Structuring Content : Think Pyramid!

This post is about making sure you get your message across by structuring your content correctly, and giving people convenient jump-off points when they’ve hit the level that is appropriate for them.

In my post about plain language, I mentioned a discussion on structuring content, and linked to a previous post called The Art of Miscommunication. I thought it was worth digging into content structure a little more.

We can think of the content structure as a pyramid. Starting at the top we keep things short and simple, then each layer down gets progressively more detailed. A person consuming the content can get to a level appropriate for them and stop, safe in the knowledge they have not missed something vital.

Level 1

What do I need to know about this content?

  • What is it about?
  • Is it really meant for me?
  • Are there any actions assigned to me?
  • Is it even worth my time reading this, or have I been included for the hell of it?

If we think about emails, blog posts and videos, it’s important we understand what the content is about early. This allows us to decide if this is the right content for us. In my opinion this is about the subject of the email, or title of blogs and videos, along with a short first paragraph.

Using the example of an email, it might be important that some of the management chain understand a situation is happening, but they may not understand the detail of the issue, or have time to dig into it further.

Here is a silly example of an email subject and first paragraph, which represents how I think the top level of the pyramid should work.

“Payroll run failed. Will be fixed by this afternoon!

This morning’s payroll run failed. Jayne is on the case, diagnosed the problem and is confident it will be fixed by this afternoon. The P1 incident number is INC123456.”

It’s short! It tells me what I need to know. It gives me some confidence I don’t need to worry about things unless I hear different. At this point I might feel safe to jump out of the email. I know it’s a Priority 1 (P1) incident, which means it will have a wash-up meeting, so I don’t need to respond asking someone to document and communicate the root cause. I feel most higher-level managers should be happy with this, and be able to duck out now.

Level 2

This is where we add a little more detail. We are still going to keep things short and simple. We will already have lost some of the readers, so the people left behind are here because they want something with a bit more depth. Maybe something like this.

“At 06:18 we got a notification to say the payroll process had died. It got escalated to Jayne, who checked the application logs. It looked like the payroll run had been hanging for a while and then died.

She asked the DBAs to check the database while she checked the OS layer on the app server. The DBAs said the database went really quiet at that time, like no new requests were coming through from the app layer, but didn’t think it was the database that was causing the problem.

Jayne noticed a Jenkins agent on the app server was grabbing 100% of the CPU, which is what killed the payroll run.

The Jenkins agent was restarted. The payroll run was restarted. Everyone is monitoring it, and they’re confident it will complete by 13:00.”

There is no evidence here, but it clearly describes what happened, and what is being done about it. If I didn’t feel confident about closing the email after the first level, I should now.

Level 3 and Beyond

In the case of an email, I don’t think anything beyond this point makes sense. Large emails and posts look daunting, and I get the impression people just “file them” to be looked at later. Maybe that’s just me. πŸ™‚

In most cases, I think anything level 3 downward should be a link to something, so those people that are interested can “get their geek on”, while everyone else gets on with their day. Something like this for example.

“Further information:

Incident : INC123456

Problem Record : PRB123456 : How do we prevent Jenkins agents killing our stuff?

Knowledge Base: KB123456 : Diagnosing Payroll Run Failures.

Knowledge Base: KB234567 : What is Jenkins and why do we use it?”

This doesn’t add much to the size of the email, but it does give people a place to go if they need more information.

I’m making the assumption that people in the company know the evidence of the issue diagnosis and corrective actions will be included in the P1 incident, so I don’t need to add it into the email. The problem record shows we’ve got some thinking to do to make sure this doesn’t happen again. The knowledge base notes give us a place to get further information, and give us some confidence that if Jayne dies, we might still get paid next month.

Another Example

I’ve been producing content for a while, and occasionally I have light-bulb moments where I realise I’ve totally missed the point. Several years after writing an article about the Oracle Scheduler I realised the vast majority of people just want a basic example they can copy/paste. I added a section to the top of the article (here). I doubt many people move beyond that. I rarely do. πŸ™‚

Conclusion

There is little point writing something unless you think someone is going to read it, even if it is yourself. You need to get the correct information to the correct people as quickly as possible. That involves thinking about the way you present your content and write your emails. I’m not saying this is perfect. I’m not an expert at this stuff. This is just how I feel about it, and I think the pyramid approach discussed in the course is a good mental cue to keep you on track.

