nlOUG Tech Experience 2018 : Day 1

Day 1 ofย nlOUG Tech Experience 2018 started with me missing the opening keynote to spend time talking with Frits Hoogland about all things Vagrant, Ansible and Docker…

The first session I went to wasย Penny Avril & Dominic Giles with “What’s New from Oracle Database Development”. This was a quick run through some of the key features that have been introduced in 12.2 and 18c, which sets the scene well for some of the other talks happening over the two days.

Next up was “Database Design Thoughts” by Toon Koppelaars. I think this type of session appeals on several levels. To a beginner it is full of solid facts about basic database design. To someone with more experience it’s more about hearing things you know, but from a different angle. I spoke with Toon about the session when it was over and I’m pretty sure I would not be able to present this type of session.

From there I went to seeย “SQL Model Clause: A Gentle Introduction” by Alex Nuijten. What I really need to do is go home and write an article about this now I vaguely know what it is all about. Unfortunately I think I will leave it a couple of weeks and be clueless again. Alex did a really good job of explaining it, so it is up to me to get on the case soon!

From there it was two back-to-back sessions by me. First up was, “Cool New Features for Developers in 18c and 12c”, which was a collection of things I think are cool that were added in 12.1, 12.2 and 18c. There were live demonstrations too, which went well. I ran out of time, but I felt happy with the presentation. I had fun!

My next session was “Make the RDBMS Relevant Again with RESTful Web Services and JSON”. It was a struggle to fit this into 45 minutes, but I hope I got the main message across without rushing too much. The live demos went smooth too.

After the last session there was food and drinks and random chatting, with theย odd rant, which you expect at tech events. All in all a great end to a great first day. ๐Ÿ™‚



PS. At last year’s event I was ill and spent most of my time in bed when I wasn’t presenting (similar to Riga this year). It was nice to actually participate properly in the conference this year!

nlOUG Tech Experience 2018 : The Journey Begins

The trip to nlOUG Tech Experience 2018 started at a pretty normal time. I left the house at 08:00, which was far too early really, but you never know about the traffic when you are in rush hour, so I thought it better to be safe than sorry. Rather than the normal 30 minutes, it took about an hour to get to the airport, but once there I breezed through security and had a full 2 hours before the flight, so out came the laptop.

The flight to Amsterdam was delayed by about 15 minutes due to the curse of Schiphol. Luckily I got moved to an exit row seat and had loads of space, so out came the laptop.

From Schiphol to Amersfoort was a train ride of about 50 minutes. The train had free wifi, so out came the laptop.

Last year my hotel was a bus ride away from the event, but this year I booked a hotel near to the station, so it was only a short walk then I was in my room, so out came the laptop.

Having a bit of space and wifi makes the day feel far less wasted. I was pretty productive in the end…

I spent the evening going through my talks and demos making sure everything was OK. As mentioned in a previous post I now have three sessions, so it takes quite a while to rehearse… ๐Ÿ™‚



It’s all about focus!

When I’m in airports I do a lot of people watching. One thing I notice is a total lack of focus in some people.

In the airport I have several distinct goals.

  • Get through check-in and/or bag drop as required.
  • Get through security.
  • Identify my boarding gate if it is already displayed.
  • If my boarding gate is listed, get to it to make sure I know where it is and how long it takes to get to it, so if I have time to wander off I’m not going to get into trouble later.

Only once these tasks are complete can I relax and while away the time. Now I understand things can get complicated when people are having to sheppard young children, but I see lots of single adults, or couples that seem unable to focus on the task at hand…

As an example I recently witnessed someone being asked the same question three times before answering it. At this point you might be thinking it was because they were hard of hearing, or maybe struggling with the accent. Although that could be true, what I could see was they were not looking at the person dealing with them. Their attention was elsewhere, rather than focusing on the task at hand. This drives me crazy. You are asking for help, so pay attention you flippin’ idiot!

There are lots of characteristics that can be attributed to successful people, but I would suggest one of them has got to be the ability to focus. Being able to shut out everything else and focus on the task at hand is really important. You think you are good at multitasking, but you aren’t. It’s a lie. Sure, you can to some extent multitask mindless operations, but anything that needs proper concentration is single-threaded. By attempting to multitask all you are doing is performing substandard work. It takes time to switch between tasks, so when you think you are just checking your twitter messages, you are actually wasting significantly more time… I notice a big difference in my productivity when I’m working from home, because home is really boring, with very few distractions. In contrast the office is full of people that just want a “quick chat” about something, me included. ๐Ÿ™‚

One of the principles of agile development is to control Work in Process/Progress (WIP). This is important because it allows you to focus on a single task (user story or story point) and get it done and out of way, before moving on to the next thing on the list (or kanban board). Since you are only ever focused on the current task, there is no need for context switching during the task. It also has some other benefits…

  • If you are like me, you get a kick out ticking things off a list. This is something I’ve done for years, before I heard of kanban. Something like a kanban board just adds visibility to something you are probably doing anyway.
  • It’s easier to judge progress on large pieces of work if it is broken into steps.
  • Assuming the work moves to production in stages and can be made visible to the users, the users can see it happening too. This is important on long running projects where it’s easy to look like you’ve disappeared for 6 months before the finished product arrives.

