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!” 🙂

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, 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. 🙂

Cheers

Tim…

PS. It is all about me really! 🙂

Stolen Articles : Why do you make such a big deal about it?

If you’ve followed me for any amount of time, you will know I get pretty uptight about people stealing my stuff. When I point it out I will often get some comeback from people asking why I make such a fuss about it. Here’s why.

Let me start by saying I am not delusional about what I do. I don’t think any one article in isolation is so special compared to all the other stuff out there. There are a lot of people that do what I do. It’s hard to be objective about yourself, but I think I have a few things going for me.

  • I’m pretty good at deciding what not to include in an article. Despite what a lot of people say, the Oracle documentation is good. The problem is there is much more detail than most people need for their day-to-day job. I think what I do pretty well is remove a lot of the extra stuff and make it seem less daunting, whilst giving links to the docs for those that want to dig deeper.
  • I try to include small simple copy/paste examples to demonstrate what I am saying. This is completely down to the influence of people like Tom Kyte. I did not invent this style.
  • I keep revising articles to try to improve them. It is rare something on the website goes live and is never touched again.
  • Other people have come and gone. I’ve consistently invested in my skill set (23+ years) and my website (18+ years).

Every article is what I (Tim Hall) think is important about the feature. Every blog post is my (Tim Hall’s) perspective on the issue. There is a bit of me, for better or for worse, in everything that goes out there. Over the years there have been plenty of people who have offered to write for me. I could easily have, and probably should have, turned this into a site that required almost none of my time, had a bigger scope and probably made a lot of money. Instead it is just me and what I’ve created.

I guess the best analogy would be the difference between someone stealing a car you’ve bought, compared with someone stealing a car you’ve spent years restoring. Both are bad, but the second one is gonna feel a lot worse as it feels personal.

With all that in mind, when someone takes something I’ve spent my time to produce and in a few seconds publishes it on their website I get pretty angry. Despite what you might think, I don’t mention every incident. Most get dealt with in private, but occasionally I go supernova and take to twitter. 🙂

So that’s it. That’s why you sometimes see me go ballistic over someone nicking some crappy article. 🙂

Cheers

Tim…

Debugging Code : Problem Solving Revisited

A couple of incidents/discussions happened recently that made me think about this topic again. Here are some random thoughts on a subject that should definitely not be approached in a random manner. 🙂

Systematic Approaches Pay Off

I know it is really boring, but a systematic and meticulous approach will always yield better results than randomly jumping at stuff. I’ve discussed this before here.

It’s easy to become focused on what *you know* is the problem, just because of a gut feeling, without any supporting evidence. When you eventually find the real issue, you feel a bit stupid for looking at the wrong thing for so long.

Sometimes you end up focusing on the symptom, not the root cause. If I do this it all works again. Great! Then the same problem happens the next day. Before you know it you have a bunch of voodoo operational tasks to keep the system running, with nobody knowing how and why it works.

It really does pay to take a scientific approach to fixing things.

A Leap of Faith

Over time you get to spot patterns, which will sometimes allow you to jump straight to the root cause of a problem without doing the necessary legwork. There is no problem doing this, provided you are willing to accept it won’t always pay off, and you don’t become controlled by your hunches. You have to know when to accept your hunch could be wrong, and take a step back to a more meticulous approach.

This is not a contradiction of the first point. It’s something that you will learn to do because of prolonged use of a systematic approach. Be careful when working with more experienced people, as it is easy to believe their seemingly random approach to problem solving is just that. Random.

I mentioned this here.

Instrument Everything

I can’t emphasise enough how important instrumentation is.

You should be able to determine what went wrong just by looking at the instrumentation, without having to know or look at the code. In my opinion if you are doing it correctly, non-developers should be able to figure it out from your instrumentation.

We have a perfect example of this in Oracle. I have never seen any source code for the database, but I can diagnose and fix issues by using the instrumentation built into that code. Things like SQL TraceReal-Time SQL Monitoring, ASH, AWR, ADDM are all possible because of instrumentation in the code.

The problem with Googling solutions is you often see cut-down code examples, which can promote bad programming practices. I have almost no instrumentation in the examples on my website. That’s because I’m trying to keep them small and lightweight. I don’t want you to have to install a bunch of tracing, logging and unit testing packages before you paste in a 10 line bit of example code. That doesn’t mean those things are not important in your real solutions. It’s all about context.

