Introducing VMUG’s WIKI
Hi there, and thank you for reading this. It’s with great delight that I’m able to write to you today about a big project for VMUG and our great community. It’s called “WIKI” and I want to explain what it is and what inspired its creation.
Some years ago, John Troyer floated the idea of a website based on the WIKI format – all about VMware technologies. The idea was to have an independent encyclopedia of all things VMware – with the content being created, edited and maintained by our community. John’s suggestion stuck with me even whilst I was writing traditional books myself. So the idea of a VMUG WIKI has been at the back of my mind for a long time – and I think now might just be the right time for its launch. So why a WIKI?
Firstly, we have all seen in recent years the rapidity of software changes in the datacenter. Nowadays, by the time a book is written, and published, it’s likely to be out dated by a new release of that software within a short time frame. Even more than in the past conventional books need to be timed like a military campaign to be released at the optimum point to reach the biggest audiences (and let’s face it, sales). My fellow authors will tell you that the challenge of writing a book on a technical subject is quite an undertaking. My peers who have written books will attest to that moment of dread when within an hour after publication, they realize they have a typo or technical error on the first page! For me this situation cries out for a method of delivering content that is live, dynamic and updatable at any point in time – either by the “Originating Author” or by the keen reader. Does this mean the end of conventional technology books? No, in fact I’m avidly reading Duncan Epping and Cormac Hogan’s VSAN Book from the VMware Press. I feel that there will always be a demand for classic paperbacks, as well as their digital equivalents. So try to see the VMUG WIKI as complementing these formats, rather than supplanting them – it’s just another educational resource for your virtual bookshelf.
Secondly, in the early days of virtualization and VMware it was possible for one guy or maybe a couple of guys to be able to create a weighty tome about all VMware technologies. That now seems inconceivable. The breadth and depth of VMware’s product portfolio is so vast and expansive, it’s hard to see how anyone could have a handle on the detail of the Big Vision. Sure, the high-level perspective of VMware’s Software-Defined Datacenter (SDDC) is something we can all understand conceptually, but as always the devil resides in the detail in how these technologies are installed, configured and interact with each other. As we have seen that has led to the rise and rise of books that specialize in one given technology. That’s a great development because it really needs someone with laser vision (or should that be tunnel vision?) to create technically dense, but at the same time relevant content.
Thirdly, in recent years I’ve seen our community create content that isn’t really suitable for a blog format. Often these posts form a very long series. Looking back on technical blogging – the original goal was to produce much shorter material that covered discrete experiences – usually some sort of technical problem and how it was resolved – or as a platform for expressing a unique personal opinion about development in our industry. In short, WordPress or a similar blogging platform isn’t always ideal for longer form content that evolves over weeks and months. This seems to suggest to me that a WIKI format might be more useful especially since it automatically creates a Table Of Contents to ease the navigation process. And being web-based it means it’s accessible to all devices from the laptop to the tablet, without the worry about file formats which bedevils e-readers.
Finally, I’ve have always struggled with the idea that a small select bunch of “vRockstars” act as the font of all knowledge about VMware. For sure there will always be a role for traditional books and experts in their fields – but I personally feel that being a dubbed a “vRockstar” is a bit of a double-edged sword. Especially, as we all know we learn something new everyday and wonder how on earth we got through life or work without knowing that fact. I know everyday I Google for the answers to problems – and nine times out of ten – it’s one of you in the community who has the answer. I would love to explode the whole myth of the “vRockstar,” and to recognize that as a community together we have more brainpower, knowledge and experience than a relatively small cabal of individuals.
So how does VMUG WIKI work and what is VMUG’s vision for the future? The VMUG WIKI is powered by the same version of WIKI software that Wikipedia uses. Everyone who is a member of the user group, and has a valid login to vmug.com, by default will have the rights to both create and edit new and existing content. That’s right, you can now correct all my spelling mistakes and typos live online! Anyone who creates brand new content is given the permanent recognition of being the “Originating Author” – so you will always be recognized for your contribution.
I’ve been seeding out the VMUG WIKI for some months. The content I’ve provided is very much in the “Mike Laverick” style – with tons of screen grabs, practical how-to’s with step-by-step instructions – coupled with warnings and caveats about typical errors and how to resolve them. Often the content I’ve created is supplemented by video material as well – in two formats “Show Me How” which is a brief video demonstration of the technology in question, together with a “Discuss The Options” video where I interview a notable person in our community for their advice and opinions on the best practices and approaches. In short I’ve tried to pull together into a single location online content that is often distributed and fragmented. In recent months I have been able to convert the “Building End-User Computing Solutions with VMware View” that I co-authored with Barry Coombs into the WIKI format. Additionally, the VMware Press have very kindly released my “Administering VMware Site Recovery Manager 5.0” book, to be converted into the WIKI format as well. Finally, my vSphere “Back To Basics” series has now been relocated to the VMUG Wiki as well. I hoping these contributions will act as an inspiration for others join me and also donate content as well.
However, please don’t get the impression that this is a “Mike Laverick” only production. When I was discussing the idea with my friends in the Global VMUG community it was important to me that the VMUG WIKI should be not-for-profit and once launched it should be steered and controlled by an independent VMUG WIKI Foundation. My chief concern is to ensure that VMUG WIKI always remains free to use, and free to contribute to – and isn’t exploited for financial gain. I’m sure you will agree that the Foundation’s members are people who have a long history of contributing to the community and who we can all rely on to make sure its founding principles are respected. They are – Scott Lowe, Edward Halekty, David Davis, Eric Sloof, Jason Boche, and Eric Siebert.
In many respects the inspiration for the VMUG WIKI is the idealism of Wikipedia’s founder, Jimmy Wales. It’s that same idealism that I hope to inspire in my peers and colleagues. By all means carry on creating your excellent blog content, and building your personal brand. But when you have completed that mammoth series of blogposts, please think about donating in a charitable way some of your content to the VMUG WIKI, and by doing so create a testament to your contribution to our community. For existing authors who have an existing book – do you still own the copyright? Even if your content is somewhat dated, it is still useful. You or the community could work together to update that content. As for the wider community – please do contribute. One way to do so is to support this project by promoting its goals to your peers. Another way is to stop by now and then, to review the new content – I hope you will learn something new. But the best way you can contribute is by correcting content that has inaccuracies or errors – and by adding additional material yourself to improve the content that is already there.
As for me, I’m marking my commitment to the VMUG WIKI project by deciding that today marks the end of me writing conventional books. From here on in, my focus will be doing my best to add, extend and maintain the content I create on the VMUG WIKI. Of course, I will be still be blogging at mikelaverick.com, and it’s likely I will continue to serialize my “Back To Basics” series on there. Once each “chapter” is completed, I will be donating the content in full to the VMUG WIKI project. Over the next couple of days, I will be modifying the older “Back To Basics” posts and redirecting them to the relevant location on the VMUG WIKI. I will also copy over my older vCloud Director content as well. From a logistics perspective we actually have two WIKIs – a DEV and PROD. The DEV is used by major contributors (such as myself) who want a semi-private zone to develop extensive content – and we have a very simple (and I mean very simple!) method of copying content from DEV to PROD.
I hope you will ALL join me in making the VMUG WIKI a long-term success, and that I won’t be left to paint the Golden Gate Bridge on my own!