Cheers

Tim…

PS. You are not allowed to use this against me when you see one of my rambling posts or articles.

PPS. In real life it wasn’t a payroll system, but it was a Jenkins agent that killed everything.

PPPS. Everyone knows it’s always the network! πŸ™‚

Increasing headcount is probably not the answer!

I’m incredibly irritated by tech people using headcount as a reason for their problems. From my experience, throwing bodies at problems is rarely the correct answer.

Increasing headcount only makes sense if:

  • You understand the problem.
  • You’ve defined the corrective actions.
  • You have processes in place to make new people productive quickly.

If you don’t understand the problem, and don’t already have a plan for solving it, hiring a load of people isn’t going to help you. It can actually make things worse. At best they will sit around and do nothing. At worst, they will start working and come up with a bunch of random “solutions” to your problems, which can leave you in a worse position than you started. Supporting a bunch of random crap is no fun at all.

My first job was a great example of doing things the right way.

  • The company signed a new customer. The software was used to track drug trials. Each trial had a unique identifier. The customer wanted to be able to refer to trials using the unique identifier, or a free text alias. This meant adding a trial alias to loads of screen in the application. There was also a need to upgrade the whole application from Forms 3.0 to Forms 4.0.
  • The analysis was done. Two procedures were defined and documented. One procedure gave directions on performing the upgrade. One procedure gave directions on adding the trial alias to the forms that needed it.
  • In addition to the existing workforce, the company hired four new people. Two were computer science graduates. Two, including me, were not. None of us had previous Oracle Database or Oracle Forms experience. After some basic training, we were put to work upgrading the forms and adding in the trial alias code.
  • It worked fine, because despite us being not much more than trained monkeys, the prerequisites had been put in place to allow someone with a PhD in cabbage sex to be a productive member of the team. There were no major blockers or constraints to deal with.

I’ve also seen it done the wrong way a bunch of times, but I’m not going to go there as it’s too depressing, and the people and companies involved will recognise themselves…

There are situations where bodies can help, but randomly throwing people at something is not a great solution if you’ve not put in the necessary effort up front to make it work. You should also be asking how many of the tasks should really be automated, so humans can be allocated to something more meaningful. In these cases, even if extra bodies could work, your focus should be on solving the root cause, not papering over the cracks.

When I discuss headcount, or throwing bodies at a problem, I could be talking about hiring more permanent staff, temporary staff or outsourcing projects. There is a lot to be said for the old saying, “You can’t outsource a problem!”, but it could easily be, “You can’t headcount a problem!” πŸ™‚

Cheers

Tim…

Plain Language : My review of the course

Last week I went on a Plain Language course. If you were following me on Twitter, you’ll know I was feeling a bit nervous about it. I find any type of “course” difficult. I don’t like being “trapped” and I prefer to learn things at my own pace. Having said that, it went really well.

What’s the point?

How you speak and write can have a big impact on how your message is received. I work for a university, which has a large number of overseas students and staff, where English is not their first language.

A significant proportion of our user base need accessibility tools, and a similar proportion use them by choice.

Even when English is your first language, it can be difficult to understand some of the rubbish that gets produced.

Isn’t it just about dumbing down?

Some people love flowery bullshit language. I hate it. I’m not the best at reading, so every unnecessary word requires parse time, and makes it easier for me to lose my concentration.

My problem is similar to that faced by someone who doesn’t have English as a first language, or someone using accessibility tools. There is a lot of effort spent dealing with words that add no value to the meaning.

Know your audience!

You always have to consider your audience when writing and speaking. There is a difference between writing a legal document, an academic paper and instructions about how to log into the WIFI.

My statistics tell me that about 45% of people reading this will be from India. About 43% from the USA, and the remaining are made up from the rest of the world. I have no idea about the language skills of the audience in those locations, but I’m guessing they don’t track well with someone born 50 years ago and raised in the Midlands, UK. πŸ™‚

I’ve learned through my years of presenting, that often “less is more”. Try to get as much meaning in as few words as possible. I wrote a series of Public Speaking Tips, where I wrote about my experience of international presentations. I’ve tried to keep that in mind when I’m doing my YouTube videos too.

