The Sept. 21 kickoff of Oracle OpenWorld 2008 is rapidly approaching, and many bloggers are asking the same question:
To go or not to go?
Some people are not too happy, claiming Oracle is suggesting- -or at least making it easier- -to do the latter.
Last year, Oracle opened up its conference to bloggers for the first time- -it was a move that may have been well-intentioned, but the end result was steeped in controversy.
People were upset that Oracle sent out invitations to bloggers but would not pick up their travel expenses. What may have been more upsetting, however, was Oracle’s reasoning: “This will keep [the bloggers] impartial.”
Can bloggers be so easily be “bought?” Does Oracle favor bloggers with a pro-Oracle bias?
The decision caused an outcry in the blogosphere. ZDNet’s Dennis Howlett, for example, accused Oracle of having double standards, and also disapproved of what he said was an unwillingness to give bloggers access to Oracle executives. Others compared Oracle to SAP, a company that reportedly often pays for bloggers- -even the most critical ones- – to attend its events.
There is nothing, however, indicating that Oracle pays the OpenWorld travel expenses for any other members of the media, other than accredited press from overseas (this may explain some of Howlett’s frustration- -he is located in Spain). So, maybe the real questions here aren’t about Oracle’s expense-paying policies, but rather how they view the role of bloggers.
So… how do bloggers differ from the rest of the accredited press?
When the OpenWorld blogger program was recently renewed for this year’s conference, only a couple of differences were announced. The first difference is that there is now a blogger credential; bloggers no longer register as Press. No, this isn’t a very significant change – - but, if Oracle is going to officially lump bloggers into their own category, how should “bloggers” be defined? How do you think Oracle envisions these differences? What if you’re a member of the press but have a blog as well? (think SearchOracle.com, for example).
The second difference in this year’s program is that “there will be a more cohesive program assembled for bloggers.” This, in my opinion, is what matters the most – - that Oracle (especially as they begin to outline their Web 2.0 plans) is willing to continue to invest in bloggers and give them new opportunities. As Jake from Oracle AppsLab, one of the pioneers of the blogger program, said last year: “This is new territory for a lot of us, and personally, I’d like to hear a lot more opinions and suggestions before I support one path or another.”
I’ve asked many tough questions, and it seems like people have yet to agree on solutions. So, if we are yet to have all the answers to this relatively new blogging phenomenon, why should Oracle be expected to? Despite the controversy (Howlett thinks there are a lot of negatives this year as well), does Oracle at least have the right idea with the OpenWorld blogger program? What do you think?