Monday, September 26, 2005

"Censorship" and "Accountability"

I was reading Mark Rittman's blog on "UKOUG, Oaktable and Blogging Confidentiality" as well Niall Litchfield's "Confidentiality and Blogging" and Tom Kyte's Off-Record entries and some of the comments made to those blog entries touched on the issues of "Accountability" and "Censorship" as it relates to publishers and authors.

Do you as a reader have a trust that the publisher will provide quality, correct and factual information on articles that they published? In the event of an opinion piece, that the publishers allows for the pros and cons debate to happen with minimal censorship? Minimal censorship in terms of editing/deleting comments that are personal attacks but keeping the contents relating to the debate intact. For example, the recent Burleson's article on "Undocumented Parameters to Supersize your SGA" led to very heated discussion between various folks including Tom Kyte, Jonathan Lewis, Don Burleson & Mike Ault amongst others. The article itself was edited a couple of times so that it is almost different from the original article but still "useless" (IMHO) BUT with no indications as to what was corrected/edited. Because SearchOracle did not provide a forum for discussing said article, Tom and others facilitate that by creating their own blog entries on the subject. This lead to a number of exchanges between various supporters of Burleson and Kyte which sometimes degenerated into personal attacks. Tom as a result subsequently get anonymous postings questioning his creditials and other childish nonsense.

Another similar incident involved Fabian Pascal (and others) and Curt Monash who writes for ComputerWorld. In this instance, ComputerWorld decided to let Monash's piece stand (although it apparently went through a rewrite ala Burleson) but remove all comments with a note from the editor which states
"This blog post has been edited. Additionally, this comment thread has been closed, in line with Computerworld's Terms of Service. Computerworld wants to foster a civil and respectful debate over important IT issues, but this thread has become too personal and not useful to Computerworld's audience of IT professionals. Certain comments may be reposted at a later date, but new comments will be disabled."
My understanding is that some of the comments have also been edited without the consent of the original posters which begats the question of "If and when comments are reposted, are these the original comments or have they been re-edited"?

Anyhow, do ComputerWorld not have the accountability and responsibility to ensure that a balanced perspective is provided instead of "censoring" the various opinions of folks? This is similar to Robert Freeman (a Burleson consultant) who decided to let a comment by his boss stand whereas a rebuttal to that comment was removed and thereby providing a skewed perspective. NB: If you are interested in taking a look, go to his site and do a search for "Evil".

Personally, there is a fine line and I would support "censorship" when it removes the garbage and keeps the relevant content and if this is identified in the Terms and Policies, there should not be any problems with posters. The other upside is that the removal of the non-relevant garbage will help with potential legal action from folks who are nursing bruised egos. The bottom line is still the need to identify that said article/posts have been edited and why. What bothered me about the approach that ComputerWorld took was that they edited the original article and left a note to that effect but you have no idea what was edited (just like Burleson's article) unless you have saved a copy of the original. The other thing was the censorship done which apparently left a skewered perspective on the debate generated. So much for freedom of speech.

NB: This entry was edited to correct grammar and typos - corrections are shown in non blocked italics and one addition added. *Blocked italics are quotes taken from other public sites or comments.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Aftermath of Don Burleson's "Undocumented Parameters"

It has been a very interesting and informative period following the shenaningans of the Burleson's gangs (supposely employees/associates and supporters) as they tried to deflect attention from the contents of the article that Burleson has written for SearchOracle. I'm sure SearchOracle doesn't mind the "debate" as it must have generated a bunch of web traffic for them.

What is now interesting are the "attempts" by persons unknown although implied (as traced most likely via IP addresses to be known person who we shall refer to as pseudonym) who would post comments on Tom Kyte's blog like the following:

Anonymous said....
Are you even Oracle certified?

Anonymous said...
Dear Tom,
Can you post your resume on this site? We ought to determine your 'employability factor' since you have not completed your Oracle Certification exam yet!


There are of course others and not just to Tom's blog but also on his "AskTom" forum.

The behaviour exhibited by this particular person is like that of a five year old child who having lost the argument resort to name calling and basically making a nuisance of himself.

Maybe, pseudonym has gotten himself to a point where he thinks that he has no alternative but to resort to this behaviour. I would say that he still has alternatives and I would suggest that one of the first thing to do is correct the article and provide credit due (to Tom & Jonathan) and secondly to apologize for such childish behaviour. No one is going to think less of the fellow but that's not to say that he doesn't have quite a lot of work to do to regain the trust within the Oracle community as to his professionalism and knowledge as an Oracle "expert".

Maybe I'm more forgiving for I could picture Howard J Rogers shaking his head vigourly in disagreement but hey, life is just too short. Let's move on and get with the program.

Blogging

When I first started this blog, the whole idea was to allow me to have an outlet to vent my thoughts on various issues which may or may not be IT-related much less Oracle-related but I realized that the folks who might be interested are mostly IT-related folks so I've decided that future entries will be IT-related and management-related but I will still write and vent my thoughts on other issues although I might not publish them on the blog (i.e. they will probably stay as drafts. Writing to vent seems to help with providing an outlet to de-stress (if that's a proper word).

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Telus Mobility's Customer Loyalty Program is an Oxymoron

I've been a Telus Mobility customer since 2000 and have been on their month to month payment plan since my original 3-year plan expired. Recently I received a letter from Telus with an offer for me (as an existing customer) to replace my 5-yr old phone if I agree to lock in for a set period and the offer consists of:

1-year - either a 50 minute bundle or a Smart Bundle for 12 months;
2-year - Free Nokia 3205i phone or either the 50 minute or Smart Bundle for 24 months;
3-year - $150 phone discount or a $200 discount on Blackberry or the Smart Bundle for 36 months.

I thought "Great. I can upgrade to a newer phone." and went online to check out the various phones and found one, a Motorola V710 which is $149.99 for a 3-year activation. "Hmm, I got a $150 credit so phone's free if I lock in for 3 years." I thought and look through the various features of the phone, speakerphone, 500 number phone directory, camera, etc which sounds good. So I went into one of their dealers and the guy look up my details and so on and got confirmation that my discount do apply to the phone in question. I was happy eventhough the guy told me that they will have to charge me $35 to activate the new phone. I was told to come back in about 15 minutes while they do up the paperwork and activate the phone.

Away I went to do some errands and I came back for the phone. As usual, I got the sales pitch for buying extended warranty (it's a waste of money for the customer but a money maker for the retailer - I should know as I used to work for big electronics retailer who basically generated a lot of revenue on sales of extended warranties) which I turn down. I signed the 3-year agreement and the guy went and enter the details into the POS and turned around and tells me that the total is $210.00 plus taxes! I go "Huh?" I would have thought that $149.99 - $150 credit + $35 activation would be $34.99 plus taxes. Hmm, something is not right here so I looked through the item lines and see a $349.99 price for the phone which with my discount would be $200. Wait a minute, I thought the phone is only $149.99 with a 3-year activation and I pointed to the display tag in the store which states 3-year, phone = $149.99. Oh no, goes the salesperson, it's only for new activations.

Okay, let's see. I've been a faithful Telus Mobility customer for the last five years and to lock myself in for another 3 years, I gotta pay $210 for the phone whereas newcomer Joe will only pay $150. Who's the crap piece of marketing s**t who planned this marketing for Telus Mobility?? Why should I stay with Telus Mobility if they are so willing to treat their existing customers like 2nd hand clients? Rogers, Bell & Fido are all chomping down on the bit to try and get their competitors' customers to switch. The only problem in Canada right now is that you are not able to carry your existing number over but that's in the works and should be in place within the next twelve months. You can bet your skinny hinny that I will be the first to switch when that is available.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

The Ugly Mess II

The thread on AskTom is going by bounds and bounds. There were a lot of anonymous posters slinging mud and what not. What was interesting was that Janet B suffered chest pains and was rushed to ER for tests (this information was posted on Don Burleson's blog). Was these a result of stress arising from the current discussion? Who knows? It really doesn't matter other than to wish Janet a speedy recovery.

