The success of any serious initiative must begin with the formulation of specific goals and the ability to measure progress as you work toward those goals. In terms of measuring the growth of the DotNetNuke project, we had traditionally monitored the total number of registered users on the dotnetnuke.com web site, the number of new users per month, and the number of downloads per month. These metrics revealed some definite trends but were rather myopic in terms of providing a relative comparison to other open source or commercial products. As a result, we looked for some other indicators that we could use to measure our overall market impact.
Alexa is a free service provided by Amazon that can be used to judge the popularity of an Internet web site. Popularity is an interesting metric because traffic distribution on the Internet conforms to a 90/10 rule: 10% of web sites account for 90% of the overall traffic, and 90% of web sites share the other 10%. This logarithmic scale means that it gets progressively more difficult to make substantial gains in your Alexa ranking as your web site popularity increases. Although the Alexa ranking is not a conventional progress indicator, we decided to use it as one of our key progress indicators (KPI) in determining the impact of our marketing efforts. The dotnetnuke.com web site had an Alexa ranking of 19,000 in April 2005.
SourceForge is the world's largest development and download repository of open source code and applications. Early in its project history, DotNetNuke had established a presence on SourceForge.Net (http://sourceforge.net/projects/dnn as shown in Figure 1-10) and continued to leverage its mirrored download infrastructure and bandwidth for hosting all project release packages. Because SourceForge.Net contained listings for all of largest and most successful open source projects in existence, it also provided a variety of comparison and ranking statistics that could be used to judge activity and popularity. This seemed to be another good KPI to measure our impact in the open source realm. In April 2005, the DotNetNuke project had an overall project ranking of 1,271.
One of the items that had been neglected over the life of the project was the dotnetnuke.com web site. It had long been a goal to build this asset into a content-rich communication hub for the DotNetNuke community. Patrick Santry made some early progress in this area but recently found his volunteer time diminishing due to personal and family commitments. Because a web site is largely an extension of product marketing (another function that had long been ignored) the dotnetnuke.com web site suffered from sparse content, poor organization, and inconsistent focus. After the release of DotNetNuke 3.0, a significant effort was invested in improving all aspects of the web site. Much of the initial improvements came as a result of evaluating web sites of other open source projects. After extensive deliberation, we decided to organize the site information into three functional areas: user-oriented information, community collaboration, and developer information. New "sticky" content areas were added for project news and community events. The Home Page was completely revamped to provide summary marketing information and project metrics.
In March 2005, another significant milestone occurred in DotNetNuke history. Dan Egan, a passionate DotNetNuke community member, wrote a book for PackT Publishing entitled Building Websites with VB.NET and DotNetNuke 3.0. This was the first book published about DotNetNuke and was essential in proving the demand for the product, paving the way for future DotNetNuke books from a variety of other publishers. In addition, a handful of Core Team members, including me, were also collaborating on a book for WROX Press during this time frame, but the demands of getting the DotNetNuke 3.0 product ready for release forced us to slip the publication date. Regardless, any technical content that makes it to mass publication through traditional channels lends an incredible amount of credibility and equity to the project or technology for which it is written. In addition, books can have a positive marketing impact; especially if they reach wide circulation through online retailers and brick-and-mortar bookstores.
In May of 2005, Core Team member Jim Duffy was successful in securing a DotNetNuke session on DotNetRocks!, an Internet radio talk show hosted by Carl Franklin and Richard Campbell. This was our second appearance on the show (the first being in August of 2004), and it was a lot of fun to talk about DotNetNuke in such a relaxed and open atmosphere. The show focused on the recent DotNetNuke 3.0 release and proved to be great way to promote some of the incredible new application features. It is hard to estimate the impact of the appearance on the DotNetRocks! show, but it certainly made me a firm believer in the benefits of podcasting as a powerful broad distribution marketing medium.