Market research: can you help me find a comparable use case for an open source Knowledge Base?


Hi all, I am doing some market research for content strategy and am trying to find a comparable use case to my own. I am looking for examples of SaaS companies that offer both open source and enterprise versions and provide free (and paywalled) learning resources to their open source community.

A little more context: I manage a resource portal at Puppet for open source users ( that provides free learning and troubleshooting resources along with a yearly subscription option that comes with more content and three one-on-one sessions with an engineer. We have a separate website for open source code modules and another one for traditional docs.

Two companies I've found so far that have a similar use case are New Relic and QT, but neither of these companies includes gated content and free content in one portal together.

Any examples you can think of would be greatly appreciated, thanks!


  • StevenForth
    StevenForth Founding Partner | Expert ✭✭✭

    I wonder if you could take a step back and explain why you have chosen this approach and how you decide what goes behind the paywall.

    Understanding the role of the knowledge database in the overall value creation (how you create value for your customers and used) and value capture (how you claim part of that value back) will also help us give you advice.

    How does content use impact engagement with the software platform?

    I would start by taking a wide look at how people provide content under free and paid models.

  • Erin O'Malley

    Hi Steven, you really hit the nail on the head there with these questions. I'm working through some of these exact concerns with my stakeholders. I just recently joined the company, so I'm piecing the picture together and working on doable, incremental improvements within the system we currently have set up.

    I'm still pinning down where the value creation and value capture take place in relation to the portal. As I'm trying to write out this reply I'm realizing it is quite complicated! This is great food for thought, and I agree a wide look at free and paid models could be useful in this stage.

    The tricky part about this portal is the hybrid model with slightly different target audiences. Within this it is aiming to 1) provide a paid service and exclusive content for more advanced open source users (for example, a sysadmin team at a tech company) 2) provide a free resource for open source users who (in many, but not all cases) operate on a smaller scale and want to quickly find ungated content about troubleshooting, best practices, get started guides, product updates, and community updates. I would say it is the second part that needs to be fleshed out better in terms of value creation/value capture. Those users provide value to the company by creating and maintaining open source code, though we don't have a way of quantifying that value that I know of.

  • Spencer Hancock
    Spencer Hancock Member | Scholar ✭✭

    Hi @Erin O'Malley and @Steven Forth,

    This is an excellent discussion. @Sumit Bhat, @Alexander Mundorff and @Carlos Alves I'd be interested to hear your views on Erin's question about Knowledge Bases and determining the viable most 'gating' methodologies.

  • StevenForth
    StevenForth Founding Partner | Expert ✭✭✭

    @Erin O'Malley You may want to try to draw this as a systems diagram with feedback loops.

    There are several different types of feedback loops to consider here:

    • Content contribution
    • Content use
    • Value creation
    • Monetization

    When I do this work I generally do these independently first and then add layers and look for the feedback loops between the different layers. It is a great exercise that combines systems thinking with value mapping.

    In your case, I would also look at the interactions between the different user groups and communities and see how they provide value to each other. Some of the modeling techniques used in two-sided markets may be useful as well.

  • Carlos Alves
    Carlos Alves TSIA Administrator, Moderator, Founding Member | admin

    I knew a KB related to SAP years ago, named ASUG, a user group that exchanged lots of good information, issues, etc.

    I like the approaches of creating a user community. Github started like this!

    So, the be of further assistance, if I could, are you looking for a business model or a reference tool?

  • Alexander Ziegler
    Alexander Ziegler Founding Member | Expert ✭✭✭

    To add to the comments around the community/free approach @Carlos Alves which is from my view spot on and highlights the value of community driven content. From my point of view the key reason for gated/non-community driven content (must not be necessarily paid but must be controlled+owned by the SaaS product provider) can be highlighted by a simple example: imagine you're the administrator of the product in a huge company and millions/billions dependent on your work: do you want to learn how to configure certain values of a product by a community approach and risk that a community member does not have the full understanding? Or would you prefer to have certified materials from the producer of the product? There is from my experience a fine line of content for a specific user group that should be owned/gated/controlled by the product owner (independent on open source or not) - but there is also room for community driven content.