An issue I personally have is what I term “the Zen-effect”. It’s when there is someone in the forums who is actively providing great content, displaying amazing skill, and becomes a staple to the community, only to effectively disappear once they become a Zen Master. What…huh…where…??? A Zen Master doesn’t have to come from the Tableau Community forums, just to be clear, but it’s this particular group I’m talking about.
About as transparent as an engraved rock
Not knowing exactly what’s expected of a Zen Master it’s hard to know why their participation flounders. I doubt it’s a coincidence of extra work at their job or a life change because the falling-out is often after such Tableau promotion. While it’s true these Tableau greats have blogs or other information webs to maintain, they had them already so there should be no change there. I can only guess there are additional requirements above and beyond their prior non-Zen status OR they reached their goal and are moving on (which is really disappointing in my opinion!). It's particularly troubling that of all the things these people do it's the Tableau forums that get assigned the low priority and are dropped. I've read the posts/blogs about how one becomes a Zen Master and I've heard conflicting details about whether it's a recognition or a position, meaning there are rules around it and further expectations. We do know that the title can be taken away given the list of "Former Tableau Zen Masters" so for me that says it's more of a position than an honorary title. Thus Tableau fails to be transparent about what happens after someone becomes a Zen Master.
Where I'm coming from
The problem is that no matter what the exit reason may be it’s the forums in the Tableau Community that lose. The loss of a master Tableau-er from the forums affects everyone in the community because there’s now a hole where their service and skill-set once was. It could take time for someone else to come along and fill that hole. Now, it could be argued that people who need help can perform a web search, like using Google, and come across a blog posting by a Zen and possibly get their question answered. But that doesn't drive users to the Tableau Community forums! I kinda thought that's what Tableau wants: If someone has a problem then they should go to the community forums first! If the user doesn't post a question in the Tableau forums then they lose out on the numerous rapid-response solutions possible; with version changes they could very well land on a blog post that is no longer accurate and it won't answer additional questions they have nor draw upon the knowledge of others who may have had the same or similar situation or a better solution. There will be no real conversation or else it will be one-sided. I read the comments in the blogs and lots of questions go unanswered With such a vast amount of questions and answers in the forums I'd be willing to bet that, statistically, there are more questions that are answered by the forum search than through a web search that includes blog postings. I'm NOT saying blog posts are worthless! They are the deep-dives, the external knowledge base documents if you will, and they can contain fantastic content but in no way do they have the potential to address the many questions as the forums do.
The heart of this post
The other loss – what actually started me writing this article and the one that is hard to measure as it's something that is emotionally felt – is the loss of a comrade. Knowing that the person will no longer be there to help you or others out; that familiar face (or avatar) will only be seen in old posts now, rarely if ever in new ones; conversations in private and tangential in threads…gone. I for one really miss these wonderful people and our interactions
Those very few who become Zen Master and continue to help in the forums display the real Zen spirit in my mind. They are like a “Zen Master + 1”. Not only do they carry the title but continue to help where they started and where they're needed…hmm, maybe they should be given a new title like Community Zen Master? I'm not mad or angry at those who've moved on because it does happen and naturally losing them makes me blue, however, I'm being honest when I say I'm just a little disappointed when it is due to the Zen-effect.