It’d be fair to say that SolarWinds has been known for their cartoony, game-like engagement on various free products. Heck, Sysman Hero is an actual game to “Save the Web” that you can play in your browser (preferably when the boss isn’t watching, or try to challenge him / her to a duel). However, let’s move on past that and towards the Thwack Community and why I think this really “gets it right” for providing content to the technical professional – regardless of your use of an actual SolarWind product.
To be fair, I have served as a past Ambassador to Thwack in the past (this is a paid position) and plan to do it again in February. Let’s just say that I know a little better just how the sausage is made, and am still quite impressed with the work done around this community beyond my own engagements. I’m writing this of my own free will. 😉
Speaking of Ambassadors, I think this is one of the cooler aspects of Thwack. Essentially, thought leaders in the industry are picked to provide non-SolarWinds content that sparks a conversation with other professionals in the industry. Thwack membership is free, although you will get some emails like a “what’s new this week” sort of thing that can be opted out of. Seems like a pretty solid trade. I tend to lurk around and read what the Ambassadors write, finding that the content is mostly interesting and gets my noodle fired up a bit (sometimes in opposition, other times in curiosity).
Trivia: My “Simpsons” profile photo is from Thwack
In their trademark “gamification” of things, Thwack offers points and prizes just for joining in on the conversation with Ambassadors. Currently I noticed that you can get an iPod Nano. Again, kinda cool for just offering your two cents to a conversation. 🙂
Level Up With Points
I mentioned points above, and can relate that to a video game where you level up your character – or in this case, your Thwack persona. Sadly, I’m only level 4 with 552 total points (or probably the equivalent to a newbie). I also have a small handful of badges.
Badges serve two purposes. Many of them (especially the ones I achieved) go hand-in-hand with a sort of tutorial. Such as a badge for using the search feature, bookmarking a post, and marking questions as answered. We all love instant gratification, right? Others are more geared towards being engaged, such as marking answers as helpful or replying to a particular number of questions. And still other badges are given to those who wish to beta test products.
There’s a mission each month (and in the case of January, a bonus mission). I would equate these to something like a video game quest. By accomplishing the mission, you get more points to level up your profile. It’s usually nothing you can’t easily accomplish within a month given a bit of energy, such as marking answers correct / helpful or liking solid replies.
Rather than make just a “let’s talk about our products” forum, SolarWinds has taken it up a notch with Thwack. They spend a large amount of time, effort, and energy into making a fun, videogame-like environment that you can drop loads of time on (if you choose) or just participate purely from a technical perspective. I like that – and this is why Thwack, to me, really gets it right.