25 June 2013

Some Changes in Championship Rules (and more)

We have decided to institute a few changes in the rules and format for the quarterly championship, as well as rules for winners of other prizes.

First, regarding winners of prizes (weekly, monthly, etc.): while you can choose to remain anonymous on your public profile, you will not be eligible to receive a prize unless you have completed the following parts of your profile (which you can keep private):

On your Account-Personal page, provide your real and full name, as well as the country in which you reside. Then complete at least one of the three "My Website" fields with your LinkedIn account, professional website and/or other webpages that identify you and your profession. Your company website, combined with an email address in the same domain, is acceptable.

On the Account-Professional page, tell us the name of the company for which you work, the university you attend, or whatever is appropriate in your case.

Bottom line: we want to make sure that the players who win prizes are "real people" and not duplicate accounts, team efforts, or anything else. Of course, we can't stop you from putting in "phony" data, but we remain confident in the honesty and integrity of our players.

Second, regarding the quarterly championship:

1. The above rule applies to everyone who wishes to participate in the championship. In other words, even if you qualify by ranking, you will not be able to play in the championship without completing the minimal elements of your profile listed above. Only "real people" can compete!

2. Everyone will play in the championship at the same time. We will no longer offer multiple times at which it can be taken. We realize that this could cause hardship for some players (I'm thinking about the Pacific nations mostly), but we figure that if you are sufficiently honored and excited to be in the championship, you'll make it work.

In all cases, if a player does not provide the necessary information their status will be set to "Not Ranked" for the appropriate quiz.

We haven't finalized the time for the championship yet, but since most players are in the US and in Europe, we expect to aim for the end of the work day in Europe, late morning in the US.

Thanks once again for your dedicated play on the PL/SQL Challenge site. We will be unveiling new features in the coming months that will make it an even better at helping you become (more of) an expert in Oracle technologies.

Warm regards,
Steven Feuerstein


  1. I don't see the point of requiring 3 web pages. I do have a LinkedIn page, but I have not updated it for years. Should I put my employer's webpage in the second field? I hope I am still allowed to exists as "real human" without having 3 different webpages.

    I do not have Facebook, I have not filled my Google account, no Twitter, Picasa etc

  2. I would definitely be excited and honoured to be part of the championship playoff. But, living in GMT +8.00 timezone I am afraid I will be forced to work my brain after midnight. Not an ideal situation.

  3. Hei Steven,

    I have a little bit of problem with those websites, I don't have a LinkedIn account, my own website or anything that can show who I am or what I work with. The only one that can confirm all that is my works website, but that's only one website.

    Ingimundur K. Gudmundsson

  4. Dear Steven,

    to be honest, I'm not very happy about your decision to force every playoff participant to play at the same time.
    Could you please explain why you no longer offer multiple times for the playoffs? Are there any technical reasons for this? Or is it to prevent cheating (e.g. one player taking the playoffs at the earliest possible time and giving the questions to another player participating at the lateset possible time)?

    Kind regards,
    Frank Schmitt

  5. @ingimundur I have changed the post above to ask for at least one website. If you cannot list three, no worries. As for not having a LinkedIn account, is it a problem to establish one?

    @anonymous - Regarding the time of play, I recognize that some people will play in less optimal circumstances, and I am sorry about that. But won't the chance to play be so exciting that your adrenalin rush will overwhelm such as concerns as playing after midnight? Where, by the way, are you located?

    @frank - It is not a technical issue. We simply feel that this will be a better way to ensure that everyone plays on an equal footing.

  6. Hi,
    I can agree with all the new rules : You give the prizes (and much much more than only that), you make the rules, simple as that.

    The only thing I would really hate is the "time of play". Even with 4 options it's sometimes difficult to align it with work & family.
    Maybe the Championships could move to the weekends? (new poll? :)

    Thierry Poels.

  7. That is a very interesting idea, Thierry. Play the championship on the weekend....hmmmm....I like it very much, though of course it will still be tough for someone who has to play at 4 AM.

    I will set up a poll.

  8. Hello All,

    Just another idea:

    What about keeping the several playing times in place, but under the restriction that all the participants
    from the SAME COUNTRY should play at the SAME TIME ?
    That "single time per country" could be chosen either by a vote of the majority of the players from that country,
    or simply fixed by choosing "a reasonable time" for each country ?

    This way no one would be forced to play at midnight, and the "equal footing" is ensured at least
    at the country level ... though, of course, in a world where nothing is 100% reliable,
    why would the country information itself be ?

    The weekend idea has a nice point in it, namely that you don't have to also play a daily quiz in the same day ...
    but this is the only one.

    Just as not everyone has a web site or a LinkedIn account , also not everyone has access
    to a database at all on weekends ... and, however we look at it, this puts to a definite advantage
    those players who do have a database ...

    Cheers to @SiimKask, I am also a "real human" ( or at least I still hope so ... )
    without a personal web page, without a laptop and without a personal/home database ...

    Thanks a lot & Best Regards,
    ( not Anonymous, but I cannot logon to my profile )

  9. "We realize that this could cause hardship for some players (I'm thinking about the Pacific nations mostly), but we figure that if you are sufficiently honored and excited to be in the championship, you'll make it work."

    By this logic, you should set the competition time to be 4am, US EST.

    In other words, "We think the minority of people in the wrong timezones should be made to work harder than others to overcome our arbitrary restrictions - they should feel privileged that we even let them compete."

