Tim’s blog crossed the one million hits mark recently. This is a great milestone for Tim and his team, congrats. It also reminded me of another reason to add to David’s series on why product development should blog.
Blog as support resource.
Back in early 2006, I was an applications architect working in E-Business Suite development on the global and public sector development team. Global applications require loads of statutory reports, many tailor-made for specific countries, that must follow very precise rules, not only for the data, but for the formatting as well.
In order to sell applications in a country with statutory reporting requirements, you need to have all the right reports. In older versions of Oracle’s Applications, the reporting tool (Oracle Reports) combined the formatting and data query into a single file. Therefore, if Italy changes the formatting requirement for the Journal Ledger report, that entire report file also needs to be changed and deployed as a patch for Italian customers to take.
These reports led to the development of BI Publisher (nee XML Publisher), which divorces the data from the formatting. BIP allows the formatting to change without exposing the query to changes. It also makes it easier for users to customize reports. I built custom reports when I was a consultant in OCS, so I can appreciate this separation of query and formatting.
Anyway, back in 2006, I was tasked with building some global reports for the R12 release. These were brand-new reports for XML Publisher, based on data extracts pulled from Subledger Accounting Architecture (SLA). These reports had wicked grouping and summarization requirements that forced me to test the limits of what I could do with XML Publisher.
However, at the time XML Publisher was pretty new, and documentation was scant. I knew Tim from our time at HQ, but unlike then, he wasn’t just over the wall. Plus pinging him with questions all the time wasn’t efficient or scable, and by that I mean, it was annoying.
So, I followed the path of least resistance straight to Google and found Tim’s blog, which provided a lot of the answers I needed. I was pleasantly surprised to discover Tim was blogging, and I’m sure customers find it reassuring when they click through Google results to find an Oracle product manager or developer on the other end.
Tim has been blogging for practically the entire lifetime of XML/BI Publisher, so his blog represents the official support resource to many of his customers. The blog as a support site for examples and shared experiences is very powerful. Tim probably has a long list of common questions he gets (like David does), and rather than send emails or make calls each time, he can point to a permanent source of information that evolves over time through comments.
Maybe some day, he’ll collect his thoughts into a consumable post that we can add to the case study.