08 April 2011

Happy Birthday, PL/SQL Challenge!

One year ago today, we launched the PL/SQL Challenge. And now, some 260 quizzes later, the PL/SQL Challenge has turned into one of the most frequently visited sites on the Internet for Oracle technologists who want to deepen, extend and demonstrate their expertise in the Oracle PL/SQL language.

I must admit that when I look back over the last year, it is easy for me to see that I really had no idea what I was getting into when I decided it would be very "cool" to offer a daily quiz.

Easy to say. Hard to do! Hard to write interesting, bug-free quizzes. Hard to build a website that makes it easy to play quizzes, see results, and learn from quizzes. Hard to suddenly be responsible for a production, 24x7 application.

But it was and still is worth it. In fact, the PL/SQL Challenge to be one of the most interesting and rewarding projects I've ever worked on - and I fully expect that it is only going to get more interesting and more rewarding in the coming years.

While the PL/SQL Challenge has certainly kept me busy, it has taken the efforts of many other people to make the PL/SQL Challenge what it is today. And so my deepest thanks and gratitude go out to:
  • PL/SQL Challenge players: without your interest and daily efforts, the website would be of little value. I have been truly amazed at the level of engagement by so many Oracle technologists around the world. We have created a new kind of community, one which I hope to grow in many ways in the coming year.
  • Apex Evangelists: John Scott, Dimitri Gielis and Paul Broughton have been absolutely key to both launching the PL/SQL Challenge website and keeping it up and running. If you ever need any kind of help with APEX development, I encourage you to consider hiring Apex Evangelists.
  • Our reviewers, Michael Brunstedt, Ken Holmslykke, Darrel Hurley: In the early months of the PL/SQL Challenge, we were quite honestly plagued by mistakes. I reviewed the quizzes myself (and didn't even put in place a requirement to build and run verification code for each quiz) - which is a foolish and doomed strategy. Once I had independent reviewers, the number of mistakes plummeted.
  • Our premier sponsors: as you all know, the PL/SQL Challenge is completely free, so sponsors play a critical role in supporting this initiative. Thank you, O'Reilly Media! Thank you, Quest Software! Thank you, Oracle Technology Network! Thank you, ODTUG! (Note: later this year, I plan to offer a membership option to the PL/SQL Challenge. Pay a membership fee, get access to member-only and very fantastic features!)
  • Finn Ellebaek Nielsen: Finn helped me launch the PL/SQL Challenge and while he could not stay on the project after the initial months, his contributions without a doubt helped ensure the success of the PL/SQL Challenge.
Another aspect of the PL/SQL Challenge that gives me enormous satisfaction is that it has provided a pathway for my son, Eli, to get started in his new career as a developer. He has done a truly fantastic job, especially considering that he started with no background or education in computer programming, and I haven't really given him much in the way of formal training.

Ah, there's so much more to say - but I am kind of busy right now implementing version 2 of the PL/SQL Challenge, which will (I predict) amaze and challenge you in ever new ways. So I am going to get back to work.

Please feel free to add your comments about how the PL/SQL Challenge has helped you in your career as an Oracle technologist (and any ideas you have for improving the site).

Warm regards,
Steven Feuerstein


  1. I already wrote a post on our blog about it:

    But I'll repeat this:
    To Steven and his team of reviewers and developers: thanks for the nice quizzes and keep up te great work!
    To all players: have fun and good luck!

  2. Hello All,

    What to add more to the above ?

    That PL/SQL Challenge has become, at least for me, a second full time job ?
    Yes, it may sound strange that in addition to the 5 minutes of taking the daily quiz,
    you have the challenge always with you, inside yourself, thinking all the time about what can you do
    to become better ... and discovering every day that you have still so much to learn
    in a field that in fact you do master very well in your daily work ...

    For me, personally, knowledge has always been also an issue of self-accomplishment, of "art-for-art's sake"
    if you wish, rather than being just a tool to solve my daily work tasks. Just limiting yourself
    to your daily tasks may sometimes lead you into some kind of routine, and you might miss the most beautiful
    part of our profession, which is that of learning, and learning, and learning more every day ...

    I have a great love for Oracle for many years,
    and now, due to the PL/SQL Challenge, I just came to love PL/SQL not less !