    - anonymous coward

  10. Fine with me!

    Kind regards,
    Milibor Jovanovic

  11. I think that there should be at least two playing times, e.g. 0:00 UTC and 12:00 UTC.

    Regarding the websites: I also don't have a LikedIn account but after I saw there user agreement that you must confirm that every content you upload (even if it was accidentely) you automatically grant them the worldwide and unrevokable privilege to use it for whatever they want - and that's an absolute no-go for me.

    When you go to my website you will only see a message from my provider that the domain is registered for a customer (I use it for email accounts) and I don't know if I will have the time to create a real home page until the next playoff).

    I have also added the homepage of the company I work for (even when you can't see that I'm working for the company on it) and I think it should also be sufficient to show that you are a real human if the email address belongs to the company (even when this would be very bad for people working at google, GMX, ... :-( ).

    Kind regards,
    Niels Hecker

  12. Niels, why do you think there should be at least two playing times? If two, why not four, as we do now?

    The homepage of your company, along with an email address with that domain, should be sufficient as well. I will add this to the rules, which will be placed in the FAQ as well.

    Regarding the interpretation that "We think the minority of people in the wrong timezones should be made to work harder than others to overcome our arbitrary restrictions - they should feel privileged that we even let them compete.", that stung!


    It's tough when your audience is such a logical bunch.

    Well, tell me what you would do. We have players all over the world, but the vast majority of those who compete in the Championship live in the US and Europe. I hate to inconvenience anyone, but I also want to ensure a great content. I am not for a "tyranny of the majority" but it's not like I am violating anyone's basic human rights here.


    I am adding this to the main post (and eventually to the rules/FAQ):

    If a player who qualifies to win a prize or compete in the Championship does not provide the necessary information, their status will be set to "Not Ranking" for the previous quarter. Rankings for the quarter will be adjusted and new players eligible.

    Complicated? Well, sure, but only if players don't provide a very reasonable amount of information.

  14. Niels, you raised the idea of two time slots. I assume you propose that so some people would not have to play at an ungodly hour in the morning. It is very worthwhile concern.

    What do you think of this idea:

    We have two time slots, but at 4:00 and 16:00, and you can play the 4:00 time slot if your country (and IP address) is in the Asia/Pacific region. Otherwise you play at 16:00.

  15. Steven, the idea of two timeslots comes from your idea that all players should play at only one point of time. I thought that it would be hard for some people if this time would be, for example, 04:00 at their local time zone and so I come to the idea that there should be at least two timeslots with a difference of 12 hours.

    And I'm also happy that it is sufficient, when the domain of the email-address is identical to the domain of the company a player is working for, because when you look at the poll "Where Do You Play Quizzes?" you will also see that 84% of the players do it on the job (during or outside of the working hours).

    Kind regards, Niels

  16. Hi Steven,

    Just want to know: how do we know that the information we provided is enough? Is the information "You are being ranked." enough?
    I am asking this because you state: "Your company website, combined with an email address in the same domain, is acceptable." - I do not have that information in LinkedIn (and I don't want to use my that e-mail address as primary).


  17. @niels

    Re: IP address...I did some checking and apparently there is no way to use IP address reliably to identify/confirm location. I will give it some more thought, but right now I am inclined to keep things at a single time slot for this championship and we will see how that works out.


    We will let you know if the information you provide is not good enough. Put in the data you feel best represents you and we will let you know if there is a problem.

  18. Hi Steven,

    I live in Singapore (UTC +8). I like the idea of two time slots 4:00 utc and 16:utc. that way I will be able to take up the playoff quiz (if I am selected) at 4:00 utc. The timings also ensure that only 1 slot is ideal for anyone depending on their region.


  19. Hello Steven,

    Regarding the IP address versus location ... I am sure that the CIA probably has a method
    of relating the two precisely.

    But, anyway, if you take the statistic distribution of all the playing times of a player across a quarter,
    ( earliest, latest, vast majority ), you can probably identify at least from which "half globe" he was playing ...

    A pity that we cannot adopt the Middle Age "plain globe" variant to make everybody happy :):)

    Best Regards,

  20. Thanks, Iudith. Yes, I could probably sort it out - manually. But I don't see a good way to automate the process - which scares me. :-)

  21. Hi Steven,

    Just to follow the point that João mentioned. I don't use my work e-mail for PLSQLChallenge, as I work in a government institution and am technically not allowed to use my email for private things. Therefore I use my gmail for the account. I can of course put my work e-mail as a comment somewhere so that you can see it for the purposes of deeming if I am a real person or not. Hope this is enough.


  22. Ingimundur, that will be more than sufficient. I will add that to the FAQ and rules as well.

  23. [From Iudith/comment deleted accidentally]

    Hello Steven, All,

    The problem with 2 playing times, even with 12 hours between them, is that, in any way you choose them, there will always exist certain regions on the globe for which both of them could be considered "reasonable".

    For example, if you take 04:00 UTC and 16:00 UTC, then for my region, which is ( UTC + 03:00 )
    both of them are "morning or evening" times, not "night" times.

    So, even if you rely on the country information, you will have to take a decision about which of the two times will have to be used for the players of that country.

    For example, you can calculate the for each of these 2 time points, the "average time interval" between the daily playing times of a player across the quarter and that fix time point, and then choose the time point for which this average interval is the smallest.

    And, if this leads to different results (different time points chosen) for players from the same (declared) country, then choose for all those players the one that represents the majority of the results, considering that in this case, probably, both time points are "normal enough" for all the players of that country.

    Just an "idea of automation" ... maybe it could work.

    Thanks a lot & Best Regards,

  24. Thanks for your ideas, Iudith. For this championship, though, I am going to "stick" with the one time slot.