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Don Burleson Blog 








Type of computer end-users:
Information Technology IT worker types

Oracle Tips by Burleson Consulting

Due to the overwhelming response from my article, ?What Type of DBA Are You??, I have decided to explore a favorite topic of IT professionals, our end-user community.

Many DBAs detest their end-user community. We create our databases as architectural wonders, only to have the end users mess them up with blown-out undo logs, fragmented tablespaces and stupid recovery requests. But try as we might to avoid it, interactions with our end users are inevitable, and proper preparation is the key to survival.

To properly understand the motives and mind-set of the end user, I have found it useful to classify the end user into personality types. By quickly identifying the type of end user, you can anticipate the type of complaint, understand their motives and desires, and devise a strategy to get them out of your office as quickly as possible. A good DBA always tries to quickly placate end users, while at the same time, shifting the blame to the developers, where it belongs. This approach may sound Machiavellian, but it has worked very well for me.

In over 20 years of working with end users, I have noticed that end users have very specific personality characteristics and they tend to fall into one of the following types:

  • The IT Wannabe
  • The Rottweiler
  • The Baby
  • The Luddite
While I am deliberately exaggerating these characteristics for the sake of illustration, I think that you will see some similarities to your end users in these descriptions. Hopefully, these characterizations will remind you of some of your favorite end users and you will learn some tips for getting rid of them quickly and efficiently.


The IT Wannabe

Copyright ? 2003 by Mike Reed








The IT Wannabe is the most dangerous of the end users and should be treated with extreme caution. Because they are proficient in MS-Access, the IT Wannabe knows that databases are really easy and cannot understand why the company needs a DBA staff.  Extremely self-absorbed and naive, the IT Wannabe will remind you of your know-it-all teenager.

The IT Wannabe loves to bypass their systems with ODBC and SQL*Plus and may have a history of causing system-wide slowdowns by issuing ad-hoc SQL with recursive Cartesian joins. They love shortcuts and back-doors and may spend days trying to circumvent your database access controls. Frustrated and distrusting, the IT Wannabe has tried for years to get a job in the IT department, and deeply resents that their correspondence school degree in Computer Technology was not sufficient to get them a $90k/year job as a C++ Software Engineer.

IT Wannabe?s have a history of making ridiculous system change requests. Some of my favorites are:

  • ?Please replace Oracle with a set of spreadsheets?
  • ?Please move my department?s data on a separate computer for better security?
  • ?The salesman says RAID-5 is really good, so please use RAID-5 for my data?
Because the IT Wannabe harbors a deep resentment for the IT department, they love to create problems and roadblocks at every opportunity, and they become visibly elated whenever a computer problem occurs.

Hallmarks of the IT Wannabe include:

  • A love of science fiction ? The IT Wannabe loves fantasy, and may use analogies from Star Trek episode #37 to illustrate a point about their computer problem. Usually fluent in Klingon, they can be easily recognized by the presence of sci-fi posters and Isaac Asimov paperbacks in their cubicles.
  • A proud graduate - The IT Wannabe is sometimes a graduate of one of those scary IT correspondence schools. (You know, the ones that advertise on late night TV, offering degrees in Dog Grooming and Computer Programming). The IT Wannabe loves to display their ?Certificates of Completion?, and the IT wannabe will spend $50 to frame a certificate for attending a four-hour seminar on ?Fundamentals of Word processing.?
  • Believes everything they read ? Deep down, the IT Wannabe knows that they really don?t understand what?s going-on inside a computer and they cover-up their ignorance by believing that anything displayed on their monitor is the Gospel Truth. This gullibility makes the IT Wannabe a sucker for urban legends and pranks. For example, it is great fun to e-mail them with a link to the Bonsai Kittens Web site, and watch them recoil in horror and spend the week writing letters to Congressmen in an effort to stop this cruel practice.
I once maintained a student system for a University that registered 20,000 students per semester and had student records dating back to the mid 1800?s. An IT Wannabe submitted a giant ad-hoc query, dimming the lights in the machine room, causing the disks spindles to shake, and causing system-wide slowdowns. The query was idiotic, something like computing the average age of all students, grouped by hair color. After killing the job, I approached the end user, who, instead of being apologetic, complained that their query was only five lines of SQL, and there must be something wrong with the computer because he sat there for 15 minutes awaiting the result.