There will always be some interruptions, like high priority incidents, but removing all but the essential distractions has a massive impact on productivity. This doesn’t have to be controlled by others and imposed on you. The trick is for you to be disciplined about when you do things. If you can’t live without checking social media, fine. Just do it between tasks, not during a task. If you are already switching between the end of one task and the start of the next, you are already having a mental context switch, so the impact is much reduced compared to checking in the middle of a task. I don’t agree with companies trying to turn workers into mindless drones, but at the same time it is your duty not to waste time you are being paid for.

Most importantly, never stand in front of me in a queue and ignore the person on the desk who is trying to help you, or I’ll write a rambling blog post about you! ๐Ÿ™‚



Riga Dev Days 2018 : The Journey Home

Cut to the end for the conference thank you messages if you can’t be bothered to read about my travel traumas. ๐Ÿ™‚

It was a 04:30 start to get myself together, check out of the hotel and walk across to meet Chris and Ionut to share a taxi to the airport.

Chris used his magic credit card to sign us in as guests to business lounge for what was meant to be a quick pitstop. Pretty soon Chris and Ionut went to catch their planes, leaving me to wait another 3 hours for mine because it had been delayed. I think it’s a ripple effect from weather problems in the UK and Amsterdam…

I wasn’t so bothered about the delay to the first flight, because I’m in the business lounge, but I was concerned about the following flight, as I was due to leave on that before I was due to take off from Riga…

This post originally contained a really salty character assassination of the KLM staff on the transfer desk, but know I’m home I calmed down and revised it. During this trip I saw the best and worst of airport and KLM staff…

  • The KLM staff on the transfer desks in Schiphol were terrible. They thought they were helping, but because they didn’t understand customer service and basic queue management they failed terribly. Most people in the massive queues just required basic information. The most frequent question was, “Am I in the right queue?” Literally hundreds of people didn’t know this. All it took was for one member of staff to walk the queue every 10 minutes and explain what the queue was for and the vast majority of people would be fine, and many would have left the queue because they shouldn’t have been there.
  • Many of the Schiphol staff were hiding. Once I had sorted myself out I walked around the airport and noticed that most of the Schiphol staff were where the people weren’t. Of all days, this is when you need the staff to be helping, not hiding in groups away from the crowds.
  • I found one member of Schiphol staff who was really helpful, telling me to leave arrivals and come back in through departures as a “new passenger”. That saved me upwards of 2 hours of queuing. I only found him because I had to leave the queue because I needed the toilet.
  • Once I had a new ticket, for 6 hours later, I walked between departure gates for Birmingham flights looking to see if there were free seats. About 2+ hours before my scheduled departure I managed to sneak on to an earlier flight because someone didn’t turn up. Many thanks to the KLM guy that sorted this for me!

If you are listening KLM/Schiphol, most people don’t expect miracles, especially during exceptional times like this. They just want basic information and queue management. Any busy system needs some form of triage in place!

Once on the flight we were greeted with the news that we might have to wait for 2 hours in the plane due to runway congestion. Luckily this turned out to be 15 minutes. At this point I didn’t really care as I was on a plane…

After the 50 minute flight I was back in a warm and sunny Birmingham, which was a little disconcerting. I was hoping it would be cool and wet. Having suffered in the heat of Riga, I really wanted to moan about the cold of home. ๐Ÿ™‚

So the trip home was not the best!

Back to the conference and some of the usual thanks.

  • Thanks to the folks at Riga Dev Days for inviting me. I’m sorry I was not well and couldn’t be more involved in the conference. Next time.
  • Thanks to the people who came to my sessions and who came to speak to me afterwards. Thanks for the evaluations too. I think my talks came 2nd and 6th (or something like that) in the speaker evaluations, which is pretty amazing considering how out of it I was. Maybe that’s the plan for the future. ๐Ÿ™‚
  • Thanks to the other speakers. Despite me not seeing much of it, everyone I spoke to said it was a great event!

Hope to see you all soon!



PS. The posts for this trip, which were mostly about my illness were: