Sep 28: OOW 2014: ACE Director Briefing
Disclosure: I'm attending Openworld at the invitation of the OTN ACE Director program who are paying for my flights, hotel and conference fee. My employer has helpfully let me attend on work time, as well as sending other team mates because they recognise the educational value of attending. Despite that, all of the opinions expressed in these posts are, as usual, all my own.
The first day of the ACE D briefing was a bit of a wipe-out for me as I had so much catching up on bits and pieces of work and personal email to do, having arrived very late the previous night, although I still managed to spend some valuable time catching up with friends of the Oak and non-Oak variety as well as hearing some useful info from various Product Managers. I was gutted to have missed Thomas Kurian's briefing session because, as I heard later, it was as splendid as usual. I think some of the enjoyment comes from people's fascination with how on top of things he is, talking at all sorts of technical and non-technical levels over a very wide portfolio. That's pretty much how I remember the last few briefings.
Despite the inevitable arrival of jet lag screwing up my sleep, I've been able to enjoy day two much more (once I'd absorbed some light-hearted wind-ups about my disappearing act). Today was always going to be the most enjoyable for me anyway as the agenda was more database-centric.
It kicked off with a session on the current state of play of MySQL which I must admit I've almost forgotten about (conspiracy theorists will enjoy that) but seems to be ticking along quite nicely with incremental performance and functionality improvements although the presenters were keen to point out that MySQLs forte is not it's functionality so much as it's ubiquity in the web area, given it's part of the LAMP stack. Like a lot of the presentations, it might not have been about something I use day to day but was very enjoyable keeping in touch with other technologies.
Next was an informal conversation with Bob Evans, the Chief Communications Officer, which covered a wide variety of subjects with the usual direct and critical approach I've come to expect from the ACE Directors in attendance (you might be surprised!), raising concerns about the interface between Oracle Sales and their shared customers. I was disappointed to hear that there seems to be a pattern of scheduling local sales events at the same time as Oracle ACE tour events. Seems pretty daft to me. (Another one for the conspiracy theorists, I suppose.)
Then Gene Eun gave us an update on the Oracle Database Cloud Service. Although I still feel Oracle are way behind the curve on this, I don't think that necessarily means they can't make up ground, as they have in the past, but I think the most important message for me was a reinforcement of an answer to a question I asked last year. There's no reason why people can't use the same technology to run their own on-premise cloud and, working in Finance as I seem to have done for a while, the most realistic implementations I can imagine are hybrids of onsite and offsite infrastructure to cope with regulatory requirements whilst still gaining the benefits of offsite deployment where that makes most sense.
I didn't spend so much time drinking coffee in the Oracle canteens this year, but I did manage to have an enjoyable catch-up with Uri Shaft, a true development geek who always has interesting thoughts both on those technologies he is or has been involved with, but also other development areas that he has nothing to do with! Never a man short on opinions on software and a truly nice guy. Sadly, the regular JB catch-up no longer exists and that Maria Colgan moves in entirely different circles these days! (That would be a joke, folks, and I'm looking forward to light refreshments and chat when she's in Singapore soon.)
Speaking of Maria, she was part of the presentation team for the two hour Oracle Database Development Update, which is one of the key sessions for most attendees. Penny Avril and Maria Colgan kicked off with an all-too-short session discussing release plans and a little about In-Memory Option but I was left with the feeling that, having put so much work into getting the In-Memory stuff ready, it's now a case of consolidating the work and delivering product. i.e. I didn't notice any earth-shattering announcements in the database area but I suppose last year made up for that!
So most of the session was focused on two non-RDBMS areas. George Lumpkin on documents in the database and JSON stuff which was one of those - interesting but not something I'm likely to work with for a while presentations.
Dan McLary was almost certainly the speaker of the day as he delved into Oracle's BigData/Hadoop offering in good detail but with passion and a refreshing honesty about where Oracle fit into this field which still managed to be very positive about where Oracle are taking it. As he pointed out, the combination of being able to query anywhere (different data sources and technologies) with the functional richness of Oracle's SQL implementation is likely to be a pretty compelling offering.
It was an afternoon full of good presenters likely to keep the jet-lagged awake (although both Connor McDonald and I were struggling badly by this stage) like David Peake who covered Apex and a new website - Learning SQL - to help people, erm, learn SQL. I think we'll be hearing more about this in the upcoming week.
