First some background to this post about Oracle. While attending the New Comm Forum, the annual conference for the Society for New Communications Research I met Kevin Ruane, who works in public relations for Oracle, he described what Oracle is doing in Social Media at the moment, and I told him about the Fortune 500 Business Blogging Wiki project. I also described how I wanted to try something new with my next review of a Fortune 500 blog. Previously independent reviewers have conducted reviews of the corporate blogs of the Fortune 500. Instead I wanted to interview a corporate blogger directly and ask them to rate their own blog according to the rating scale we use for the blog reviews developed by Businessandblogging.com. While there are some issues with reviewing your own blog, not very independent, I thought this approach gain from developing a deeper understanding of the goals of a company for a blog.
Kevin introduced me to Justin Kestelyn, OTN Editor-in-Chief of the OTN blog at Oracle, he agreed to the format and this is the result. In addition to this post, we also recorded the interview, so look out for a podcast of the interview with Justin and Kevin, either here on the PR Communications blog or to be republished by the Society for New Communications Research. The wiki project is not a SNCR project, but the content is something that I think many readers of the New Communications newsletter would be interested in hearing.
Background to Oracle
Oracle is the second largest software company in the world, the company has a large product line that spans what every IT department needs to run its business, including the file system, to the database, to middleware, to package business applications.
Oracle was founded in 1977 by Larry Ellison, the company started with a project for the CIA called Oracle; the company provided relationship database technology to the CIA, eventually the company changed its name to the project name Oracle.
Justin described the culture of Oracle as being an engineering culture, in contrast to being more sales or marketing driven. In the last five to ten years, the number of employees at Oracle has nearly doubled.
Oracle has between 150 to 200 blogs within the Oracle blogging infrastructure. There are many more blogs about Oracle run by employees or not, outside of the Oracle blogging system.
Very early in the process of starting to blog, by late 2003, or early 2004, Oracle wanted to encourage blogging by employee bloggers, and people outside the company. Justin explained the company felt the best way to do that was to link to any oracle blog that published from Oracle's blog aggregator site. Very quickly it was seen the aggregator encouraged people to create their own blogs, just because the aggregator existed, people felt they wanted to be involved, so people actually started to write their own blogs.
In addition to the Oracle blog aggregation site, there are 10-12 Oracle aggregators created by other people, customers often create these. Some of the aggregators have their own unique advantages.
Justin Kestelyn is the Editor of the oracle technology network and OTN Tech Blog he blogs at http://blogs.oracle.com/otn, the blog was set up to support the community of developers and DBA's. Justin brings to the surface things that are interesting to the community. The blog's goal is to provide information to the community not commonly available in other areas; Justin also does a lot of community cheerleading. Content for the blog is more on the technology side, about databases and middleware side than applications. Justin is the sole blogger. Justin also run's Oracle's wiki, it launched about a year ago, and people use the wiki to collaborate on information about the community. He also publishes video blogs and podcasts. Justin uses Google Blog Search to constantly search for new information about his community two to three times a day. Lastly, he uses Twitter and several Twitter search tools.
Corporate Blog Review
Justin and I used Business and Blogging's approach for reviewing corporate blogs for this review of the OTN Techblog for the Fortune 500 Business Blogging Wiki.
On a scale of 1-10:
Ease of finding: 7 - Justin explained, "We do make an effort to integrate the blog into the rest of the website and we are moderately successful. It is a mix between the non blog content and the blog content. There will always be a time and a place for a static corporate website. A blog is more about conveying information that may not be available elsewhere, and creating a conversation."
Frequency: 4 - The blog does not have a fixed publishing schedule, the goal is not to achieve a high frequency, more to develop quality rather than quantity.
Engaging Writing: 8 - Justin makes an effort to answer every comment he sees within 24 hours. Justin explained that some posts attracted a lot of comments, and some none at all. He does not receive a lot of private emails from readers.
Relevant: 8 - Justin explained that he thought the content was useful to the community, he also receives good feedback from the community on the content. Justin explained he really makes an effort to provide personal information on occasion, but he makes sure he does not go too far, to ensure the blog not lose its relevancy. Justin believes you have, "to provide some spice in the recipe, however it is possible to provide too much spice."
Focused: 8 - Same response as above.
Honest: 9 - Justin links to other blogs all the time, including Oracle employee blogs, and people within the community. Oracle has a policy that employees should always use their real names when writing about industry related topics, you have to be transparent, and make it clear you are an employee.
Social Interaction Design (Interactive): 4 - Comment's on the OTN blog are open, you don't need to register, though the comments are moderated. Justin explained the current blogging platform has become less than satisfactory, and Oracle is moving to Moveable Type running or an Oracle database. The launch should happen by the end of June 2008.
Responsive: 6 - Justin estimated he had a good ratio between posts and comments. The blog has received several hundred comments, he does answer comments within 24 hours, and he does comment on other blogs in the community.
Rating and Answers to Social Media Questions
Justin gave his blog 54 out of 80, which gives his blog a good rating. In addition to the review of the blog I also asked Justin and Kevin a few questions about social media at Oracle.
John: Does the company have a social media training program.
Justin: All employees don't receive that sort of training at the moment.
We do have a blogging policy, you need to read it, click through when you start blogging. Oracle is thinking about how we can make that more visible, we have 80,000 employees, so it is not only important as a content creator, but also important for other people who participate and comment, that they know the etiquette involved.
John: Has social media influenced any other operational changes within Oracle?
Justin: Oracle is making a concerted effort to leverage social media tools and techniques, not only outbound efforts but also how we work together. Social media is definitely changing Oracle business, doing wikis internally, in my area; I do all of my project management in a wiki.
Kevin: From a corporate communications stand point; really finding that a blended mix with traditional media using social media is more effective, traditional media is no longer enough. Corporate communications is enabling conversation between subject matter experts and bloggers.
John: Are you using sentiment to categorize posts?
Kevin: We are starting to measure sentiment but not enough available to share.
John's Final Thoughts
This was an interesting exercise in conducting a review of an Oracle blog for the F500 blogging wiki. It was great to get the internal insights into the workings of the OTN blog from Justin. In some respects I think Justin may have judged his blog more harshly than most reviewers. Though I was thinking it would also be good for people to take a look at the content on the blog. That's always difficult to assess independently.
My thanks to both Justin and Kevin for the interview!