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What, me? An OakTable member? August 23, 2010

Posted by mwidlake in Uncategorized.
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The title rather gives it away, but I have been invited to become a member of the OakTable network. For anyone not aware of the OakTable, it is a group of some of the very best Oracle practitioners around and you would recognise many of the names in the group. Most of them also present at conferences around the globe and set up the Oak Table challenge at various of these venues, where they try and address any oracle-based question you might have.

All of them are very bright, all are very knowledgeable.

Which is where I come a little unstuck. Without wanting to sound like some vapid actor at a Hollywood award ceremony decrying “I am so unworthy of this nomination”, whilst secretly thinking “I so deserve this”… Well, my initial thought when receiving the invite was “I am so unworthy…”. I’ve had the weekend to think about it though. And I still think “I am so unworthy…”

I’m actually on record as suggesting that we might also need a “Formica Table”, though the only online reference to it I can now find {I MUST put my old presentations on my web site} is from the archives of Andrew Clark’s Radiofreetooting blog about a presentation I did at the UKOUG in 2007. {Follow the link and search for Widlake or Formica, it is way down the bottom}. If you can’t be bothered looking at the original, Andrew said this:

I was particularly taken with the Formica Table. This would be a forum where “not bad” DBAs answered questions which fitted 95% of all scenarios; sort of an Oak Table For The Rest Of Us.

I think his quote of me was actually better than the original. The idea was that the real experts on the Oak Table {is it actually one word guys? “OakTable”!?} deal with the hard, tricky, complex issues and this secondary formica table could deal with the rest of the world. Because I could just about cope with formica level. The intention being, of course, that I would sit on said plastic-laminate-coated-chipboard table.

Am I being falsely modest here? I do not think I am. I know I am good at what I do and I know I have achieved some impressive things. I also know most people who employ me ask me to stay longer (and I usually do). But I am realistic. I’m very good but I am not fantastic (at Oracle anyway πŸ™‚ ). And no way as capable as many OakTable members. But the people on the OakTable have some other things in common. From the home page of the website:

The OakTable network is a network for the Oracle scientist, who believes in better ways of administering and developing Oracle based systems.

The impression I get from spending some time with the handful of members of the OakTable that I already know is that they generally all feel that you need to not only be knowledgeable about Oracle (or whatever area of knowledge you are interested in) but you need to be able to demonstrate and show that the knowledge is real. You create test cases and try things out. Just saying “you should use a large block size for data warehouses” is just not really enough, it is so much more powerful if you can say why you think this is so and then produce test cases to show that. And if someone produces a test case to show the opposite, well you need to reconsider. It is what is at the core of the scientific method. You test things and have to adapt or change if the tests refute your theory. If someone will not provide test cases or real-world examples to support their facts, they are in fact, opinions. Which is fine, just don’t sell them as facts.

The other common thread is a willingness (and perhaps a worrying compulsion) to teach. I’ve seen many of the OakTable present and I know a lot of them do courses all over the globe. Sometimes it is paid work, often it is not, it is done as a benefit to the community. That is nearly always the case with user group presentations.

I’m figuring that is why I’ve been invited to join. Technically, most if not all the OakTable are a step or three better than me and I reserve my right to respect that. But I really believe in demonstrating what you think is going on with Oracle is what is really going on and I have an almost worryingly compulsive willingness to teach.

So, have I turned down the invite? Are you kidding!?! It’s great to be invited and I really look forward to having more to do with this bunch of talented and helpful people. And I am also looking forward to contributing my little bit to the group and, through it, to the wider Oracle community.

It is slightly ironic that I have been asked to join a group of people right now who are characterised by their willingness and drive to scientifically investigate and then disseminate information on Oracle-based technology when I have spent the last month doing nothing of the sort. I have been digging ditches, cleaning out ponds, chopping down trees and doing major DIY, all of which I am utterly unsuited to but I enjoy. So I now feel obliged to stop that, pick up a keyboard and continue to investigate the edges of my ignorance. I’ll try and keep you informed of progress.

Oh, and I have another problem now. How do I get the OakTable Icon onto this blog? Somewhere on the right I think…



1. Neil Chandler - August 23, 2010

Congratulations Martin. And fully deserved IMHO.

2. coskan - August 23, 2010

perfect . very well deserver Martin congtratulations.

3. Walter - August 23, 2010

Well if it makes it easier think about it this way – Its just a bunch of geeks who have nothing interesting to do then waste their time, its not these guys are solving life’s mystery or origins or world hunger problems .. Lol πŸ™‚

Hopefully this makes it easier for you!

mwidlake - August 24, 2010

Hi Walter,

You mean this is not a branch of the Royal Society that I have been invited on to? Damn! It makes it a lot easier, so thankyou.

