Sunday, February 26, 2006

PL/sql Experts Determined to Give their Expertise -- ???

I am distributing this idea out into the world of PL/SQL developers. Everything about it, including the name, acronym, structure, etc., is open to discussion. Please let me know what you think and if you would be interested in participating. Thanks!

PLEDGE -PL/sql Experts Determined to Give their Expertise

Let's face it: not all developers are equal. We have widely varied levels of skill, experience and communications abilities. Any such group of professionals has a tiny subset of members who are perceived as the "elders" (aka, gurus, experts, etc.) -- and age has little to do with this status. I feel strongly that those of us in the PL/SQL world who are deeply experienced should come together to make our contributions more visible and widely available to the worldwide PL/SQL community.

Disclosure: I am especially desirous of a group like this, and will benefit greatly from it, because I cannot possibly answer all the questions that come my way (either because my time is limited or the question involves how PL/SQL code interacts with technologies like XML or Java, about which I have little experience). I would like to formalize the group of people I can turn to, to assist me in such matters. But I certainly don't want to limit it just to helping me answer my questions.

What is PLEDGE?

PLEDGE is (would be) a group of highly experienced PL/SQL developers who are committed to sharing their knowledge and code with others, at no cost.

I bet you are already thinking one or more of the following:
  • Should PLEDGE be a part of IOUG?
  • Should PLEDGE be or is it the same as a PL/SQL SIG?
My feeling is that PLEDGE is different from a SIG. It is primarily/fundamentally a close-knit fellowship of experts, not an enormous membership community. It functions to provide high quality, free resources to the worldwide PL/SQL community.

As to whether it should be a part of IOUG, I don't have strong feelings about that right now. See my comments in the section titled Resources below. I am not sure that this would be consistent with an IOUG entity.

How would PLEDGE work?

Here are some initial thoughts/guidelines...

1. PLEDGE has members and guests.

2. A PLEDGE member is a PL/SQL expert who has agreed to contribute her or his time/effort to improve the skills, productivity and code quality of the worldwide PL/SQL community.

3. A PLEDGE guest is a developer who has registered with PLEDGE so as to take advantage of the resources offered by PLEDGE, participate in forums and so on.

4. There is no cost associated with any level of participation in PLEDGE.

5. A PLEDGE member or user can post a challenge/requirement to PLEDGE, and then a member can volunteer to implement/guide/answer that challenge.

6. All code that is posted on the PLEDGE website needs to be documented, tested and testable (preferably with a Qute harness; check out www.unit-test.com for my latest and greatest product/concept).

Resources needed

This community needs to be supported by commercial vendors who are committed to the Oracle space. I do not believe that we can make it work the way it should with only volunteer time contributed, though it is certainly a possibility....

I do believe that any number of vendors could provide a base of support, including Quest and Oracle.

Areas of expertise

We need general PL/SQL pros, but also people who have specialized in various areas of technology that commonly connect to PL/SQL, including but not limited to:

  • Java-PL/SQL interface
  • .Net-PL/SQL interface
  • VB-PL/SQL interface
  • Using XML in PL/SQL
  • Oracle Applications and PL/SQL
  • Object-Oriented development with PL/SQL
So let me know what you think of PLEDGE!

12 comments:

Tharg said...

Dear Mr Feuerstein,

Your intentions are obviously good, but I question the value of PLEDGE. I think that there are some problems with such a group, based on my posting experience.

I post on Tek-Tips in the 9i and 10g fora, usually to answer questions, but sometimes to ask. Early on I made the decision to choose a forum and stick with it, and I have not regretted this.

Tek-Tips is extant, and costs nothing to join, so it has a running start on PLEDGE.

The main problem I perceive is that of preventing abuse of the forum. On Tek-Tips I have posted code to "help" someone. This led to a second and third, to clarify an issue. However, the inevitable happended, and the punter in question was basically getting me to deliver a shrink wrapped custom security system for Oracle, by copying my code. Effectively I was doing his job for him. How would PLEDGE members be protected from this sort of abuse?

I found that after a while regular posters develop a 'nose' for such leeches and simply don't answer. We also try to avoid doing a student's homework for them. Fortunately callow youth is usually overcome by old age and cunning, so not many of these go undetected.

Why not try a small scale version of PLEDGE on a forum (such as Tek-Tips) with a handful of developers, and see how it goes? Then, based on knowledge and experience, you could make an informed decision as to whether to take it further.

You should also develope policies (such as here - i.e. no anonymous blogging) for PLEDGE. Again, some real-world trials might be beneficial. I take it as read that the usual Red-flagging and removal of blatantly abusive posts, or off thread declamations would be implemented automatically.

All the best with your endeavours.

Regards

T

Steven Feuerstein said...

Thanks, Tharg, you raise an excellent point. But I see PLEDGE as being quite different from a discussion forum. It would *not* offer discussions or threads on various topics. Instead, it offers discrete, tested, trusted, general resources that are created by experts. These resources would generally then be available for use by anyone. If the author wanted to provide additional documentation/support, that would be entirely up to them. Over time, we would develop an extensive library of PL/SQL programs and other code elements for the community.

Steven Feuerstein said...

A PL/SQL programmer sent these thoughts to me, and I thought I would post them here:

Steven,

I think PLEDGE is a nice idea.

Questions I have about it:

* What's the motivation to be a member/expert? Fame? Glory? Future job offers? :-)

* I think the number of Guests will quickly totally outnumber and overwhelm the Members/Experts, causing the experts to dive for cover back in their own work.

* I think there are enough Oracle resources out there that most of this need for help is getting met. You've probably know more of these than I do, but I'm thinking of things like MetaLink, AskTom, Expert-Exchange, etc.

Steven Feuerstein said...

More comments from a PL/SQL developer:

Great idea! But I wouldn’t have levels like “member” and “guest”. The problem is that some of us have expertise in certain areas, but we don’t necessarily consider ourselves to be an expert overall.

I’d prefer to go with the commonly used forum ratings based on the number of posts a person makes. If a person makes a lot of posts its probably because he answers a lot of questions, and that is valuable to the community regardless of his specific skill set.

Statistically newbies, or inexperienced people, don’t make a lot of posts, so the ranking based on # of posts is often somewhat correct to hint at a person’s skill level.

PLSQL Developer said...

FROM GARY:

I appreciate that you are willing to attempt to bring together this sort of information.
Most of the information gathering that I do comes from Oracle's Metalink, documents on Technet or Google (which often brings up an ExpertExchange page).

If the linked page from google requires a login, I will usually attempt to read the cach page, or just go grab another link.

Anyhow, I am wondering what format you are looking at...

Listserve: Used be be the way to go, pretty quick response and kinda fun. Pretty distracting too, especially when you get hit with tons of email at the 'wrong' time. Pretty lacking in search-ability.

Blog: I read a couple of blogs and use one myself, but they tend to be topheavy... Lots of noise and glamor but not a lot of functionality.

Code development community: I've wandered around in some CVS-based code libraries and they seem to be pretty, um, vast...Is this what you have in mind?

http://openacs.org/

It would be really interesting to participate in something like this. We work a lot with the oracle applications and the joys of writing pl/sql that works within the applications api.

We do not use QUTE, so that would represent a learning curve, but I suppose that anything is possible...

Would the 'community' include a code control system? A test database? A QUTE instance? How about some desktop sharing or instat messaging?

PLSQL Developer said...

FROM STEVE:

Your proposal sounds interesting and useful, I like Oracles Ask Tom, but the answers tend to ramble on and take on a life of their own - something to bear in mind. I'm not sold on the name though, but I can't think of any better so what right have I to gripe ?

PLSQL Developer said...

FROM VICTOR:

Good idea. As always some commercialization will be involved since that best specialists are those who answered difficult questions. They should be visible in PLEDGE. So in addition to altruism it will be some marketing and eventually profit for experts involved.

Also sometime a PL/SQL problem intersects with Database Administration problem. I think you might add DBA to the list and allocate PL/SQL - DBA area of discussions in PLEDGE.

PLSQL Developer said...

FROM CRAIG:

I am intrigued by your idea of creating a formalized group of PL/SQL experts for the sole purpose of knowledge sharing. I think it would be an excellent resource for everyone, and I am sure there are plenty of people willing to share what they have learned over the years. However, I do think this may be more feasible as a part of a SIG. I am not saying that I would have the entire SIG involved, I understand the desire for the close-knit community of experts, so I wouldn't change anything with your concept, except to associate it with a SIG.