Realizing that there is no way to explain to this genius the amount of disk access required for his query, I developed an elegant solution. I wrote a user-exit that would interrupt all ad-hoc queries every 5 minutes. This exit would generate a random number, format it as a dollar value, and display this message:


The IT Wannabe was quite impressed that my program was able to compute machine resources down to the penny, and it worked-our great for everyone. The end users developed an appreciation for the computing resources required to service their dumb queries, and I did not have to spend the day killing rogue queries.

The Rottweiler

Copyright ? 2003 by Mike Reed








The Rottweiler is the most aggressive and annoying of the end users. Stubborn and prone to exaggeration, the Rottweiler is fierce and vocal, and relishes tearing into the unsuspecting IT professional. The Rottweiler will remind you of a television evangelist at the apex of their sermon.

The Rottweiler is especially difficult because they continue to ?vent?, even after you have fixed their problem. I once had a Rottweiler demand to know when this problem would happen again (like I?m some kind of clairvoyant, you know).

The Rottweiler is usually male, and is the type of end user who loves the thrill of battle, carefully planning their assault for the best advantage. For example, when the Rottweiler gets a database internal error (ORA-0600), they will repeat the keystrokes, over and over, (as if it result might be different next time) and never report the problem until the whole system crashes. Almost universally, the Rottweiler has a low opinion of their DBA and cannot understand why an upgrade to the SAP system cannot be completed during their lunch hour.

Hallmarks of the Rottweiler include:

  • Exaggerates everything ? The Rottweiler immediately assumes the worst, and is quick to turn every minor inconvenience into a major disaster. To the Rottweiler, everything is an emergency.
  • Multi-tasking ? The Rottweiler loves to multi-task and enjoys surfing the Web while working. They are extremely productive, yet still manage to spend much of their day buying Nazi memorabilia on eBay or posting obscenities on Internet message boards.
  • Confrontational ? The Rottweiler is at their best when engaged in an argument, and no amount of fact is going to diminish their zeal. They will threaten and intimidate the IT staff whenever possible, and will commonly name all of the Vice Presidents who will hear that it took you more than 4 minutes to solve their problem.
The Rottweiler is sometimes a member of the NRA, and enjoys hunting, fishing and any sport that involves killing something. Secretly, I suspect that some Rottweiler?s are deeply insecure about their gender roles and overcompensate by being super-macho males or super-feminist females. Click here to see how I suspect a male Rottweiler might dress while working at home.


The Baby

Copyright ? 2003 by Mike Reed









The Baby is one of the most common types of end users, and is easily identified by their Apple, Macintosh or iPod PC. Prone to temper tantrums, the Baby is characterized by a deep-seated fear of computers and contempt for the ?meanies? in computer support. The Baby may remind you of a two-year-old child. They will whine and cry, throw a tantrum, and even hold their breath when frustrated by their computer.

Deeply insecure, the Baby does not have the courage to actually talk with the DBA, and would rather whine to management or enlist the aid of a Rottweiler. The Baby is most dangerous when they manage to enrage a nearby Rottweiler and the Baby loves to whip the Rottweiler into a frenzy and then watch them scream at the help desk operator.

Secretly, I suspect that the Baby is well-aware of their intellectual shortcomings and uses these outbursts as a tool to get what they want.

