Among the VMware communities, I’m a bit of an outsider – I come from a career background of Oracle and am one of the few Oracle DBAs. Sure, there are a number of people who might manage Oracle databases as part of their daily responsibilities, but first and foremost Oracle is always my primary job role. I’ve been involved in various Oracle-related communities since the mid-1990s and various VMware-related communities since the mid-2000s.
When I started participating in the VMware communities, I was *amazed* at the differences in the social buzz between VMware and Oracle – VMware has more discussion, people appear more open to sharing what they know, it’s about more than just the technology itself … it’s an actual community – not just a discussion list or a forum. It’s hard to describe just how special and unique it is to find a community centered around a large corporate software technology product.
So how can a smaller vendor like VMware develop and foster community so much better than a company with the resources of Oracle? The answer is many little intangible things, but one thing that stands out is a cult of personality. People who, at least for parts of the company, become the public face of a community.
For Oracle, when I think of people that are public faces of Oracle corporation, I think of Larry Ellison, Tom Kyte, and Steven Chan. Steven, especially with his outgoing and friendly attitude, does a great job of fostering sense of community, but he’s really just trying to foster communication with his external customer base and in the range of Oracle’s products, that is a very small group.
For VMware, when I think of the public faces, two come to mind. VMware’s CTO Steve Herrod and VMware’s social media strategist, John Troyer. John and his team manage to make VMware cool – from the Chewbacca cameos in VMware webex sessions with the CTO, to the lab team shirts at VMworld, to the trinkets and contests that various parts of VMware are always performing. I’m sitting here writing this on laptop with a I “heart” VMware sticker that glows from the apple logo on my MacBook Pro from Apple (another company that gets social media). I think I’ve got a wine bottle stopper from Oracle somewhere in a drawer.
Fostering these sorts of cults of personality is an art, and John Troyer is a master of that art. Many thanks to John Troyer for all he does for VMware and its communities to make them true communities. Community is an extremely hard thing to foster, and John’s skill and subtlety make it look effortless.
Today is John’s birthday so I, along with many others active in the VMware community wanted to give John some recognition for all he does. If John has made your career more fun and community focused, give @jtroyer a shout out on twitter with hashtag #vTHNX.
p.s. John, given my love of goofy costumes, my original plan was to rent a Wookie costume and have said Wookie wish you happy birthday from the Wookie home planet of Kashyyyk. Unfortunately circumstances conspired against me to prevent this from happening, but rest assured the force is strong with you 🙂