Personal Blog of Shaun Walker


Make Way For The DNN Community!

By Shaun Walker on 6/10/2019
I recently attended the DNN-Connect conference in Switzerland. The DNN-Connect Association in Europe has been hosting DNN events for more than 10 years and they always choose a location and venue which allows attendees to really experience the local culture, and this event was no exception. The conference was hosted in the small village of Champéry in the Swiss Alps. There were a lot of excellent presentations and demonstrations by talented members of the DNN community, and I was privileged to be able to share a presentation about Blazor and Oqtane

One of the major announcements at the conference was made by Will Strohl, leader of the DNN Awareness group. He announced the launch of a new website which will be focused on the needs of the DNN community. This announcement was also mentioned in the closing keynote by Andy Tryba, CEO of DNN Corp. He said that it was his desire to give control back to the community and create a clear distinction between the DNN Platform and the DNN Evoq comercial product offerings. This was music to the ears of many DNN community members. And in fact, it was one of the items on the "community revitalization" list I shared with Andy in our very first meeting after the acquisition by ESW Capital in 2017. Its unfortunate that it has taken 2 years to materialize but at least it is progress.

The announcement about the new community site reminded me of the DNN Summit conference in Denver, Colorado in 2018. I was invited to do the keynote and I focused the message on the fact that there needed to be a transition of responsibility for the DNN platform from DNN Corp to the community. My personal belief is that the only way to accomplish these goals is to provide incentives for people to contribute. The main incentive in open source communities is recognition, as it is the currency which both individuals and companies require in order to build their reputation. Therefore, the more opportunities you provide for recognition, the more contributions you will encourage in the open source community. 

In 2017, Arrow Digital had made the decision to release its e-commerce product, Hotcakes, as an open source project. As part of that effort I developed a number of modules to manage contributions and provide recognition. Based on the success it had achieved as a result of its affiliation with DNN, Arrow Digital agreed to contribute these modules to the DNN community. I made this exciting announcement at the end of the keynote at the DNN Summit 2018 event.

Obviously I did not think that it would take this long to be able to move forward with this initiative. However, there were obviously a lot of political, technical, and other factors which needed to be dealt with before the community could truly take responsibility for the platform. Regardless, the announcement at DNN-Connect was encouraging and I was able to connect with the various members of the Awareness team to remind them of the contribution of the community modules I had promised last year. I am optimistic that they can be integrated into the new website soon, which will usher in a whole new era of contribution and recognition in the DNN community.

That being said, I am still concerned about the detailed execution plan for the new community site. In order for this to be successful there needs to be a clean delineation between the DNN community and DNN Corp commercial activities. Because of the fact that dnnsoftware.com was originally a community site ( ie. dotnetnuke.com ), which then became a hybrid community/commercial site, there is a ton of community content which lives on dnnsoftware.com. Unless that content is moved off of dnnsoftware.com to the new community site, and the facilities for community interaction are removed from dnnsoftware.com, this new community site is going to achieve nothing except for create more fragmentation and confusion in the DNN community - which will actually weaken rather than strengthen the ecosystem. Now I admit that this will require some effort to achieve; however, this is precisely the type of effort which the community should feel is worth contributing to as it truly has the potential to be a game changer. The bigger question is whether DNN Corp will stand behind its word to support this effort, agree to follow through on the clean separation, and actually contribute the resources required to make it happen.

And this leads to my last topic... the topic of urgency. Urgency is the ability to get things done at a pace which is both manageable and able to produce results. Clearly DNN Corp understands urgency, as Andy Tryba mentioned ESW Capital's desire to increase their pace to the point where they can acquire a new software company every day within 2 years. So the question is if they are willing to invest in the companies they acquire and with the same urgency that would enable those companies to be successful. Or are they following a "one and done" model where no further investment is planned after the initial acquisition - much like spending a lot of time/money to impress your date before marriage, and then ignoring them after the alter.  The DNN community needs some cooperation from DNN Corp right now. They need the ability to clearly separate the community from DNN Corp's commercial interests in a comprehensive way that does not create further disruption and ambiguity. 

For a variety of reasons I think this photo taken during a rock climbing activity at the DNN-Connect event is very appropriate. I am looking upwards and I can see where I need to go. But you can see from the expression on my face and the way I am holding the mountain that I am nervous and anxious about how I will get there. This is the current state of DNN. I certainly hope DNN Corp is willing to stand behind their word.


11 comment(s) so far...

Interesting and timely comments Shaun. Sorry I missed you in Switzerland


Great blog post, to the point. Your face shows some doubt, but I know, seeing it by my own eyes, that you made it to the top. Let's hope that the route that DNN Corp takes, reaches the same goal.

I think Peter's face more closely reflects how I feel about our current and future progress. Rest assured... We have a plan, and we're executing it as fast as we can. Thanks for your insight, as always, Shaun. 🙂

Given the right access to both locations, it should be a straight-forward matter to import the same users into the community site and migrate/tie their forum and community related posts over to the new site and connect everything up. it could also be a time to archive the old, show it as closed/static and redirect/advertise/promote the new location going forward.