A Fresh Pair of Eyes

Your brain is a weird thing. You work on something and get nowhere. You walk away and do something completely different and you get a flash of inspiration. All that time your brain has been churning it over and come up with the solution. Sometimes walking away is enough to solve the problem.

You can also call someone in to help you. Talking through the problem can help for a couple of reasons.

  1. They don’t have the mental baggage you have, so they might spot something obvious you are refusing to see. 🙂
  2. In explaining the issue to them, you are ordering your thoughts and effectively explaining it to yourself. The net result is you sometimes answer the question for yourself. This is one of the reasons why you should learn to ask questions properly, especially on forums. In formulating the proper question, you may answer the question for yourself.

I wrote about the second point here.

Cheers

Tim…

Living the Dream

I was watching a rerun of X Factor at my brother’s house at the weekend. Most of the time I was wincing at all the bum notes sung by the people the judges were saying were fantastic, or wincing at everyone who was doing it for their { mom | dad | grandma | grandad | dead parrot } in an attempt to get me emotionally invested. Apart from all that cringe, the other thing I noticed was people saying things like,

“This is my dream!”

This really gets on my nerves because invariably they’ve done nothing to make their dream become a reality, other than turn up to audition on the day. They haven’t put in the hours practising their craft. They’ve not gone out looking for constructive criticism, then using that to improve. They’ve not tried to get some training to perfect their skills. They’ve just turned up thinking that singing a bunch of off key runs will make everyone think they are Mariah.

Getting good at anything takes time and effort. If you enjoy it, you might not notice how much effort you’ve put in, but that doesn’t negate the effort you’ve put in. We always hear people speaking about natural talent, but invariably you see those “winners” put in the effort, as well as having natural gifts.

I remember hearing someone saying you should praise effort, not results. From my experience, life is a grind and the people who succeed are the people that are prepared to work hard. Natural talent doesn’t go that far in life.

Next time you hear someone talk about “their dream”, ask them what they’ve done to make it a reality. If they’ve done nothing, I suggest you tell them they are full of shit and need to get off their lazy ass and make it a reality!

Cheers

Tim…

Facebook : My Recent Experience

Here’s a little story of what has happened to me recently on Facebook.

First a little history lesson. For a long time I had an extremely small list of friends on Facebook. I would only accept friend requests from people I really knew, like IRL friends and a few work colleagues. That was it. No Oracle people were allowed… The wife has a rule that only people she would let stay in her house are friends on Facebook. Nobody is allowed in my house, so my definition had to be a little different than that.

Some time ago I changed my stance on Facebook friends and started to accept other people, mostly assigning them to the “Restricted” list, and so it went on for some time.

Recently I tweeted that I was getting a lot of friend requests and wondered what was going on. I figured I have a lot of readers, so it’s natural people would reach out, and I didn’t think to much about it. After a while I started to get some really odd things happen, so I did a little digging and found some rather “interesting” people in my friend list. I don’t really want to say more about it than that.

The long and short of it was I decided to remove several thousand friends and I’ve returned to something close to my original policy. I’m sorry if you are a decent person and feel offended that I have unfriended you, but if I don’t really know you, that’s the way it is.

By the way, Facebook used to let you mass delete friends, but that is no longer possible. What’s more, if you delete a lot of them at once they lock certain features of your account. I had to write to Facebook to explain what I was doing and why before they would let me unfriend people again. I know it’s an automatic check for suspicious behaviour, but it would be nice if they spent more effort checking what people are saying and doing on their platform…

Cheers

Tim…

Midlife Crisis : Tough Year So Far…

I wrote this post earlier in the year, then didn’t publish it because it felt like I was drowning in self pity, but recently I accidentally showed it during a presentation, so I thought I would put it out there… So here goes…

I dislike writing this because I lead a charmed life compared to many people, this is very much “First World Problems”, but we are half way through the year and I’m already thinking I’m cursed…

Work

Work is proving extremely challenging for me. I like to be good at stuff, but more importantly I hate being bad at stuff. At the moment I’m doing so many different things at work I feel like my day is a massive pile of mediocrity, and that is really hard on my ego.

I’m in no different a position to many DBAs and developers out there, Googling my way through life, but it’s really quite depressing. The counter to this is I can’t imagine ever being so blinkered as I used to be, back in the days when I considered myself as just an “Oracle specialist”.

