Ever wonder "what if this database contains my data ?"

Hemant K Chitale asked this pertinent question on the OTN forum the other day. His text in full:

"When you see a forums posting about missing datafiles , errors in recovery, SQLs returning the wrong results because they haven't been correctly written and tested .... etc etc ... do you ever wonder "what if this database contains my data ?". -- as when it seems that the database might be some government database or one at a bank or a financial institution or a utility company ..."

He has closed the thread, because nobody responded. Which is a shame, because it is an interesting question. I think the problem is, people don't use the Community Feedback page regularly, so it's not a good place to try to start a conversation. On the other hand, a discussion on the Oracle Community site seems the perfect place. I hope Hemant won't mind me hijacking his idea.

I'm sure we see more of the worst examples of Oracle practice in the OTN forums because many of the posters are students or beginners. It takes a minimal amount of expertise to find them, whereas you need to know something about the online Oracle community to fetch up at AskTom or Oracle-L. Still it is worrying that there are so many people apparently employed as PL/SQL programmers or DBAs who don't understand the first principles of databases in general and Oracle in particular. Furthermore these people seem to be operating without the safety-net of knowledgeable colleagues and without documentation for their applications.

I wonder how many of these people we have really helped. Sure, we may have answered their specific question, but do they leave the forum with a better understanding of their jobs? I fear not. Building robust, scalable, correct applications requires a level of systemic mentoring that the forums just can't provide. It also requires the confidence to stand up to wrongheaded co-workers and pointed-haired bosses which the posters are ofetn too junior to possess. Still I hope we have taught some of them to try to find an answer in the Oracle manuals before posting a question to the forum.

But as for where my data is, I like to think it resides in databases built and administered by the people who answer the questions :)

Views: 15

Tags: Forum, job

Comment by Joel Garry on May 4, 2009 at 4:20pm
I like to think beautiful actresses lie awake at night dreaming about me :-)

Probably the best one of these db things I ever saw was a post on the old compuserve Oracle forum around 1992. I had been one of the scum contractors dumped when the new technology-clueless director of the gummint office came on up from the ranks. The low level clerk who thought he was some kind of computer expert came on the forum bitching about this Oracle and unix stuff the scum contractors wrote, wanting to replace it with the superior, what was it, dbase II on a PC? I don't even remember, but I did explain a few things he didn't understand, like several dozen people actually needed to share the data, there were actually several man-years worth of reports that were actually used, he needed to read and actually understand the manuals (something a newbie actually could do on O6), and basically all the stuff we still see complaints about in that OTN forum.

More recently, I received an email from my newspaper from the auto-responder that results from a complaint about not getting the paper, from a someone named root. I'm thinking from that that someone didn't configure a php routine correctly, so tried to helpfully respond that this is kind of disturbing for us geeks to get with a spamlike subject, but they seem to have no obvious working admin email from the outside at all. I'm still trying to decide if I should bother helping through their system (as if that would get to the technical team, riiiight), contact one of their reporters, or just publicly laugh at them since they got rid of their reader advocate. I'm tending to lean towards laughter.

From what I've seen, most people want to be good DBA's - look at the few thousand at the big conferences - but most places are not structured to support that. Gummint and large business have some of the best and some of the worst. Just look at some of the horrors on risks.org.


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