    I wish I had Eli's chance to be mentored by one of the world specialists at the start of my career ...
    sometimes I feel so lonely of not being able to really share my successes and also my failures
    with almost anyone ...

    PL/SQL Challenge has really put a new big challenge upon my life, that of striving to
    become satisfied with yourself and not just to fulfil your daily duties, I stronly believe that
    a developer who brings into his work his own feeling of accomplishment and progress will finally
    be a more succesful "coder" also.

    I have the deepest appreciation for what Steven and the PL/SQL Challenge team has accomplished for us,
    day will come when we all will remember with great pleasure the satisfaction of having been part
    of a great world-wide family !

    Best Regards & Much luck to all,
    Iudith Mentzel

  3. Happy birthday PL/SQL Challenge. It has been exciting in playing the quiz everyday for past 11 months. Thanks for hosting this Steven and sponsors.

  4. God job man, don't give-up keep focus forward.
    Can you help me to resolve this error
    1.TNS: could not resolve the identifier specified. happen when i start pl/sql
    2.TNS:listener does not currently know of service requested in connect descriptor. when am using developer 10g to connect to the database.
    Can you reply to my email:sir_hilton@yahoo.com

  5. sir_hilton, I hope you don't mind, I asked your question on your behalf on StackOverflow - a great resource for answering questions like this :)


  6. And from a player, via email:

    Congratulations on the life span and on the number of players you and your team got to play the PL/SQL Challenge.

    And finally: my most sincere personal thanks; my life changed because of the PL/SQL Challenge:

    - it got me a great new job, and...

    - it makes me feel quite great because of my ranking and the status that it got me with the company I am working in now.

  7. Happy Birthday Challenge !!!

    I found you through search engine while looking for something else and I am glad about it.

    I look forward to Version 2, another milestone.

  8. @sir_hilton, if you are connecting to Oracle through Developer 10g then you need to make sure listener is started. Developer 10g refers to it's it's own tnsnames.ora and listener.ora files so edit them manually or through Net Manager to add required Database Service. Hope this helps.

  9. Steven: PL/SQL Challenge is a great idea. Was it inspired by something else? Or an original idea?
    I bet you wish you'd thought of it years ago?

  10. As iudith above mentioned that PL/SQL Challenge became her second full-time job, it became mine as well.

    And, honestly, it got to the point where it was just too much mind consuming. The pure thing of making sure that I'm EVERY STUPID DAY near a computer with an access to the Internet (yeah, it can happen in the 21.century!) and to a working Oracle DB instance with enough non-restrictive privileges and enough free time and space to think over the quizzes gradually became just too much to handle. With all the outsourcing in my work, being every other day off at some overrestrictive customer's, it became just unbearable for me to make sure I do the Challenge every day.

    As much as I love this quiz, that much I just started to hate its "dailyness". So I just need a break (and I already dislike the idea of taking a break) from the ranked quizzes and hopefully will return to them some weeks/months later.

    Meanwhile, keep up the good work !

  11. Keith,

    As for what inspired the Challenge, my plan has always been to build a testing database/site: a repository of quizzes that can be used for your own education, by managers to test their teams and educate them, by employers to use with prospective new hires.

    I decided that the best way to get started (and very interest in such a thing) was to offer a free, daily quiz. And off I went writing questions, and then building a website!

    I still plan to implement that bigger vision of a testing DB/site.

    Anonymous: I am sorry to hear that the daily quiz became "uhbearable". Of course, you don't have to choose between "play every day" or "don't play at all."

    I hope to have you back at it soon.

  12. Congratulations on a great year. As one of the longer-term and regular players, I have to say I've gotten a lot from doing the quizzes.

  13. Hello Anonymous above,
    I just wanted to let you know how deeply I understand you ... I also went through this,
    this is why I call myself and others like me "addicted" ... What is an addicted one ?
    It is one that feels the pain, but refuses to give up for anything in the world !
    Yes, it is sometimes hard to be there every day, fresh-minded and ready for the new challenge, but after some months of playing and hopefully successfully enough so that to feel yourself not just like working, but also being rewarded, you finish by feeling this as part of your life and you cannot conceive a day without your "daily dose" ...
    After a hard working day, a correctly answered quiz can just turn your mood to the best for the remaining evening ...

    I am sure your "competitive vacation" will not last too much, though, believe me, I also "went through" the same thoughts ...

    Best Regards,