Wim Coekaerts is always popular with a small chunk of the ACED crowd and was again with his usual Linux and VM update, an informal conversation delivered without notes or slides which hit mainly on the areas that the attendees wanted to discuss. In a neat piece of agenda symmetry, he pointed out the presence of DTrace probes for MySQL running on OEL, as he discussed in his recent blog post.
By now we were running late and beers were beckoning, so Steve Feuerstein did a great job of just about keeping people going with his discussion of Oracle's attempts to reengage and energise the traditional Oracle SQL and PL/SQL technologies we know and love with a new (and quite possibly younger!) audience - YesSQL! Keep an eye out for what is likely to be a fun and different session with Steven and Tom Kyte and other special guests at 18:30 on Monday in Moscone South 103.
... and with that all wrapped up, it was time for beers and the bus into the city. The hotel check-in wasn't the car crash it usually is, but by the time it was all done and dusted there was just time for a few more drinks and since then it has been sleep, sleep, sleep for me
The usual thanks to the OTN team for putting together a varied and interesting briefing, which must be a really tough task when the Dev folks are all up to their eyebrows preparing for next week. Great work!
I'm hoping just an hour or two more and I'll be bright and breezy for Sunday, the first proper conference day. With my apparently new-found energy and dashing good looks (courtesy of Singapore), I'm expecting the week to be a good one!
Jun 10: blogs.oracle.com ... part 2
The other part of Kevin's blog that was very relevant to my recent musings was the section titled 'Aristocracy or Meritocracy'. He talks about the close contact he enjoys with some of the techies at Oracle Corp.
"These days when I find myself sitting with Vice Presidents or members of the technical staff in Oracle Server Technologies Division (ST) or doing something like writing a jointly produced whitepaper with ST (as I am right now on a cool Oracle11g feature) ..."
I'd already been thinking about this in the light of Brian Duff's blog, which encouraged similar activity.
"We need to connect the bloggers outside Oracle (the number of whom has grown enormously over the last few years) who care about our products with the engineers inside Oracle who care about and build those products."
Brian's blog had come after my original rant and I'd already been questioning this type of statement I made there. (There were a few similar examples.)
"Maybe I'm being harsh, but the world is full of largely uncritical writers enjoying their travel expenses and free drinks whilst raving about how release blah-point-blah will change the business landscape or perfume X will change your life."
I think Brian's argument is much better than mine, but I just have a degree of paranoia about the dangers of 'getting into bed' with any large company. Then I thought it over some more, discussed it with Mark Rittman quite a bit in the pub, and it occurred to me that there are several leading lights in the community who I have loads of respect for who receive invitations from Oracle including travelling expenses. Am I suggesting that they say whatever Oracle or some other company wants them to say?
No, of course not. What matters most here is the attitude of the recipient. Do I think Kevin's going to wax lyrical about the current implementation of ASM because he knows the lead engineer? Is Jonathan Lewis going to say the Cost Based Optimiser is flawless because Oracle pay him to record a few seminars; or claim that Method R is the only performance tuning methodology because he presents at Hotsos? Of course not, because I trust them as individuals. In fact, I've never found the technical people who work for Oracle to be dishonest corporate mouth-pieces!
I have a lot to learn about how to cope with such invitations, they're still new and only occasional, but at least there are examples out there to learn from and I'm genuinely grateful for that.
In the end, I think if the software engineers in Oracle, Microsoft, Sun or wherever want to engage people in the community then, fine, as long as everyone maintains their integrity. Some of my favourite moments attending conferences have been the ability to discuss Statspack or AWR with the people who work on them and my cynicism shouldn't stand in the way of that. In the end, I am pretty keen on Oracle's software. It's one of the reasons I'm such a big fan of strong user groups. As long as Oracle have some techies visiting us (which they do) and not just marketing people (which I can understand) then their contribution is more than welcome.
I also shouldn't be so distrusting of people. I blame it on the parents!
You know what this is really about though, right? I need a paid holiday to San Francisco one day
Switching track a little, what of this statement from Kevin?
"When I think about it, it seems my blog more than deserves at least a link from blogs.oracle.com, the bigger question is what criteria goes into that blogroll? Is it aristocracy, or meritocracy?"
Regular readers will know that I've often raised the same question. But, if we're going to question the integrity of the blogs.oracle.com 'selection process' then, while we're at it, we'll have to question the Oracle ACE process as well as the Oak Table Network (the OTN in the title of part 1 of this blog, not Technet!). All of these have their own process and as far as I can tell, none of them have easily measurable criteria. There's always a human element so they can all be open to misinterpretation, abuse, simple cock-ups and so on.