I feel that this association would bring a few major advantages. In my opinion, it will be difficult for this close-knit community to do a lot of the ongoing maintenance of this project, as they are already giving their free time to answer questions, and they also may not have the skills or desire that others could offer. For example, I imagine that this group will have a web site associated with them for people to post questions, and read past answers. The development and maintenance of this web site could be done by other members of the SIG, who are not part of PLEDGE. Also, when you are trying to get support from corporations, that is most definitely an acquired skill. If you had a team from a SIG that worked solely on getting corporate support, you would probably have a lot more luck. And finally, with a SIG, they would be able to organize and promote events that the PLEDGE members could present at. These presentations would allow for the sharing of best practices, new features, and new products (like Qute) that other people might not otherwise get to see.

Well, those are just my thoughts, but they are rooted in experience. I started a student organization for web development when I was in college, and kept it running for 2 1/2 years. The first year and a half, I had a group of people that knew what they were doing, and we put on presentations and classes, but we really didn't accomplish much. The last year, we offloaded the various tasks of web design, meeting planning, corporate sponsorship, etc. from the group of "experts" that we had. This gave the experts more time to put together better presentations, and to answer the questions that they got in more detail. That year was by far more productive than the previous years, as it allowed everyone to only focus on what they were good at, and not waste time worrying about other tasks that they really weren't interested in. It also got more people involved, and thus gave us a wider audience to reach, which I believe is the ultimate goal.

Finally, I was wondering how you plan on choosing this group of "experts" to be members of PLEDGE. And also, if you are going to have an online forum for people to post questions to, will only PLEDGE members respond? This is more a question of curiosity than anything, as I have only been working with PL/SQL for about 3 years, so I am still a beginner. However, I do like looking into other people's questions, as I feel it is a "fun" way for me to learn new things. So I guess, I was wondering would there be 2 areas of the site.. One to post questions to the PLEDGE experts, and another open forum that anyone can respond to if you have a basic question?

However you decide for this to work, I hope that this does get off of the ground, as I can see the great benefit that this type of organization can have. If there is anything that I might be able to help you out with during these planning stages, feel free to send it my way.

PLSQL Developer said...

FROM ARVIND:

Hi Steve

I like this idea.It is similar to www.dsxchange.com. The dsxchange site is a forum for ascential (ibm) datastage developers and there are core group of experts who voice the solutions, but importantly anybody can provide a solution if they know it. ( Unfortunately after running for some extended time for free they are intending to charge users to view the solutions and comments posted by their gurus).

The key issue is really to identify a group of individuals who will volunteer to run the site. Since as mentioned by you it is not a commerical venture, you would need committed individuals who would be doing just for the fun of it and are really into providing pl/sql solutions for different areas of applications.

I will be more than happy to answer some of the questions as i am sure there are a lot of other developers, but key again is to get a commitment to maintain this as an on going effort.

PLSQL Developer said...

FROM STEVE:

Great idea. I should think PLEDGE should have some relationship with IOUG, as long as IOUG would be respectful of it. But I wouldn’t necessarily limit it to being a SIG, perhaps a collaborative but separate organization.

PLSQL Developer said...

FROM INGER:

Check out oaktables.net for an example of what heavy-duty DBAs have done in this same type of activity.

Scott Schwab said...

From the suggestions, the Oak Table concept is interesting, expecially as a repository of examples with notes, code, and unit test, as well as other presentations.

I find that site a good place to find some document but more often links to other expert sites, allowing for further research, from perspectives which do not work for Oracle.

As far as a open forum, I have to agree with tharg's complaint about people asking questions, mainly get development or homework done for free. Those type of questions end up adding so much noise it is hard to find the questions good citizens need answering.

I guess what I would like to see is a comunity site, where people could post papers with code and examples for the public to use, about topics in PL/SQL development. Maybe these papers would be peer reviewed, to insure quality.

The general public of plsql developers could suggest topics for or submit papers for review and publishing.

Instead of a flow of "Urgent how do I..." post, this would be a place to tell those posters to go, read, and look at examples. Not a place where they get their code written.

Once the basic community is set, it would decide on where it should go next. I guess something like the http://openacs.org/ system suggest by Gary would be a start.