With powerful web search tools like Google,
terabytes of information are right at your fingertips, even the
Oracle documentation. Nobody buys the hardcopy Oracle
documentation manuals anymore (I'm not even sure Oracle still
prints them), and the Oracle documentation CD's are rarely
used. Instead, they just do a
Google search, and it's all there on the web.
Today we see
online wiki web
pages suffering from lack a of credibility, and people are
getting fed-up with the fake experts on the web.
Back in the 1980's the Internet was the
exclusive bastion of students, professors, and scientists. It
was customary to sign your messages with your qualifications, so
everyone immediately had a way to evaluate the credibility of
your content. He term "Men of Letters" was used to
describe well-qualified professionals, and the phrase originated
from the routine practice of stating your credibility (with
abbreviations) when you sign your name (Sincerely, John
Doe, BS, MS, OCP, CCNE, MSCE, McDBA).
Today it's much harder to "learn about" the
author of advice on the web. This article will discuss the
perils and pitfalls and give you some guidelines for finding
high-quality credible Oracle technical information.
In Oracle on the Internet, we see
hoards of self-proclaimed
"Oracle Experts", all proclaiming "Listen to me".
Today, the web has become anonymous
and there is a trend in the Oracle industry where it is
becoming very difficult to evaluate the credentials of
people who give you technical advice about Oracle.
As a matter of practical reality, we must
now take the time to evaluate the credibility of any Oracle
technical content on the web. Are the publications of an Oracle
"Expert" the pontification of an experienced consultant or the
ruminations of an elementary-school dropout? Frankly, we need
"I don't need no stinkin'
high-school to be an Oracle Expert"
Of course, the question of
credibility is important in a world of self-proclaimed
Oracle "experts". But what about
someone who says they are an Oracle "expert"? Does this
self-granted title tell us anything about their real
skill and experience?
Most people agree, you need
to be able to "trust your source" and verify the experiential,
academic, scientific and research credentials of anyone
offering-up Oracle technical advice on the web.
The web has evolved into a
dangerous place, and today you have to take any Oracle
information on the web with a grain-of-salt, especially when you
cannot verify the qualifications of the expert. When evaluating
the credibility of anyone who is labeled an "Oracle Expert" or
"Oracle Scientist", you can quickly see if their qualifications
(provided that they have published their resume and
experience). Here is the Google syntax that I've automated
(using the fantastic
Google API) to quickly see a resume' or C.V. for someone you
oracle "experts_name_here" (CV | C.V. | resume | experience|
In this web-world of fakers and
posers, all Oracle professionals need to have strong
But can a Google search really tell
you how much credence to give to the assertions of any
Oracle Expert or Oracle Scientist?
Burleson, author of "Conducting
the Programmer Job Interview" has a resounding "NO".
Burleson notes a disturbing industry
trend for Oracle professionals to submit fraudulent
one-fourth of the Oracle resumes that I receive have
falsified or unverifiable academic degrees and Oracle
Let's take a closer look at Oracle
information on the web and see the perils and pitfalls.
Credibility and the Web
It's amazing how gullible some Netizens can
be, studies noting that the
majority of people believe that the web is credible and
devoted a section in my latest book "Web
Stalkers" to this illusion of credibility on the web.web
Leveraging on the knowledge that
Grandma will believe everything she reads on the web,
savvy pranksters have moved-in to fill the void of
web spoof is the "Bonsai
Kitten" web site which was created by some naughty
MIT students (make sure to read their
My daughter (a College freshman) told me
that she recently saw a petition that was being circulated
around campus to ban this shocking practice of Bonsai Kittens.
Another personal favorite is "Primate
Programming", a web site devoted to replacing
computer professionals with chimps and Orangutans (check
it out – they have a section on
Oracle consulting too!).
We also see "parody" web sites
devoted to misinformation such as
The White House,
The Onion and many others.
So, in this world of web fakers and
pranksters, how to we find the "real-deal" for Oracle technical
information? Many countries have strict laws that require a
college degree and a license in order to use the titles of
"Oracle Engineer" or "Oracle Architect". For example, a
Canadian court recently ruled that Microsoft may not issue
the title of "Engineer" (The Microsoft Certified Systems
Engineer program) because, by Canadian law, all Engineers must
have a college degree in Engineering.
In the USA we also see that some states are
considering lawsuits to require college degrees and licenses
for anyone using the title "Engineer" or "Architect":
the software-licensing controversy is the fight between the
national licensing boards and industry over the proliferation of
"certified engineers." Microsoft and Novell, in particular, have
been promoting training programs that "graduate"
Microsoft-certified or Novell-certified "engineers.
The State of
Delaware, according to IEEE-USA, is eyeing a lawsuit to stop the
use of the word "engineer" in those titles. Indeed, Novell and
the state of Nevada licensing board have gone to court over
Novell's use of the word "engineer" to describe trainees who may
or may not have an engineering degree."
