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Oracle Always Felt Cold Next to Sun: One JUG Leader's Opinion

A 15 year JUG leader gives details on Oracle's interaction with a Java User Group, Sun's leadership, and building community

· Java Zone

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As a bit of background, I founded the Philadelphia Area Java Users' Group in April of 2000 and served as leader (JUGmaster) until February 2015. Professionally, I've been involved in recruiting since 1998, with over ten years focused exclusively on hiring Java talent (I'm still a recruiter, but not just for Java).

I founded the JUG almost by accident. After becoming known as a Java recruiter, candidates started asking about local user groups. I'd reply that the local JUG had been inactive for some time. One day, someone clearly smarter than me said, "You know all the local Java people. Why don't you start a JUG?". So I did.

JUG Under Sun

Two of our first four presenters were from Sun, as were two more in 2001. We held at least one meeting at Sun's local office. In 2003, Sun named PhillyJUG to the Top 25 JUGs worldwide, and we made the expanded Top 50 two years later. Philly JUG was a stop on Sun's roadshows (in 2004 for J2SE 5 and 2005 for GlassFish) where an evangelist was flown in at Sun's expense to deliver a presentation, food and plenty of swag. I received boxes full of books, t-shirts, Duke toys, pens, and other nonsense every couple months from Sun for a number of years. I'd send an email simply saying "Hey Aaron, I'm out of swag" and a box would show up three days later.

In 2007 we had quite the lineup of speakers highlighted by current and future Oracle employees, keeping in mind that this was still before the acquisition of Sun. Tangosol founder Cameron Purdy spoke before the ink was dry on Oracle buying his firm (no limo?). We had Sun's (now Oracle's) Brian Goetz, Oracle's (now Hortonworks VP) Greg Pavlik, and future Oracle evangelist Reza Rahman.

2009 featured local speakers while I reached out to my Sun (now Oracle) contacts to see how things would go moving forward. The summer of 2010 saw Oracle making a major effort to reach out to JUGs, and they scheduled a cross country road trip delivering presentations, cool demos, plenty of catered food, and a mechanical surfboard to several cities including Philly. 

Oracle Takes Over...

...and any reservations I had about Oracle became reality.

  • I was invited to a User Group president's meeting with free room and dinner that I could not attend (distance/time), and I was given the opportunity to apply for a JavaOne pass as a JUG leader. Thsi was a nice gesture. The JavaOne pass came with the caveat that it would not grant access to Oracle's OpenWorld, which Oracle had decided to run concurrently. The Java community seemed to react poorly to that decision.

  • I was invited to an Oracle conference call to "review the suggested operating model" for JUGs. The initial details suggested that established JUGs like mine may need to become a legal entity, have elections, and invite Oracle to present. We were never a legal entity but still managed to run successful meetings for ten years without so much as opening a bank account.

  • I received an email from an Oracle employee saying she was interested in "learning more" about PhillyJUG and to "call me at your earliest convenience". I responded within the hour expecting information about JUG relations with Oracle, yet learned that she sold Oracle University training in our area and wanted me to forward information to my members.

  • I was informed about the International Oracle Users Group Community, with a link to an article about how user groups were collaborating. The article included the line "Oracle created IOUC and the forum for leaders of these groups to integrate into a worldwide coalition of Oracle clients" (emphasis mine), published in Oracle's e-zine Profit Magazine (because of course it was called that). Another announcement from IOUC was a conference call invitation to discuss the recent Oracle acquisition of a database security product that had nothing to do with Java.

The events described above happened over six months in 2010, starting about three months after the Sun acquisition was finalized. 

Sun seemed genuinely interested in helping JUG leaders create a community for learning, and their messaging to leaders was never diluted with marketing. I never felt like I was being sold something, or that I had to conform the group to any set of standards. The experience with Oracle started off with all the wrong messages, and my interaction with Oracle ended shortly thereafter. 

I expect some may reference Oracle's profitability in comparison to Sun or Java being a losing investment. I think Java and the users' groups like mine deserved a bit better.

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Topics:
java ,user group ,oracle ,sun microsystems ,community building

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