22 October 2013

Feedback Needed: A new vision for the PL/SQL Challenge

We started the PL/SQL Challenge in April 2010 with a daily PL/SQL quiz. Over the years since, we have added weekly APEX, SQL and Logic quizzes, as well as monthly quizzes, quarterly championships and much, much more: over 1,200 to date!

Through it all we published five new quizzes on PL/SQL each week, come rain or shine, holiday or workday. And it should come as no big surprise, given that this whole site was my idea (Steven Feuerstein), that I have written more quizzes than everyone else combined: over 1,000. Wow.

I've gotten pretty good at it (productive, that is) and I actually do enjoy it. 

Yet I now feel that the time has come to end the daily quizzes. I know that many of you may have strong feelings about this, so I would like to share (a) my reasons for feeling this way and (b) what I would like to do in place of the daily quiz.

I plan to put these changes into effect on 1 January 2014, so I very much want your feedback.

Here are my reasons:

1. It's very time consuming to write five quizzes per week, along with verification code and resources. It's also quite a job to review all these quizzes, and much of that effort has fallen at this point to a single, valiant player: Elic.

I have greatly enjoyed writing these quizzes. I've learned even more about PL/SQL in the process and, certainly, feel good about the impact of these quizzes on thousands of developers around the world.

But the bottom line is that by committing so much of my time to these quizzes, I have that much less time for other activities, both related to Oracle technologies and completely distinct from them.

And I must tell you that whether it is a mid-life crisis (I just celebrated my 55th birthday) or just one more human being coming to his or her senses, I feel more and more strongly with each passing day that I need to spend more time out in the natural world, away from computers and the Internet and plastic.

2. It's quite a burden on our reviewers to ensure a high quality for five quizzes each week. For a while, I had four-five PL/SQL developers checking my quizzes (well, usually 2-3 for any given quiz), but lately the main responsibility has fallen on our most excellent and diligent reviewer, Elic. He shows no signs of wear and tear, but it worries me....

3. Hmmm. I guess that's really about it. :-)

So what would I like to do instead? (with the PL/SQL Challenge, that is. Check out feuerthoughts.blogspot.com for occasional disclosures about what I plan to do with the rest of my life, overall. My views on that have been changing a lot in the past year.)

Here's what I am thinking about right now:

Offer THREE weekly quizzes on PL/SQL, as follows:

1. The PL/SQL Challenge: a weekly quiz authored by me that covers the gamut of PL/SQL features, as we have been going with the daily quiz - just once per week. See? I am not going to stop writing quizzes entirely!

2. The Community PL/SQL quiz: a weekly quiz that is authored by others (anyone but Steven Feuerstein). Currently we restrict how many questions authored by players can be used per quarter to just three. At least one player (Iudith Mentzel) has written lots of great questions that could be played and appreciated better with this new weekly quiz. And I hope that having a weekly quiz specifically showcasing the knowledge and creativity of others will encourage you to submit your own!

3. Deja Vu PL/SQL: a weekly quiz that features a question previously played in the daily PL/SQL quiz. Of course, if you spend lots of time practicing past quizzes, these will, over time, get ridiculously easy for you, but hey there's nothing wrong with that. You are internalizing programming patterns, leading to improved productivity and code quality in your own work. I am certain of it!

The PL/SQL Challenge quiz will be the primary quiz for rankings and qualifications for championships (more on that below). We would also rank the Community PL/SQL and Deja Vu PL/SQL quizzes, but they would not be used directly to qualify for championships. Instead, some players of these quizzes would qualify through a variety of special rules (play all quizzes in a quarter with N% correct or higher, that sort of thing).

Keep the Quarterly PL/SQL Championship

One could argue that there will no longer be enough quizzes in a quarter (12 weekly vs roughly 60 daily) to establish clearly who should participate in the championship. I was thinking about switching to a semi-annual (every 6 months) championship, but that complicates matters in our backend (support for a new frequency) and I don't really want to give players any fewer reasons to think about and visit the site.

We will probably adjust the rules around what it takes to qualify for the championship. And we will continue to play at a single time, to ensure the integrity of the competition.

Add a New Annual PL/SQL Championship

We are adding annual championships for SQL and Logic in 2014. We will do the same for PL/SQL, maybe starting in 2014 or wait until 2015.

