Is the Adobe Community Expert Program good for the community?
If you haven't heard, Adobe is looking for new Community Experts. I'll shorten this to "ACE" even though that is technically a different Adobe program. I'm just not going to write "Adobe Community Expert" every time. If you don't know of the program, you should check it out. There are several benefits in being an ACE. You can apply and view the current list of members at http://www.adobe.com/communities/experts/all.html.
First, as many of you know, I'm not an Adobe Community Expert and I actually prefer it that way. There are several reasons for this. First, I do use other competitor products like Railo, etc. Plus, I like to keep my views as independent/objective as possible. Being an ACE has a lot of benefits, I'm frankly amazed more people don't try to sign up for it. But for me, it would be strange to benefit from such a program and maintain the appearance of being objective in my thoughts about Adobe either here on my blog or at the RIApodcast. So as such, I'll probably never join the program. Just want that to be clear up front.
This isn't necessarily against the ACEs or the Adobe program per se. Many of my friends in the tech world are ACEs and I know the program helps them out quite a bit. At the same time, Adobe should be commended for having this program.
Ok, so my question is fairly simple. "Is the Adobe Community Expert Program good for the community?". I'm not entirely sure of the answer, but I think it's a very important to ask. Naturally when I asked this on Twitter, several current ACE's responded back. It was sort of like speaking to the choir. Most ACEs are community minded and naturally the ones that responded are very active.
I'll attempt to list out the positives and negatives from the community point of view. Like I mention before, the benefits to the ACEs themselves are quite good.
- Recognizes active community people in their respective technology
- Adobe Breeze Presentation account for community use
- Encourages ACEs to be active contributors via the Adobe Forums, UGs, writing articles and presentations
The key idea is to pick active community people for the program and provide Adobe related benefits, in return they are encouraged to keep being active. As a reward system, this makes complete since.
- Many are excluded due to being employees of Adobe or of one of their competitors. Some of the most active people fall into this category, so it's sad they don't get recognized.
- The term 'active' contributor seems very ill defined. Some ACEs are not nearly as active as others. As the program grows this will become a bigger issue.
- Due to the Adobe financial constraints, the ACE program does take funds away from the user groups, training centers and other efforts that may provide more direct benefits to the community.
If the ACE program is a reward system, then that makes sense to me. But, I would think that requires a defined time limit. Say you're a ColdFusion ACE for 2010-2012, after which point you get renominated by the community. This would directly encourage the ACEs to remain very active. At present, there's no defined tenure for an ACE. So you could start off being very active, and then drop off over time. Adobe would be left to determine at some point what to do. This is entirely too messy and unclear.
The size of the program can be problematic as well. As this grows, it will require more energy for Adobe to maintain. In keeping the program small, would it not make it more valuable to be on the list (people work harder to get nominated) and it remains easier (and less expensive) to manage.
The size also creates interesting things within the program. For example, currently, there are ACEs in Authorware which is a discontinued product and also Flash Lite? Two are "Web Design" ACEs, not associated with a particular Adobe product line. There are AIR ACEs when Flex and AIR are very similar. There are currently 36 CF ACEs and 42 Flex ACEs. I would think that given the size of those communities and the focus by Adobe that CF would be quite a bit less than Flex.
The other problem is a simple business matter of opportunity costs. Adobe is spending money on people who are 'currently' active. They're not going to be 2-3 times more active after joining the program. However, in supplying more to the user groups and training centers that could easily generate a higher return on investment. This is just a simple business calculation. With a finite amount to work with, you want to maximize your return. It would also, I think better help the community.