Maybe the safest thing is not to give *any* of these things too much credence? I'm not turning my nose up at any of them and they've been positive and welcome invitations but, really, don't you think there are tons of people out there who are just as qualified but people just don't know who they are yet?
Still, my mum doesn't know them either, she still thinks the Oracle ACE award is pretty and I'm not going to shatter her illusions
Good, I feel better now. It might not be obvious but I'm feeling less cynical than normal. Sadly, some main fuses have just blown, so it looks like it'll be Sunday house maintenance after all, rather than mucking around with Oracle. Oh, well, that technical stuff will be along shortly ...
Many of you will remember the ongoing shenanigans around Justin Kestelyn's complaints about how Oracle is perceived by the Web 2.0 community. I had my little rant and, having thought it through for longer and talked to a few friends, had already been planning on revisiting the subject soon with some new thoughts. (This could take a while, so I might spread it over two parts.)
Then I noticed a comment on a posting about an Oracle Ace award from Kevin Closson a couple of days ago.
"Hell, I'm still trying to figure out why they yanked my blog ref from blogs.oracle.com"
I suggested Kevin get in touch with OTN but he was right to point out that it's not entirely obvious who you would contact if you want to raise something like this. In the end, Kevin blogged about it and he's on there now. Whatever the criteria for inclusion might be, it's blindingly obvious that Kevin meets them.
He was labelled a 'DBA' at first, but I see that's been changed to 'Architect' now. Personally, as a DBA, I thought the DBA moniker was an unexpected promotion for him and Mogens Norgaard! Anyway, enough of the fun, there are some important issues here in Kevin's genuinely interesting blog. I'm going to deal with his blog bottom-to-top, because I feel like it!
So, the popularity contest ...
What does that Technorati sample in Kevin's blog say to me? In the end, the natural democracy (anarchy?) of the net will win through. Because both Jonathan Lewis and Kevin are writing interesting things that people want to read and then tell their friends and colleagues about, they'll become popular quite naturally and, as Kevin points out, very quickly. Being on blogs.oracle.com or otnsemanticweb might bring in a few readers here and there, but I suspect word of mouth is more important. The public get what the public want (even if it happens to be to their detriment sometimes) and the Oracle community can recognise when someone knows what they're talking about. Who's a better judge of Kevin's community contribution - OTN or the community at large?
Who really cares if your blog is included on blogs.oracle.com or not? People are never going to believe this, but I can only tell you the truth. I'm spectacularly uninterested in my Technorati 'ranking'. The only time I'm really aware of it is when Andy C mentions this stuff occasionally - that man is obsessive! Is it really so weird to just write what you want to write, have a good time doing it and occasionally help someone a little bit (although I tend to leave that to others who do the job better)? It's what millions of 'Indie' bands do, as well as the more natural bed-fellows of bloggers - fanzine writers. They write for their own little publications because they like it that way and don't *want* a job with 'Rolling Stone' or the 'NME'.
Actually, I have a theory about this. Maybe part of the reason I'm within a million miles of the 'Top 10' of Oracle blogs is precisely because I *don't* care too much? There's a weird, contrary logic in there somewhere. The only action I can ever remember taking to promote this blog was to get syndicated on orablogs.com and if there's anyone who really got this community going, it was Brian Duff. Otherwise people might never have known about some of the blogs that were out there.
There's only one thing I worry about with my blog - the lack of technical content - and I have plans to rectify that.
Even that's interesting, though, because maybe the reason people read this blog is precisely because it doesn't have the 'authority' or 'technical content' of other blogs, but because everyone just wants a bit of fluff! (Or should that be 'fur'?) As Kevin finishes ....
" Now, just to put things into perspective, consider a true Web 2.0 phenomenon: I CAN HAS CHEEZBURGER. This site—which has a Technorati authority of 5,025 and rank of 98—is proof positive that the Internet and social networking are as mainstream as Pet Trusts(for real), designer pet supplies, fluffy with a sniffle, pets with stress and of course Barbi with a scooper."
Precisely. Main-stream *and* uncontrolled!
Yeah, I'm going to need another blog posting for this subject ...
P.S. I should have mentioned this before. I'm working at a big finance company with no time during the day to blog, deal with personal email or respond to blog comments. So, if it takes a while for me to catch up with those things, please don't be offended, I have normal life to deal with too