Oracle ACE Program : Some more opinions

I’ve written about the Oracle ACE Program a number of times over the years, including the following.

I’ve also recorded a video on the subject.

Some things have come up in conversation a few times recently that lead me to believe there are some misunderstandings about what the label “ACE” means and the classifications within the program. I figure I’ll chip in with my thoughts on this. I’m not involved in the organisation of the ACE program, so I’m not saying I’m correct, but this is how I think of it.

Q: Is the Oracle ACE program proof of technical ability?

A: NO! It is a community/evangelism program funded as part of a marketing budget. Members of the ACE program should be technically competent, but they do not have to be the “best” people in the industry. If they are that is great, but it is not mandatory. They are people who are actively participating in the community. If someone is technically awesome, but rarely contributes to the community, they do not deserve to be on the program. If someone is less technical, but contributes a lot to the community and helps lots of people, they do deserve to be on the program in my opinion. The most important point is the community participation and the profile you’ve created for yourself.

Q: Why is there a focus on new members having an existing community profile?

A: The aim of the ACE program is not to make you “famous”. It’s a pat on the back for those people who are already contributing to the community and have built a profile for themselves. Putting it bluntly, why would a community evangelism program care about promoting people who are not already promoting themselves? I feel this is kind-of obvious, but it seems to be lost on some people.

Q: Oracle ACE Associate is a “baseline entry for new community members” or the “starting point for advocates building their reputation”, so those people are not as good right?

A: NO! You couldn’t be more wrong! These descriptions are a little misleading in my opinion. If someone is “new to the community”, it is unlikely they will be contributing through as many channels (blog, whitepapers, books, social media, videos, user groups, presentations) as the more established members, but that in no way makes them less worthwhile. Everyone has to start somewhere. The status within the program does not indicate varying levels of ability. New to the community doesn’t mean new to the technology. The Oracle ACE Associates are in some ways more valuable than the other categories as in many cases these people represent “fresh blood” that will keep the community alive after the old farts like me retire.

I would feel really disappointed if people think this category is of any less worth than any of the other categories. The hope is that these people will continue their community involvement and maybe spread their wings a little.

Q: Oracle ACE Director is the pinnacle of the program right?

A: NO! Once again, IMHO this is another misunderstanding. We are all still doing the same stuff. The big difference is the ACE Directors typically do a bit more of it and we are expected to maintain stronger ties with Oracle. Many of us are in regular contact with Oracle product managers for our respective areas. We might get early adopter access to products before the public early adopter releases are made available. It takes a while for people to build a level of trust in each other. You can’t expect that over night.

Of course, these types of relationships are developed with other members of the community, who are not ACEs, too. It’s not exclusive to the ACE program, but it is becoming increasingly common.

Q: All ACEs should be looking to become ACEDs over time right?

A: No. The ACED thing is a big commitment. For someone like me it is fun, so it doesn’t feel like a commitment, most of the time, but for others it is too big a step. For example, as an ACED you are meant to attend the ACED briefings at Oracle HQ before Oracle OpenWorld. With travel time that makes the whole OOW experience take nearly two weeks every year. For some people that is most of their annual leave used for just *one* of the ACED commitments. That means no family holiday!

I’m currently working for a UK university who are very flexible when it comes to my “holidays”, but last year I used all my holidays, flexitime and some unpaid leave to do conference stuff. That’s not including the website, blogging and YouTube, which are done in my “spare time”. This year I took twice as much unpaid leave. When I leave this job I will probably have another hiatus from work to play with the technology and do community stuff.

If you are in a company that encourages community participation, great. For many of us that is not the case and it means using holiday or unpaid leave. That is just not practical for everyone. If you are in that category, ACED may not be a practical choice for you.

Q: I do a lot for the community, but according to the new review process I don’t qualify for a specific status in the program. Do you think that is fair?

A: As an ACED we’ve been reviewed every year for quite some time, but obviously the review process has changed this year. What’s more it has been applied to the ACE and ACE Associate classifications too. I am in favour of the review process, because I feel people should be actively contributing or they should be removed. I don’t think the review numbers need to be made public, but I think a more formal review process is necessary as the program grows. Over the next few months the review process will evolve. There is no telling what the final qualifying numbers will be at this point, so fill in your stuff, give your feedback to the program, and let’s see what happens.

Q: How would you feel if the review process resulted in you being kicked out of the program?

A: I would be gutted as the ACE Program has been a large part of my life for the last decade, but at the same time there would be a certain amount of relief. Being part of the program is a big commitment and every now and then I long for the time when I was an anonymous guy with a website. Ultimately, whatever happens with the ACE program in future I will still be writing articles and blog posts and I will still present at some conferences. I do it because I like doing it, not because I get a badge. 🙂

Like I said at the start, these are just my opinions. I have no inside information. It’s just the way I feel about it. You are entitled to disagree with me, but it doesn’t mean you will convince me of your opinion. 🙂