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Come on in, the Forums Are Fine…

If you’ve been using PowerBuilder for a long period of time, then you’ll know we’ve gone through a similar transition before

What forums you may ask; the Sybase NNTP forums? No, those are going away. Not on the schedule that was originally proposed (December 1 of 2012), but they will go away soon. Replacing them are the online discussion forums in the PowerBuilder Development Center (PDC), part of the SAP Community Network (SCN). Never fear though, the information on the Sybase NNTP forums aren't going away; a searchable archive of the messages will be available.

If you've been using PowerBuilder for a long period of time, then you'll know we've gone through a similar transition before. We started in one section of a Windows Developers section in CompuServe. In 1993, PowerSoft was moved to their own separate section in CompuServe for support of all their products. By 1997 though, the Internet had come of age and the decision was made to officially move the forums from CompuServe onto a Sybase-hosted NNTP server. Similar to this move, an archive was made available of the messages and files that had been available on the CompuServe forums. However, I was amazed at how quickly that archived information became irrelevant.

The new PDC forums have a number of advantages over the Sybase NNTP forums:

  • They do not require specialized software in order to access them; they can be accessed using a regular browser. The Sybase NNTP forums required a NNTP client. Various web-based newsreaders were made available, including one hosted on the Sybase web site (which is also in the process of being replaced). The forums were available from Google Groups for a short time, but then the feed between them broke and that site became largely useless for accessing the forums. PFCGuide.com offered perhaps the best method of accessing the forums through a browser, with the exception that it did not support access to or posting of attachments. However, that site has not been available for some time as the person supporting it has long moved off of PowerBuilder.
  • They do not require specialized software in order to search them. The forums are part of the SAP website and can be searched either via the search capability of the SAP site or from other web search engines such as Google.
  • It allows thread to be marked as "answered" and allows the person asking the question to indicate what responses they received were "helpful" or "correct". The people who responded develop ‘reputations' based on the number of helpful and correct responses they provide (similar to StackExchange, except that there is no voting by other members on the appropriateness of the response). One thing any forum member can do though is tag a post as "Abuse" which results in it being reviewed by forum moderators.
  • You can "follow" the developer center as a whole or just certain threads posted there so you will get notifications when there is new activity. You can also bookmark and "like" threads as well as share them on LinkedIn, Google Plus, Twitter and/or Facebook.
  • There is a mobile client, although it's somewhat limited. I have a blog post on the PDC explaining how to get the software and configure it.

About the only thing the new forums don't support is posting of large attachments (they are limited to certain file types, zip not included, and restricted to 1MB in size). However, we tried to discourage that on the Sybase NNTP forums as well, because most NNTP forums clients would end up downloading that content whether the user wanted it or not when they accessed the forums and as a result caused problems for people with slower internet lines.

The PDC also provides a number of other features. There are blogs on the PDC itself, and you can also create blog posts on your own SCN profile. They don't have the ability to create polls enabled in PDC, but you can create one within your SCN profile and then reference it in a PDC forum discussion or blog posts. The PDC also allows you to create a "document," although I'm not sure how they really differ from blog posts.

SCN also hosts Code Exchange (http://scn.sap.com/community/code-exchange). You may remember when Sybase had something called CodeXchange (http://www.sybase.com/developer/codexchange). Technically, it's still there, but only a shadow of its former self. If you're one of the long-term developers, you may also remember the file libraries we had on CompuServe. What the file libraries gave us was a common location we could use to share code samples with the community. Sybase's CodeXchange provided that capability as well (and still does in a limited fashion), but at one point also supported collaborative development similar to SourceForge or Github. What SCN's Code Exchange does is the latter: collaborative development.

There are also a number of other new resources out there for PowerBuilder developers. For example, the http://www.gopowerbuilder.com site is a collection of more marketing-related resources for PowerBuilder, in case you want to provide other developers or your management with information on the project. The site also hosts blogs for the PowerBuilder MVPs.

There is also the SAP Database and Technology Academy, a series of short (e.g., less that 15 minute) videos posted on YouTube demonstrating how to use some particular feature of SAP products. There are 23 that are specifically related to PowerBuilder at the time this article was written. (http://www.youtube.com/user/saptechnology/videos?query=PowerBuilder)

If you haven't been in the forums for a while then check out the new ones. And be sure to check out some of the other new resources out there for PowerBuilder developers while you're at it.

More Stories By Bruce Armstrong

Bruce Armstrong is a development lead with Integrated Data Services (www.get-integrated.com). A charter member of TeamSybase, he has been using PowerBuilder since version 1.0.B. He was a contributing author to SYS-CON's PowerBuilder 4.0 Secrets of the Masters and the editor of SAMs' PowerBuilder 9: Advanced Client/Server Development.

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