Becoming Better

Whether you are a current user, former user, a Zimbra employee, or anyone with experience using any of our products, we welcome your feedback. Please include a specific product name and version when relevant.
jholder
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Becoming Better

Postby jholder » Thu May 30, 2019 4:05 am

Hello Zimbra Friends,

First, just a small disclaimer:
Since Synacor is a public traded company, you should know that this post doesn't represent any views of Synacor or Zimbra (or any partners) and in no way contains any commitments as far as road map or product life-cycle or any forward looking statements. This is only the view and opinion of myself.

Many of you may not be acquainted with me, so allow me to introduce myself. My name is John Holder, and I am one of the original Zimbra employees. In fact, I built the original forum, blog, and wiki (It's okay to blame me for the last one).
I do not write that small introduction to gloat, but rather, to show that my loyalty and love of Zimbra is a very core part of who I am. I care about it as much as you do.

I want to keep this brief and to the point: We hear you. We can do better hearing you, communicating to you, and being active in our own community.

The mark of a good product and company is whether or not they can take criticism. It's easy to brush off critical points, and who don't listen are doomed to the dust bin of history.
I can tell you first hand that feedback being mentioned here in our forums and in other places, are being read and acted upon.

It isn't so much that we know we need to do better with communication and community engagement (among other things), but rather that we know we can.
Zimbra is nothing without our community. Our community is what has kept this product alive through the many hands which have controlled it. Synacor was originally a Zimbra Customer, so we have a perspective shared by you.

With that said, I can't commit to sweeping changes or road maps. But one of the first steps is to do better in this forum, and being more active here.

Zimbra is bigger than Synacor, or any customer individually. It embodies the realization that Open Source does work, and that collaboration doesn't need to be tied behind a lock and key.

So expect to hear more from us form here on out.

Sincerely,
john
jholder@zimbra.com


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Re: Becoming Better

Postby DavidMerrill » Fri May 31, 2019 2:31 pm

Hi John,

Thanks for introducing yourself! I would certainly appreciate having Synacor/Zimbra participate in this community forum. (As you most likely know) There are many skilled enthusiasts here collaborating, offering helpful advice and sharing what they know & have experienced (I can say I've certainly benefited from it). I suspect having someone such as yourself chime-in will add a level of positivity that'll help keep that community-feeling alive.

I sincerely hope the feed-back and (any) criticism Synacor/Zimbra fields here is open & constructive!

Best,
David
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Re: Becoming Better

Postby JDunphy » Fri May 31, 2019 4:34 pm

Hi John,

Well stated and thank you for initially setting these up.

They have been terrific but what we need more than answers sometimes is public leadership. Your jumping in the other night when things were getting out of hand with this remote exploit is a clear example of that and was a calming influence and a good step. Zimbra doesn't have to answer every question but sometimes leadership is publishing a simple script or refocusing the forums in a direction. The community is here to help but we need a little direction at times.

I have learned more about zimbra from trying to solve and understand questions and issues in these forums that I wonder why whoever is managing support wouldn't ask the support staff to find 1 question per day to answer. That would yield better and faster support responses in the long term for paying customers and raise the level of knowledge in these communities. It's a win for everyone. Note: even if staff doesn't know the answer immediately (and who does), asking knowledgeable questions can substantially refocus the problem and raise the possibility that we solve the root cause from others that have seen similar.

If I had some suggestion for these forums it would the following.

1) Change default for new accounts so that if you ask a question, you agree to receive email from the forums when a response to your question is posted.
2) Double down on putting Solve in the subject line after we have resolutions... use an information banner or pinned post, video or whatever but show them how to edit the title.

