Quitting the Oracle ACE program – explained

I have been very active in the Oracle APEX community since 2006. It has always been a pleasure and it will continue to be. Oracle APEX is a great product and I love being a part of this vibrant community. #orclapex #orclords #MakeOracleCoolAgain #MOCA

In 2012 I was awarded the Oracle ACE status. This was a recognition by Oracle for my continued contribution to the community. In the beginning it was truly an honor. The main benefit was the appreciation of my peers … amplified and made visible by Oracle. And this was enough.

In recent years the nature of the Oracle ACE program has changed.

In essence I certainly agree that there has to be some sort of monitoring to hold people accountable and make their contribution more transparent. Even more so since there are three different levels: Oracle ACE Associate, Oracle ACE and Oracle ACE Director.

You can implement it in so many different ways.

The ACE program has chosen a very bean counting perspective on that, at least from my point of view (and others as well).

We have to manually enter our accomplishments into this monitoring application for a full year:

  • The conferences we go to (when, which conference, urls to our presentations)
  • URLs for blogposts with statistics on their reach
  • Youtube videos with statistics on their reach
  • Tweets will only be counted if you include the ACED hashtag, really?
  • Bug reports we have filed with Oracle … including bug number
  • Additional work you did for Oracle User Groups, etc.
  • Books / Articles written

In the beginning you would only get credit for each conference (whether you had one presentation or multiple ones). After major complaints this was amended.

What is especially troubling is that you get more points when talking about specific products, i.e. the cloud offering from Oracle.

I have always viewed ACEs as unbiased ambassadors for Oracle technology, showing the good, the bad and the ugly. Always empowering developers to use effectively what is great and to overcome the challenges of what is not yet working. But always being honest and never trying to push a certain marketing angle. Doing it this way hurts the reputation of the respective ACE and also the program itself.

By requesting statistics about the reach from blogposts and tweets and specifically giving more points for specific topics the nature of the game was changed. Suddenly it feels like we have to prove our value to Oracle, no longer to the community. They want to see where their marketing dollars go and get the biggest bang for the buck. And ACEs and ACE Associates don’t even get reimbursed for traveling to conferences, only ACE Directors … and only for some conferences.

We are not Oracle employees, we do it on our free personal and family time. Yes, we were doing it anyway. But mostly when we had something relevant to say, not in order to make points for the next evaluation period. People feel the subtle pressure and expectation to produce “something”.

Motivating people is a delicate thing.

The implicit expectation from our peers was enough, certainly for me. Decent people have a good understanding of what is right and what not. If I didn’t contribute for a while because I was busy with my client projects, family … I didn’t feel right and wanted to contribute again. It was an honor, fun and also an obligation that we held ourselves accountable to.

My recent contributions

Just in order to avoid people speculating that I just didn’t do enough, was kicked out of the program and now get all worked up with a cheap rant, I want to list my recent contributions from 2018-2019 which show that I would be eligible to keep the ACE status:

  • 2018/03: APEX World in Rotterdam:
    • Oracle APEX 5.2 – The Golden Nuggets
  • 2018/04: APEX Connect in Düsseldorf:
    • Oracle-APEX-18.1-Golden-Nuggets
    • 10min lightning talk about soft skills
  • 2018/04: APEX Alpe Adria in Graz:
    • Oracle ORDS 101-Jumpstart Your Development
    • Oracle-APEX-18.1-Golden-Nuggets
  • 2018/06: KScope
    • Oracle-APEX-18.1-Golden-Nuggets
    • Thursday Deep Dive
    • Oracle ORDS 101-Jumpstart Your Development
    • 2min Tech tip
    • APEX track lead for the conference, heading the content selection team
  • 2018/07: APEX Summer webinar in German, organised by Carsten Czarski
    • Oracle-APEX-18.1-Golden-Nuggets
  • 2019/03: APEX World in Rotterdam
    • Oracle APEX 19.1 – The Golden Nuggets
  • 2019/04: APEX Alpe Adria in Zagreb
    • Oracle ORDS – New features you can’t ignore
  • 2019/04: APEX Connect in Bonn
    • Oracle ORDS – New features you can’t ignore
  • 2019/06: KScope in Seattle
    • Oracle ORDS – New features you can’t ignore
    • Oracle APEX 19.1 – The Golden Nuggets
    • APEX track lead for the conference, heading the content selection team
    • Thursday Deep Dive
  • Aside from that I often take the time to report issues I find in APEX and ORDS. But I never ask for the bug numbers. Why should I keep track of that? It is just a waste of time.
  • I have created a new release of my JasperReportsIntegration and put it up on Github.

The trouble with the manual data entry

People complain about the manual data entry. I despise it.

