10 March 2011

Help us beta test PL/SQL Challenge Version 2

Dear PL/SQL Challenge Players:

We plan to release version 2 of the PL/SQL Challenge in April 2011, around the one year anniversary of the launch of the PL/SQL Challenge (8 April 2010). Version 2 involves major changes to the PL/SQL Challenge, at all levels of the application code stack (database table design, PL/SQL API, APEX code), with (as one would hope and expect) significant new features for our players.

Here's a taste of what is coming:

* Select from and play multiple competitions from the home page. You can. for example, play the daily PL/SQL quiz, then check out the monthly Toad World quiz (also a PL/SQL quiz), sponsored by Quest Software. If and when you are eligible to participate in a quarterly championship playoff, you will simply pick it off the list on the home page.

* Much more quiz-taking flexibility: in a multi-quiz competition, for example, you can move back and forth between the quizzes (a feature long requested by those participating in the quarterly championship).

* Play quizzes for different technologies. We will, to be more specific, start offering SQL and APEX quizzes, in addition to the PL/SQL quizzes (don't worry - ranking of all such quizzes are kept separate!).

* Participate in polls (just another kind of "quiz", really), so that we can gather more and better feedback from our players on how to improve the website.

* See all news and private messages through a new Messages window.

* Improvements to the appearance of the website.

* Improved feedback page, showing recently submitted issues.

I think you will be just as excited as I am about the new features of the PL/SQL Challenge. I can certainly tell you that it has been both an intensive and exhilarating refactoring project. Perhaps I will find some time over the next month or two to write about our experience in making the foundation of the PL/SQL Challenge must more generic and flexible.

In the meantime, we invite you to check out the beta version of version 2 at


We plan roughly 3 weeks of beta testing, then a week of "acceptance" testing at test.plsqlchallenge.com, then upgrade to production. And soon after that, we will hold our next quarterly championship, using the new architecture (exciting!).

You can use your regular email address and password to log in. You will see all the past quiz data available on the production site, as of 4 March. Please concentrate your testing initially on the process of taking a quiz. What do you think of the way we are presenting the competitions? Do you see any problems with taking a quiz?

Use the Feedback feature to tell us what you think....and we will soon create polls to solicit your feedback as well.

Many thanks in advance for your assistance!
Steven Feuerstein


  1. The new look and feel is great, although I had to look twice at the header - where I expected to see my stats I saw this instead:

    Welcome, Jeff Kemp Invite Friends Profile Logout
    242,604 quizzes played * 6,487 players * US$9,250 in prizes awarded

    I thought, "Have I really played 240K+ quizzes? And where's my $9,250?"

    I think I'll miss the more detailed personal stats in the header.

    Just a few minor issues (submitted by feedback) which I'm sure will be fixed before go-live :)

  2. The Your Scorecard section in sidebar doesn't give you the information you want to see?

    I would like to remove the stats box from the top because it took up a lot of space and looked "clunky."

    I think that when we go production, those stats at the top will clearly indicate the "scope."

    Cheers, SF

  3. Like it!!!! Some smaller issueds found, but you already saw that.

  4. "6,488 players" is a small promo lie. When approximately a thousand of players are quizing per a day only.

  5. You callin' me a liar? Huh?


    Well, yes, it is the total number of people who have played at least one quiz. Surely I can be allowed a little artful promotion?

  6. "Lifetime Rankings -> Quizzes Taken = 1: 1 - 50 of 1029". They are not PLAYERs. They WAS just interesting in "What is it?" And so on.
    "% Taken >= 30: 1 - 50 of 1200". 30 is just for example. But I trust that number of 1200. "Newcomers" will not find out more competitors, whatever they see at home page.

  7. From memory, the scorecard didn't include the percentile and % Correct for Week/Month/Quarter/Lifetime - only the ranking.

    I can't check now because the beta site is returning "ORA-01422: exact fetch returns more than requested number of rows".