Still sorting out the rules for participation. Maybe we will "loosen" things up and make it an "open" contest: anyone can play!Or have an open qualifier: take three quizzes (everyone at the same time), top 50 play in the annual championship.

Set Up More Tests
We recently rolled out the new Tests feature, which currently gives you the ability to take a past PL/SQL Quarterly Championship under the same conditions as the original players.

We will add more tests with specific feature area foci, such as a test on dynamic SQL or bulk processing. These will consist of multiple quizzes (not from those already played) that are designed to test how thoroughly you understand a particular area of functionality, and will include a mix of code-based and word quizzes.

Build the Community

I spend so much time writing quizzes, I don't have enough time to more fully develop the community side of the PL/SQL Challenge. I would like to start highlighting player accomplishments (Player of the Year, Reviewer of the Year, etc.), as well as provide better-organized and fully-realized utilities and reusable code.

And more generally I want to make the site less about/from me and more about featuring the knowledge and experience of PL/SQL experts all around the world!


  1. Hi,

    what can we say?? we love daily quizzes, it's our daily (free) PL/SQL training.
    BUT we understand that it requires an enormous amount of work to offer daily quizzes, and that there are indeed other things in life than Oracle or computing in general.

    Weekly PL/SQL quizzes will not change my opinion about the PL/SQL Challenge. Some days it's even a burden to find a free moment to play the daily quiz; and then it becomes guessing or nearly random clicking.

    We can only praise the people who write quizzes : they make our day .. euh .. week ;o)

    idea? : play x hundred quizzes => write 1 quiz ?

    Thierry Poels.

  2. Your proposal is more than fair.

    I'd like to say I personally appreciate your work as well as your enthusiasm
    and all that effort that makes you push this wonderful site thus far.

    I understand your points and would be grateful if you will keep feeding us with your quizzes
    on a weekly basis, I also like the idea of Deja Vu and Community quizzes as I'm still quite new here and one day would like to participate as an author.

  3. Hello Steven, All,

    At this first moment, all I can say is that I am completely shocked !!!
    Though, to be sincere, I was already thinking (since that previous post of yours, in which you asked for help from the players) that such a decision would probably come some day ...
    But, like all the other unpleasant thoughts, I always put it aside and simply did not want to think about it ... or, at least not for even a few more years ..

    If the main reason is the difficulty to create so many quizzes, and I perfectly know what that means,
    then we, the player community do have our guilt, in not having worked enough to create more and more quizzes ...

    I just remember at this moment a few very good authors from among the former players,
    who do not play any more, but this does not mean that they should have quitted creating quizzes also !

    Indeed, even from among the about 500 players who do play daily, I would have expected much more quizzes to be created, for making Steven's life easier and add to our playing experience, because I am sure that every player, even if a beginner, does have some work experience that is worth to be shared with others.

    I don't want to sound too personal, but I should witness that I have put aside or postponed many things in my life, just for not risking to miss any single daily quiz !
    Losing such a habit will be extremely traumatic, after you have "converted" your life to flow around the PL/SQL Challenge ...

    I was even preparing to continue to play after retiring from work :):):)

    By the way ( for the record ? ) ...
    My work is entitled to complain, for having been pushed "to the second plan",
    for the sake of the PL/SQL Challenge ...
    and I was so happy that I was able to do both things, in this order :) :)

    ( to be continued - because of size limitation )

  4. ( continued ... )

    Weekly quizzes are also nice and demanding, but it is a completely different feeling ...

    I usually play them at the start of each week, and then "postpone the theme" entirely,
    to make room for the daily quiz only !

    Playing weekly quizzes only will somehow "cool you down", don't know how to find the proper terms to express it ... and put you in a completely different mood from that of playing daily.

    I understand ( and SHARE ! ) the desire of sometimes not to see computers at all ...
    just doing other things, even just reading Oracle-related stuff ... but just with a book in your hand,
    no keyboard, no machine ...

    Regarding the Playoffs... which maybe it is already not a secret that I AM NOT especially fond of ...

    Qualifying in a Playoff based on 12 quizzes only, clearly means that if you missed a quiz or achieved an extremely low score on it, then you practically lose any chance to qualify ...

    I already even started to think about the idea of a "combined Playoff", that is, PL/SQL combined with SQL, just as they *are* combined in real life ...