Not because it is too much work, but for the other reasons I outlined above. If I have to “prove” my value to Oracle (and not the community) by using social media (where my impact and reach is judged) and going to official conferences from Oracle user groups, then THEY are responsible for gathering the basic data at least and I can add the missing bits and pieces. By changing the nature of the game … suddenly it becomes an issue. At least for me … and a few others I know about for sure.

This is not too hard. And even if they cannot implement this (and hey – Oracle claims to have figured out this kind of information retrieval, right?) they could solicit the information about the ACEs from the user groups in CSV format or make an intern enter the data manually.

It is the lack of intention which reflects a lack of respect that bothers me so much.

Where is MY ROI?

Again, by changing the nature of the game and looking so closely at what Oracle gets out of the ACEs … I am forced to have a close look at my side of the bargain. This was never an issue in the past, the recognition was enough.

As an ACE and freelance consultant I have to pay for every conference out of my own pocket. Looking back at the last 10years of speaking at Oracle conferences it has cost me roughly 90.000€, not even factoring in the research of the topics, just travel expenses and loss of revenue in the time of the conference.

There is no tangible benefit in the Oracle ACE program whatsoever … aside from free food.

Never have I gotten an additional customer or contract due to being an ACE.
The ACE program is pretty much unknown in Germany and it never made any difference in getting a client contract for me.

I get clients because I know what I do, publish information in my area of expertise, can explain well, have good soft skills and love to help other people. Word of mouth brings me the clients.

I also get clients from speaking at conferences, but everything outside of Germany makes no sense. And once every two years would be enough.

Living life on my terms

I have committed myself to living my life ON MY TERMS. I am independent and I will stay this way. For all of the reasons above I gladly quit the Oracle ACE program to become an Oracle ACE Alumnus.

Will I continue to contribute to the community? You can bet on it. But solely on my terms. I will see you around :).

~Oracle ACE Alumnus Dietmar Aust.

4 replies
  1. Stew Ashton
    Stew Ashton says:

    Hi Dietmar,

    The “enter your points” requirement arrived during the time my ACE application was being reviewed, which took many months and three submissions. I was a bit tempted to leave as soon as I arrived, but decided to go along.

    If I ever do leave the program, I shall refuse to become an “Alumni”. Having studied classical literature before studying philosophy before becoming a programmer, I know that “Alumni” is plural.

    May your future be everything you could wish.

    Best regards,
    Stew Ashton, future Oracle Ace Alumnus

    Reply
  2. Jochen Zehe
    Jochen Zehe says:

    Hi Dietmar,

    thanks for the insights, this was a very interesting read.
    I always wonder if these Oracle programs & the conferences really pay off in the end.

    “Looking back at the last 10years of speaking at Oracle conferences it has cost me roughly 90.000€, not even factoring in the research of the topics, just travel expenses and loss of revenue in the time of the conference.”
    Exactly the costs is what is keeping me away.
    Though, after 12 years without conferences i’ll probably go to Alpe Adria in 2020.

    Jochen

    Reply
    • dietmaraust
      dietmaraust says:

      Hi Jochen,

      well, this post was written from a certain perspective. I was not talking about the merit of my contribution to the community and going to conferences as such.

      My point was the change in the program and the effect it had.

      Generally speaking, being engaged in the community does have clear benefits.
      By speaking at conferences I have made many friends and grown my network significantly. I know who does what. When I run into a problem I know several people (personally) who can help and have good judgement. They respond to me quickly … and I respond quickly to them. VIP treatment.

      Also, getting your name out by writing books, speaking once or twice at a conference, posting on blogs, etc. is helpful.

      How? Well, that kind of marketing creates awareness and credibility, like for cereal. When you go shopping for cereal, you don’t necessarily say, I want product xyz. But when you stand in the aisle looking at 50 boxes, you go like: “I know those, they look familiar”.

      So this kind of word of mouth is important. Nevertheless, when looking at the pure revenue side of things, it was more the other word of mouth by doing a great job. Every job I did … I did it to the best of my abilities. And people noticed that. When they trust you, they want to continue to work with you. Also, many consultants from Arthur Anderson and other consultancy agencies worked with me, then moved on the next client. If they had a similar problem, they would call me up.

      Also, lately I have focused on the smaller new features of APEX and ORDS. This forced me to really stay up to date which is really important. When you promise to talk about a topic … you will make it happen and really dig deep.

      Anyhow. I love the community, made lots of friends and am willing to pay to go to conferences, too. When I am not speaking, at least I can listen to the content and not sit in my hotel room, modify my presentation and rehearse it.

      Best,
      ~Dietmar.

      Reply

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