I dived deep into the VMware community. Here's what I found...
Our man Trevor Pott discovers who's vWho and what's vWhat
Sysadmin blog The VMware community is more complex than any other IT community I've studied. El Reg sysadmin blogger Phoummala Schmitt has given a fantastic look at the stark contrast between the VMware and Microsoft communities. I am going to delve into the details of the VMware community a little more thoroughly.
The tweets must flow
If you want to get involved in the VMware community you are going to have to learn to tolerate Twitter.
About 90 per cent of 2013 vExperts list a Twitter account with their profile in the vExpert Directory. You'll find similar acceptance of the social network among the popular vBloggers, as well as VMUG leaders, vPodcasters, vJournos and even vVendors. All of which is a whole lot of vThings, so let's explore those next.
vBloggers are what you'd imagine, based on the name. There really isn't a single major technology publication that does a complete job of covering VMware ecosystem news, and so individual bloggers have risen to prominence.
Consistently top ranked by the community amongst vBloggers are Duncan Epping (a VMware employee) and his good friend Frank Denneman (a PernixData employee.) This pair are founding members of the self-styled "Dutch vMafia," a professional clique of close friends and powerfully influential vBloggers.
The top bloggers have massive followings, enough for some to make quite decent money from advertisements on their blogs. This rarefied atmosphere of influence is where technical knowledge combines with practiced charisma and careers' worth of "right people" contacts.
These folks have the ability to generate large volumes of quality content, maintain strong and consistent social presences on social websites and at VMware and VMware community events. They have their blogs heavily linked to by others and as such they are tops in any VMware-related Google searches and ultimately within the VMware ecosystem itself.
The other guys
There are, of course, other vBloggers beyond the top 50. The drop off in influence, however, is fairly significant once you're off that list. Vendors want to influence the top-tier bloggers, and people starting out within the community have to find a way onto that selfsame list if they want that kind of attention.
When looking around for people to read, many of those who write for more formal publications are often overlooked by those new to the community, but this is a rookie mistake. Consider the other Scott Lowe. Lowe writes for Virtualizationsoftware.com (amongst others), is a vExpert in his own right, knowledgeable, charismatic, popular and a decent person to boot.
Despite this, poor Lowe will always be in a sort of "second place" to the Scott Lowe, something that has caused some confusion in the past. Other Scott Lowe is a humble sort, yet he commands the attention of many. His word is trusted and while he doesn't have the top-50 billing, he definitely influences other influencers.
Consider also David M Davis. This man is seemingly everywhere. Every conference I go to, he's there. Everyone knows him and he seems to know everybody. He's affable, well liked and entrepreneurial. He doesn't come top-of-mind for many when they talk about the VMware community, but he has his fingers in everything from Train Signal (now Pluralsight) to innumerable virtualization-related publications.
As you descend out of the top 50 and start looking at the wider community, you'll find that the almost religious focus on VMware starts to fray at the edges. People like Lowe and Davis write just as readily about Microsoft's Hyper-V, and aren't above investigating OpenStack or any other technology that tickles their fancy.
Because of this, their reach can exceed that of the top-50 VMware bloggers, even if they don't make the official list.
Bacon, soup, podcasts and you
Podcasts are quite popular among the VMware community, with the official VMTN podcast at 256 episodes at time of writing. The community at large joins in enthusiastically, often in loose affiliations that only sometimes qualify as "an organization."
The vBrownBag webinars are immensely popular, and run by a group of increasingly influential and highly knowledgable individuals from around the world. The Register will be joining in as well with an upcoming monthly podcast series.
In addition to podcasts, the wider community is fond of semi-official get-togethers called vBeers and less official shindigs like vBacon. Major events tend to also come with an overlapping plethora of parties as well.
Conferences, VMUGs and vVendors
VMUGs are their own special thing. They are officially titled "VMware User Group" meetings, but these are nothing like most user group meetings you'll encounter elsewhere. VMUGs are mini-conferences.
A LUG (Linux User Group) or Spicecorps meeting will tend to be smallish. A few dozen folks at most, typically. A presentation of some technology might occur, but equally likely is two solid hours of heated debate over the important of rendering kerning properly in text editors not used for typesetting.
Vendors are critical to the success of many of community efforts. VMUGs are designed to be "break even" events, where vendor sponsorship covers the cost of holding the event. This makes herding vendors important for organizers, but it also places a burden on vendors to develop strong ties with the community in order to see a maximum return on their investment.