Jump The Shark: (verb) a term to describe a moment when something that was once great has reached a point where it will now decline in quality and popularity.
Oracle MIX is a social software app to connect people in the Oracle universe. It was launched back in 2007 by The Apps Lab so people could network and stay connected during (and after) Open World. It was at the time the largest JRuby on Rails site out there. It's a decent site, and you Oracle monkeys should check it out...
I believe in 2008, they decided to try something new: allow the community to "suggest a session" for Open World. They had ten slots at Open World, and everybody was encouraged to submit a session for consideration, and vote on what they liked. The ten sessions with the most votes would get to present at Open World.
This was also a great idea... It was the ideal place for sessions outside the mainstream to get a voice at Open World... technology that might be too "bleeding edge" for a general audience, but is the bread-and-butter of geeks who only hit one conference per year. Social software, mashups, open source, installing Oracle on a Roomba... you get the idea. If you want to do a mainstream talk about a mainstream product, then submit it through the normal channels to the Open World committee... If your session isn't picked, then it probably wasn't good enough.
This model worked fine in 2008, 2009, and 2010... but I think something went really REALLY haywire this year...
MIX, being an open community, allowed people to take the voting data and mash it up in interesting ways... Greg Rahn over at Structured Data did exactly this, and presented his data analysis of the votes. Just looking at the data I saw a lot of anomalies, but to me the smoking gun is this:
- Number of users who voted for exactly one author: 828
- Number of users who voted for ALL sessions by EXACTLY one author: 826
Well, that ain't right... once you dig further, you see what probably happened: the Oracle MIX community has been invaded by a spammer...
Specifically... somebody out there has a mailing list with a few hundred people, and contacted them all asking for votes. Probably repeatedly. I don't know about others in the MIX community, but I personally got three such emails begging for votes... One of them was so shady it probably violated Oracle's Single-Sign-On policy. The line between self-promotion and SPAM is fuzzy... but it was clearly crossed by a lot of people this year.
I know what you're thinking... must be sour grapes, eh? But no, I did not submit a MIX session. Oracle was kind enough to approve both of my Open World presentations this year, so I thought the gracious thing to do would be to leave the MIX sessions for the community... so I'm very disappointed in the behavior of these people.
The rules as-is are broken... based on Greg's data, 200 people at Microsoft could all vote for sessions like "Reason #6734 Why Microsoft Rocks and Oracle People are Big Fat Stupid Heads"... and they'd win every slot.
All communities have this problem... once they become popular, they become valuable. Once they become valuable, some people try to extract more value than their fare share. Many large sites implement some form of moderation or karma points to keep cheating to a minimum... I think it's about time MIX did the same. I have a few ideas for "guidelines":
- promotion via tweets and blogs is allowed and encouraged
- mass communication via emails or social networks will be considered "social spam," and grounds for disqualification
- "down-voting" like Digg should be enabled to further prevent spammers from carpet-bombing their way to the top
- sessions should be outside of mainstream Oracle talks: sessions similar to ones given at Open World are discouraged
- a maximum of two talks can be submitted on behalf of an individual, organization, or community group
- a maximum of one talk can be selected on behalf of an individual, organization, or community group
Of course, this isn't perfect... the top 10 slots could still go to people with 1000 employees, and therefore 1000 reliable votes! Probably the ideal situation is to randomly select some Oracle ACEs to be the judges every year, based on community input. Not ideal, but really hard to rig...
So... how many of you feel like you were "spammed" this year?
UPDATE: Oracle is soliciting opinions for what worked and what didn't this year. If you have an opinion about what should be fixed, please leave a comment on their blog or contact Tim Bonnemann directly.