    Back to the issue of quiz authoring ... this is hard work, though very rewarding in all aspects,
    so I should witness that it is NOT the limitation of just 2 or 3 quizzes that are allowed to be played
    in a quarter that could prevent a player to submit more quizzes, but mainly the lack of time in elaborating them at the expected high level, unfortunately, not everyone is Steven Feuerstein :):)

    But, if only half of the Players were submitting their 3 quizzes in a quarter, our stock of quizzes would have been more than enough for still a few good years :) :)

    Together with this, the difficulty of the quizzes was in a continuous process of ascension across
    all these years, making it even more difficult for an author to keep this tendency,
    without maybe saying to him/herself:
    "Wow ... creating quizzes is too difficult for me ..." and this way we also probably lost a lot of potentially good quizzes ...

    I can hardly believe that those who did not feel stimulated enough for submitting quizzes
    for the daily competition will have a higher incentive to do so for a weekly one,
    and yet one with no "Playoff qualification weight"...

    Another thing that I kept somehow thinking about all the time in the background was to maybe
    try to invite more guest authors to offer quizzes for the PL/SQL competition also,
    as there were in the past Tim Hall and Lucas Jellema in the SQL competition,
    I want to suppose that many such people would have probably accepted such an challenge,
    even if just for a few times in a year.

    I don't want to close these first thoughts without expressing again my deep gratitude to Steven
    for all what the PL/SQL Challenge has done to our lives, and, as difficult as it is,
    to just hope that Steven also does share some of our thoughts about it and accepts them
    as a small but nice reward from our side for all these years of work and effort.

    Elic of course deserves our highest consideration not less, for his so thorough and elaborated reviews, I am already so used to read them often at night or at early morning hours,
    including week-ends.

    Any new addition on the PL/SQL Challenge site is of course, always welcome, but,
    anyway we try to look at it, life WITHOUT the Daily Quiz WILL NOT be the same ...
    it CANNOT be the same ... and I really refrain myself at this moment from making
    sad comparisons with other fields of life ... everyone will probably understand what I mean ...

    These are just my first hot thoughts ... and I want to post them exactly while they are hot ...
    too much thinking sometimes can just destroy the point ...
    though, probably more thoughts will still follow.

    Thanks a lot for the patience to read & Best Regards,

  5. Let's try to keep daily quizzes. Of course not at the expense of Steven's personal life.

    I like the idea of Thierry Poels.

    For example the first 100 quizzes are free for everybody. To play next 100 quizzes one has to provide his own quiz approved by moderator. ( Of course it will not ease the life of Elic but he shows no signs of wear and tear )

    Ok, for someone new to PL/SQL - to write a quiz is not easy. We may extend free limit to 200 quizzes (then nobody could be considered still newcomer). Meanwhile more experienced players could build more quizzes, perhaps 1 quiz per each 100 already played.

    I will provide 7 quizzes :) in this case.

    If this solution or something similiar is built, in a quarter Steven won't have to wtite a single quiz. The system will be self-sufficient. It is also possible to introduce mandatory moderating. To play after 500 quizzes you have to take part in moderating of one quiz in quarter. Each quiz will have 2 moderators, chosen by first in, first out queue.

    We may estimate how many people agree to take part in all this (and how many quizzes we may build per quarter) with a simple poll.

    Best regards,
    Viacheslav Stepanov

  6. Viacheslav,

    I appreciate the desire to keep them going - and I look forward to hearing what others say. I am certain, however, that the kind of formula will propose will result in a radical reduction in players.

    It is, however, precisely the sort of community effort that I always hoped would happen with the Challenge. So I would be very happy to see it take place.

    Remember, too, that we cannot offer very many quizzes by a single player in a quarter, too disruptive to rankings.

    Hey, and who knows? I guess I could have my mind changed if, say, a dozen players each submitted 2-3 quizzes by end of year. That would make me feel pretty good about continuing the dailies for another quarter....at least.

    I am so sorry to take away something that you and many others cherish! Believe me, I feel great about having been able to offer daily quizzes for so long - has this been done on ANY other site? I think not....

    I like your idea about possibly combining PL/SQL and SQL rankings for a single championships. I will take a look at that (we don't currently support any "cross-domain" quizzes, but it's an obvious enhancement, given the various tie-ins) and lots of other possibilities regarding championships - and check in with all of your for feedback.