    I agree with Vitaliy, although "6,488 players" is kind-of accurate, it's about as impressive as saying "1,000,000 page views per year" - i.e. big deal, the internet's a big place :)

    It would be more impressive if it said something like "1,029 active players*", defined, e.g., as the number of unique visitors who answered at least one quiz within the past 3 months. Although the number is smaller, the stat would carry some weight.

  8. You are a tough audience...but your wish is my...something or other.

    The player count now is the number of unique visitors who answered at least one quiz within the past 3 months.

    The scorecard will likely not include all the data that was in the grid. I plan to make sure all of that is visible at your profile. I suppose we could also make the scorecard expandable so you could open it up to see more data when desired. I will enter an ER for this.

  9. I thought I was seeing things when the number of players went down. I think the new figure is more... truthful.

    I think the player scorecard is what I'll miss most, based on current design - especially the %.

    From the feedback I submitted, I think the highest on the wishlist would be a summary similar to the old format over all competitions. Something easy on the eye. That would satisfy my yearn. ;-)

    And maybe some poetry harmonising with the new colour scheme - you know, a haiku using all the words that rhyme with "orange"!

    It be Friday!

  10. "My profile info" and "Ranking Scorecard" in 1.9 is more handy than their stubs in 2.0

  11. There is no visual difference between answered and not competitions. Eye has nothing to catch at.

  12. Hello All,
    Just a few short remarks after my first visit to the new site:

    1. Just like all the above bloggers, I also miss the correctness percent for each of the
    rankings on my scorecard.
    In fact, this percent is the ultimate measurement of your achievement and the permanent goal that keeps you going.
    Looks to me that it can be shown immediately after each of the rankings, without taking up additional place.

    As I understand, this scorecard will continue to refer to the daily PL/SQL challenge,
    even after the other competitions will start.

    2. Another thing that I miss is the immediate
    feedback related to the TIME it took to answer the quiz, which was a very welcome additon
    of version 1.9.
    At least, I'd like to see it displayed on the survey page, next to the question that asks whether "this quiz took too long, too short or a reasonable time".

    3. As another blogger noted, a visual clue near the links of each competition would be most welcome to show me which quizes I have already taken, though, for the daily quiz this is already impossible to be forgotten :) :)

    4. The color scheme is nice, though it looks
    a little bit "more solid" (or, say, "less funny" ?) than the previous one, with the smaller cup in the left upper corner ...

    Congratulations again to Steven and the whole development team for a great work !

    Best Regards,

  13. Hello All,
    After a few days pause, today I entered the beta test page for Version 2 and here are some few short comments:

    1. I took today's quiz in really a very short time (I wish I were that fast on the "official" one :) ),
    but I received as feedback 390 seconds,
    which is practically impossible.

    Hope that this is only a lack of accuracy on the beta test site, and WILL NOT be carried on to the production site.

    2. The weekly SQL quiz appears on the list of the Past Quizes page, but with the answers still hidden.
    This is strange, because it notifies me that I DID NOT take this quiz.
    So, if the quiz is still open, I expect to be allowed to still take it. If it is already closed, I expect the Show answers Yes/No button
    to appear on the quiz page.

    3. It looks that browsing the new site takes up
    much more computer resources than the previous one.
    I am able to hear my computer "making efforts"
    to keep on, while the new site is just open but currently idle.
    I did not experience this with the current site, hope this will not slow down things,
    as answer times are essential, especially for those that do not have very fast Internet connections.

    Thanks a lot to you all & Best Regards,

  14. Philippe Marbaise24 March, 2011 13:07


    I have been lost to find how to start the active test. I'm sooooo used to find a button "Play Now" that I completely overlooked the link in the list of quizzes to start the one of today.


  15. Judith,

    We will definitely take a look at the issue of resources; perhaps the Javascript timer we are using is doing that.


    Our next iteration of the home page should help make very clear what you can play and what you press to start playing.