Oracle Midlands : Event #9

oracle-midlandsThe traffic on the way to Oracle Midlands Event #9 was a complete nightmare! There are a bunch of roadworks around the city that are making the traffic movement really problematic at the moment. Added to that, the always slow M6 was causing tailbacks along the Aston Express Way into the city. The traffic islands were all blocked, with people blocking exits and jumping red lights in a desperate attempt to get on them. Fortunately I started in plenty of time so I arrived with a few minutes to spare. Phew!

First up was Joel Goodman speaking about “Oracle Distributed Transactions”. This was actually quite a scary talk because it showed me both how much I don’t know and how much I’ve forgotten over the years. I’m getting old! There were a few raised eyebrows when he discussed the automatic and manual recovery of in-doubt transactions. I think a few people will be reviewing their recovery procedures. 🙂 Joel is always good value as a presenter and as a walking Oracle encyclopedia!

The break, which included samosas and a prize draw, gave me the opportunity to chat to a few people, including @Kelloggs_ville. We had spoken at the start of the event, but in true Tim Hall style, I hadn’t made the connection between the real person and the Twitter picture. 🙂 Don Stieler knows my skills in this respect. 🙂

Next up was Richard Harrison, a regular Oracle Midlands attendee and a previous “Lightning Talk” speaker. His session was on “Data Pump Tips & Tricks”. This talk really highlights to me the value of watching sessions on stuff you already know. Everyone has a different experience of the Oracle product set. Everyone has had to try and solve different problems using it. As a result, everyone is capable of putting a unique spin on the subject. I came away with a bunch of stuff I hadn’t considered before, which I will probably go back and retro-fit into some of my articles. Judging by the number of people scribbling away, I think other people were of a similar mind. 🙂 Richard’s session was predominantly demo-based, a man after my own heart. 🙂 I think this was Richard’s first full-length presentation and I’m hoping this will be the first of many!

I’m really getting a kick out of seeing how Oracle Midlands develops. Mike has done a truly amazing job of lining up great speakers and I feel like the group of attendees are bonding more with each event. I came away from the event feeling really hyper and enthusiastic about Oracle. It’s good to be reminded how much more there is to learn and to feel connected to other Oracle geeks. 🙂

Mike’s already got the speakers for the next couple of events lined up. The next one is by some new kid on the block called Jonathan Lewis. 🙂 The one after is by Christian Antognini. Amazing!
redstacktechBig thanks to Mike for keeping this train rolling. Thanks to everyone who keeps turning up and showing their support. This stuff can only happen if you keep coming! Thanks to the speakers for taking the time out to come and educate us. Big thanks also to Red Stack Technology (my new favourite company 🙂 ) for sponsoring the event, so it can remain free! I’ll be seeing some of you folks at the UKOUG Systems Event later today! 🙂

See you soon!

Cheers

Tim…

Writing Tips : Backfill

writingI encouraged one of my former colleagues to start writing a blog (SnapDBA). He had lots of notes he had built up over the years, so he started to transfer some of them to his blog and described these notes as “backfill”. He used the term to indicate it was not a particularly new subject, but he wanted to write about it anyway.

Especially when you become more popular, it is easy to get a bit paranoid about the content you produce. If you write an article on an old subject, you wonder if people will think you’ve only just discovered it. It’s stupid to think that people really care about that, but ego is a powerful thing. 🙂 The concept of putting out backfill articles liberates you from that paranoia. Remember, writing is for your personal development, not all about trying to become the new Tom Kyte.

I often write articles on quite old subjects, which are not really deserving of being promoted to the front page of my website and I won’t write a blog post about their release or push them out on social media. Here are some scenarios where this happens for me:

  • I’m looking at the enhancements in a new release and I notice I’ve never written about that subject before. I may write a backfill article on the original subject, then write the article on the new enhancements. I will often write blog about the release of the new enhancements article, but I will kind-of ignore the backfill article. It’s linked from the enhancements article, so if people are interested they can read it, but I’m not going to make a big song and dance about a new article on an Oracle 10g feature. 🙂
  • While reading through the documentation I notice a feature I have never heard of before and assume it is a new feature. After a quick check I realise it was introduced in a previous release, so I write the backfill article to cover it.
  • Someone asks me a question and I write the answer as an article. If the content of the article is not on a particularly new or interesting (to me) subject, I will not promote it as a new article.

I like writing backfill articles and I write a lot of them. I would say somewhere in the region of 20-40% of my writing is either backfill or revising old articles to bring them up to date with my current understanding. Over the last few weeks you might have noticed very little in the way of new content hitting the website and blog. In fact, I’ve been really quite productive, but I’ve not been writing new and sexy stuff. I’ve been writing backfill articles that have been prompted by stuff going on at work.

