I don’t normally make a practice of commenting directly on individual vendors, after all they have pretty good marketing to make their points, but in this case the positioning and products created some great conversations and debates with other attendees. You can find out more about the actual products from Oracle sources; this blog is about a shift into how Oracle sees combining Web 2.0 into its Enterprise software to create an “Enterprise 2.0” environment, and how that led to a deep debate about the people and communities developing in different ways, hence “Community 2.0.” There are plenty of companies riding the Web 2.0 hype, and Oracle is not the first to “change the game” by inviting/encouraging blogs as part of its credentials of becoming a Web 2.0 company. How better to tell the Oracle story than on a good blog on what they did. This site is a good bet with plenty of urls to various aspects of what went on. However, Oracle has gone beyond just getting some blogs into circulation and added a WiKi environment to allow interactive “working” of ideas, issues, product feedback, etc. Now that’s really moving to embrace Web 2.0 for interactivity and not just extending the press coverage to include blogs. This is in keeping with the Oracle moves to use Web 2.0 and three new Fusion Apps to change the game in how effective sales people can be in this new people-centric Web environment by using communities. It’s Enterprise 2.0 in Oracle’s eyes because of the neat way it is now using Fusion to couple the people “interactions” (Web 2.0-style capabilities) to the enterprise “transactions” (traditional IT). More on these applications here. BUT, will people, i.e. you and I, or Oracle customers if you like, appreciate this crossing of social networks with sales activities? And that brings me to the point of this blog, and the discussions, debate, in a very social environment after hours over a dinner with friends and colleagues to identify exactly what a community is based on. There are some very well aired views on what a customer is prepared to give up as private information in turn for better service, but this really doesn’t cover this change. A long discussion with engineers versus marketeers led to the belief that we didn’t have an adequate definition of various types of online relationships, or communities. The starting point was the use in social networks of the term “friends.” Clearly many of the link ups are not really “friends” in the same sense as physical friendships that last and are developed over many years. So are they “colleagues,” the name we give to relationships built at work? Well not really, but it’s closer to the truth. The final answer was as follows: A friend is a person with whom you have a relationship that includes emotional elements, whereas a colleague is one with whom you share common goals in a relationship in which you are placed by circumstance. In other words, you can choose your friends, but not your colleagues. It seemed that this describes a relationship between an account manager and a customer pretty well. Then there are “acquaintances,” causal and transitory encounters caused mostly by events, meeting up through attendance at an industry event such as Oracle OpenWorld. The last category was hard to name. Our definition is those who are bound together by a common set of values, such as membership of a religion. So with these definitions in mind what are the communities? The friends community is obvious, being a closed and private small group, just as acquaintances is equally obviously something along the lines of LinkedIn. But then we think there are communities of shared interests, communities of common goals, and committed communities. It would seem that a user group as currently defined in the IT industry has members spread across several of these definitions. But with infrequent events and only one-way communication, it probably doesn’t permit the development of most of the members beyond the level of shared interests and/or acquaintances. But can social networks really provide the necessary level of interaction to develop these people to the next level of common goals? This has to be the win-win target, and I think maybe the Oracle Wiki (a creation to allow a new level of interaction between customers and developers), may be a step in the right direction if it can be used to work out product development as an example. The customers want the product, and the developers want to develop the product, so both have a common goal. It’s the committed community with common shared values that will be the real challenge. Or is it? I reckon that’s a pretty good description of an Open Source community working together with ideals on the quality of the code they are co-producing. Why should we care about this? Because pretty soon it looks like we are all going to be involved in this from one side or the other, and it makes sense to think out what you want to achieve with whom. Something that I don’t feel many social networks have currently achieved, as the ad hoc development of social networks functions continues as people join for fun, or because its fashionable. Neither fun nor fashion help against the deeper consequences and commitments of how that community may develop, especially if CRM starts to make use of them. This is perhaps something to think about if you are joining a community today. This is not meant to be a “dark” and worrying piece; just a thought on the now rapid changes to social networks that must be the inevitable results of Enterprise 2.0 connecting through Communities 2.0 and the potential for deeper consequences.