The thread itself was interesting as we have Harry Conway (a BC employee if that was indeed Harry Conway) who came on and posted which was against the BC guidelines for their employees and then shortly after a whole slew of anonymous pro-Burleson posters came on. So, with all the mud-slinging going on, is the blog or the moderator responsible for all the postings/comments? Who knows but in a common sense world, it would seems unlikely but anything is possible in the legal world.

All in all, this ugly mess arising from the grossly incorrect article by Don Burleson seems to not want to go away.

Friday, September 09, 2005

The Ugly Mess - Burleson's undocumented PGA parameter article

It was with a "train-wreck" mentality and fascination that I looked through the various posts on various sites that deal with this topic of Burleson's latest article on SearchOracle.com.

The postings are deteriorating into legalese and unfounded accusations. Take a look at AskTom for follow-up but you should take a look at these sites first:

a) The "enhanced" article (version 3)
b) Getting credible information
c) Supersize
d) Jonathan Lewis dis-assemblement of Burleson's article and Snark?
e) Discussion on Dizwell forum
f) Another blog comment from Radoslav Rusinov

Obviously, the gang at Burleson Consulting is trying their best to try and deflect attention away from the article and make it a 'personal' issue with Tom. It didn't help that there was a comment posted by someone on Tom's blog who suggested rating all of "Rampant Press" books to one-star regardless of authorship although I am sure the poster actually meant all of DKB's books. This led to Janet Burleson posting on AskTom accusing Tom of allowing that comment to stand and thereby an attempt by Tom to "interfere with fair competition in the publishing marketplace". Of course there are also comments from Don's favourite buddy, Mike Ault, on the lack of "professionalism" from Tom, Jonathan, et al, and Tom being labelled as the "ambassador of Oracle". I mean, Mike even went to the effort of producing a 180+ or 230 (depending on how you size your page) page MS Word document professing tests and test results that supports Don's assertions. He even summarized his findings as follows, "This test was constructed as a repeatable test case to show that the principles set forth in Don Burleson’s article Undocumented secrets for super-sizing your PGA are correct in most of the cases that I see as an Oracle tuning consultant."

I did a search on who would have labelled Tom as "The Ambassador of Oracle" and found this link from DBAzine.com and Mike Ault was upset about that? Maybe he should take it up with the editors at DBAzine.com, then. Gosh, what's next? DKB trade-marking and registering the term "world-renowed Oracle expert"?

The crux of the problem was that Burleson published an article that wasn't entirely correct and also insulting (Yes! Insulting as he basically stated that your Oracle DBA doesn't understand PGA management if certain parameters were set which turned out to be incorrect in the first place). When shown that he himself did not understand PGA management, much less providing advice that could seriously damaged an Oracle installation (after all, advising the use of undocumented parameters without obtaining Oracle Tech Support is not the brightest move), he couldn't take it and in his usual fashion claimed he was correct all along or that Tom and Jonathan has a personal vendetta against him, etc.

It's strange too since it seems that in the early days (pre-Oracle 9, I think), both Tom and Don seems to get along (probably because there wasn't too much complexity in how Oracle works).

Here's a pic that I found which showed Tom and Don sitting next to each other in happier times? NB: Don is the one on the far left and then Tom followed by Dave Ensor and then Connor McDonald.


Personally and professionally, I think it's great that folks like Tom and Jonathan and countless others are willing to take on ensuring that correct information are posted on the web. It's the right thing to do. What's wrong is the inability to accept and correct said information, after all, you cannot stop learning (at least, you cannot be right all the time).

