It's 11:00 p.m., and you still haven't resolved the programming problem you've been wrestling with since this morning. You listened to an hour of music while on hold for the vendor, and when you finally got through, the representative tried to sell you an upgrade. Documentation doesn't seem to address this problem. Where can you turn for answers?
Everyone talks about how technology and Internet communications can improve work processes, making employees more efficient and companies more profitable. But how do the people developing the technologies become more productive? Did you know…
- Solving computer-related problems by trial and error can waste man-weeks of development time?
- Often, it takes technologists longer to find the person who can answer their problems than to get the answer itself?
Tecumseh Group created its independent professional forums to help people do their work more efficiently by providing a "buddy system" for solving problems. On Tek-Tips Forums (http://www.tek-tips.com
) and Eng-Tips Forums (http://www.eng-tips.com
), information technology and engineering professionals can participate in free and confidential forums with others in their specific areas of expertise, without intrusion from marketers and recruiters. For example, if a computer professional is having trouble "configuring NT for DSL Internet connection with a static IP," he or she can post that question and draw on the advice of other experienced professionals. For privacy, registered members can select posting signatures that do not reveal their name and company. Forums also provide useful tools such as product ratings, where members vote on the effectiveness, quality, and ease of use of products they work with daily.
Because of the success of the Tek-Tips Forums and Eng-Tips Forums, Tecumseh Group has become the largest independent forum management company on the Internet. It has over 800 active forums operating and boasts hundreds of thousands of directly registered members.EVOLUTION OF TECUMSEH GROUP FORUMS
In late 1997, Tecumseh Group CEO Dave Murphy envisioned an Internet location where professionals could discuss real, critical issues in a non-threatening, non-commercial environment. "The Internet is very broad, very shallow, and impersonal," Dave says. "There was need for a 'safe,' well-focused site where professionals could reach out to each other and exchange ideas about their work. We ended up creating hundreds of forums that are in effect focus groups for discussion of products and ideas."
Dave assembled the technology talent to build a forum "template" that was friendly, easy to use, and enabled forum members to "red-flag" vendors and recruiters who intrude on professional discussions.
The first forum, Tek-Tips, was launched in August 1998. Eng-Tips was launched four months later.
Unlike newsgroups or portals to newsgroups, Tecumseh Group requires that vendors and recruiters reveal themselves in forums, and it monitors sessions for unwarranted vendor intrusions or irrelevant posts. Also unlike newsgroup portals, forums do not siphon their membership from Usenet databases. Forum members are serious professionals who have chosen to register because they recognize the value of shared expertise in a clean, non-commercial environment.
To build the critical mass needed for successful independent forums, Tecumseh Group provided a Link Library and encouraged Webmasters from reputable technical sites to integrate professionally managed forums into their sites. Most significantly, word of mouth among professionals has helped expand membership every month since the site was launched. The company recently began to invest in marketing and promotional activities that will increase visibility of the site.
Revenue for operations comes from banner advertising, it's mail service, member contributions and private financing. The company has a partnership program that enables other reputable sites to integrate Tek-Tips' professionally managed forums into their sites. Tecumseh Group does not sell membership lists to protect its members from being "spammed". Tecumseh Group plans to launch additional professional sites in the future.TEK-TIPS FORUMS: REAL-TIME SOLUTIONS TO TECHNICAL PROBLEMS
- "Where can I find product comparisons on e-commerce interface tools, dBs, software?"
- "How can I create a shortcut for App. using code?"
Questions like these are posted by information technology professionals at organizations in every industry throughout the country. Tek-Tips Forums make it easy for IT professionals to benefit from the experiences and learning curves of other professionals.
Upon registering as a Tek-Tips member, the person selects from among hundreds of topics of interest, called "forums," and saves them in a personalized "Threadminder" that appears at each visit. Thread topics are organized under categories such as Software, Hardware, Desktop Systems, and Corporate Applications.
Tek-Tips is easy to navigate and use, with special features such as:
- Keyword searches on forum topics
- Instant notification of new questions or responses within selected threads
- Weekly activity summary of posts to selected forums
- Optional personal profiles that describe a person's expertise and background
- Red-Flag utility to the administrator to highlight suspicious posts
- Ability to specify new forums and forum categories to meet member needs
ENG-TIPS FORUMS: GIVING NEW MEANING TO "VALUE ENGINEERING"
- Ability for forum members to recognize professional "stars" who provide especially valuable information
"Anyone know of any online calculators for determining forced vibration?"
Eng-Tips Forums, designed for engineers in every discipline, present forums within each discipline, as well as forums on codes and standards, engineering computer programs, and by industry (energy, concrete, commercial products, etc.) Engineers can customize their "Threadminder" to include an opening page that presents only those forums in which they are interested. Like Tek-Tips, Eng-Tips presents on the home page a list of the Top 10 forums, ranked for activity.
Professional portals gives users access to engineering resources on the web, are using Eng-Tips Forums to build expertise within their discussion groups.TECUMSEH GROUP MANAGEMENT EXPERTISEDavid Murphy, CEO.
Mr. Murphy has general responsibility for all technical, operational, and marketing functions for Tecumseh Group. After eight years of financial management experience with Arthur Andersen and Unisys, he held management positions in finance, personnel, and technical sales for start-up companies in emerging markets. Mr. Murphy holds a B.B.A. degree from the University of Michigan.James Murphy, Engineering Forum Manager.
Mr. Murphy oversees the development and daily operations of Eng-Tips. Before starting his own engineering firm in 1966, Mr. Murphy served as vice president of Giffels Webster Engineering. He is a P.E. and R.L.S. and has an engineering degree from the University of Detroit.Doug Trocino, Technical Director and Tek-Tips Forum Manager.
Mr. Trocino oversees all technical development and operations of the web sites. He has 20 years of programming experience for both computer and web applications. He is a Certified Cold Fusion Developer and technical speaker at technology and security conferences throughout the country.