In short, write in a style that is acceptable to your audience!

What are “the rules”?

There’s a neat summary of some of the points covered by the course here.

It’s mostly about controlling your word selection, sentence size and use of active and passive verbs. There is also some information about how to structure communications to make sure the main points and actions are obvious from the start. It’s similar to what I wrote about in my post called The Art of Miscommunication.

The course doesn’t focus on punctuation or grammar. It doesn’t remove personality from your writing. It’s all about making yourself understood.

What tools are available?

If you are using Word or Outlook, you can use the built-in tools to help.

For Word:

  • Go to “File > Options > Proofing”.
  • Select the “Check grammar with spellings” and “Show readability statistics” options.
  • Click the “OK” button to exit.

For Outlook:

  • Go to “File > Options”.
  • Select “Mail” and click the “Spelling and AutoCorrect” button under the “Compose Messages” section.
  • Select “Proofing”.
  • Select the “Mark grammar errors as you type”, “Check grammar with spelling” and “Show readability statistics” options.
  • Click the “OK” buttons to exit.

In addition to the basic statistics, there is the Flesch-Kincaid readability score. There are a bunch of browser plugins that could help here also.

Did you disagree with anything?

I really struggled with the active vs. passive stuff. I often write in passive voice, and I find active voice quite aggressive. Despite this, I can see active verbs are more direct and often make sentences shorter, so I can see the value.

I’m not sure I will, or even can, take this on board. I guess time will tell.

Conclusion

It’s a good course, and despite my initial nerves I really enjoyed it. If you get the chance to take part in something like this, you really should!

Remember, the course is the beginning of the journey!

Here are the scores for this post from Word. They scientifically prove I’m amazing and can be understood by anyone! If you don’t agree Katy, you’re a poopy head! πŸ™‚

Cheers

Tim…

2019 : A Year in Review

Well, it seems 2019 was another slightly bizarre year for me.

I just looked back on last year’s review (here) and I’m guessing I had “resting bitch face” while I was reading it…

Conferences

One of the things I mentioned last year was I was taking a year off presenting. I had two events I had already committed to at the start of the year, then dropped off the face of the earth for the rest of the year. I came out of retirement for OpenWorld. I was originally going to pull out of that also, but the wife persuaded me I should go. I’m glad I did.

The reason for not presenting was really to give myself a break. I had been having a lot of trouble travelling, which I suspect is mostly down to being so fat. It was good not to have the hassle of travelling, but I did miss seeing folks. I’ve done some presentations at work during the year, so it’s not like I’ve done nothing…

The problem with not doing conferences was that work was very busy and I didn’t take many holidays, so I was basically swapping one set of stress for another.

I’m thinking I might do a few things this year. I’m not going to go mad and try and speak at loads of events, but I’ve got to get back on the horse. Of course, the first thing is to think of something to present…

If you’ve followed the blog, you’ll know I’ve been going to a few local meetups for Docker, DevOps and Azure. I’m a tourist, rather than a speaker. It’s good to do something different!

Videos

Last year I said I wanted to start doing some videos on my YouTube Channel again. I was “on a break” for a while before that. Well I started at the end of January and I think I’ve done about 44 videos this year. There are a few new playlists, and some additions to existing ones listed here.

I like doing the videos, and it alleviates my guilt at not presenting, but they do take up a lot of time. I know some people have asked for longer, more in-depth videos, but I would estimate that for every minute of the final video, it takes me about 60 minutes of work, so a 5 minute video takes me about 5 hours. With that in mind, the chances of me doing a long-form video are remote.

I know some people can just record themselves talking, but presenting takes a lot of prep for me. For a live presentation I work for days/weeks so I can look casual. For videos it’s a little easier as you can edit stuff and trim it down, but it still takes time…

If you’ve watched my videos, you’ll know I put in little cameos of people saying “.com” to finish my introduction line. I went to put out the latest collection of them (Volume 3) and noticed I had never uploaded Volume 2, so today I posted two short videos. Thanks to everyone who has helped.

