23 May 2011

PL/SQL Challenge Version 2 Now Available!

Version 2 of the PL/SQL Challenge is a major upgrade of this popular site for Oracle technologists. We've been developing version 2 for over six months (where did all that time go?) and we are extremely pleased with the results. I hope you will feel the same way.

There are many changes to the site, highlights of which I offer below:
  • New and improved interface: earlier versions of the website were very text-heavy, with minimal use of color and images. We believe that the new site will be easier and more enjoyable to use.
  • More flexible architecture and offering of quizzes: PL/SQL Challenge V1.X was built completely around the daily PL/SQL quiz. This approach wasn't really flexible enough to handle existing requirements (such as the monthly Toadworld quiz and the quarterly playoff), and it certainly wouldn't let us easily add other kinds of quizzes on other technology areas. V2 puts in place a platform that not only offers more flexibility and clarity today, but will make it easy to add more quizzes in the (near) future.
  • Guest-related features: now, even before you register, you can check out up to five quizzes in the library and play a sample quiz. We hope this will make the site more welcoming and encourage more technologists to play. If you visit the site and you are not yet logged in, you will now see a Welcome page that offers these features to guests
  • New messages system: no more ticker across the page, we now offer a separate tab on the menu, Messages, in which you can view both news, broadcast to all players, and personal messages, directed specifically to you. When you have unread messages, the Message button will blink.
  • On-line reviewing: now both reviewers and quiz authors can review, comment on, and edit questions. This will make it easier for the broader player community to help build and quality-check the quizzes.
  • Polls: you can, right within the website, take polls to help us enhance the PL/SQL Challenge experience for all players. Polls are built on the same foundation as quizzes, so it was a nice verification of the generalized platform we built. We hope that you take the time to take those polls and make a difference at the PL/SQL Challenge!
  • Behind the scenes: as much as the player-facing pages of the PL/SQL Challenge website has changed, the "backend" component of the application has also been transformed. We are now automating many more of the tasks required to operate the PL/SQL Challenge. This will make us more efficient and responsive.

The website is very different, offering more features, but hopefully in an intuitive fashion. We plan to  record videos exploring these new features; we'll let you know when they are available.

Our deepest gratitude to the many Challenge players who participated in the beta and final test phases of our development. Your feedback, critiques and suggestions have resulted in major improvements to the site. And, of course, we welcome all of your comments now that the site is live.

I will, by the way, also shortly announce the date for the Q1 2011 playoff, which I have put off until this new architecture is in place. We did a "test" playoff last week, and the feedback from players on the improved usability was very positive.

So...we hope that you enjoy the new website, and wish you the best as you play the PL/SQL Challenge!

For the PL/SQL Challenge development team,
Steven Feuerstein


  1. Hi, Thanks for the new version and its really good. I am waiting to take up new quizzes like "SQL Quiz" and others..

  2. Not really a fan of the new colour scheme or logo I'm afraid, the orange/grey/green combination really doesn't work very well /rant

  3. a bit buggy, can't participate at the moment.
    and new design is not supported by ie6 :)

  4. Yes, I hate to say it but this new site will not work well on IE6. It is very difficult to support compatibility for all the older browsers.

  5. Hello All,

    Unfortunately, the browser web technology is still not very precise, after so many years ...
    it is NOT PL/SQL ( how lucky we are, right ? ).

    As one who has struggled a lot with the IE6 problems during the testing ...
    I'd like to only add that even on IE7 there are some display problems, only IE8 seems to be ok.

    For those who have the same problems,
    I would recommend trying to install an additional browser, without disturbing in any way your other/default browser.

    I installed Firefox specifically for playing the PL/SQL Challenge and I am very content with it :) :) :)

    Thanks to the whole PL/SQL Challenge development team for a GREAT WORK !

    Best Regards,

  6. Have been playing the challenge for several months now but unfortunately am unable to reach the 'new version' --- Tried it with both Firefox and IE 7 and keep getting 'server at www.plsqlchallenge.com is taking too long to respond.'

  7. We've spent a fair amount of time getting the site to work correctly on IE7, so if you notice any problems, please do let us know.

  8. Gerry, that is very disturbing. Certainly, hundreds of other players have had no problem today. Please don't hesitate to send me an email at steven@stevenfeuerstein.com if you continue to have trouble or any specific error messages to report.

  9. Congratulations on the upgrade. I was able to take today's PL/SQL quiz without a problem and I look forward to the other types in the near future.

    - Stew

  10. Great work, Feuerstein and Feuerstein :) I for one like the new look and feel of the site. It's friendly and inviting.

    A few bugs here and there, but that's to be expected with such a large architectural change. I'm sure over time you'll stabilise those as well.

    My one piece of feedback is for the front page, for a new person who hasn't logged in: it's ok, but I think it needs to be much simpler - i.e. remove as much as you possibly can - so that it leads a newbie gently into the whole experience. e.g.: the twitter bit; the animated player feedback draws the eyes away from the main action - it's not needed for a first-timer's front page; the sponsor info; the "Find your friends" (e.g. I doubt a new user will be interested in "Advanced Search").

    Most especially, cut down your intro to one short sentence. As Spolsky says, "users don't read", and "the more words, the less likely anyone will read it".

    The "Why Register" is something that newbies will answer for themselves, once they try the sample quiz - that whole box could go too.

    Be ruthless!

  11. Nice work! Version 2 is looking good!
    Congrats to the team for all the work they did!

    I'm using firefox 4 and everything works perfect...

    My Apex colleagues are impatient for Apex challenges ;-)

  12. I'm working offsite, have installed FF4, but the Play Now-button is grayed-out. The other browser to be found is IE6, and that shows a lot of rubbish. As the desktop has W2k (very ancient) I'm not able to install Google Chrome or a newer IE. Yesterday I had to do the quiz on my phone (small screen). This evening I will give it a try when I'm back at home.
    In FF site looks nice though, except for the grayed-out 'Play Now'-button.

  13. Dick, do you have Javascript enabled for FF4? That is the only reason we can think of for not showing the Play Now button. A couple of other people have reported this, but we cannot see a clear pattern from browsers, versions, etc.

  14. Like Gerry, I also received the "server ... is taking too long to respond" message yesterday. I tried several times over the course of the morning and was finally able to access the site in the afternoon.

  15. Hello All,
    I'd just like to update Steven and everybody that I tried again browsing with IE7 and everything looks now ok !

    My previous tests were several days ago, when this browser version still had some display problems.
    So, now I have both IE7 and Firefox working ok.

    A small remark though regarding the
    "Survey results" page: at this moment, neither Firefox nor IE7 display the charts that we were used to see on that page.
    Instead, the message "There is no data for this chart" appears several times on the page, where the charts used to be located.

    Probably still a new version tech problem that is yet to be stabilized ...

    Congratulations again for a great site and for many months of hard work and big satisfactions offered to us, hope still many more to come !

    Best Regards,

    To the comment above I'd just like to add that
    currently I fail to post comments using my Google account, both with IE7 and with Firefox
    ( yesterday I was able to do this ! )
    therefore I try to post as "Anonymous", which I usually don't do.