This is where the difficulty lies. I don’t see a way forward that I will be happy with. These types of situation where every option comes with a set of bad outcomes fry my brain…

Conferences

There is just something that is not clicking into place for me right now. It’s not a criticism of the events or the people, it’s something to do with me. I’m really daunted in the lead up to the events and although I enjoy the events themselves and interacting with people, I come away with a massive sense of relief when they are over, and then have a bad post-event crash where I just want to stop everything and give up. The post-event crash is not a new thing, but the peaks and troughs seem more exaggerated than before.

It doesn’t matter how much prep I do, it never seems to be enough. I’ve been doing this for over 10 years and I can’t remember feeling this way before. I don’t think it’s anything to do with impostor syndrome, as that has always been there and I came to terms with it a long time ago. People who think they are great are probably too rubbish to realise how much they don’t know. 🙂 I suspect there are a number of factors feeding into this.

Oracle user group conferences are much easier for me, but over the last year I’ve been doing more events that aren’t straight Oracle events, where you don’t have a good handle on the audience before you get there. As a result these events are a lot more daunting for me. Sometimes they work. Sometimes they don’t. I guess it plays into my insecurities about presenting…

Part of the Dev Champion program is about taking you out of your comfort zone. It’s certainly done this, and I know it’s probably good for me, but it doesn’t always feel like it. 🙂

Website

Over the years the website has been the one thing I can always count on to get me out of a funk. I sit down, play with technology and write. Some of it becomes articles. Some of it gets lost in the midst of time. Either way I’ve always felt like I’m having fun when I’m doing it. It doesn’t feel like that at the moment though. The pressure of other stuff encroaching on my time means this is suffering, which in turn makes me put pressure on myself to deliver, which stops it feeling like fun…

Conclusion

So there it is. I’m having a midlife crisis. I have no plan regarding how to fix it, but convention tells me I should go out with a 19 year old gold digger (sorry Debra), buy a drop-top car and/or a motorbike and generally try to act like I’m 20, so people can discuss how sad my behaviour is and laugh about me behind my back… I’m off to do some test drives and install Tinder on my phone…

Cheers

Tim…

PS. Since writing this, but before posting it, I’ve had a conference where things have worked out OK, so I’m hoping my mindset and luck are changing…

PPS. A couple of people encouraged me to release this, because they thought it would be good for people to hear that experienced presenters have all the same problems as newbies. That is definitely true…

Rewriting Old (Crappy) Content

One of the mildly annoying things about writing articles on the internet and blogging is coming across your old articles that are utter crap. 🙂

Something happened at work yesterday and I responded to the person in question with a few quickly typed notes and thought to myself it would make a reasonable “backfill” type article for the website. Nothing interesting and new, but a useful addition for myself, so I could answer the same question in the future with a link, rather than having to type stuff.

So this morning, before I launched into the “new” article, I did a quick search on my site and that was when I found it. I had already written an article on that functionality, but what I had written couldn’t have been more off the mark if I had tried. We are talking moronic levels of wrongness.

So a few hours later and all the evidence is now gone, except for Google’s cache and the Way Back Machine. I’m not going to tell you which article it was because you will compare them and a little piece of me will die. 🙂

I’ve written about my attitude to rewriting content in my writing tips series. I spend a lot of time rewriting old content. If something is factually incorrect you owe it to potential readers to correct it. It also stops you looking like an incredible Muppet! 🙂

Perhaps this afternoon I will get to do something new for a change. 🙂

Cheers

Tim…

You gotta work harder!

If I take a long hard look at the people *I consider* successful, the main thing I notice is they consistently work hard. They have focus and they put in a lot of hours to get what they want. It doesn’t matter what area it is, you can see the same thing time and time again. The people that work hard get the results. The people that don’t typically fail, or at least don’t live up to their potential.

Here are a few quotes from some varied sources.

