Oracle recently invited a bunch of bloggers to attend OpenWorld as press, meaning the company would waive the $2000 entrance fee. Under ordinary circumstances this would hardly be interesting, but it's raised compelling questions, including the inevitable comparisons with SAP.
First some history. A couple of years ago, Enterprise Irregulars' founder Jeff Nolan, who spent the better part of a decade building SAP Ventures, invited a number of influential bloggers to attend Sapphire, SAP's user conference. Jeff did two things which made the SAP bloggers program unique:
- SAP reimbursed the bloggers for their travel expenses, in addition to waiving the Sapphire entrance fee
- SAP gave the bloggers access to senior SAP executives
This was an unprecedented move for a major enterprise software company, and changed expectations around how a large software company might relate to external bloggers. In Jeff Nolan's words, as quoted by ZDNet blogger Dennis Howlett:
When I picked the original 15 bloggers for the SAPPHIRE program I picked people I knew to be sharp critics of SAP, like Vinnie Mirchandani, and keen analysts who could ask tough questions, like Jason Wood, and top notch technologists, like Niel Robertson. I wasn’t attempting to buy anyone’s loyalty, I just wanted to create an environment that would be infinitely more interesting than the typical press conference.
Given Oracle's competition with SAP, comparisons between the two company's blogging programs are hard to avoid. At this point in time, SAP's blogger relations program is more mature and highly evolved than Oracle's. On the other hand, Oracle deserves a pat on the back for taking that big first step, by accepting bloggers as press. As Vinnie Mirchandani remarks:
[The arrangements] will smooth out as Oracle deals more with bloggers.
What's disappointing, however, is that questions of integrity and intellectual honesty have been raised in comments and discussions about SAP's blogger program. I won't rehash the arguments, since you can read them yourself by clicking the links from this post. However, I will remark that these comments are specious, uninformed, and scurrilous -- again, click the links and make your own judgments.
Bottom line: Oracle, has taken a good first step, but I strongly encourage them to reach out further to bloggers. SAP makes it easy for bloggers to speak with top executives and gives us accurate information upon request, making SAP the gold standard against which other enterprise software blogging programs must be judged.
[Disclosure: SAP has never paid any of my blogging-related expenses. Oracle has invited me to attend OpenWorld as press, which I appreciate, but still haven't decided whether or not to attend. I've attended other conferences by registering as press/blogger and it's never been a big deal. Given the title of this blog, it's amazing anyone invites me anywhere.]