Item 2 could be nothing more than a pinned post that explains the following:

1) Download or try latest software ---- blog or wiki link to here are the steps run install if you want to move from 8.7.1 to 8.7.11 followed by patch
2) Link to blog or wiki link to here are the steps to Edit Title
3) Link to zimbra wiki's of supported products. We don't know what to trust in 8.0 version of wiki's even if its zimbra verified.
4) How to add zmcontrol -v in the profile of the account... I would modify the software that you couldn't ask a question without doing that first or ask them before posting? :-)

Finally, I don't need the latest cool features but I need stability and security is important to me as a paying customer. It is going to be a very hard sell to future customers to use zimbra if the reputation of the product is harmed because we don't support the open version which is where a lot of the suffering is coming from. Zimbra might not be in a position to provide the answer to every question but you can disseminate information and direction... For example, it was pretty obvious on our servers 8-9 days that the exploit was picking up steam. We now see almost no activity so either they are either version checking before attacking or realize mail servers are low value for their intended mining purposes. Unfortunately, it is difficult to notify open source customers that only come to the forums when something breaks if you don't have the latest contacts... Certainly using that information banner would have been the first step to pointing them to a blog where you describe the symptoms and the software steps required to update. It should be obvious now that many admins who have inherited mgmt of zimbra for their companies may not understand the nuances between doing an update followed by a patch.

I have learned a lot from your posts over the years and look forward to learning a lot more.

I am here to help.

w/r

Jim
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Re: Becoming Better

Postby axslingr » Fri May 31, 2019 8:47 pm

John,

Definitely welcome news and a step in the right direction. This just made my weekend a whole lot brighter!
Thank you!
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Re: Becoming Better

Postby Klug » Sat Jun 01, 2019 9:07 am

You're back?

June is starting in a nice way.
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Re: Becoming Better

Postby joho » Sat Jun 01, 2019 11:53 am

Glad to hear wheels are in motion :-)

One of the (many) things I miss are updated documentation and Wiki articles. Things that don't say "Tested with Zimbra 5". Perhaps they still need to be there, but possibly moved to an archive of sorts. With the thousands (tens of thousands?) of configuration options, it's hard enough as it is to keep track of what needs to be set and how without having to see articles for Zimbra 5, Zimbra 6, and so on put "in front".

Another thing I sorely miss from other environments are "sanity checkers", something along the lines of zmfixperms but "zmcheckinstall". Something that would validate settings, warn about missing locations and/or symlinks, etc. If you've upgraded your Zimbra environment a few times, there's a *lot* of stuff "lying around" that nobody seems to know (or care) if it's used or not.

It's a great product, but very frustrating to maintain and configure at times.


-joho
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Re: Becoming Better

Postby gbillat » Mon Jun 17, 2019 8:03 pm

Hi Everyone,

As John did, I will start by introducing myself. I'm Gayle Billat, and I've worked with Zimbra since the very beginning. I started as a contractor designing Zimbra training classes, and I supported the Zimbra training efforts for years (not including the VMware years where training didn't exist). Now I am on the Marketing Team, but like John, Zimbra is part of my DNA.

I don't comment in the forums often because I don't have the technical expertise. However, please reach out to me if you need an answer to an important question. I may not know the answer, but I certainly know someone at Synacor who can find out the answer!

I am committed to supporting the Zimbra Community in any way I can.

Thanks to each of you who has contributed here. We appreciate it more than you know!
Gayle
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Re: Becoming Better

Postby L. Mark Stone » Mon Jun 17, 2019 10:54 pm

John Holder's blog post from 11 years ago about backups should cement for everyone that John fully understands what it is like to be a Zimbra customer (and that having good backups is not sufficient to claim you have a good disaster recovery plan...). It's still a fresh post: https://blog.zimbra.com/2008/07/the-mos ... post-ever/

FWIW, I speak frequently with plenty of people within Zimbra who share John's passion for Zimbra, who work really hard to make Zimbra better, and who agree with John that Zimbra can do better. But... can't we all?

As a moderator on these forums I see plenty of posts here from people who think Zimbra should be doing "more"; that Zimbra has "dropped the ball" regarding roadmaps, features, QA, etc., etc. Often there is truth in those posts but the language in the posts is less than... constructive.

I think Zimbra (and Synacor) have a lot of upside. It's why I bought a few thousand shares of Synacor stock, and why I'm glad Synacor has employees like John, Gayle and lots of others who lurk here frequently without posting, but who read everyone's posts and take that info back in to Synacor. When you are posting, think about how your post will help them do better.