I guess the real solution to this is try not to care what other people think, but if you are a “sensitive type” like me, just write it as a backfill article and don’t tell anyone about it. 🙂 If you are using a CMS, like WordPress, you can always put an older date on it (like a month old) so the RSS aggregators won’t pick it up as a new post.

Cheers

Tim…

Approaching a car park barrier : What it says about you!

parking-barrierWhich of these describes you?

Option 1:

  1. Drive up to the barrier.
  2. Open the car window.
  3. Rummage through your bag or glove compartment looking for your parking pass.
  4. Swipe your pass.
  5. Put your card away. Probably in a random place each time.
  6. Pull away from the barrier.

Option 2:

  1. Approach the barrier with your card in hand and the car window already open.
  2. Swipe the card immediately.
  3. Pull away, almost without stopping because you were so well prepared.

If you most closely match “Option 1”, please don’t think about a career in I.T. The fact you find it acceptable to approach any task in life in this way says to me you are not what this industry needs! Probably not what the human race needs!

Cheers

Tim… (Suffering from “barrier rage” this morning!)

Writing Tips : How often should I write?

writingThe true answer to this is to write as (in)frequently as you want, but in my motivation post I suggested writing little and often. I think this is really important when you first start. Like anything, writing takes practice. It takes a while to get into the right head-space and even longer until you are happy with the way you express yourself. I imagine that is even worse if you are trying to writing in a second language.

In addition to what I said in the motivation post, there are a couple of things to consider.

If you are in the mood, keep going. Some days it just really feels natural and you feel happy with the content you are producing. On those days, don’t put an artificial limit on yourself. Let it flow.

Even if you are writing regularly, don’t be too quick to hit that publish button. Dumping 20 blog posts on the world will probably result in many of them being overlooked by your “loyal” followers. Having a few “in reserve” is also a pretty good idea for those times when you really can’t be bothered. 🙂 Of course, time-critical posts like, “X has just been released and it’s [amazing|rubbish]!”, have a limited shelf life. 🙂

As an example of these two points, this series of posts was conceived and written in a single session at the computer. Rather than banging them out, I planned to sit on them for a week and re-read them a few times, then start to release them on a daily basis.

As I said in the motivation post, the world doesn’t care how often you hit the publish button. 🙂

Cheers

Tim…

Roll up! Roll up! This week’s events!

Here’s a quick reminder of a couple of events happening this week.

On Tuesday evening it’s Oracle Midlands Event #9 in Birmingham. First up is Joel Goodman, who is practically a walking Oracle Encyclopaedia, speaking about “Oracle Distributed Transactions”. Next up is Richard Harrison, a regular Oracle Midlands attendee and returning speaker, this time presenting about “Data Pump Tips & Tricks”. It’s going to be a good evening, so please come out and show your support! It’s sponsored by Red Stack Technology, so it’s free!

On Wednesday it is the UKOUG Systems Event. I’m in the first slot, so it’s going to be an extremely early train ride for me. There is packed agenda, so I’m sure there is something for everyone involved in the systems side of things!

Hopefully I’ll get to see some of you folks at these events!

Cheers

Tim…

Writing Tips : Should I go back and rewrite/revise/remove old posts?

writingThe answer to this is very much dependent on the content and context of the material. If you have said something really bad in a legal sense, then you should definitely consider deleting it, or deal with the consequences. Assuming we are not talking about those naked pictures of you at a stag/hen party, what do I think?

I do rewrite old articles if I’m sufficiently motivated by a drastic change in my understanding of the subject. The articles on my website are more fact-based, so if there is incorrect information, it should be revised. I tend to write version-specific articles, so I don’t usually add features to old articles, but write a new features article, then link the articles in a chain. That prevents an article becoming massive over time, while still clearly showing the progression of the feature set for those that care about more than the basics.

My blog posts are more opinion than fact, so I am less inclined to revise them. If my opinion alters, I prefer to write a new post discussing my current opinion and why I changed my mind, with forward and back links between the posts. I think this is much more informative for readers, as they can see how you’ve developed over time. There is little value in trying to rewrite history. 🙂

I remember having a conversation with Chris Muir about this a long time ago and he was very much of the opinion that a blog post is a point in time snapshot of your opinion and thoughts, so it shouldn’t be retrospectively changed. His words have obviously influenced my opinion in this matter. 🙂

Ultimately, the Way Back Machine will reveal that terrible secret (you thought Buffer Cache Hit Ratios were a great way to tune a database) and you will be exposed. 🙂

Cheers

Tim…

Writing Tips : Dealing with comments and criticism.

writingThe way you handle comments, especially criticism, says a lot about you as a person. There have been times in the past when I’ve said something stupid, then got into a comment fight trying to defend my stance, even though I knew I was fighting a losing battle. In some cases this is about territorial pissing, wanting to protect your own space. In other cases, it’s just not wanting to admit you’re wrong because you think it makes you look weak or stupid. In almost all cases, a quick admission of your mistake and a shout out to the person who corrected helped you will be gone and forgotten in a few seconds. A hum-dinger of an argument can drag on for weeks.

