I Don't Get It

A fairly good sized-crew of my colleagues attended the Web 2.0 Conference in SF last week and returned to the office with a treasure trove of information. (Unfortunately, I was locked in the Mandalay Bay Conf Center in Vegas for IOUG Collaborate at the time.) We have some very interesting new ideas to look into this summer.

What I find personally discouraging, however, is the complete lack of Oracle mindshare in this area. Even SAP was mentioned several times at the Web 2.0 conference for its endorsement of social media - which surprises me greatly, because I find SDN to be a rather pale imitation of OTN (but hey, I'm biased). (Some inside baseball on this point: I happen to know through personal experience that some of the top leadership at SDN didn't even know what RSS is as recently as a year ago.)

In particular, Oracle gets zero credit in this community for its rather aggressive support of blogging (by employees and nonemployees), despite the fact that a rather large blogging community exists and has for some time. There appears to be the perception out there that either this community does not exist, or that if it does exist, it must be "centrally controlled" by some evil PR mastermind - and neither assertion is even remotely accurate. (Caveat: Yes, executive blogs do get scrutiny from PR, as executives have special fiduciary responsibilities.)

OTN has also been on the sharpest of cutting edges in terms of podcasting, integration with del.icio.us, and Semantic Web. Again, this fact goes completely unrecognized by the Web 2.0/social media cognescenti.

Please forgive the rant, but you can probably imagine my frustration. Obviously, we're doing a poor job of marketing in this area - or perhaps the Oracle brand is simply not "wired" this way. Or maybe I shouldn't even care!


Justin, look at blogger coverage of one single SAP conference: http://www.technorati.com/search/sapphire07 They invite independent bloggers, give them access to Execs, customers..etc, instead of (only) spreading the gospel themselves, which would always be looked at as biased. (Disclaimer: I was also invited, but had to pull out)

Posted by Zoli Erdos on April 26, 2007 at 01:50 AM PDT #

Agreed - SAP has a formal blogger relations program and Oracle does not (yet) - but there are numerous independent Oracle bloggers who blog at OOW etc. (see http://otn.oracle.com/events/oracle-openworld-2006/oow_blogindex.html), far more than there are employee bloggers in fact. So this is one part of the puzzle but still not an adequate explanation for the "credibility gap."

Posted by Justin Kestelyn on April 26, 2007 at 01:57 AM PDT #

You guys need to do a better job of integrating blogs into your various Technology center sites. Today, Blogs is just a separate section with no visibility from any of your product/technology landing pages. If you start showing relevant aggregated feeds from your employee blog posts onto your product sites, you will start seeing your community interacting more with your employees via. blogging.

Posted by Amar on April 26, 2007 at 02:59 AM PDT #

A valid comment but user-blogger interaction isn't really our problem here (although we could always have more) - several Oracle bloggers are stupendously popular. Rather, the issue is a lack of recognition of this rather large community in the marketplace.

Posted by Justin Kestelyn on April 26, 2007 at 03:13 AM PDT #

I used to track many of the OTN blogs when I was doing competitive strategy for SAP but it struck me that most of the blogs were highly technical and middleware or database centric, which didn't really interest me. The appcasts are well done but the exec blogs at the time (Wookey, Kurion, etc.) were sales pitches with a lot of common messaging, not bad in itself but it did seem like they were written by the marketing staff. Lastly, I actually really like OTN but I think you are selling SDN short, there's a lot of really interesting stuff going on in there and Oracle would do well to focus less on the artifacts of community and more on building out the actual community beyond geeks. Look at BPX for an indication of what I am referring to. Oracle has a database community and a Fusion middleware community, SAP has the SAP community.

Posted by Jeff Nolan on April 26, 2007 at 04:04 AM PDT #

Thanks Jeff (I read your blog BTW) - indeed, OTN is in fact expressly designed for geeks. (As you may have noticed there is little apps/LOB-related content there at the moment, but that is not its purpose - not at the moment.) Point well taken; SDN is certainly fine for SAP-ers. My gripe is that non-geek community is not more "valid" than geek community, yet that is apparently what the Web 2.0 "mandarins" would have us believe.

Posted by Justin Kestelyn on April 26, 2007 at 04:12 AM PDT #

I certainly didn't mean to insinuate that either. There will always be strong demand for technical content and on that front I think you guys have it covered really well. I think my attempt to bring an answer to your original question is that SAP's efforts get more attention because they attempt to answer "what it means" as much as "what it is" and that's going to get coverage in the mainstream business blog landscape.

Posted by Jeff Nolan on April 26, 2007 at 05:05 AM PDT #

So Justin, how many comments do Oracle bloggers post on other people's blogs? How many trackbacks do they leave? How many conversations do they have? Are they P2P or are they still broadcast? If they are doing all that then I want to hear about it. I ain't having a go, these are all genuine questions.

Posted by Matt Moore on April 26, 2007 at 05:36 AM PDT #

Justin - SAPs geeky community at SDN is blending some of the non-geek stuff into what they're doing. It's wrong to say: "SDN is certainly fine for SAP-ers." Anyone can join. One of the great things about SAPPHIRE 07 was that SAP put geeks into Bloggers' Corner alongside the businessy types (like me.) It worked very well. And SAPs PR simply cannot be faulted for getting a bunch of us sessions with Kagermann and Plattner along with other senior execs. I'd very much like to see more Oracle people hanging out with the Irregulars (www.enterpriseirregulars.com) but we're struggling to find the right kind of folk at Oracle willing to come along for the ride.

Posted by Dennis Howlett on April 26, 2007 at 06:25 PM PDT #

Reply to Matt Moore: Your questions are best answered by touring through the more popular Oracle blogs - Tom Kyte, Steven Chan (employees); Doug Burns, Tim Hall, Eddie Awad (nonemployees). You'll find numerous "naked conversations" there.

Posted by Justin Kestelyn on April 26, 2007 at 07:22 PM PDT #

Reply to Dennis Howlett: on the contrary, I don't fault SAP for its formal blogger relations program. (I'm pushing for the same thing here in fact). I think my general point is that Oracle's sincere efforts in this area are underappreciated and largely unrecognized - for no apparent good reason. It is true, as Jeff points out, that "analysis" gets more attention than "explanation", but I question the basis for that attention "imbalance".

Posted by Justin Kestelyn on April 26, 2007 at 07:26 PM PDT #

Justin - I can give you plenty of reasons but let's not go there. How's about reaching out to the Irregulars - as we say: "We don't always agree, but we guarantee you'll go away smarter." So here's a suggestion. Ask Anshu Sharma what we're like, what we say and whether we add value to enterprisey conversations. If you get a positive on that, get back to me and I'm sure we can talk.

Posted by Dennis Howlett on April 28, 2007 at 02:38 AM PDT #

Dennis, saw your post in ZDNet this AM. Yeah, you "don't read enough." Questioning the credibility of a community with over 5 million registered members makes you sound far from credible yourself. Does that "add value to enterprisey conversations"? Not for me.

Posted by Justin Kestelyn on April 29, 2007 at 09:07 PM PDT #

Oh dear...I'm sorry you feel that way Justin. As I said at ZDN, absolute numbers may mean nothing... I'm not questioning the credibility. You raised that issue through the title of this post. I'm questioning the visibility with a community *you* clearly think matters. Addressing attention, do you honestly think it does you (or Oracle) credit to go on the attack about a single point and instead avoid the more substantive questions I raised about community engagement? Quoting and showing comparative examples along the way. This is about conversation, good, bad or indifferent. It's about recognising that others' points of view 'might' have validity. It's about engaging to help everyone in the ecosystem see different perspectives and then judge for themselves. It's about learning there are others far smarter than one self. Cliched I'm sure but absolutely bang on the money in my experience. Oracle is an important voice in the market but if it chooses to remain largely isolated from those you presume have some importance (otherwise this post would not exist) then Oracle should indeed maintain that position. In the meantime, companies like salesforce.com, SAP and the new wave of startups like Zimbra, Zohoh. DabbleDB etc are commanding the lion's share of attention. And getting customers to buy in to their offerings.

Posted by Dennis Howlett on April 30, 2007 at 03:40 AM PDT #

Re: Oracles aggressive support of blogging Just a thought on this - I'm a very low level blogger/del.icio.us user/Oracle DBA and this is just my opinion. OTN is a great resource both in terms of the information and in the ways its presented - the problem from a blogging point of view, I think, is its disconnect from Metalink. I think opening up Metalink would make Oracle more blog friendly. If you could freely quote from, and directly link to Metalink notes, then the more technical blogging would work better. I know this raises a whole hatful of corporate issues, but these seem to have been solved by the Sybase and Microsoft equivalents - you don't need a support contracts to see their Tech support sites. You can easily save to del.icio.us, link to them in your blog, find them in Google etc This isn't to disparage OTN - as I say, I think its really good - but the things I most often want to blog about tend to be more related to Metalink stuff. HTH.

Posted by Matt Penny on May 01, 2007 at 06:53 PM PDT #

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