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Social software tools seem to be fast becoming the communications medium of choice when it comes to companies getting mindshare within the developer community. So much so that it will be interesting to see how many of them move in that direction in their approach to developing applications for others.

F5 Networks has been using this approach longer than some and has recently unveiled Version 4 of its DevCentral website aimed at its developer community.

It’s unveiling does prompt some thoughts on the subject, if only because the announcement suggested some on how such service could or should develop, and from there what functionality this might inspire for inclusion in end user applications. For example, the new version has been expanded with new forums and additional technology coverage as a direct response to user feedback. But (and this is not intended as a criticism of F5 or DevCentral) the process seems to inevitably remain under the vendor’s control. In a genuine community, would it be necessary for the members to request a service and wait for the "leaders" to provide it or not? How would developers feel about taking greater control over discussion forums, creating their own as and when needed?

Those with long memories may remember CIX (the Compulink Information Exchange), where setting up a new forum – or conference – was and still is a very easy task for individual users. No one had to go and ask The Powers That Be. It is certainly understandable that the vendors should want to keep some measure of control over what happens on a community site, but giving the developers – as customers/users – more control over what happens could give the vendors even more feedback faster.®

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