Hallmarks of the Baby include:

  • Self-centered ? The Baby will become emotional over every computer problem. The Baby is very sensitive, and takes it as a personal affront when they cannot get their computer to do what they want. The Baby will assume that every computer slowdown is directed at them exclusively, usually a deliberate attempt by the DBA to tarnish their job performance rating. You can always tell a Baby because they complain ?Why are you doing this to ME??
  • Blames others ? A Baby is never responsible for their own actions and believes that all computer problems stem from crummy software. For example, Babies will load huge volumes of incorrect data into the database and then wait two weeks to validate the data. When the Baby discovers their error, they phone the DBA and demand that the transaction be rolled-back without affecting any other data for the past two weeks. Obviously, a Baby should never be told about redo logs.
  • Lacks comprehension ? A Baby is cannot bear to hear any technical explanations. Babies hate acronyms, and see the DBA as deliberately showing-off by using incomprehensible computer words like ?connectivity? and ?URL.? Babies will ask lame questions like what ?SQL?, ?DBMS? and ?Oracle? stands-for, as if this knowledge will give them deep insights into the fundamental nature of computers.
Because Babies outbursts are often entertaining, some DBAs relish in watching the Baby throw a tantrum. For example, if you use X-Windows, it is great fun to get the IP address of a Baby and display fake error messages on their screen. Here are a few of my favorites:




The Oracle Luddite

Luddites are characterized by a profound fear and distrust of technology.

Scared to death of change, the Luddite reacts violently to the automation of any business process.

Copyright ? 2003 by Mike Reed  









Talking with a Luddite may remind you of the time you tried to teach your grandma how to use e-mail and she thought the mouse was a foot pedal, like the one on her sewing machine.

Closed-minded and rigid, the Luddite will fight every system enhancement, especially those that make their lives easier. I suspect that this is because the Luddite has a deep-seated fear (sometimes justified) that their job function will be replaced with a $49.95 software package. Consequently, the Luddite will often sabotage their new system projects in order to demonstrate that their manual process is superior to the computerized solution.

Hallmarks of the Luddite include:

  • Distain for electronics ? Palm pilots are unknown to the Luddite, and they rarely own a cell phone, VCR, or any device that might require programming. They may display an abacus in their office and are usually proficient with a slide rule. I knew a Luddite who took a course in Gregg shorthand and never grew tired of showing everyone how he could transcribe faster by hand than with her computer.
  • No concept of feasibility ? The Luddite believes that computers are way more sophisticated than they really are, and believes that HAL 2000 computer in the movie 2001 - A Space Odyssey was real. This distorted belief system fuels their fears that software will someday rule the earth.
  • Back-to-basics mentality ? The Luddite longs for the days when life was simple. They tend to have hobbies like making all their own furniture with authentic 18th century tools or making candles from ear wax. If they own a car at all, the Luddite will have a super-safe land-barge like a 1965 Cadillac. The Luddites are a pain-in the-butt when traveling, and often insist on a 3-day train ride instead of a 6-hour airplane flight. Avid gardeners, they will often bring carloads Zucchini to the office every fall.
  • Control Freaks ? The Luddite is the type of end user who will become greatly upset to learn that their data will reside in the same database as data from the other departments. Not caring to understand security, the Luddite will often insist that their database is not contaminated with data from other departments.
Many years ago I once received a late-night call from a Luddite who complained that they could not get their PC to read their 5 inch floppy disk. After questioning, the Luddite said ?I followed the instruction to the letter! The directions said to remove the floppy from the sleeve and then insert the floppy. I wasn?t easy; I had to use a pair of scissors to get the silly thing out.?


Hopefully this lighthearted look at end users will remind you of some of your own experiences with end users. For added fun, feel free to print this article and post it in your end users? break room.

Also, special thanks to the talented illustrator (and really nice guy), Mike Reed for granting me permission to use his wonderful art.

If you like Oracle tuning, see the book "Oracle Tuning: The Definitive Reference", with 950 pages of tuning tips and scripts. 

You can buy it direct from the publisher for 30%-off and get instant access to the code depot of Oracle tuning scripts.



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