    Now, as for daily vs 3 weekly, you can of course exercise your own personal discipline and play one each on Monday, Wednesday, Friday. It's not the same, sure, but it's not all THAT different, is it? :-)

  7. Hello Steven,

    I perfectly understand your vision. I will not say No or Yes to it, that is your choice to make. I will keep playing regardless the final outcome of this discussion. The most important is that you feel good with that choice and with what you accomplish. If it make you happy, so you're making the right choice.

    Regarding the ideas as you mention:
    The frequency look good to me.
    3 Weekly PL/SQL, 1 SQL, 1 Logic, 1 Design

    I may also suggest the following as possible additions:
    1 monthly "Cross Domain" Quizz as Iudih suggest. It could be SQL and PL/SQL, but I would also enjoy PL/SQL and Java, or connecting to APEX, or a bit of everything. There is lot of possibilities there. But only monthly, as it would also be a bit more complex to do. So monthly should be enough.
    1 monthly SQL "Performance" Quizz. Here the result would not be checking a box... but rewriting a piece of SQL, so the outcome of the SQL stay the same, but with better performance than the original suggested. It would require the ability to submit any numbers of answer we want (we will have to submit our final query at the end), the game will only told us if the query did run and id the outcome is correct. It would be a time limited quizz. That's only ideas :)

    Regarding Championship, I would suggest the following:
    Quarterly "open" championship. It would be open to anyone that played at least 75% of the last quarter and have 50% of accuracy.
    Yearly championship. More closer to what is in used for now for championship. The elected people would be: Best 3 from each quarterly championship + Best 10 or 15 from consolidated results from the last 4 quarterly + Best 20/25/whatever number required to fill the population (as some people may appear multiple time in the first 2 categories!) from weekly quizzes. Something like. It would be an interesting query to build by the way :)

    Also maybe put some more reality in championship... Have at least a SQL question on the PL/SQL championship.

    Regarding provising more quizzes, you already get my idea on it :) I keep trying, but I must be bad at that game.

    Would conclude with only this:

    Whatever the outcome of this thread,

    Thanks Steven and all others who help you to provide us that game where we can learn and play all together. Thanks for what you have done, and for what you will do, whatever it is.

  8. Hello Steven, all

    It is very sad news for many of us, since Daily PL/SQL Challenge quizzes become part of our life. My workday starts with a Daily PL/SQL Challenge and bunch of Training quizzes as a mind-stretching-yoga for the productive workday. Many interesting and innovative architectural/development ideas come into my systems/code because of PL/SQL Challenge.

    I understand what you feel, Steven, and in my opinion it is us, the community, who is guilty for the situation. We could be more active... I was actually, preparing myself to write a couple of quizzes, but, you know, it is always hard the first time. But.. please do not shut the door! I do not know if this is appropriate, but can I propose less strict scheme than a Weekly PL/SQL Challenge Quiz:
    1. Keep the Daily Quiz.
    2. Let the number of quizzes be variable (from 1 to 5 each week)
    3. You, Steven, could write only one quiz a week (as you would do with the Weekly Quiz)
    4. The rest of quizzes will be provided by us (the community)
    5. Stretch the limit of quizzes by a singe player to 5 (10, 20 - whatever is appropriate)
    6. If there no quizzes available from the community, there will be only one quiz a week.

    Whatever the decision will be, I will stay and continue playing, and will be submitting quizzes (at least will try to :)). Thank you, Steven, for the great job you are doing!

    P.S. Happy belated birthday!
    P.P.S. I just love comments by Iudith!

  9. Hello Steven & fellow players,

    I like the idea of Thierry and Viacheslav a lot. I'm not 100% sure whether submitting quizzes should be mandatory to be allowed to continue playing the challenge - perhaps reserving 10 slots in the quarterly/annually championship for those players who wrote the quizzes with the highest reviews would work, as well.

    Personally, I've submitted my first quiz this week after playing for several years (shame on me for not doing this earlier); I agree with Iudith - the quality of the quizzes has been so good that it is quite intimidating to submit your own quiz for reviewing. But I guess it will become less intimidating for each subsequent quiz :-)

    And finally, whatever the outcome may be - thanks to Steven, the reviewers and the players who have submitted in the past, it's been a hell lot of fun so far!

