Sunday, September 21, 2008

In which I muse about what "Oracle blogging" means

I spent a couple of hours at the Oracle blogger meetup earlier this evening at the Thirsty Bear in San Francisco (just down the street from the Moscone Center).

You'll recall that I went last year (and obviously suffer from repetition of thought).

Although I didn't get a chance to talk with everybody there, it was quite a varied group. Some people were Oracle employees, while the rest of us were not. Some people had blogger credentials, while the rest of us did not. Our interests range across the entire Oracle product line, and our levels of technical expertise are obviously varied, ranging from ACE-level people to...well, to me.

For those who don't follow Oracle closely, it offers a myriad of products, and is increasing its product offering constantly. (Hey, when you have an entire web page devoted to strategic acquisitions, you know your product line isn't going to remain static.) Even my own employer, an Oracle partner, uses a wide variety of Oracle products, many of which hold no professional interest for me (unless my trip reimbursement gets held up).

So you really can't say that there's any such thing as a typical Oracle blogger, and one can certainly see that my Oracle-related posts are quite different from, say, Eddie Awad's, even though we both have an interest in databases. In fact, even my own posts vary dramatically. If I were to venture a guess, I am probably most famous for my posts about the periphery of Oracle OpenWorld - you know, the playlist, trivia, pillows, beanbags, that kind of thing. However, I've also blogged on more substantial business topics, such as the use of Twitter to connect people at Oracle OpenWorld (including this post recording different perspectives of Larry Ellison's 2007 keynote), some pieces on the then-new 11g database technology and virtualization, the availability of Oracle Database 11g for 64-bit Linux, and a 2005 look at the future.

And, needless to say, I'm just one blogger, and there were at least three dozen people at the blogger meetup tonight, all of whom are casting their words onto the web, where they are read by all sorts of different audiences.

Back in 2005, student Andrew Breza talked about the influence of blogs. While he was talking about political blogs, the same thoughts can apply to business or technological blogs:

"Individual blogs are not very interesting in themselves. What is important is how they link to each other to create a massive network," [Professor Henry] Farrell said....

"Blogs can have substantial influence despite the small number of people who read them because their readers are disproportionately elite actors such as journalists and political actors," he said. "Journalists are looking to find interesting stories or new points of view on an existing story."

Again, the lessons from the political realm also apply to the business/technological realm. If I were going to research Oracle Product X, I'd probably go out and search for information on the product - and, more than likely, the most recent information is going to be found in a blog.

Looking at it from the other side, this means that I or any other "Oracle blogger" (or any blogger for a given topic) have a reach that can't merely be measured by the number of readers. (Part of the reason that I've started a few vertical blogs is the realization that clearly-focused blogs reach a far purer audience than the mrontemp blog ever will. mrontemp is admittedly diffuse, though the labels do help to reduce the clutter for people interested in a single topic.)

With the influential reach of "Oracle bloggers," no wonder Oracle footed the bar bill for this evening, and is offering blogger credentials to selected bloggers. Most importantly, the gathering served to strengthen the network, with Oracle hoping that a strong blogger network will reflect well for them in the future.

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