COMMUNITY: Community Bulletin

As Published In
Oracle Magazine
September/October 2011


Worthy of Membership

By Justin Kestelyn


Oracle Technology Network redefines what it means to be a member of the club.

Groucho Marx famously said, “I don’t want to belong to any club that will accept people like me as a member.”1 Replace club with community, and you have an interesting basis for discussion.

Oracle Technology Network Turbocharges Oracle OpenWorld

If you’re an Oracle OpenWorld attendee this year, prepare yourself for the usual excitement infusion from the Oracle Technology Network (OTN) program.

Highlights include

  • Numerous technical sessions led by Oracle ACEs
  • The massive OTN Night party on Monday night (check the conference agenda for location)
  • Morning coffee/afternoon beer; daily raffles; community meetups; live tech chats; and free software, T-shirts, and other swag at the OTN Lounge (check agenda for location)
Please stop by these sessions, events, and the OTN Lounge, and see the team!

 Oracle OpenWorld Registration

There are various competing theories of community out there, ranging from the passive to the active. (In the context of this discussion, a community is either partially or completely virtual—hence geographically neutral—in nature. Once upon a time, nearly all communities were built on the premise of shared geography.) On the passive end of the spectrum lies the community of interest, in which any people with a shared interest are implicitly members—Chicago Bears fans, for example. On the active end, where the open source world lives, it’s been said that community membership is defined only by contributions (of code, money, and/or time). And in the middle, at the top of the bell curve, is the virtual community, where according to Howard Rheingold in his book The Virtual Community (The MIT Press, 2000), “people carry on public discussions long enough, with sufficient human feeling, to form webs of personal relationships.”

Since its inception, the Oracle Technology Network (OTN) program has tilted toward the passive end of this spectrum. Historically, the bonds of shared interest—as expressed by ticking a checkbox in one’s account preferences—have been sufficient for helping the OTN team define what a community member is. But this action of self-identifying as an Oracle Technology Network member had the undesirable side effect of dividing the community between the active and the passive, because a community of interest does not necessarily imply that all its members are actively participating and engaged—even if they consider themselves part of the community. And for the health of the program, counting active members is important—for reasons I will describe in a moment.

Given these factors, the OTN team has decided to make a break with the past. Going forward, our model of community membership will be based on activity, not self-identification. In other words, we will consider you a member based on what you do, not what you call yourself. If you are a technical newsletter subscriber, we will consider you an Oracle Technology Network member. If you have logged in for a download or to post a discussion forum message over a certain time period, we will consider you a member. If you are a subscriber to Oracle Magazine or Java Magazine, we will consider you a member. And so on. (Case in point: nearly half of our newsletter subscribers today do not in fact self-identify as Oracle Technology Network members.)

Web Locator

 Oracle Technology Network Home

 Become a Member

 Database Admins and Developers Home Page

 System Admins and Developers Home Page

 Architect Home Page


 OTN Blogs
 OTN on Facebook
 OTN on Twitter
 OTN on LinkedIn

Please keep in mind, this process is completely transparent to you—you won’t notice any change in the benefits of membership; we are simply expanding the definition of what constitutes a member. Why is that important? Because the course direction of the program is charted according to the needs and interests of its members, and without knowing who those members are, the program is adrift.

Circling back to the idea of “what you do,” I have a request. As you read this, you have possibly already received an invitation to take our five-question, one-minute survey. I implore you to participate, because the OTN team truly needs to know more about you before we can create and prioritize new objectives for the program. If you have not received the invitation, you’ll find it at

By the way, the team could have gone another direction: requiring self-identification as a gateway to benefits. But this would have added an unnecessary layer of complexity and raised the bar for membership overall. Groucho would not have approved.

1 Source:

Justin Kestelyn Headshot

Justin Kestelyn
( is senior director, Oracle Technology Network and developer programs, as well as Oracle Technology Network editor in chief.

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