With best regards to all,
Mark
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Re: Becoming Better

Postby tonyg » Tue Jun 30, 2020 8:53 pm

I am extremely happy to see a couple posts from staff - and recognize that no company commitments are implied. My notes from last year are still representative of my experience today. But I enthusiastically look forward to a complete revision next year.

I have served in tech companies as a Developer, Support tech, Corporate Technical Account Manager, Quality Assurance Manager, Product Manager, Product Marketing Manager, and Community Ambassador. These days I am self-employed, where among other services I help software companies to improve their processes in Marketing, Sales, Community relations, and the entire product development and deployment life cyle. In summary, I see Synacor and Zimbra from a lot of different angles. This community is anxious to partner with you to help improve the product and to help the company to succeed. I really hope that over time the company will recognize this as a partnership for our mutual benefit.

There are tangible benefits to a close relationship with the user/developer community, and tangible consequences for not maintaining such a relationship. As just one anecdote, I've had opportunities to promote Zimbra into large new environments, but based on my experiences linked above I haven't done so. That's painful because like others I've found myself endeared to this platform. I'm sure others could similarly attest. This breaks a cycle that can easily perpetuate : A good offering results in referrals, which result in purchases, which help fund more development, resulting in a better offering ... and the cycle continues. What we have now is that the lack of company interest fosters community doubt and results in a very low adoption rate. This results in lack of referrals, no resulting sales, and a reaffirmation to the company that the community isn't worthy of attention.

I've seen that play out over and over. What usually happens is that corporate management begins to doubt the product and the model. They start to look for other ways to generate income. They create new products or addons, often targeting the existing but shrinking client base. And then they seek acquisition.

Synacor can do so much better with the resources that are already available, with current and accurate documentation+wiki, relevant marketing engagement, and occasional intervention from Support and Management.

To be fair, I'll echo what's already been said here. Public forums can be brutal and many comments from the field are not constructive. Such challenges can be addressed with forum rules and moderation. As a part of a partnership with the company, I would urge the community to solve issues with as little company assistance as possible, and to respect the time and resources provided here. When people get the idea that company staff is in a public forum providing free support, the resources are abused, Support people resent the environment, and management begins to question the value. When limited support is offered in terms of infrequent and brief intervention, people start to see and appreciate the lines between free and paid support. To make this work, the company is encouraged to interact with the audience, but the audience must be as encouraged to recognize this as a privilege and not as a right. In summary on that - if you're going to do more in public, be good to yourselves so that you will continue to be of use to us. :)

I sometimes convey to my clients, that Support is a direct arm of Marketing. One of my clients has come to embrace this notion. The Support team represents the company, often when the actual Marketing department has forgotten about the client base other than for upsells. If you do have technicians here, please be sure that they understand that they are ambassadors and not just technicians. Their efforts can lead to sales, license renewals, referrals, and all of the other things for which Marketing and Sales people usually take credit. ;)

Similarly, one of the great benefits of having Support people lurking in forums is that they get to see common issues which can translate into product enhancements - this is pretty much the raison d'etre of the FOSS offering. Again, such enhancements lead to user retention and better sales to support this cycle. But in addition, I hope that when Synacor people see common issues that they take initiative to improve the documentation. Tech people are notoriously poor writers, but some of us really love to translate what we know into tech writing. (I blog, write tech docs for my clients and my own products, and have book credits.) If people aren't going to write docs themselves, please just encourage them to note the kind of documentation that would help to eliminate the repeated cries for help that we see in these forums. Then someone else can write the content, maybe some of us here.

On that final point : I encourage you to publish a list of wiki content that you recognize would be helpful - heck, publish it in the wiki. Allow us to collaborate with you on these docs - encourage the engagement and make use of the good will available here. A better wiki leads to increased user satisfaction, saved time=money, and fewer forum posts. Fewer posts imply a less time consuming offering, which is helpful for Marketing. Fewer posts can also mean less time spent by staff here, fewer notes of angst, and a happier and more productive community ... there's that cycle again.

Thanks for your time.

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