    Kind regards,

  10. Hi Steven

    I agree with Iudith here above. It would be a shame if the daily quizzes were changed to weekly quizzes, while I do understand the reason. The problem for me is that I am one of those players that once in a while manages to play well enough to get into the playoffs. For me it is a bit about being able to boast to my collegues that I was able to do that, even though I will probably end up in one of the last places there anyways.

    If I make a mistake on a weekly competition, I will most certainly not reach this ever again, due to that each quiz has so much more affect on the final score and correctness.

    Would it be an idea to invite, those who write predetermined number of accepted quizzes for you, to the championship? Maybe that would encourage more people to submit a quiz.

    Ingimundur K. Gudmundsson

  11. I'm impressed you've managed to keep up the daily quizzes for this long Steven!

    I never considered daily quizzes a viable option when proposing the design quiz due to the time required and the effort to think of five new questions a week. So I understand why you want to move to weekly PL/SQL quizzes and accept that moving to weekly PL/SQL quizzes may be necessary.

    As has been mentioned, we already have four different topics a week. If we include a "player submitted" weekly quiz that would still enable people to play something each weekday if they wish to (though on different topics).

    I'm not sure we should instigate a limit on how many quizzes you can play before you need to submit one yourself. I'm sure several people I know would be put off using this valuable resource if this restriction came in.

    I'd also be happy to contribute design quizzes to a combined Championship playoff - I like the idea of that.

  12. What a great discussion - lots of very interesting ideas!

    Regardless of what I (we!) end up doing, it is very clear to me that the website should make it lots easier for players to create a new quiz. The Submit Quiz is 1000x better than the original one-page form, but here are some other things I will get in place ASAP:

    1. Players can copy an existing quiz and use that as the starting point of a new quiz. Don't worry - we keep track of the original question, and so can compare to make sure they are sufficiently different to warrant playing - and credit to the player.

    2. Provide question templates: it's hard for me to believe now that I haven't already done this....because I will benefit so much from it! I am sure that anyone who has played for a while can see common patterns in the questions. "I create and populate a table....which of the choices provide a replacement..." and so on. Soon, on the Submit Quiz page, you will be able to pick from a template and have that set up your question for you.

    Now I have a question for you, dear players: a long, long time ago, I used to offer "word quizzes" - quizzes that would present choices in English, rather than code. I got a lot of (well justified) push back on these: non-English language players are at a disadvantage; it is FAR easier for ambiguity to creep into words, rather than code.

    But it sure would make things far easier for me if I started using word quizzes again - constructed very carefully, of course, to minimize the possible ambiguity. They take less time to write. Your thoughts?

    Ravshan - thanks for helping me take a different view of things - for example, the idea of not necessarily having a daily quiz on every day....that has NEVER crossed my mind. And it certainly wouldn't be ideal - but also not the end of the world, right?

    the clickman - I like a bunch of your ideas, but I must admit that I don't want to take on enhancements to the site that will involve significant new development. Not right now, anyway. The "re-write SQL" idea sounds very interesting, but I am not sure how easily we can implement it.

    Please keep the ideas coming!

    And thanks so much for all your kinds words. It is clear that the daily quiz means a lot to a lot of people - otherwise there wouldn't be 500+ playing EVERY DAY. But it's sure nice to hear more explicitly how you feel about it! :-)

  13. Hello Steven, All,

    Just a short feedback from me to your question regarding "WORD QUIZZES":

    I'm not sure about other players, but I am among those who used to like them,
    I would say even very much, though, not a few times, it also happened that I was among those
    who engaged in hot debates following any controversial cases that appeared.

    With many "long code" quizzes, I already thought that the word quizzes were already
    kind of "cast out" from the PL/SQL Challenge.

    If I try to guess why is the number of quiz authors so low, one of the reason might reside
    in players finding more difficult to elaborate the explanations for a good quiz, and not so much the "code part".
    In such a case, word quizzes can be helpful in "enriching the explanatory skills" of potential authors.

    From my own experience, I know that I always need and spend a lot of time with writing extended Overall Answers and Choice Explanations for my quizzes, and I even like to do it when I feel that I am going to have a good enough quiz, and all this is done after the code part and choices are more or less finished.

    With the relatively low number of player-authors that I see participating up to now,
    I think the survival of the "Community Quizzes" weekly quiz to be very problematic for a longer time.