I know it’s stupid, but I like it. πŸ™‚

Work

Work continues to be problematic. I could blame the company, but ultimately it comes down to me. I’ve got to learn to walk away. I keep doing stuff in an attempt to make a difference, but things progress at a glacial pace and I get frustrated and think if I do more I can get things moving faster. I can’t. You can lead a horse to water, but that doesn’t make it a duck.

I’m going to try and stop moaning about work, and focus on fixing me. It’s too easy to get a victim mentality about this. I don’t need the job. I know the problems there are not my fault. Fuck ’em!

Website

The website it ticking along as usual. The numbers are similar to last year. I did over 130 blog posts and a hundred articles. I’ve got a bunch of other stuff waiting in the wings, but I can’t publish them yet. In a couple of cases I’ve got multiple related articles, but they are kind-of blocked until some bugs get fixed. It’s a little frustrating, but…

Maintenance of the website takes more time each year. The de-support of the non-CDB architecture in Oracle 20c has got people into a PDB frame of mind, and a lot more people have started to read the multitenant articles on my website. I’ve had to go through them a few times making changes to make things a little clearer, or put in some updates where a feature has changed slightly. Today Patrick Jolliffe sent me a message about a change, so I had to work through it, check it and amend the article. It’s a dirty job, but someone’s got to do it!

Similar to last year, quite a lot of effort has been going into my Docker and Vagrant stuff on GitHub. It’s something I find odd, as it takes up a lot of time and doesn’t really result in anything for my website. Sure, I use them to test stuff and I get a lot of good feedback about them, but I’ve spent nearly 20 years putting stuff on the website, and it feels odd to “produce content” for something that’s not my website.

Other Stuff

Nephew #1 has just turned 18 and nephew #2 has turned 15. December is a busy month. It’s hard to believe how time flies. I bought my house when the couple I shared a house with got pregnant with their first child. That child is now at Uni doing dentistry, and I’ve not got round to buying furniture or curtains yet. I’m not even going to pretend I’m going to do something about it by next year.

Physically I’m a bit of a wreck. I’ve really got to get my shit together, especially if I’m going to start travelling again!

Everything changes, and yet nothing changes… Let’s see what 2020 brings. I hope it’s good for everyone!

Cheers

Tim…

In Defence of Best Practices

The subject of “Best Practices” came up again yesterday in a thread on Twitter. This is a subject that rears its head every so often.

I understand all the arguments against the term “Best Practices”. There isn’t one correct way to do things. If there were it would be the only way, or automatic etc. It’s all situational etc. I really do understand all that. I’ve been in this conversation so many times over the years you wouldn’t believe it. I’ve heard all the various sentences and terms people would prefer to use rather than “Best Practice”, but here’s my answer to all that.

“Best practices are fine. Get over yourself and shut up!”

Tim Hall : 18th October 2019

I’ve said this more politely in many other conversations, including endless email chains etc.

When it comes down to it, people need guidance. A good best practice will give some context to suggest it is a starting point, and will give people directions for further information/investigation, but it’s targeted at people who don’t know enough about what they are doing and need help. Without a best practice they will do something really bad, and when shit happens they will blame the product. A good best practice can be the start of a journey for people.

I agree that the “Always do this because ‘just bloody do it!'” style of best practice is bad, but we all know that…

I just find the whole conversation so elitist. I spend half of my life Googling solutions (mostly non-Oracle stuff) and reading best practices and some of them are really good. Some of them have definitely improved my understanding, and left me in a position where I have a working production system that would otherwise not be working.

I’m sure this post will get a lot of reactions where people try and “explain to me” why I am wrong, and what I’m not understanding about the problems with best practices. As mentioned before, I really do know all that and I think you are wrong, and so do the vast majority of people outside your elitist echo chamber. Want to test that? Try these…

  • Write a post called “Best Practices for {insert subject of your choice}”. It will get more hits than anything else you’ve ever written.
  • Submit a conference session called “Best Practices for {insert subject of your choice}”. Assuming it gets through the paper selection, you will have more bums on seats than you’ve ever had before for that same subject.

