at 15:28
  • @whuber I can't tell if you're being sarcastic because I have brought this issue up before - but GIS.SE has for me been a forum for support of open source spatial technology where there is otherwise no forum. The problem I have is people come here with their very Arc-specific support questions (ArcGIS Viewer for Flex is GIS? Data Driven Pages not working?) making it very difficult sift through. As an ArcGIS user at work, where we pay for support, I choose to go to the ArcGIS forums first... at home where and with other projects I use Open Source tools, GIS.SE is where I come. – DPSSpatial Jul 10 '14 at 15:37
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    @mapBaker There was no intention to be sarcastic. I agree with you about the plague of unresearched Arc-specific support questions; they bother me as much as their open source-specific support counterparts. IMHO the really good interesting contributions to be found on this site are getting buried under that dross. If ESRI finds a way to organize such disparate material it might succeed in appealing to a wider range of GIS users than we can here. – whuber Jul 10 '14 at 18:10
  • @whuber ok good stuff... just wanted to make sure we were on the same page! – DPSSpatial Jul 10 '14 at 18:17
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    There is a place for both. No site is going to be great at everything. Change is inevitable. Choose what works for you at the time or move on to something else. – user681 Jul 11 '14 at 15:30
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    @GISKid We recently fixed it for the most part. The initial launch (on which you commented on 7/9), the community space categories were a bit too broad. On 7/12 we added a 3rd level (63 new spaces) that made more of a one-to-one connection between the old forums and the new spaces. For example, if you used to follow the forum "ArcGIS API for JavaScript", there is now a space called that. It's under "Developers > Web Developers" geonet.esri.com/community/developers/web-developers/… – JimBarry Jul 18 '14 at 22:54
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Here's my take on what could be improved on GeoNet, for what it's worth.

I think Esri have combined a marketing site with a community site and a tech support site - and the whole may be lesser than the sum of its parts.

The social-media stuff arguably has a place, but I think it's a distraction when it comes to tech support. See I want a forum, not Facebook.

When debugging a problem, it helps to have a definitive area to research, ask and respond - and I'm not seeing that at the moment.

enter image description here

I honestly have no idea where to start here. Discuss, Connect, Collaborate and Explore? or Content, People, Places and Sub-Places? For all its faults, the old forums had a clearer hierarchy and organisational model.

Contrast this with the Apple discussion forums, where it's immediately obvious where to begin:

enter image description here

Esri have removed the focus on Products (eg there's no obvious ArcMap forum) which might make sense from a marketing perspective - but when encountering a problem in ArcMap it would be nice to have a dedicated forum to research it.

Kudos to Esri for trying something new, and perhaps the tagging metaphor will work, as it does in Stack Exchange.

  • Apple also have a Q&A site separate from their discussion forum which is called Ask Different - which uses a familiar platform. – PolyGeo Jul 11 '14 at 6:01
  • @PolyGeo nice. Note that "It's built and run by you as part of the Stack Exchange network of Q&A sites" – Stephen Lead Jul 11 '14 at 6:34
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'Hierarchy' is the word I keep reading in the discussion here as well as those generated at ESRI in response to the new GeoNet. That is what I valued most at that site. (As an aside, what I always was a bit surprised at was the number of unanswered questions given that the software provider was the one hosting the forums.)

[A]re users going to wade through some of its sludge to get answers to their questions...?

I honestly do not think so, but can answer solidly for myself: 'No'.

The comment someone posted here from over at GeoNet regarding SE: "I find gis.stackexchange a little over-regimented but it is really easy to use"

IMO, that regiment is what makes SE successful. I think its safe to say that vague questions, lack of structure, speculation & opinions are simply not tolerated here. [Which ironically we're wading into here; myself being equally guilty as I waver on posting this]. If I've not done my research, or I've not asked a well structured question, then I fully expect to get thrown to the SE judo mat. For this reason, I have a strong doubt as to the potential success of GeoNet.

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