  • “The harder I work, the luckier I get.” Samuel Goldwyn (possibly)
  • “If you trust in yourself and believe in your dreams and follow your star you’ll still get beaten by people who spent their time working hard and learning things and weren’t so lazy.” Miss Tick (The Wee Free Men, Terry Pratchett)
  • “You want a hot body? You want a Bugatti? You want a Maserati? You better work bitch!” Britney Spears (well, her song writers really)
  • “Work so hard forgot how to vacation.” Post Malone – Congratulations

The IT industry moves so fast you’ve got to stay on the grind or you will fall behind. If you are looking for work-life balance, I don’t think this is the industry for you. That might sound harsh, but I’m not a stupid person and I freely admit to having a no-life approach to this industry and I often feel like I’m sprinting to stand still. I hate to think how people who are not putting in this level of effort feel. Maybe ignorance is bliss…

Over this holiday period I will have had 12.5 working days off and it’s already been a hard grind. I had some goals in mind, which I think I’m going to miss, but it’s not through lack of effort. I don’t really do new years resolutions anymore, but I’m going to keep saying to myself, “You gotta work harder!”

I hope 2018 works out well for everyone, but I’m pretty sure the people who will be the happiest at the end of the year will be the people who have worked the hardest, no matter what they have been working towards…

Good luck everybody!

Cheers

Tim…

Update: It is interesting that when I say work hard, some people assume I mean throw hours mindlessly at stuff. Of course you need to try and work intelligently. When I say work hard, I mean hard. That’s not cruising for endless hours. Part of working hard in my opinion is evaluating your efforts and altering your approach or goals based on that…

Having said that, you do have to throw hours at some stuff to really get to understand it. Learning is like peeling back layers of an onion. After a short time it’s easy to think you know it all. As time progresses you peel back more layers of the onion and you realise there’s even more to know. Many people seem to stop after the first couple of layers because they don’t dedicate the time, then complain about not being good and looking for the quick fixes…

It’s interesting what people consider successful. Notice in the post I said, “*I consider* successful”. We don’t all want the same thing. For you it might be to earn $1 million. For me it might be to write 10 articles on a specific subject. For someone else it might be to perfect their handstand. Depending on what you’re trying to achieve, the approach and time may be different. Don’t judge everyone else by your standards of what success means…

A Test of Common Sense

Imagine you are a couple of window cleaners and you are presented with a glass fronted building like this.

The two doors are electric and will automatically open if anyone, including yourself, approaches them from the inside or outside. Whilst answering the question below, keep in mind this is lunch time, which happens to be the busiest time of the day for people entering and leaving this building.

Which of the following approaches would you choose? (pick only one)

  1. Lock one of the doors. Clean the glass above the locked door. When the water has stopped flooding down unlock the door. Lock the second door. Clean the glass above the locked door. When the water has stopped flooding down unlock the door.
  2. Lock both doors. Clean all the glass. When the water has stopped flooding down unlock both doors.
  3. Come back another time when there aren’t hordes of people trying to get through the doors, and clean the glass using the method outlined in (1), or maybe even (2).
  4. Leave both doors unlocked. Clean the glass above both doors so water is flooding down both of them at the same time. Since you are each standing in front of the doors, they keep opening and some of the water runs into the building.

I think you can guess which one I witnessed today. I truly worry for the future of the human race!

Cheers

Tim…

Bricklayers and DBAs may share the same fate…

A few days ago I was listening to a program on the radio that was discussing the current state of the building trade in the UK.

I wasn’t paying that much attention during the start of the show as they discussed the progress in 3D printing, which is allegedly now being used to produce prefabricated panels for buildings. The suggestion being that 3D printing makes building cheaper, quicker and less labour intensive. Prefabricated buildings have been around for many years in one form or another, so that wasn’t really news, but the 3D printing bit made it sound a bit cooler… 🙂

After extolling the virtues of 3D printing, the program moved on to the impact of all this on the building trade and that’s where it got interesting. To cut a long story short they said this method of building would have a big impact on employment levels in the building trade, saying bricklayers would be a thing of the past. Allegedly the UK building trade and the associated unions are resisting this change, but finance would inevitably make this happen and then what happens to all the builders? Allegedly there is no steer from the building trade, unions or government about how we will cope with the unemployment associated with this shift in the industry, or possible retraining necessary…

You’ll notice I’ve said allegedly a lot, as I don’t know how factual this discussion was, but it was interesting all the same…

So I was sitting in the car thinking, “That sounds familiar!” 🙂 I’ve been talking about the changes in our industry a lot recently. It’s not time to panic, but it’s not sensible to stick your head in the sand and wake up one day to find you are surplus to requirement…

Cheers

Tim…

Update: With reference to a comment, in the UK houses are still predominantly brick built. Offices and high-rise is a different story. 🙂