Wednesday, May 25, 2011

PL/SQL Challenge Version 2 Now Available!

We upgraded the PL/SQL Challenge website to version 2 this weekend. Check out the PL/SQL Challenge blog for more details on the features of this release.

We (myself, my son, Eli, Paul Broughton of Apex Evangelists, Scott Stegemann, with crucial assistance from  Dimitri Gielis and John Scott, principals of Apex Evangelists) have been working on this version for over six months. It involved a very thorough, interesting but also challenging redesign and reconstruction of both backend and frontend code.

In the process, we've put together a very flexible and generic platform to deliver quizzes for any technology, in virtually any format (single quiz, multiple quizzes, T/F, multiple choice, polls, etc.). My plan is to continue evolution of the platform into QaaS (Quiz as a Service), so that a single development team could use it to test and deepen understanding of their own application; vendors can use it to offer quizzes for their tools (I think a weekly quiz on Toad for Oracle would be immensely powerful), and so on.

The rollout has gone, well, sort-of-smoothly. Lots of issues to address, but no calamities. It will probably take another week to truly settle into the new version - partly because the revamping involved not only a massive number of new end user features but also a complete transformation of the way we manage the application "behind the scenes."

In versions 1.X, we had a set of basic data management pages for our metadata tables. Beyond that, I essentially used Toad for Oracle and SQL-PL/SQL scripts to manage the various tasks (set up new competitions, generate images, award prizes, etc.).  This was a drag for two reasons: took up too much of my time and made it impossible for me to hand off tasks to Eli.

So in version 2, we took several big steps towards improving visibility into the state of our data and also the ability to manage that data outside of an editor. We created, for example, a "competition at a glance" calendar that I can use to quickly check on the status of the quizzes and go directly to the appropriate data management screen. Here's the content of one week from the calendar:

And there's so much more....but I have run out of time to share my enthusiasm. I have to finish up the fifth quiz for the upcoming playoff, as well as set up five quizzes for next week.

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