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Tue, 09 Mar 2004
Blog Ecosystems: Java vs .NET
Jonathan Schwartz was interviewed about Sun's (inevitable) adoption of RSS. Scoble then disagreed with some things that Schwartz said. Simon Phipps just wanted Sun to be given some credit for moving on the RSS meme. Of course, this exchange lead to the usual comparison of which platform has more RSS aggregators written for it. Which is all old news anyway.

One part of Simon's reply stuck out to me:

We're already here. Not in the legions Microsoft has, admittedly, but it's the quality that matters not the quantity (or, indeed the volume of postings!)
I read a lot of Java related blogs and a lot of MS related blogs, but very few of the Java blogs are by Sun folks. So I followed Simon's link to Sun bloggers, eager to stock up on the good content that I've been missing out on. When I got there, I discovered that the list isn't very long, although it includes lots of Sun luminaries, and that about half of the blogs haven't been updated in 2004. Color me disappointed. It's hard to claim quality when quantity is AWOL.

I started thinking about the broader communities (beyond the companies), because as Schwartz pointed out in his interview, it's really all about communities. So I took a step out. Instead of looking at the MS bloggers and the Sun bloggers, I tried to look at the .NET bloggers and the Java bloggers. When I did that, I saw that there are lots of non-MS .NET bloggers (many quite good) and many Java bloggers, also quite good. In order to see that, I had to stop and think about it for a while -- I'm a Java guy, so good Java blogs came easily to mind. It took a little while longer for .NET bloggers, but I can think of a number of them without consulting NNW, so that's also good.

Even after thinking about it, I still feel that the .NET blogging community is a smaller appendage to the larger MS blogging community, while the Java blogging community is a big place that the small Sun blogging community is trying to break into. What I mean is this: If I'm looking for thought leadership from the community, in the Java community, I'm looking towards the non Sun bloggers -- these are the folks doing AOP, Groovy, SGen, Prevalence, WebWork, etc. This shows the rich ecosystem that has grown up around Java. If I look at the .NET community, I pretty much look for the MS bloggers. There are some leaders outside of MS, but pretty much the thought leadership resides with folks inside the "big house". From where I sit, this is an accurate characterization of the .NET and Java ecosystems.

In the end, the two companies have to decide not only that they want to foster communities, but what kind of community they want.

[21:24] | [computers/internet/weblogs] | # | TB | F | G | 20 Comments | Other blogs commenting on this post
Apologies, Ted :-)  I like the insight you've exposed about the respective communities though.
Posted by Simon Phipps at Tue Mar 9 22:04:56 2004

I agree with a lot of what you've said and haven't known quite what to say with regards to the Schwartz comments and the Scoble/Phipps discussion that followed. I don't think the "we were there first" or the "we have more" arguments matter much. As you say, there are lots of Java bloggers out there who have interesting and important things to say. They don't seem to be hosted as centrally as the .Net bloggers and we don't have a Scoble pointing out all of activity on the Java side - that doesn't seem to be the way we work. Although the non-Sun bloggers from Codehaus, Apache, IBM, and elsewhere are very important, there are also Sun folks I would love to hear from.

You say you look "for thought leadership from the community, in the Java community, I'm looking towards the non Sun bloggers ". I would hope that you would look toward both Sun and non-Sun bloggers. Just as we would dismiss Sun if they said that Java leadership only comes from Sun, we can not say that the Java community and thought leadership excludes Sun.

As this turns into a ramble, I agree that the difference between Java and .Net blogs says something about the two platforms. Sun can't walk into the Java blogsphere and say "we're here now, listen to us", while Microsoft can flip that switch and people will listen. It's not a right or wrong thing. It just seems to be the way it is.

We (at java.net) have been trying to grow a community of bloggers at java.net and keep a mix of Sun and non-Sun bloggers. We have just two rules (other than treat others with respect): no marketing, and what you write has to be of interest to Java developers. We also point to blogs on other sites pretty regularly as well, but we would like to grow a community of bloggers who write about technical Java issues.

Although O'Reilly manages the content on our site, it is owned by Sun. In the nine months since we've launched, Sun has never asked me to include or to pull any content from the site. And yet, non-Sun bloggers who we've approached to blog on our site in addition to wherever they are currently blogging, have been suspicious that we are not committed to running an open forum. We have also approached Sun engineers and have some who write compelling entries - I hope that one effect of Schwartz's comments will be that more Sun engineers will feel free to blog on our site. I wonder if it signals the beginning of blogging on other Sun properties and what that will mean to our efforts.
Posted by
Daniel H Steinberg at Wed Mar 10 03:52:28 2004

Posted by
Pingback from Knowing .NET at Wed Mar 10 08:14:30 2004


I wouldn't disagree that MS is probably viewed with more suspicion than Sun, certainly within the Java community.  It may be that Sun is being held to a higher standard because nobody expects much of Microsoft.  So Sun might be a better neighbor than Microsoft, but still might not be the sort that you'd want as a neighbor (to use your analogy -- not necessarily saying that's the view).

At the same time, there have been a bunch of things that have happened over the life of Java, that have caused heartburn for some people.  Take  for example the JCP process.  The JCP is moving progressively towards a more open process, but it has taking a lot of pushing, shoving, etc. to get there.  Take Havoc Pennington's reaction 
http://log.ometer.com/ to glow. 

When you compare these sorts of things with management level pronouncements about openness, etc, there's a disconnect.  Maybe things would be better if there were fewer pronouncements  -- back to managing expecations again.  Trust isn't lost overnight, and it isn't gained back overnight either.

I'm not trying to be mean in pointing this out, I'm trying to point out that Sun doesn't seem to know how it is perceived.  Maybe this is the difference with Microsoft -- Microsoft knows that nobody trusts them, whereas Sun folks seem consistently surprised that some people could be suspicious.

It is definitely the case that the blogs of MS employees have put a more human/favorable face on the company.  I think that this would be the case for Sun as well if people were given freedom/encouragement.

I hope this helps.
Posted by Ted Leung at Wed Mar 10 12:43:48 2004

Thanks for the comments, Ted. I guess I don't have the history to understand why people hate Sun so much, my days at IBM and Sun have never uncovered many explanations, especially in the light of all Sun has done in the community over the years (cue Monty Python "What have the Romans Ever Done for Us" sketch). But yes, it's a surprise (not the suspicion but the extreme malice with which it gets expressed) and it's hurtful each time it turns up.

The deal with the JCP is so hard to handle because I think the JCP is what its members have made it yet the only target of hatred is Sun - as if Sun could change everything without a murmur from the rest of the ECs. You speak of the "pushing and shoving" and I understand the Apache history you're referring to, yet the conflict is in my view as much a matter of what the authors of the OSD chose to leave out (scope for compatibility) as what the companies in the JCP put in (legalese that accidentally made Apache's life difficult). The different world-views of the protagonists and the fact that the Apache viewpoint is all public seem to have painted the JCP as reactionaries but I'd've been shocked really if the changes Apache wrought in the JCP could have been done much faster.

Concerning blogs, Sun employees have no obstacles to running blogs - the real question in my mind is why there are so many Microsoft employees with them, I know of almost none from pretty much any other sizeable company (IBM, for example?), Sun has more than most despite all the comments you've made :-)  I'm assuming it's cultural but would be fascinated to know more.
Posted by
Simon Phipps at Wed Mar 10 15:07:02 2004

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