Oracle blogs--an attention free zone

Guest Post: My fellow Enterprise Irregular, drama critic of the enterprise software industry, advisor to the software developers and marketers and inveterate blogger Dennis Howlett responds to a post by Oracle Technology Network's editor-in-chief complaining that his company doesn't get enough love from the blogosphere crowd. Justin Kestelyn, Oracle Technology Network's editor-in-chief is whining because Oracle's not getting the attention he thinks it deserves.

Guest Post: My fellow Enterprise Irregular, drama critic of the enterprise software industry, advisor to the software developers and marketers and inveterate blogger Dennis Howlett responds to a post by Oracle Technology Network's editor-in-chief complaining that his company doesn't get enough love from the blogosphere crowd.

Justin Kestelyn, Oracle Technology Network's editor-in-chief is whining because Oracle's not getting the attention he thinks it deserves. In a post aptly titled I Don't Get It, Justin takes an immediate swipe at SAP:

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).
Yes Justin, you don't get it. Let me make clear I have no favourable bias towards SAP. If anything SAP knows I'll likely pounce on any indiscretion or inconsistency. Drawing comparisons between SDN and OTN is like comparing a fine Bordeaux wine to Stormhoek. A fine Bordeaux will be rich, deep, complex and seductive. Stormhoek is great on packaging and decent enough as day to day plonk, but it's not something you'd put out to impress your friends at a dinner party. SDN is huge, something like 750,000 registered users, OTN? But then as we all know, size doesn't always matter. If anything it can work against you. SDN isn't overly full of marketing crap whereas I find much of what OTN has to offer as little more than an extension of Oracle marketing. Check this from Terence Wampler on Release 12 Financials:

With over 2,000 new features in R12, there is a lot of information to consume. To ease the learning curve, I recommend you to start with Oracle's Centralized Solution Set. Additionally, we will be delivering a series of advisor webcasts over the next several weeks, starting with What's New in Oracle E-Business Suite Financials R12.

As you progress on your journey to understanding R12, what enhancements do you see simplifying the way you manage your business?

I suspect this was what Jeff Nolan was referring to when he said in comments to Justin's post:

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.

SAP has a lot going for it because it is actively reaching out to blog critics in an innovative manner. For instance, Craig Cmehil who is a seriously active SDN insider was initially regarded as too techie to bring to SAPPHIRE. He was there. That happened because Mike Prosceno who runs SAPs blogger relations was prepared to not only listen but also act upon the things said by bloggers who have a genuine interest in SAP. Craig's piece about how this is working to extend the SDN network sums it up nicely:

Here I am now in though and expanding my "network" of contacts and friends based on what I can do and what they can do and of course how well. Some might of course look and immediately say "so what's new about this?"

Well let me tell you what is so new about this, this is an absolute first for those of inside of SAP this is a cultural shift in the making and we are reaching out to one another...

Or how about this from  SAPs Thomas Otter who was also at Sapphire:

Oracle has a lot of excellent employee blogs (respect - several of them are on my feed!), but I'd  not heard that the management provide the sort of access, freedom and support that SAP has done.  Instead of plastering the Atlanta underground with Oracle posters, that money would be better spent in developing a blogger relations programme.

Compare to Justin's continued words about 'not getting it':

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.

I'd add that SAP's CEO Henning Kagermann admitted to Dan Farber , Brian Sommer, Niel Robertson, Jason Wood and myself that he prefers to consume information through print media rather than online. Does that make him a blogger relations numb nuts? Absolutely not. Both Kagermann and co-founder Hasso Plattner made a point of dropping in Cluetrain references into their keynote speeches. SAPs PR made sure we got time with both of them. Laugh if you will but trust me when I say that SAP execs 'get it.' To the point of inviting Eddie Herrmann and Dan McWeeney of Colgate-Palmolive onto the blogger track. Yes, that's customers Justin. And jolly good value they were too.


SAP founder and Chairman of the Supervisory Board Hasso Plattner talks to Brian Sommers Services Safari blogger ), Mike Prosceno (SAP PR) and Dennis Howlett

I'm sure that nothing would please SAP more than to see people like myself and Vinnie Mirchandani 'onside' with their messaging, but they know that's not going to happen anytime soon. Instead, they see bloggers as people of influence who can help them change and perhaps influence the odd customer along the way. Here's a great example from Mike Prosceno providing his perspective on SAPPHIRE and responding to complaints I made about not seeing A1S:

Now, before we get to proud of ourselves, we well better stated as I made some mistakes too.  Dennis Howlett had this to say.  I take full responsibility as this was my fault entirely!   It was an honest mistake but a mistake nonetheless.  In trying to plan an event like SAPPHIRE there are a lot of moving parts. I thought I had done a good job in getting all of the necessary parts in the right order.   Well, I missed one (probably more). I'll work harder for SAPPHIRE Vienna to make this one right!  

The nice thing about having a conversation is that a conversation isn't sedentary.  Its bi-directional and it travels over time and space.  This conversation isn't over, it will continue next week, next month (in Vienna) and even beyond.   A single blog post (question or answer / praise or complaint) isn't the end in fact, its just the beginning.

I accept it was a mistake. Those we can easily forgive when dealt with in a transparent manner. Unfortunately, I cannot conceive of this type of self-criticism or promise of action at an Oracle blog. Or maybe I'm not reading enough.

This happy state of affairs didn't happen overnight or because someone sprinkled some Web 2.0/Cluetrain/social computing magic dust around the blogosphere. It has taken SAP a year of inviting bloggers to SAP events, taking risks and engaging in sometimes tough conversations to reach this point. They've worked hard to not only engage but ensure that SAP remains central and relevant to enterprise conversations. For that they deserve credit. If through active and professional blogger relations 'we' can get several steps closer to both understanding and perhaps influencing SAP then we've achieved something important. Over to you Justin and thanks for prompting this post.

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