To be more specific... I am not criticizing the initiative to create dnncommunity.org - quite the contrary, I applaud the efforts to make this happen. However I am saying that in order for this to be successful, the Community area on dnnsoftware.com needs to be completely shut down or redirected to dnncommunity.org. If this does not happen, it does not matter how much time and energy is invested in dnncommunity.org - there will not be a single "home" for the community and it will be fragmented and confusing for members. If the task is too large to migrate all of the community content from dnnsoftware.com to dnnommunity.org, or if DNN Corp is unwilling to transfer the content, I think it is better to just leave it behind and start fresh on dnncommunity.org ( this would be a significant loss however it would still be better than leaving it on dnnsoftware.com where it will cause bigger problems ). And the argument that some of the content in the community area on dnnsoftware.com is related to Evoq and needs to stay is not valid - Evoq customers are paying for support benefits which are delivered via a commercial support system - not through community channels. So the main point of my blog post is that DNN Corp needs to agree to shut down the Community area on dnnsoftware.com. If this is not part of the current community website plan it absolutely needs to be, as I am not sure if its even worth bothering with dnncommunity.org at all if this is not done, as we will be accepting a major disadvantage from the start.

Just to keep there from being any conspiracy theories generated... DNN Corp was 100% willing to help us migrate the data. They even provided some of it for some of the development that's currently underway. We weren't going to ask for users though. There would have been too many privacy and legal concerns. That would have made migration challenging to say the least. So, after some collaboration, we've decided to not migrate the content from the .com website and it will eventually be shut down. We can only do one thing at a time. :)

DNN Corp earlier took the action of making the issue-tracking Jira read-only with instructions left on the jira site, advising users to go to DNN's GitHub page to log future issues. It was per mutual agreement with the DNN Community. I personally believe DNN Corp can have a similar arrangement to have instructions on Forum and Q&A pages advising users to post future questions in the new site. Those pages can be left in read-only mode as well on the corp site. Removing existing content will have SEO implications as it will result in lots of broken links unless someone in the community can figure out a way to set redirect rules for each of the links. Mitchel Sellers has worked with me and Andy to come to an agreement on about 20 issues so far including giving owner permission on GitHub repository, providing anonymized update service data, full permission on nuget, etc. I do believe this is doable, all that's needed is sending an email to Andy to get his confirmation.

This is good news. As long as the community engagement features are disabled on dnnsoftware.com and there are clear links and instructions which allow people to navigate to dnncommunity.org then it will allow for a successful transition. I look forward to helping the Awareness team integrate the community modules into the new site.


Big Shame I could not make it this year, Great blog BTW and the photograph, shows when one is not a brave climber, can still pretend to be one! No one can tell the difference! :)

Your observations are spot on, Shaun, and as Will pointed out I think we'll be doing wha you suggest. And I love the picture. Not out of vanity but because it shows the differing feelings going through our community. Some will identify with you, others with me (the guy behind you on the picture, for those that don't know me). And I wish I could guide all those that feel like you to feel like me. I see the "it has taken longer than necessary" also in light of our own capabilities. We are a group of volunteers with an ad hoc organizational structure. As we try to bootstrap ourselves to a new future it is obvious that there are (and will be) pain and delays. I agree it would have been nicer to be where we are today a lot earlier, but having been part of it I cannot see how *we* could have done better, either. DNN Corp have on the whole been cooperative and expedient when pressed (obviously our relationship has had its hiccups as well). Personally I am more in favor of keeping our eyes on a 5 year window than a 1 year window. Hopefully by that time we'll be completely severed from Evoq and on a much leaner and more manageable API. Maybe even .net core. With a thriving website and lots of Github participation. There are no guarantees that we'll pull this off, but I remain optimistic given recent developments. It was great seeing you in Champéry and hopefully you'll be able to fit us in on your busy schedule next year (11-14 June in Austria).

Sorry, I couldn't make it this time, I am hoping to be there next year, but certainly after that, as the schools are still not out by that week here in Canada, and I wanted to go with family. Guess what, come 2021, both the boys will be off to college, and I and my wife will have all the time to travel regardless of school schedule :). Cheers to the next 5 years!!!

Shaun Walker has 25+ years professional experience in architecting and implementing enterprise software solutions for private and public organizations. Shaun is the original creator of Oqtane and DotNetNuke, web application frameworks which have cultivated the largest and most successful Open Source community projects native to the Microsoft platform. He was one of the original founders of DNN Corp, a commercial software company providing products, services, and technical support for DotNetNuke, which raised 3 rounds of venture capital from top tier Silicon Valley investors. Based on his significant community contributions he has been recognized as a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) as well as an ASPInsider for over 10 consecutive years. He was recognized by Business In Vancouver as a leading entrepreneur in their Forty Under 40 business awards, was a founding member of the Board of Directors of the Outercurve Foundation, and is currently the Chair of the Project Committee for Microsoft's .NET Foundation. Shaun is currently a Technical Director and Enterprise Guildmaster at Cognizant Softvision.