Why Sencha is moving its support forums to Stack Overflow

On January 1st, Sencha plans to switch its primary support forum from a hosted solution to Stack Overflow. Obviously, we’re flattered, but we think we’re the right place to support any developer community. Other framework and library creators have answered questions about their products here before—check out this answer from curl creator Daniel Stenberg. But we don’t often have companies use us as the first line of support. 

For those that don’t know, Sencha Ext JS is a mature JavaScript framework for creating desktop-quality applications that run either in any browser or as a native application and has been around for about ten years. The framework is object-oriented, modular, and extensible. It handles a lot of the busywork of an application, including object lifecycle, themes, layout, data storage, Ajax communication, and more. They even have UI libraries that can be used across any other JavaScript framework. 

We talked to the general manager of the Sencha brand, Kegan Blumenthal, about why they decided to move their support forum and what that means for users of the framework in the future. 

Scaling to keep pace with support

About two years ago, Sencha was acquired by Idera. Before then, support was handled directly by the same engineers writing the code, architecting new features, and improving the product. “That was pretty luxurious, in my opinion,” says Blumenthal. “But at the same time, not sustainable.” No company can grow a software business while having their most senior developers constantly manning the support lines. 

Naturally, long-time customers who had grown accustomed to having all questions answered by the folks who wrote the code grumbled. The forums became more a lot of noise, distracting from the actual support going on. “I think that they feel that the quality of solutions that have been presented in the forum has gone down,” says Blumenthal. “They’re probably right. Mostly because of the fact that the people who wrote those features are not the ones responding anymore.”

All that noise was drowning the actual work of answering questions. Sencha has free users as well as premium users, which they call platinum. And those paying customers were getting lost on the forums. “With so much noise and our platinum customers using the same forums for support, it was really hard for our team to decipher who’s who,” says Blumenthal. Platinum customers will still have direct access to company support, but through a gated forum, to ensure that they get the value that they are paying for. 

“A more modern approach”

Sencha already has a bustling community using Stack Overflow. There are already 24,000 questions using the ‘extjs’ tag. Their developer users—some two million in total, 300,000 of whom visit the site every month—are already using Stack Overflow as part of a hybrid support approach. This just makes it official. It makes sense; if a customer doesn’t find an answer on the official forums, they turn to a search engine. And that search engine finds us. 

On top of that, Stack Overflow is a better way to surface questions and answers than bulletin board software. We’ve got robust search and a pretty strong presence in search results.  “Obviously you guys index,” says Blumenthal. “Our bulletin board doesn’t. So I think the SEO benefits and also the search features that you guys have is really helpful; what we have currently doesn’t match up.” 

Along with moving their customers over, they’ll also be moving their support engineer teams, as well as encouraging their most active customers to continue posting answers when the forum moves to read-only access. “We have an MVP program, and so we’re going to put a contest in place in those first 30 days for the most answers,” says Blumenthal. “There’s a number of prizes that we’ll publicly announce, mostly differing levels of Amazon gift cards and swag. You guys have those leaderboards so makes it pretty easy.”

While this process has just been announced, Sencha will be providing more detail to their customers on what their customers need to do once the move is official. We’re excited to have more developers participate in our community, and we look forward to seeing them build a wealth of knowledge about Ext JS on our site.  

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Author

Ryan Donovan
Ryan Donovan is a Content Marketer at Stack Overflow. He's been writing for developers for two decades.

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Comments

  1. “We have an MVP program, and so we’re going to put a contest in place in those first 30 days for the most answers,” says Blumenthal. “There’s a number of prizes that we’ll publicly announce, mostly differing levels of Amazon gift cards and swag. You guys have those leaderboards so makes it pretty easy.”

    So now you’re adding incentives to post answers other than rep, or _helping_ users. This is a _Quantity over Quality_ approach, and as such it’s not a fit with SO’s mission of Quality Q&A.

    1. Stack Overflow isn’t doing anything to incentivize users beyond the reputation system. Sencha has selected a group of active users to provide answers to questions on their tags. Those answers still have to meet our regular quality standards. We think it’s pretty cool that other companies want to use our forums for their official support; it says a lot about the quality of the folks who come here.

  2. “We have an MVP program, and so we’re going to put a contest in place in those first 30 days for the most answers,” says Blumenthal. “There’s a number of prizes that we’ll publicly announce, mostly differing levels of Amazon gift cards and swag. You guys have those leaderboards so makes it pretty easy.”

    This is antithetical to the values of Stack Overflow. Please don’t

  3. Stack Overflow promotes rewarding participation like they do with the contents here https://contests.stackoverflow.com/. Which I like to think is a pretty exciting feature to help drive swag to those who help out and garner Stack Overflow reputation.

  4. Sencha forum was not only about Q&A. It was also about bug reports and feature requests. Lots of users update the framework to the latest sources and provide feedback shortly it they spot a bug or see something that can be improved. In most cases users provide workarounds and expect Sencha to apply a proper fix in the future releases. That’s why direct communication with core developers made sense. Rayn, how do you see posting bug reports and feature requests on StackOverflow? Don’t you think that having StackOverflow as the main communication channel is just an attempt to move the “noise” and pass the responsibility over to the end users? I don’t think you’ll get new users with the transfer. We all are developers and use StackOverflow this or that way. To my mind it will only bring you the overload of questions.

  5. Great questions. Bugs are a huge concern of ours and something we really want to do a better job with. So we really want to drive bug reporting and repair efficiency up! And we realize that in order to do this, we need to work our support process much more vigorously which provides an efficient means of reporting bugs for free. This process allows us to engage with customers’ issues quicker. Where the support personnel can triage the bug and get it into the engineering queue. It also allows us to respond to bugs faster, because the support crew becomes your advocate in getting the bug fixed. Overall the bug reporting is free, the support personnel becomes your engineering advocate and helps you find a way around the issue. This I think is the perfect mix to help drive reporting efficiency! Please contact us at any time if you have a problem with entering bugs through support.

    The same could be said for feature requests. Feature requests can be submitted for free as well. I’m listening everywhere I can for feature requests too.

    We also have another program for providing feedback directly into the core teams. And that’s with the MVP program.

    If for some reason you don’t feel like your heard ask for me in the support portal, and I’ll get on and help out.

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