I headed over to the Solid Edge newgroup the other day and saw a post titled, “This is freaking awesome” in reference to a new way to access the news groups that are available to all the NX, Teamcenter, Solid Edge, Tecnomatix, Femap, and NX Nastran customers.
Not knowing what was going on (it’s a big company) and figuring others would like to know too, I asked Harrison Spain if he’d do a bit of Q and A with me.
Burhop: Hi Harrison. I was visiting the Siemens PLM newsgroup last week and saw the post “This is freaking awesome”. Turns out they were talking about a new interface to our newsgroup/forum/BBS. Can you tell us a little about what is going on?
Harrison: Hi Burhop! The original dial-up BBS has been around since the late 80’s. In the 90’s we moved from using DECnotes to a more standard NNTP News forum using DNEWS (a very popular NNTP/NEWS program). Over the years, our users would see web based BBS systems, and they would let me know that the BBS could use some of these features. We take some pride in the fact that the BBS have never lost a note.
Our challenge was to find a solution that gave our users the web interface they wanted, without abandoning the NNTP/NEWS standard. When we implemented DNEWS/NNTP, we also implemented DNEWSWEB which was a web based front end to the DNEWS BBS system, but the interface was poor. We wanted a superior interface, but unfortunately one did not exist. The original intent of DNEWSWEB was to allow users stuck behind a firewall (blocking NNTP port 119) to access the BBS. We really didn’t expect that the majority of users would end up using the web interface just for convenience!
We started to search web based forums that supported an NNTP interface. Our first attempt was on Windows, but the NNTP interface (and vBulletin) appeared to favor a Linux operating system. We changed over the BBS to new hardware, and a new operating system; our goal was to keep the new Linux based system exactly the same at the original Windows based DNEWS system.
After making a successful transition, we were ready to attempt the vBulletin installation. We then installed the NNTP interface and started the sync. Some pieces fell into place quickly, others took more time. John Jung was instrumental in getting the NNTP sync working properly, and the new vBulletin system authenticating using Webkey (something the designers of vBulletin never anticipated) LOL. He also migrated 190,000+ Solid Edge Free2D users into the system, and made countless other modifications to make the system easier to use.
Now, four weeks into the project, things look pretty stable. We can always make improvements, and will continue to do so over time.
Burhop: So the Solid Edge Free2D people have access too. What about students? I know they can’t always get a Webkey. For other customers, how do they get a Webkey?
As a customer of Siemens PLM Software, you should have a sold-to number (your CSR or local sales office should help with this), and from your license file you can obtain your Webkey Access Code.
Visit the http://support.ugs.com web page, and click on the Webkey icon. Create a Webkey account using your sold-to and Webkey Access Code. Your Webkey account allows you access to these forums.
If you are part of the Solid Edge Free2D program; you will use the username and password given to you (via E-Mail) when you signed up for the program.
Burhop: I noticed that the new platform supports blogs, pictures, calendars and social groups. Are these tools open to members? If so, how do you envision them being used?
Harrison: Yes, these tools are open to members.
Blogs: We suspect there are several BBS members that would prefer to start a blog (and gain a following) here on the BBS. The system supports blogs, and we see no reason to remove this capability .
Pictures: Not only can you attach (imbed actually) pictures into your postings, you can setup an album of pictures. Since our business is very graphical, we suspect members will want to post using pictures often. We just recently increased the size limit on pictures. Customers will have to be cautious however. The size limit does allow for the posting of pictures but not large bitmaps. We suggest they convert pictures to a smaller size before posting (we use Gadwin PrintScreen for example).
Calendars: We left this capability in the system to post events such as PLM World. We were also thinking of posting holidays, but removed these entries since the BBS is global (i.e. all customers) not just the USA.
Social Groups: One of the drivers for the new system is the new trend of “social networking”. We don’t know how popular this will be with our demographic, but wanted to let our users decide on the value.