Rather than wasting your life arguing about how flawed the term “Best Practices” is, why don’t you just write some good best practices? Show the world how they should be done, and start people on a positive journey. It’s just a term. Seriously. Get over yourself!

Cheers

Tim…

PS. I hope people from yesterday’s tweets don’t think this is directed at them. It’s really not. It’s the subject matter! This really is a subject I’ve revisited so many times over the years…

Updates

Due to repeatedly having to explain myself, here come some points people have raised and my reactions. I’m sure this list will grow as people insist on “educating me” about why I’m wrong.

I prefer “standard” or “normal” to “best”. As I said at the start of the post, I’ve heard just about every potential variation of this, and I just don’t care. They are all the same thing. They are all best practices. It’s just words. Yes, I know what “best” means, but that’s irrelevant. This is a commonly used term in tech and you aren’t getting rid of it, so own it!

I’ve seen people weaponize best practices. OK. So are you saying they won’t weaponize “standard practices” or “normal practices”? They won’t ever say, “So are you telling me you went against normal practices?”. Of course they will. Stupid people/companies will do stupid things regardless of the name.

But it’s not the “best”! Did you even read my post? I’m so tired of this. It’s a best practice to never use hints in SQL. I think that’s pretty solid advice. I do use hints in some SQL, but I always include a comment to explain why. I have deviated from best practice, but documented the reason why. If a person/company wants no deviation from best practice, they can remove it and have shit performance. That’s their choice. I’ve been transparent and explained my deviation. If this is not the way you work, you are wrong, not the best practice.

Most vendor best practice documents are crap. I have some sympathy for this, but I raise tickets against bad documentation, including best practices, and generally the reception to these has been good. The last one was a couple of weeks ago and the company (not Oracle) changed the docs the same day. I always recommend raising an SR/ticket/bug against bad documentation. It doesn’t take much time and you are improving things for yourself and everyone else. I feel like you can’t complain about the quality of the docs if you never point out the faults.

The Art of Miscommunication : Read the Chain

I can’t express how frustrating it is to be passed an email that’s bounced around multiple times, then ends up in your inbox with a message of, “Please action this!”

You then spend the next X minutes reading the whole of the chain, trying to understand what you are being asked to do, and eventually get to something that could have been expressed in a couple of sentences, which would not have wasted your time. Sometimes the context in the chain is important, but on many occasions you just need to know what they want you to do.

So what should you do?

Put the action in your email and copy/paste any necessary information into it, so it becomes a self-contained mail. The rest of the chain can remain there, just in case someone wants the additional context, but the email can be read in isolation. A simple technique is to include a TL;DR which cuts to the chase, and all the additional stuff is there if someone needs it. I sometimes do this type of thing.

TL;DR

We need to do X because it is about to explode!

Boring Stuff:

Full background about the issue, including references to things further down the chain…

I’m not trying to claim I’m perfect at this, but I seem to be the victim of this bad communication a lot!

Relevant Subject Text

Over the course of an email chain, the subject of the conversation often changes, but people rarely change the subject of the mail, so when something with a subject of “P1 System X is down!” keeps appearing in your inbox, it gets very tiresome very quickly!

Now I understand that for some people keeping the same subject may seem important, as they remember the discussion, but when you are part of loads of chain emails like this, each running for days, having the wrong subject in the email can be really problematic.

What’s in the Chain?

Another thing about email chains is you really need to check what is written in them before forwarding them to others.

I had one occasion in my current company when I was forwarded an email. I read the whole chain to understand the context and found a consultant telling lies about me to try and cover his own incompetence. You can bet I went supernova and replied to everyone that ever read that email chain, including the evidence to prove the consultant was a lying scumbag piece of shit. He still works here by the way! I hope he’s reading this!

Cheers

Tim…

PS. I accidentally deleted the contents of my inbox this morning. It’s amazing how quickly that solves the frustration of bad communication! πŸ™‚

The Oracle ACE Program : My 13 Year Anniversary and Website History Lesson

Another year has gone by, and somehow I’m still doing this. πŸ™‚

As I’ve mentioned numerous times, last year was tough year for me. So far this year is going better. That’s partly because I’ve reduced the amount of travelling I’m planning to do, which has freed me to do more fun stuff, like writing and doing the odd video.

