Monday, April 20, 2009

Re-examining your communities from the outside (e.g. post Oracle-Sun)


If you're reading this blog, you've probably a member of one or more online communities. Maybe you have a set of friends on Facebook or MySpace or Twitter or FriendFeed or Scrine or some other service. Or maybe you've joined one or more communities that are dedicated to a particular topic. Jake Kuramoto has listed some of the communities related to Oracle OpenWorld 2009:

Seems like each year, there are more ways to keep tabs on the OpenWorld excitement, if the good old web page won’t do it for you. This year, there’s the OpenWorld blog , the OpenWorld wiki , a Facebook group , @oracleopenworld on Twitter, a LinkedIn group (if you’re the serious type), a YouTube channel , and the best for last, Oracle Mix group.

If you're interested, go to Jake's post and follow the links embedded in the post. I just joined the referenced Facebook group this morning.

Now if you ask people like Jake and myself (or Justin Kestelyn or Eddie Awad) about the Oracle communities, you'll hear the usual blathering from us about Oracle offering a lot of communities and we're all engaged and connected and undergoing self-realization on a higher plane, fully engaging our stacks in the process.

OK, that's what those of us within the community will say. But what about people who aren't in the community?

I was reading a FriendFeed thread about Oracle's planned acquisition of Sun and ran across a comment from Thom Allen, in response to some earth-shattering comment of mine.

John, that is the cool part about MySQL, and the other product they now have, Java. These are staples in so many dev shops, so they are also acquiring a huge community. Oracle has never really been a community engaged company. They will have a lot of voices coming at them. I hope they are prepared.

Of course, I had to cause trouble, so I let Justin Kestelyn (and others) know about Thom's view, via a FriendFeed item and an associated tweet.

So Justin joined the conversation. To date, the following exchange has taken place:

"Oracle has never really been a community engaged company" - on what facts is this statement based? Oracle has one of the largest and most active dev communities in the world. - Justin Kestelyn

Justin, I've never seen Oracle do anything to engage the community outside of its own customer base. Give us some examples and I'll stand corrected. - Thom Allen

Tune in here for further updates, if any.

It's probably one of these situations in which they're both right. From Justin's (and Jake's) perspective, Oracle has certainly been through acquisitions before, and has incorporated people from business intelligence, WebLogic, and other worlds into the communities that Jake mentioned.

But on the other hand, I wonder if Thom's right also. I've already shown that I don't have a complete grasp of Sun's offerings, but even I realize (or eventually realized) that there are three constituencies that need to be addressed: the hardware constituency, the Java constituency, and the MySQL constituency. I have no idea of the numbers in these groups, but the key point is that their focus is slightly different than the focus of Oracle users in the past. Even when BEA and others were dragged kicking and screaming into the Oracle world, it was pretty much an issue of substituting one company name for another.

But how will the hardware folks feel when they're part of a company whose roots are in software, and how will the Java and MySQL folks feel about the change? Some people resist change, and I've already seen some comments from people who don't like the idea of their favorite products being part of Oracle. Here's what Jeremiah Owyang said:

Oracle moves to acquire Sun. To me, those cultures are VERY different top down vs bottom up

Can these parties join into an Oracle community?

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