jump to navigation

Friday Philosophy – When the Job Meets Real Life August 15, 2009

Posted by mwidlake in Private Life.
Tags: ,
1 comment so far

For my Friday Philosophy this week, I’m going way off topic. I’m straying into non-work life. Actually, let’s be accurate, I’m wading deep into personal life. If you want to know about Oracle mechanics, this ain’t the post for you.

It’s been a trying week this week, so much so that I have not posted for a few days – and I suspect I won’t post at all next week. About two hours after completing my last post on Tuesday, my wife called me to let me know my mum had been taken into hospital. My mother had developed some breathing difficulties, in that she’d forgotten completely how to do it.

So, after tube/train/drive across the country I found myself sat in an intensive care unit with my Brother, wondering how in heck so many tubes can be attached to such a small person as my mother, but they managed it. All of this medical monitoring stuff is attached to computers, many with readouts.

I have a couple of advantages over most people in these situations. I studied biology at University and I worked either within or along side the NHS for 7 or 8 years, on hospital patient systems. So I understand a bit about all the equipment that is used and the data it produces.

What has this to do with the world of Oracle Performance? Not an awful lot. Except for one thing.

Sometimes, though I love what I do for a living and find solving performance problems stimulating and satisfying, I question “what is the point” in the whole real-world situation. I was sat there at the side of my mother’s bed, exchanging idle chat and some black humour with my brother {it’s the way our brains are wired, I blame my Mum}. Suddenly I stopped listening to my brother. The pattern had changed. The graphs had shifted and the figures had altered on the screens attached to the equipment monitoring my mother. I’d picked this up as I was used to watching performance graphs for computer systems. My brother was oblivious. Well what a surprise, an IT skill that turns out to be useful in the real world. Spotting graph/pattern changes.

As it turns out, the nursing staff had spotted these anomolous graphs too, glanced over, and realised it was just “one of those things”. Status quo was restored about 1 minute and 3 pints of my sweat later.

So why do I think my ability to spot a change in “performance graphs” and scare myself so deeply is a good thing? Because at least I had a feel for what was going on and I felt less clueless and helpless.

I’ve looke back on this and come to an even more shocking thought. There is a management technique that helps in real life. I have been a manager and I was surrounded by experts in their field. I was sat in a real-world situation, surrounded by experts in their field. When they did not react to the changed pattern on my mother’s monitors, I was reassured that it was not serious. So maybe some management skills have other uses too. I’ll remember that the next time someone tells me all management skills are bunkum. {But it probably still holds that most Managers are Bunkum :-) }

I wish that more IT managers could treat their staff this way. If the DBA team
{or Sys admin team, or network team} do not respond to the graphs as a sign of impending doom, then it probably ain’t impending doom, so trust them.

And of course the other reason I’ve blogged about this is it’s an outlet to a certain amount of trepidation about the future. Maybe I should have stuck to Biology rather than IT. *sigh*.

Unhelpful “helpful” people June 9, 2009

Posted by mwidlake in Management, Perceptions.
Tags: ,
11 comments

I keep meaning to getting back to more technical blogs but I need to spend some time sorting it out first, and something has just bugged the hell out of me, so another “wordy” one today.

Richard Foote has gone back to explaining the basics of indexes and the CBO, which if you are new to CBO or indexes, hot-foote {sorry} it over there immediately and check it out. He is a brilliant teacher.

Near the start, he has a link to someone on one of the OTN forums who is stating the Cost Based Optimiser sucks. I won’t repeat the link. No, sod it, I WILL repeat the link. Here it is. It might elevate the page in google’s scoring but what the heck.

This person’s rather poor outlook on the CBO did not bother me, nor the fact that he is, in my opinion, wrong {he suggests using the rule hint on oracle 10, which is an option but is not, in my opinion, a mighty good idea as (a) who now knows the rules of the Rule Based Optimizer and (b) the hint will be ignored if you are using most new features added since 8, such as bitmap indexes or IOTs or partitioning. It might {and I have no proof for this} cause the feature not understood by the RBO to not be used, so maybe ignoring a nice bitmap index or function based index. Oh, and (c), if you have good stats the CBO usually wins.}.

What irritated me was his/her high-handed and abusive posting. That really annoys me. Then I thought “no, we all lose our temper sometimes and the person they are having a pop at did kind of ask for it”. But because I think that being abusive or condescending on forums is such bad behaviour, I dug a little into the other postings by this person.

Some were helpful. Many were simply links back to other pages or to some front end to Google the person’s question. And several, many, were abusive. Along the lines of “Why are you so stupid”; “If you can’t be bothered reading the manual you don’t deserve help”; “I would not employ you as you are a moron”. You get the idea?