As usual I’ll mention some of the other anniversaries that will happen throughout this year.

  • In July I will hit the big five zero.
  • 24 years working with Oracle technology in August. (August 1995)
  • 19 years doing my website in July. (Original name: 03 July 2000 or Current name: 31 August 2001)
  • 14 years blogging in June. (15 June 2005)
  • 13 years on the Oracle ACE Program. (01 April 2006)
  • A combined 2 years as an Oracle Developer Champion, now renamed to Oracle Groundbreaker Ambassador. (21 June 2017)

I thought it would be fun to do a little time travel and look at the website over the years. There were a few really bizarre things I tried out in the early days, including a Gothic horror theme, but I don’t have a record of them and the Way Back Machine only goes back to 2001. You know you are old when the Way Back Machine can’t go that far back! πŸ™‚

So skipping the first year of existence and starting in 2001 the site looked like this.


This was still using the old name before I switched to the current name and URL.

Later in 2001 I started putting the latest articles on the front page and the menu includes link to my Oracle 9i articles. Bleeding edge! πŸ™‚

Things stayed pretty similar looking until 2006, where a new column was added to the front page. I put a rating system in place for the articles, but didn’t know how to stop the search engine spiders from clicking them, so pretty much everything got something like a 2.5 star rating. I quickly removed that and salvaged what little pride I had left.

In 2010 I tried to clean up the look of the site a lot. I removed the left had menu bar and used tabs and quick links instead. I think this was the beginning of the site looking a little more like it does today.

In 2011 I got a bit sick of the washed out colours and increased the contrast. The basic layout is the same though.

Things stayed pretty much the same until 2015, when I switched the site over to use Bootstrap 3. Prior to this I was forever tweaking things for browser compatibility, and having a responsive design was way beyond my meagre web skills. Bootstrap solved loads of problems for me.

The upgrade to Bootstrap 4 a few days ago made some slight changes, but I’m guessing hardly anyone would notice.

This time next year, the site will look … exactly the same. πŸ™‚

Cheers

Tim…

General Website News

Hopefully you won’t have noticed, but there have been a few changes to the website over the last week.

I started the process of moving to Bootstrap 4 and FontAwesome 5 when they were released, but kind-of lost momentum. This stuff is a “necessary evil”, rather than something I’m actively interested in. A couple of early trials proved it wasn’t just a case of using the new versions. I had got about 90% of the way there, but couldn’t force myself to complete the last bit.

Recently I had some advice from a couple of people at work who know more about this sort of thing than me. They quickly pointed out some glaringly obvious flaws in what I was doing, which focused me somewhat. I finally bit the bullet over the weekend and flipped to the new versions. There were a few “interesting” things along the way, including me forgetting to style CODE and PRE tags, which are kind-of important for a website that is almost entirely about code samples. πŸ™‚

I’m sure there will be tweaks over the coming weeks, but I think it’s sorted now. I’m guessing if I hadn’t mentioned it, most people wouldn’t know it had happened. πŸ™‚

Much as this stuff is “not my thing”, but it is good to keep an eye on how things change over time. I now know enough to know I don’t know enough though… πŸ™‚

Cheers

Tim…

2018 : A Year in Review

What a strange year this has been for me from a technology perspective!

The Good

Lots of good things have happened over the year.

  • I did presentations at 15 separate tech events, as well as a talk to students at a local university. I do some talks at work too, but you can’t really count that. Even though I had some drama at some of the conferences, the presentations went well for the most part.
  • I was one of a group of people named as an “Oracle Code One Star” at Oracle Code One 2018, based on the speaker evaluations from last year’s Java One conference.
  • I got a Lifetime Achievement Award at UKOUG Tech18. This sounds a bit like being put out to pasture, but it’s just another speaker award based on the speaker evaluations from UKOUG Tech 17. You can only win three awards, so your third is called a lifetime achievement award, and you aren’t allowed in the race in following years.
  • I wrote over 150 blog posts, which averages at about one every 2.5 days. That sounds like a lot, considering I feel like I’ve not had much time to write this year.
  • I wrote over 90 articles for the website, which is more than one every 4 days. That also sounds like a lot. I just checked and in the last 18.5 years I’ve averaged more than one article a week. Crazy.
  • I’ve been putting a bunch of stuff on GitHub. It’s all stuff I’m messing with, as opposed to “real projects”, but it feels nice.