We can be confident that a Software
Engineer has an engineering degree and a Database Architect is
duly licensed. But what about the Oracle Experts and
Oracle Experts and Credibility
Chris Lawson, author of the bestselling "Art
and Science of Oracle Performance Tuning" book,
gives his advice for establishing credibility in the Oracle
easiest way to enhance your credibility is to write articles for
technical journals. Besides the local user groups, they are
numerous technical journals that are happy to review
submissions-even from unknown writers.
Many popular Oracle authors have used this strategy. For
instance, Don Burleson advertises that he has penned over 100
articles! In contrast, why would a publisher listen seriously to
someone who has not bothered to publish even a single technical
In the USA being "legally" declared an
Expert is a matter of law. Many of my compatriots have been
evaluated and declared to be an Oracle Expert by the U.S. court
systems, as are many other scientists who testify in
In the course of performing
Oracle forensic consulting, both parties hire database
experts and scientists to evaluate their-side of a technical
issue, and provide "expert" opinions. All expert witnesses are
evaluated by the court and the judge determines if their
academic, research and experiential background warrants
declaring them an "Oracle Expert".
When publishing, these authors have a right
to call themselves "Oracle Experts" as a matter of law, having
met their burden of proving their expertise to the satisfaction
of a court.
Other Oracle experts are concerned about
relying on information from people who will not share their
experience and qualifications. Mike Ault,
author of over 20 Oracle books notes:
"I pay no
attention to any technical information when I cannot verify the
identity or qualifications of the author".
Let's take a closer look at what
"qualifications" really mean to the credibility of an Oracle
What constitutes valid Oracle Qualifications?
In my book "Conducting
the Oracle Job Interview" I note that that management routinely check
all aspects of a job candidate's
experience and qualifications. These include:
- Was this person intimately
involved with the internal machinations of Oracle at Redwood?
Nobody knows Oracle like the folks who built and maintain it
(especially if they have source code!). Is this job candidate a
consultant who has worked on hundreds of databases or a day-job
person with a more-limited breadth of experience?
- Academics – Does the candidate
demonstrate the hard-work and persistence required to
graduate from a rigorous collegiate program? Were they able
to compete effectively for entrance into a competitive
– There are many
portals where Oracle professionals can share their knowledge
and many expect any "real" Oracle expert or Oracle scientist
to have a demonstrable commitment to the advancement of
Oracle knowledge by publishing in at least one of the
– Oracle technical books or academic
Conference papers - OracleWorld, RMOUG
Training Days, Database World, etc.
Trade Periodicals - Oracle Magazine, Oracle
Internals, DM-Review, Dr. Dobbs journal, IOUG SELECT, etc.
It appears that Ault is biased towards high-quality
real-world experience, as this comment from the
Mike Ault blog shows his belief that extensive real-world
experience is far more important than researching Oracle on a
"I have been
at over 24 client sites in the last 6 months doing tuning,
optimizing and database evaluations."
Another hotbed of controversy is the value
of a College education in becoming a successful Oracle
professional. Let's examine both sides of the issue.
It's all Academic?
The majority of US Oracle employers now
require that a DBA have (at least) a bachelors degree in
Computer Science or Information Technology, "or equivalent
experience". Many of the top-paying senior Oracle jobs now
prefer Masters Degrees.
But what is "equivalent experience?" What
kind of experience qualifies as the equivalent to a rigorous
4-year degree program? I used to be employed by the State
Universities of New York (SUNY) to grant college credit for
real-life, college-level learning, and many non-College people
don't know whether their work experience is College-level
Click here to read about some of my interview nightmares.
Oracle Academy (a new program
for aspiring Oracle professionals)
notes that a Bachelor degree is required for their
four career paths:
Database Engineer, Junior
Consultant, Database Administrator and Sales Consultant:
Imagine having a job where you
are continually learning and constantly solving problems
while having loads of fun and making lots of money.
What about the quality, selectivity and
rigor of a university? Many of the major database employers
shop for their new graduates at the top science schools, and
they make no secret that they prefer graduates from high-quality
programs. This from the book "Conducting
the Programmer Job Interview" by Janet Burleson:
programmers must be highly motivated and self-starting in order
to be effective. These qualities are often shared by those who
have gained entrance into competitive schools with rigorous
Microsoft Corporation also requires a College
degree for computing professionals, and it's ironic that Bill
Gates (a college drop-out from Harvard) does not meet the
standards required by his own HR department.
Oracle hires their software developers from universities
with rigorous requirements and Oracle recruits "top candidates"
for product development from MIT, Stanford, CMU (likely Carnegie
Mellon University), Princeton, Wisconsin, Yale, Dartmouth,
Brown, Caltech, Berkeley, Harvard and Cornell.
Many people say that anyone wearing a "Brass
Rat" (The MIT class ring) is almost always highly-trained
and brilliant, and others note the high-speed information uptake
skills from graduates of Stanford, Harvard, Duke, West Point,
and many other first-tier universities.