So my number one tip would be, admit your mistakes and try to correct them ASAP. You don’t want incorrect information on your site and you certainly don’t need a war on your hands.

This was my response to a thread on the OakTable list about 18 months ago.

I‘ve said stupid stuff on the internet so many times I‘ve lost track. As long as someone puts you straight and you accept it and move on I don’t have any problem with it. It’s hard not to launch into the “post mistake excuses and damage limitation”. Been there. Done that. Made myself look even more stupid and then bought the t-shirt. My stock response is now, “Your correct. Im a dick. Thanks…”

At which point Jonathan Lewis posted this.

your“/. “you’re”

The mistakes people make !

It’s just perfect! Still makes me LOL when I think about it. 🙂

Sometimes people level unfair criticism at you. I get this a lot. People write to me saying something like, “I followed your instructions and they are completely wrong!” On further examination, you realise they are trying to use your Oracle 10g installation for RHEL guide to install Oracle 12c on Fedora and then they have the nerve to complain when things don’t go to plan. In these cases, it’s really tempting to go Guns of the Navarone on their ass, but you’ve got to try and take the higher ground. You have to educate them.

You will definitely get a lot of spam comments. Some of this can be controlled with plugins, like Akismet, but some of it you can’t. It’s worth spending your time cleaning up the spam, but there are some comments that are a judgement call. Some people are so desperate to advertise their own articles they will comment on everything they see and put a link to their own articles, even though they don’t add any more value. My site is for me, not an advertising platform for others. If someone posts a comment that links to another article, I read the article and make a decision if the comment is worthwhile to myself and other readers, or just link spam. If I think it is the latter, it gets deleted. You will have to decide how you deal with this sort of thing yourself.

You might want to consider locking the comments on older posts. WordPress allows you to do this. A little while back I switched on this feature and locked comment for anything older than 30 days. The amount of spam I received dropped massively. I guess it’s a bit annoying for someone who finds the post somewhere down the line, but you have to protect your own time or you will become a slave to housekeeping and you will quit.

Cheers

Tim…

VirtualBox 4.3.28

virtualboxI know you’ve all been thinking, “It’s about time there was a new release of VirtualBox so I can reinstall the guest additions on all my VMs!” If so, it’s your lucky day!

VirtualBox 4.3.28 was released yesterday. The changelog and downloads are in the usual places.

Version 5.0 is on Beta 3, so it probably won’t be long before you can get your upgrading fix again… 🙂

Cheers

Tim…

Writing Tips : How do I stay motivated?

writingHere are some things that help me keep on the move.

  • Write little and often. Don’t get into the habit of feeling like it’s not worth bothering unless you are going to change the world. Those little hints and tips might just change someone else’s world. 🙂

  • It doesn’t have to get finished immediately. I have the attention span of a gnat. I will often start things, then put them aside to revisit later. I’ve got some Oracle 9i articles I’ve still not finished. 🙂 It’s better to go where the mood takes you and do something, rather than slave over something that bores you. It should be fun, or why bother?

  • Start with the bits you enjoy. I like writing the example code. Writing the linking text is not so interesting to me. I typically put together all the examples first, then thread some text around them. There is a reason most of my articles are not very wordy! 🙂 You should focus on the pieces that you enjoy and try to minimise the boring stuff, or you will never keep going.

  • If you can’t be bothered to write, do some planning. If I don’t feel like writing I don’t, but rather than waste the time I try to do some planning for future articles. Gathering all the relevant documentation links and sketching out what should be included takes time, but very little in the way of mental effort. It’s like being productive while you are actually being lazy. 🙂

  • If you really don’t want to write, don’t. Don’t feel guilty about taking a step back from time to time. If you push yourself when you are really not motivated, you will burn out and give up. There is no need to be apologetic about your absence when you come back. The world won’t collapse if you don’t put out a blog post for a couple of months. 🙂

Ultimately, you have to find what works for you!

Cheers

Tim…

Writing Tips : Writing Style

writingI’ve said it before and I’ll no doubt say it again, this writing thing is about personal development. It’s not about world domination.

You should write in a style that is comfortable for you. I remember one of my old English teachers (Mr Parry) telling us we should write as we speak. I pretty much do that. I could never be accused of writing a literary masterpiece. I can’t spell, I have terrible grammar and I’m pretty sure I’m somewhere on the wrong side of the spectrum for dyslexia, but who gives a crap?

Your writing style may alter over time, but then again it may not. Some people tend to write really long and “wordy” articles (Richard Foote, I’m talking about you). Others, like me, use as few words as possible to link together a bunch of example code.

Do what works for you! Nuff said!

Cheers

Tim…