It is a big problem with forums, and actually also in the work place (and occasionally, sadly, at meetings and conference). People being condescending, antagonistic and demeaning to others who do not know what they, the Mighty Brain, knows, who seem to Mighty Brain to not be trying quite as hard as they could or are seemingly asking something obvious.

OK, if it is obvious, give the answer. It might be that you, oh Mighty Brain, did not understand the question. OK, they maybe are not trying hard enough. Suggest to them where they could look, maybe this person has 3 managers breathing down their necks and they just really, really want an expert opinion now as they are not sure which of the seven opinions in google to trust. And Mighty Brain, unless you were born with your knowledge placed in your head by God, as a special force on this earth, you didn’t know what this “moron” does not know at one time. Someone told you or, vary rarely, you worked it out for yourself.

The truly, blood-boilingly, unjust thing about Mighty Brain? They are so sure of their own towering knowledge that they can’t see that they are often wrong.  I can’t think of any Oracle Expert who is widely accepted by their peers who is a “Mighty Brain”. In fact, a common trait of the very best practitioners and teachers (of any subject, not just IT) is that they are always willing to admit they do not know and to learn.

I did look for a way to ask for this particular Mighty Brain to be barred from the forum, but then I just decided to vent my spleen on my blog and have a glass of wine.

I hope that person trips over and really cracks their shins or something. Nothing permanent, just something incredibly painful. Grrrrrr.

Update – Jonanthan Lewis has commented to let me know that this “unskilled and unaware” {what a brilliant phrase} is the Dunning-Kruger effect. The link got filtered out by the comment mechanism, so I’ve posted it {well, maybe a similar one} here. Thanks Jonathan.

Fear of Databases May 29, 2009

Posted by mwidlake in Management, Perceptions.
Tags: , ,
4 comments

“It’s all in the database!”

I’m sure most of you (if you are in the UK, I must remember that the web is a world spanning medium) have seen the adverts by the wonderful TV Licencing authority or the DVLA. If not they go something like:

“We keep records” {background music}
“We know if you have paid…or not.” {Music become more sinister}
We will find you, you cannot hide” {more affirmative music}
“It’s all in the database” {doom-laden musical flourish}

OK, maybe I lay it on a bit with the music.

Now, as a database professional, I see “it’s all in the database” as a good thing. With luck it will be a well designed database with referrential integrity and all nicely validated.

Nearly all news media stories about actual or perceived threats to electronic privacy also site “The Database” as the core.
“They {who?} will hold all your web searches in a vast Database”.
” A laptop holding a Database of 1 million double glazing customers has been stolen”. I bet it was actually 10 thousand and in a spreadsheet.

It’s getting to the point where I don’t feel comfortable telling people I meet outside of the IT world that I am a database expert. Databases are hardly ever now seen in a good light, they seem to be linked only to things bad and Orwellian.

The Database is also often cited when companies get things wrong for their customers. You ring up to complain about some aspect of non-service and are often told “Oh, it doesn’t agree with you in the Database” or “the Database has got it wrong”. No it hasn’t, the person putting the information in the database got it wrong. I’ve been in the unusual situation of being told a lie where the database was given as the cause but I had access to that database. So I checked and the database was fine. It was being used as a convenient and much maligned excuse.

Very little is mentioned of the beneficial uses of databases.
For most of us our salary is processed via databases and it is a lot cheaper and more reliable than having half a hundred pay clerks doing it manually in pen and ink.
Databases are used to hold or index much of that vast quantity of stuff that you can search for on the net. Even the useful stuff on Klingons.
I for one would welcome a UK-wide database holding my basic medical details so that when I go to my GP or hospital, they do not need my memory (and in fact my consciousness) to tell them my medical past. If I have an allergy to a common drug I damned well want all medical people to know that before they put 10cc of the stuff into my veins.

And to wrap up my bad-tempered tirad, I now find it particularly tricky to talk about what I still feel is my most significant achievement in IT, namely an 80TB Database of genetic information. Without getting into the topic of Bioethics, which is beyond the scope of this blog, Genetics and a lot of biological stuff is now painted grey, if not deep, murkey, scary Red by the media. I tell John down the pub that I created a huge genetics database, he is sure I am either working on a secret government project to know all about his inner workings or some evil company combining tomatoes and monkeys into some awful, new thing that {and he has seen the movies to prove this} in all likelihood will turn into a zombie killer, escape and do for mankind.

Maybe I’ll just tell people I shoplift for a living, it might be more socially acceptable than being involved in Databases or Genetics.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 160 other followers