I fear that this current "dispute" (whatever you want to call it) will turn ugly for even as I write this entry, Howard Rogers has an entry on his blog about Janet Burleson's feeble attempt and of course, unfounded accusations against Tom Kyte. I'm sure that the Burlesons will have a response to Howard's post and I fear that it won't be nice. On top of that, Brian Duffy's Oracle Blogs Aggregator automatically receives Howard's blog entry. Will Janet Burleson contact Brian again and threaten him with legal action unless that he remove said entry as has been done recently?

My suggestion is to let for everyone to take a step back and let cooler heads pervail otherwise it could seriously degenerate into an ugly mess. No, I'm not suggesting that Tom or Jonathan or Howard has done anything wrong.

Edited: to correct link to the "original" article published by Burleson.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Softwood lumber dispute

THe new US Ambassador, David Wilkins met with business leaders in Vancouver and insisted that the settlement of the softwood issue between the US and Canada has to come down to a negotiated settlement. A quick update, the US has imposed and collected duties of US$5b since the end of a negotiated agreement between Canada and the US a few years ago. Subsequent legal and trade resolutions under various trade agreements including NAFTA and international trade tribunals had resulted in rulings that declared the collection of these duties as illegal and that the duties should be returned to Canada.

One of Wilkins' comments was "Friends negotiated, they don't retaliate" which almost choked me. Now, the US (the "friend") has taken US$5b in illegal duties and basically refuses to return the money instead is willing to return a negotiated amount. This is like a "friend" who took your winning lottery ticket and said "I will give you $2m of the $10m jackpot because I'm your friend" or a "friend" who took your money and only willing to pay you back some negotiated amount because he is a "friend".

Get with the program, Wilkins! Your US Administration collected illegal dues and have been caught but instead of returning the money, you decided to be a "friend" (I would define you as the bully) and want to negotiate an amount to return. Let me tell you, a friend would do the right thing, apologize and return the money (with interest!).

Oracle-related - DUDE & DUL tools

I noticed that Pete Finnigan mentioned a couple of tools that can help recover data from an unrecoverable Oracle database, DUDE & DUL. DUL is apparently an Oracle Corp internal tool whereas DUDE is third party and written by Kurt Van Meerbeeck. Obviously the usage of these tools should be as a last resort where the database is totally unrecoverable and that there were no backups available. The intent then is to recover the business data and populate into a new database.

DUDE seems to be pretty niffy and Kurt did mentioned that it is designed to be abused-proof. That is, you can't download or buy the tool to try and hack into Oracle databases without authorization.

DUL is internal to Oracle and I'm not sure of the details but again I would guess that only Oracle Tech Support will be utilizing the tool against your database if and only if you are unable to recover your database and needed to unload the business data for reloading into a brand new database.

These tools are good to know about and hope that you never, never have to utilize them.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Katrina's Aftermath & George Bush

Over the week, our local news radio station, NEWS1130, has a poll going where they ask folks whether they plan to donate to the relief effort for the victims of Katrina down in the US. A good majority (53% plus) of folks who did the poll said "NO" and the main reason was George W Bush.

This is really, really sad as the money collected will be used for the folks affected by the hurricane not by the Bush Administration but it shows how negative a reputation the current US president has aboard.

Now, all is not lost, politics aside, as there are a lot of Canadians who are willing to donate except they don't do polls. A good example is this Buddist organization, Tzu Chi Foundation which is actively collecting donations for the Katrina's relief as well the usual big charity organizations (Red Cross, etc).

