Monday, March 31, 2008

Oracle Wiki Weekly Digest. Yay!

I just got my first “newsletter” from the Oracle Wiki and I’m thrilled. How, you ask, can a newsletter thrill me? Don’t I receive five newsletters a day? Yes I do, but here’s the difference. The Oracle Wiki Weekly Digest is from a community to which I belong (Oracle Wiki contributors), and it provides a service that I need: It babysits the wiki and sends me updates on new and edited pages.

The other newsletters I get have a much broader focus and are intended to advertise. In some ways I’m really doing a service for the sender by receiving it because they get paid by getting me a newsletter and getting me to open it.

My question is, how can we make Oracle newsletters (for which I often write stories) more like the Wiki Digest? The answer is to keep a mindset of service, not advertising. People who receive the Oracle newsletters belong to the Oracle community. Many have staked their career on knowledge of Oracle technology, but they can’t keep track of Oracle’s growing product list and what people are saying about it.

I pledge to keep a mindset of service, not advertising, next time I put pen to paper for an Oracle newletter. Thank you Oracle Wiki Weekly Digest for the reminder.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Collect Data. Share a Narrative.

My friend Doria was recently blogged over at make money not art about her gorgeous RFID medical alert bracelets. One of the things she said reminded me a lot of what I heard people saying at the Oracle business intelligence user group (BIWA SIG) conference last year. She said:

“We have the technology to collect and process a lot of data. I'm more interested in the narrative -- qualitative than quantitative information. I'm more prone to remember a good story than facts and figures. My personal view is that of all the data we record, the most precious ones are stories. These are impressions --- real, reconstructed, or imagined memories -- that are a trace of our human experience. Ultimately, the network of things…is connected to a network of people.”

Doria was talking about making well-crafted objects that become part of the story of the user, but she might just as well have been talking about the RFID data collected from the bracelets and the collective human story it can tell (privacy issues aside). Tableau Software's presentation at the BIWA conference said much the same thing.

Oracle’s work in BI, data warehousing, and analytics is making this kind of qualitative storytelling from data available to a lot more people. The BIWA group and Oracle blogs (scroll down to BI blogs) are a great way to keep up with Oracle’s thinking on this.

Friday, March 21, 2008

You Should Know About Oracle Mix

A few days ago I started a group on Oracle Mix for my speakers club.

“Oracle Mix? Never heard of it,” said my club president, a longtime Oracle guy. I don’t blame him. Not many people know about it yet, and admittedly it’s still in beta.

But it’s here to stay and offers a new set of tools dedicated to communication between Oracle employees, partners and customers. Think of it as a big Yahoo group dedicated to Oracle, but with lots more chances for cross-pollination of ideas, knowledge, and resources.

Oracle Mix is predicated on the theory that the crowd is smarter than the individual. The idea is to give Oracle people a place to meet and they’ll spark ideas and help each other in ways that centrally controlled communications could never match. You can learn a lot more about social networking on the blog of the guys who created Oracle Mix.

The thing is still in beta and I’ve already experienced the magic.

I was looking to help a friend, who also works for Oracle, make contacts in a new division because he has great ideas about how Oracle can benefit form the new Apple iPhone SDK. I happened to be on Oracle Mix and noticed a Q&A conversation about the iPhone SDK and Oracle. I alerted my friend so he could jump in the conversation, share his ideas, and make his contacts.

Would we have found him the right people eventually? Sure. But with Oracle Mix he was able to jump into an ongoing conversation of like-minded people around the company and he was off and running. This is why you should know about Oracle Mix

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Enterprise Manager 11g: The Business Value of UI

I spent a day last week interviewing Oracle Enterprise Manager customers who were on the Oracle campus to beta test Oracle Enterprise Manager 11g. The interviews are for a feature story in the Sept/Oct issue of Oracle Magazine. Almost like a cop with suspects, I brought them individually into my interview room and asked them the same questions to see if their story held together. For the most part, it did.

These were all accomplished DBAs and architects, so I found it interesting that all but one started by discussing the new, highly improved Web-based user interface. When I asked why they cared, they told me that it has to do with bringing new DBAs up to speed in dozens of locations around the world, and having all those distant DBAs speaking the same EM language. It’s much easier, they said, when they are all sharing a simpler user experience. I’ll post screens when I get clearance. Which brings me to another point.

In future posts I will go over more of the features they seemed excited about, but as an Oracle employee I need to be careful when talking about features that may or may not make it into the release I’m discussing.

As feature lists firm up and the magazine story develops, I promise to discuss more than just the spiffy new user interface, which I’m pretty sure will make it in.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

APEX: Big Buzz for a Little Tool

Every time I turn around I find someone looking for help with their project to promote Oracle Application Express (APEX). First there was a podcast, then another podcast by a friend in product marketing, then David Kelly’s magazine article, then a flash demo with David Peake (who's blog is a great entry point into the blogesphere on APEX). Why all this attention to a small time tool in the database for writing simple Web applications?

A couple of reasons:

First there is a new release, APEX 3.1, about which Scott Spendolini has begun blogging. Scott was on the team that wrote HTML DB, the predecessor to APEX, and told me once that his team wasn’t sure if their product would ever find its way into Oracle’s product mix. Once APEX was live and customers started discovering the cool workflow and inventory apps they could throw together using this tool, it found a loyal fan base. (Scott eventually left Oracle and started this company building apps for departments and small companies using APEX.)

That brings us to the other reason for the all the attention to APEX. Oracle wants to stop the baffling practice by its enterprise customers of licensing an Oracle Database for its mission critical work and then licensing a competitors database for smaller departmental needs. With the new release and the accompanying buzz, Oracle is simply asking its customers, “why spend money on a less secure and scalable database when the best tool for your needs is in the database you already own?”