Actually, thinking about it, maybe you have hit on the exact reason why I was invited to join. I can make a slightly dodgy {OK, very dodgy} claim that, since I worked on the Human Genome project, supporting it and it’s associated genetic research for 6 years, I was helping solve life’s mysteries and origins πŸ™‚ I can’t think of anything we did directly on world hunger, but curing cancer and preventing Malaria was in the mix…

So maybe they made me a member to gain my credit! Outrageous!

Lol πŸ™‚

Walter - August 24, 2010


Thats awesome! you definately deserve/earned my respect πŸ™‚ You being so humble makes you one of the best well deserved human being.


mwidlake - August 24, 2010

I’m just doing my tiny bit, as one of a bunch of geeks with nothing interesting to do… πŸ™‚

4. Aman.... - August 24, 2010

Very well deserved Martin, congrats πŸ™‚ .


5. Pete Scott - August 24, 2010

Does that mean I now need to give you the same respect as I give Doug Burns?

Well done – I’ll buy you a beer next time we meet

mwidlake - August 24, 2010

I’d like a little more respect than you give Doug. Maybe the same as you give a despised nephew?
I look forward to the beer. I’ll buy you one to celebrate too.

6. Boneist - August 24, 2010

Congratulations Martin!

I like the idea of the formica table too, so long as not-bad developers were also allowed to join, to help field the SQL / PL/SQL questions! *{;-)

mwidlake - August 24, 2010

Consider a placed reserved for you Boneist :-). Hey, given your success in the pub, we could allocate you the job of finding the actual table!

7. Tony Sleight - August 24, 2010

Congratulations, well deserved. I have enjoyed reading and contributing to your blog. I have only been involved with Oracle for the past two years and the material I have read has been intuitive and to the point. I have yet to attend a SIG or presentation that you may be giving, however, your blog and the comments you provide on other blogs certainly deserves the recognition you have just received. I guess the natural progression now would be to write a book!

mwidlake - August 24, 2010

Thanks Tony
>…write a book
Yelp! Ohhh, noooo.
I hope to meet you at a SIG or other meeting soon Tony.

8. Graham - August 24, 2010

Well done Martin – thoroughly deserved, I’ll make sure I salute you the next time I see you πŸ™‚

9. gordon - August 24, 2010

I only met you once. Didn’t have a clue who you were at the time but you impressed me on that day. You are a good guy – well deserved.

10. Alex Gorbachev - August 24, 2010

Join the club mate – I’ve been feeling just like that and probably will always feel the same.

11. Timur Akhmadeev - August 31, 2010

Congratulations, Martin!

>How do I get the OakTable Icon onto this blog? Somewhere on the right I think…
Go to the Appearence->Widgets in the admin tool and add a Text widget with an HTML something like this:

<div align="center"><a href="http://oaktable.net/"><img src="http://www.oaktable.net/sites/default/files/admire_gray_logo.jpg" style="border:0;"></a></div>
12. Gaius - September 6, 2010

Congrats πŸ™‚

Tho’ it’s not really science… There’s no “grand unified theory” at the heart of Oracle. Many of its behaviors are effectively random. Could be a bug, could be preserved that way for “backwards compatibility” (with nothing that you’ll ever see), could be reliant on an undocumented parameter, could be simply the whim of whoever happened to implement the feature. Imagine you were a doctor and when your patients had kids the next generation were a different species, that’s how it is. I’d be pretty wary of anyone who claimed otherwise!

mwidlake - September 8, 2010

Hi Guy,

Thanks for that πŸ™‚

Yes, how Oracle works can be a little tainted by history, whim, accident and just bad design – but then as a geneticist, I find life like that too :-). Organisms are full of examples of things working sub-optimally because it has evolved from a structure originally used for a different purpose. Dissect a “flat fish” and, for most of them, they are really weird. Or panda’s thumbs. A big spike growing from a bone in the wrist.

Gaius - September 8, 2010

If Oracle was a science it would be sociology or anthropology, not physics… Or even CS πŸ˜‰

13. Log Buffer #207, A Carnival of the Vanities for DBAs | The Pythian Blog - November 26, 2010

[…] blogger Martin Wildake asked and answered in his blog post. He is also an Oakie now, and even secretly doesn’t think that he deserved it. Congrats Martin, you really deserved […]

14. DominicmuH - February 6, 2011


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