The Bad and the Ugly

Followers of the blog know this has been a tough year for me, because I keep moaning about it in posts like this.

When I’m travelling I pretty much write a daily diary on the blog, which reads like, “Which country did Tim puke in today?” I can’t have another year like this year.

Work has been hard this year, and will continue to be for the foreseeable future. I feel like I’m trapped in an abusive relationship with work. There are some big projects happening over the coming year and cruising is not an option. I’m not really sure how I’m going to cope. Time will tell I guess.

Next Year

Not resolutions as such, but some things I am thinking about for next year.

  • I’ve got to sort out my crappy lifestyle a bit. I’ve let everything just go to wrack and ruin this year and it shows both mentally and physically. I’m convinced it’s a big factor in the way this year has gone. I’m not going to make any rash promises, because I know me, but if I can just tune in again things might get better.
  • I’ve turned down a few conferences already for 2019. I will still be doing some, but I’m not sure how many. My confidence has hit rock-bottom and I just need something to dig me out of this funk. I tried to muscle through it this year, and it’s caused more harm than good.
  • It would be nice to do some YouTube videos again. I keep meaning to, but similar to the conference presentations, I’ve lost my mojo. I have no goals as far as numbers are concerned, but it would be nice to think this time next year I can say I’ve done some. At the moment, I’m enjoying putting together Fortnite game play videos for nephew #2 and nephew #1 has started to use my GoPro to record his downhill mountain biking, so I’ve done the first of what might be many of those for him.
  • As far as the website goes, it’s more of the same. Having some time over Christmas has allowed me to do some more learning and writing and I just feel more positive about things. It feels like getting back to my roots.
  • Work? It’s the classic case of you can work hard, or you can work long, but you can’t do both. Like a number of other people the days are getting longer and longer, but the backlog is not getting any shorter. I’ve just got to push the keyboard away and leave. It will all be there in the morning and I’ll be in a better position to deal with it.

Happy New Year everyone!

Cheers

Tim…

It’s not all about you!

I want to start with a couple of examples.

A few years ago Oracle released the Exadata Express Cloud Service and I really didn’t get it. I mean I knew what it was, a managed cloud service based on a PDB on an Exadata, but I just couldn’t see it being of any use to me. Of course, big mouth that I am, I said as much. Then other people in the room that weren’t DBAs started showing some interest in the service and I thought to myself, “Oh, it’s not all about you!” πŸ™‚

I had a similar experience about something mentioned during the ACE briefing yesterday. A specific feature that may or may not be discussed at OOW18 was presented to us. Many of the DBAs in the room got super intense about it, and I could feel myself making lists of possible problems and questions I needed to ask, then Simon sitting next to me said something like, that sounds really powerful. Once again I had brought all my baggage with me and couldn’t give things a fair hearing. I was already making judgements before I had even heard all the facts and seen it in action. What’s more, even if I decided it wasn’t for me, that doesn’t mean it’s true for everyone else.

As you may know,Β Oracle Database 18c XE has been released. The news was greeted by a number of different reactions. Some were excited about the release, while some were concerned about some of the “missing bits”. I understand where they are coming from, because I am often in this position also, but I wrote a tweet that said,

“People who use XE:

– People who want a smallish and functional Oracle DB for free in production.

– People learning, teaching, training. Options would be nice, but not essential.

– Professionals who have access to EE+Options, and want XE to have everything. :)”

I hope people didn’t take offence to that, because as I’ve explained before I also fall into this trap too. I agree there will be use cases that are affected by what is, and is not in this edition, but maybe those are not applicable to everyone?

You will see a bunch of stuff announced at OOW18 and Code One this week. Before you go off the deep end, ask yourself if it is actually intended for a user like you, and if you think there is a section of the market that will welcome it, even if you don’t?

Having said all that, I reserve the right to fly off the handle at stuff and completely ignore my own advice… Do as I say, not as I do. πŸ™‚

Cheers

Tim…

PS. It is all about me really! πŸ™‚