My suggestion is regardless of how you feel about the US and George W. Bush, please help in any way you can as it is the right thing to do.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Quitting your job

I recently read an article about leaving your current organization. It's a fact of life. People leave their current jobs for various reasons (e.g. life's taken a different turn, spouse got a better opportunity in another city, etc). The article talked about the right ways and wrong ways to leave an organization. For example, a manager having just came back from a two-week vacation to find a two-week old email from an employee who was giving his two-week notice. What do you think the manager's reaction is? Although the employee's within his rights but he is actually burned his bridge with this employer. Think about how you are going to get references from this employee in your next job hunt. The article mentioned that the best way is to ensure that there is a transitionary period for you to transition all your outstanding stuff to (e.g. sales account, etc) and that you contact each of your sales accounts (assuming that you are in sales) to let them know and who their new contact would be. Of course, this is a generalization as it depends on the organization and the position that you hold within that organization especially if you are leaving to go to a competitor.

Personally, as a manager, I would encourage employees to leave only if they find that there are no opportunities left in the organization for them or the organization is not a right fit for them. I would want the employees to leave on good terms so that (a) they can come back if they wish to and the organization has a need for their skills and knowledge and (b) they can help spread the good reputation of the organization.

The worst thing that I'd ever had to do was to actually fire an employee. This is basically a last resort where everything has been tried to make the employer-employee relationship work but it's unworkable. It then becomes personal as you had to sit down and explain to the employee what happened and why. A lot of times, it was shock (shouldn't be), denial, anger (sometimes the employee stomped out and was escorted out after packing up personal belongings), or quiet relief (a sense of closure).

Anyhow, back to topic onhand, if you are looking at moving on from your current organization, it's best to provide as much notice as possible to ensure a smooth transition. In British Columbia, the legal requirements for providing notice is your based on your pay period (which is normally biweekly). So, if you are paid monthly, then the minimum period is one month. So, let's say that you have decided that you wish to leave your current employer for whatever reasons, what's next?

First, you should sit down and go through what's on your plate and figure out how much time you will need to finish your immediate tasks and transition the rest. This will give you a basis for how much notice (at the minimum) that you will need to provide.

Secondly, you will need to sit down with your immediate supervisor/manager and formally tender your resignation. Have your transition plan with you to present and schedule a time later (next day if possible) to go over the transition plan.

Thirdly, once the transition plan is accepted and a designate has been identified for you to hand over, you need to keep your supervisor/manager informed (on a daily basis) so that there are no surprises.

Lastly, on your last week, start going around with your good-byes (as folks could be away on your last day).

If you planning on moving on from your current organization, good luck and I hope that this blog entry has given you some food for thought.

Disclaimer: The above is a generalization and basically suggested guidelines.

Baghdad - the other tragedy

Lest we forget. The other tragedy where over 950 folks (mostly women, children and the elderly) die in a stampede born out of fear amidst the rumours of a suicide bomber in their midst.

Thoughts and prayers are with those affected in both sides of the world.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

New Orleans - Anarchy

The situation in New Orleans is quickly deteriorating into anarchy with armed gangs roaming, basically shooting at the authorities, looting, taking hostages, etc. Meanwhile, thousands of people are waiting for help (within the Superdome) and not getting any.

Search and rescue have been halted due to the danger presented by the armed gangs. This is surreal and seems to be like straight out of a Hollywood movie (Escape from New York)! It was reported that all gun stores in New Orleans have been looted and all firearms and ammunitions were taken. National Guard have been sent and are in the city but it seems that there is a lack of coordination and nobody seems to know what to do first. I would think that the first couple of things to do is to (a) regain control of the city even it means shoot to kill and (b) provide a safe passage for the folks needing help and move them out of New Orleans (Houston is swamped) to other cities.

In the meanwhile, what can we do to help? Congress is looking at approving a US$10.5b relief package with scores of organizations/individuals donating (Shell - $15m, etc). It seems money will help later when the situation is under control and the rebuilding process begins. By all means, please contribute and help all you can but be aware of scams. My suggestion would be donate to the red cross.

The finger pointing can happen later as the priority right now is to help and save as many folks as possible.

There is this article on ZDNet which links to a blog maintained by folks still within New Orleans including a live webcam feed plus pictures taken throughout the week. Here's the link to the pictures Warning: Slow loading due the amount and size of pictures.