Lt. Col. John Garmany (with his West Point education in
Electrical Engineering and Software Engineering), can
diagnose Oracle performance problems at every level, right-down
to the chipset instruction, and people are amazed at how quickly
he grasps and solves an Oracle problem. Is it his West Point
discipline, his Master of Science degree in software
engineering, or his training as an Army ranger? (Garmany says
that his fast problem-solving skills are the natural result of
his rigorous academics of 60-80 hours a week of study for six
years). Many employers agree, and rely on the top science
schools to find the "best and the brightest".
Of course, not everyone agrees, and many
claim that a College education can actually be detrimental to
the Oracle professional. Let's take a look.
No Degree Required
Not everyone agrees about the value of a
College Education in Oracle technology. Doug Burns, an Oracle
DBA in England believes that
Oracle is more of a trade than a science, and that a college
degree is not necessary:
talk rubbish. I have a very basic high school education but
left pretty quickly to play around with computers and taught
I've lost count
of the number of degree-educated colleagues who I wouldn't allow
near a database.
This is a
craft, so I'll be judged by the quality of my work and not
pieces of unrelated paper.
We also have Bill Gates, the brilliant
founder of Microsoft who designed one of the world's bestselling
operating systems, all without the benefit of a degree or formal
training in Software Engineering. Gee, the robustness and
reliability of Microsoft Windows speaks for itself.
Personally, I don't think that a degree is
required to be an Oracle DBA (but it can be very helpful) and
I've seen loads of "Educated
People", with advanced degrees but no common-sense or
real-world experience. Don't get me started. It is not
uncommon for larger corporations to hire inept academicians, and
these stereotypes are so common that IT professionals have
special names for them, the most common being the Educated
Idiot, or EI, for short.
The EI has an
impressive resume, a PhD and dozens of citations to research
projects (with no practical application) and publications (in
obscure academic journals that few people ever read). The
hallmarks of the EI include degrees in "easy" majors (Art
History, Elementary Education), poor judgment, no common sense,
and very poor interpersonal skills.
Reviewing Oracle Book Credibility
If someone tries to establish credibility
because they are the author of a book, it's easy to go to Amazon
and read their book reviews. However, many people don't know
that Amazon book reviews can be done anonymously, and
superlative reviews with bad grammar (e.g. "This
is absolutely one of the best technical books I've done read.")
may have been made by the author's Grandma or their favorite
Many savvy Oracle professionals pay no
attention to "5-star ratings" because they expect that Grandma
and Aunt Sara are expected to chime-in with their whole-hearted
admiration of the work of their brilliant offspring.
Oracle professionals are seeking
alternative books and the top Oracle authors are starting their
own publishing companies. nd
Rampant TechPress. These "alternative" Oracle publishers
have been very successful in providing hot topics at low prices
and they have very
positive feedback for their novel approach to Oracle
This has been
the most enlightening book I have ever read. The concise nature
of the text gives me the chance to consume a large amount of new
information in much less time. Thank you ...
Printed books are one-thing, but what about
the online Oracle information? Should we go to an Oracle forum
for advice? Are all Oracle forums the same? Let's explore some
sources of reliable and professional Oracle information on the
The "Fear of Forum" Syndrome
In some Oracle forums, beginners
have a justified fear of being ridiculed by the
moderator and other forum participants if they ask a
"stupid" question or if they use poor grammar and
Worse yet, many innocent Oracle
professionals may find themselves the target of
profanity, mocking and ridicule.
My company (Burleson Consulting) has a
strict professional code of conduct, and everyone must treat
our customers with respect and dignity. However, there are
dozens of Oracle forums and not everyone agrees about Netiquette
Many Oracle professionals are saddened by
this disturbing tendency for Oracle forum members to impersonate
others, arrogantly toss-out the arguments without sharing their
background or qualifications, or hurling offensive personal
insults. They say that it's unprofessional and tarnishes the
respectability of the Oracle profession.
As a result of these disturbing trends,
many Oracle professionals avoid all Oracle forums, while others
are very careful to avoid any Oracle forum that:
- Is un-moderated (or moderated by
someone who allows unprofessional content).
- Allows anonymous unverifiable
postings, and impersonation.
- Contains profanity, off-topic remarks,
or gratuitous insults.
Does this mean that there are no valid
sources of credible Oracle information on the web? No, there
are many forums that require verifiable identities and have
real-world Oracle experts. Best of all, beginners never have to
fear being embarrassed for their lack of knowledge and non-USA
customers never have to fear being mocked for poor English
The Latin "Caveat Emptor" applies
here, and it is your responsibility to ensure that the source of
your Oracle information is reliable and credible. We have seen
the issues with verifying the background of self-proclaimed
Oracle Experts and Oracle Scientists and we have seen the
hazards of relying on Oracle information in some online forums.
In sum, if you are planning on taking
Oracle advice on the web it's your responsibility to always take
a minute to check-out the credibility of anyone who proclaims
themselves an Oracle Expert or Oracle Scientist.
Special thanks to
Mike Reed for allowing the use of his fantastic
Flame Warriors cartoons in this article.