Alteryx boasts that they have more than 28 thousand solutions to questions/challenges posted to their online community - is that a good number? What's the quality metric? The vast majority of these solutions are provided by community members. The elite Alteryx ACE’s number less than 50 but represent more than 25% (unofficially) of the solutions. The average post is solved in minutes, generally with thanks and support from the community to the requesting author. It is a positive and a rewarding experience to be involved in this knowledge exchange.
As an Alteryx ACE I find interesting challenges in these posts and a chance to not only answer the post but also a chance to learn myself and increase my skillset with a new perspective. The exchange is complete long before a “SOLVED” button is assigned to one or more responses in a thread. Despite the public credit of a solution “badge”, there is the satisfaction of a virtual relationship forged with the original author of the problem. I’ve personally helped a stranger in some way. That makes me feel better about myself. I may have learned something new or found a new way to explain a concept. That’s even better.
What would happen if the question was never posted? How much time and effort would the user have spent on trying to solve the problem unassisted? In my experience, those units are hours and sometimes even days. This leads to frustration, and their bosses or clients would then be equally disappointed. Even worse would be the creation of “wrong” answers. Now comes another user that finds the answer before they ask the question. By searching in the community, they might find the answered post and never need to ask because a useful answer is staring at them from their browser. Imagine not even asking the question and finding the answer. That's one of the biggest benefits of a community like ours.
With 28K solutions, I have no idea of what the count of distinct questions are. I’m a data guy and I’m certain that the same question is asked multiple times - there's no way that there isn't duplication. I also know that there are multiple solutions to the same post/challenge. Do all these questions mean that there is a deficiency in the usability of the product? Perhaps in some cases there could be improvements, but that doesn't explain everything. Why are so many users confused to the point that they require strangers within the Alteryx community to finish their homework for them? The answer to that question is likely just a lack of motivation to truly learn - also known as sheer laziness. That may come across as a bit harsh, but trust me - there are posts that show zero effort and the desired solution is an entire workflow to solve their problems for them. In a pinch with a short timeframe, these questions can occasionally be necessary, but they happen far more often than anyone would like to see.
Curation of the content would make the knowledge easier to find. Imagine tighter product integration where a formula tool not only displays an error message (e.g. Parse Error at char(0): Empty expression (Expression 2)) but also links to help documents/solutions. Take that a step further and the option to “auto-correct” the formula is an option to select. Better even would be that the option is permitted, but behind the scenes Alteryx has already executed successfully with the default action. Note: a syntax error like this doesn’t stop the workflow from running, it kept running. If Alteryx were to recognize the error and NOT run, that would be an improvement. These are all product dreams, and not necessarily something easy to just snap into existence.
So back to the community posts. Are people reading the content before asking these questions? Are they checking the help documents first? What is the path to posting? I hope that Alteryx knows these answers, and if not, is working toward a tighter understanding. I hope that they are modifying and updating their help content to be current and relevant. I hope that they are finding product innovation in the existence of 28K posts.
The community activity helps Alteryx to answer the questions posed by their founder, Dean Stoecker:
· Is this the right product for the customer?
· Are we delivering the product we said we were going to deliver?
· Does it work in the way that we said it would work?
· Are we ensuring their success with the product?
· Are we listening to customer feedback and responding back to them?
I encourage you, the community members, to keep learning and to keep asking questions. I hope that your path includes a variety of ways to learn and that you share the knowledge with other people both in the community and within your own organizations. Vote up solutions. Accept many solutions. Like posts of good questions and like the insights shared. I encourage the community team to voraciously read the content in community and to work with the product teams to improve the Alteryx experience for all users on multiple levels.
To offer some final words of this blog - I discourage you from giving up. Please try to solve the problem yourself first, and post what your challenge is - be specific and give context. When a response works for you, make sure that you understand not only how it works, but also ask what the solver was able to do to see the solution path. I know that solutions come in various sizes and complexity, and that not all of them are completely straightforward. With that being said, I discourage you from simply copying the results because it works and not learning how to “fish” yourself. You might be tempted to solve now and wait until later to learn, but herein lies the risk - the provided solution may only appear to work. In a situation like that, when the customer or your boss sees the result, you might be challenged to defend your work given that it didn’t execute all of the time. That would be too much of a risk for me to take.
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