"There are a number of IT [communities] out there, but the typical ones can be dry, anonymous, and controlled by cliques," says Jay Hallberg, co-founder and vice president of marketing at Spiceworks. "This has a very different feel. Profiles and 'badges' reveal a lot about a person, and newbies are welcomed with open arms. The key is that Spiceworks IT professionals know they're all in the same boat: They're working in very small IT departments -- sometimes they are the IT department -- and in many cases they're jacks of all trades, masters of none."
At the Spiceworks community site, ITers can ask questions, share tips and advice, or just chat about technology. Members have access to product ratings (by peers), online discussions, how-to's, documentation, and more. Vendors participate too, interacting with the IT community to deliver information and field questions about their products.
Yeah, I know. You're wondering what all that talk of peppers in the first paragraph was about, right? Members score points by contributing to the Spiceworks community. These contributions include sharing scripts, referring IT pros, and attending local meetings. How many points a member has racked up determines his or her Spiceworks level, which is denoted by a specific pepper. There are 15 peppers in all, starting with the pimiento (0-100 points) and ending with pure capsaicin, the spiciest pepper of them all (250,000+ points). Members can also collect "badges" by doing certain activities and reaching specific milestones. Being a beta tester will earn a member a badge, for example. And so will participating in a Spiceworks survey.
Hallberg says the Spiceworks community includes more than 1 million SMB IT pros and, at any given time, there are more than 100,000 online conversations taking place. The social networking phenomenon continues to evolve, taking cues from the likes of Facebook and Twitter. "This started small, as a traditional support forum, and now we've got 20% of the IT pros in companies with less than 1,000 employees," Hallberg says. "We've looked at a lot of stuff going on in the consumer world and applied it in the realm of IT."
How's that for hot, hot, hot?