    With 3 categories of PL/SQL quizzes or with only one, we still need the players to contribute more.

    I like very much the feedbacks of the players who already expressed their opinions on this thread,
    and I like especially that everybody is looking for solutions to keep the show going :) :)

    There were many interesting ideas raised indeed, I hope that they will be helpful
    to find "the golden road" :) :)

    Thanks a lot & Best Regards,

  14. Hi Steven.

    That's a very sad news that we are not going to have weekly PLCH. I know it must be very hard to write and post quizzes every day, but I am sure it made loads of people happy and something to look forward to every day. At least it made me happy and to look forward to especially if I have a crappy day at work.
    I think maybe we all should start writing quizzes and then you would not have to spend too much of your own time.
    And maybe having daily quiz every second day or something like that.

  15. Regarding writing quizzes, I presently have 5-6 quizzes ready and waiting for me to finish. And by finish, I mean that I already have the question code and answers ready, but need to take the time to write out explanations. For me, there is some uncertainty in how thorough the explanations need to be. Should this be a mini lecture on a particular Oracle feature, complete with multiple references to the Oracle documentation and external websites, or is a short paragraph with a single link to the Oracle documentation all that is needed, where it is up to the player to research further if so desired.

    If only a short explanation is needed, I think many reasonable quizzes can be created within 20-30 minutes, once a user gets familiar with the process. However, if more thorough explanations are needed/expected, I think that might be a deterring factor for many. Although I greatly appreciate many of the extensive explanations for quizzes provided by Steven, Iudith, Kim and others, perhaps this is unconsciously setting an unreasonable and unintended expectation for submitted quizzes.


  16. "5-6 quizzes ready and waiting".....WOW! GREAT!

    Chad, your comments really drive home to me how deficient I have been in making it easy and clear for players to submit quizzes. I will address this on the site, but to reply: explanations can be short, with resources added to point people to doc and other links. We can always add to the explanations after the quiz has been submitted.

    Don't let such issues hold you back!

  17. And I still feel that it would be very helpful, maybe even necessary, to find another reviewer. Elic is not our only one, but he is the only consistent reviewer and it would be great to have a second pair of eyes for most of the quizzes. I know that it is hard to give up competing for those great prizes ( :-) ) but I hope some of you will consider doing this.

  18. Steven,

    I'm not 100% sure what such a "word quiz" looks like - could you perhaps post a link to one or two of these?

    Kind regards,

  19. I have to admit that, after a job change a couple of years back, I found even *playing* the quiz daily was unachievable. One or two quizzes a week, maybe with older quizzes recycled for the other days, may make competing more accessible for the time poor.

  20. Some various thoughts:

    1) Thank you, Steven, for all the quizzes - I am amazed you have created so many and quite understand you wish to go to "weekly basis" :-)

    2) With "the Steven quiz", the deja-vu quiz, the community quiz, the design quiz and the sql quiz - there is 5 weekly quizzes. Players needing a "daily" quiz can schedule them and play one quiz each day of the week - so not much is lost for developers "hooked" on the challenge ;-)

    3) The community quiz will be the known place for player-supplied quizzes and not as competitive (no championship.) Think more of the community quiz as a way for players to teach other players their best tips and tricks and share knowledge (I am certain many of the players have snippets of knowledge or code that can teach even Steven new stuff - definitely teach me new stuff :-).
    Not being a part of the championship allows writing style of authors to differ more, so a player does not need to "hold back" submitting a quiz out of fear of not "writing sufficiently well." I see the community quiz as seldom having "objections" but often having "discussions" where the quiz sparked a discussion on different methods on achieving the same.
    The community quiz has potential to be a great place for sharing knowledge in my opinion - it should still be a quiz but with slightly less emphasis on competing and a bit more tolerance for the quizzes being perhaps slightly less than perfect in language or wording. If the entire player community accepts this quiz in a positive spirit rather than booing out authors with loads of objections, I know this can become great :-)

    4) I can only echo Stevens wish for addition to the review team. If a player is on the site almost daily and mostly to learn and less to compete, I think a position as reviewer allows such a player still to learn much and at the same time help the community.
    @Steven: An idea... Could it be an option for a reviewer to start reviewing a submitted quiz by simply playing it? A reviewer/player would then still get the "brain work-out" of playing the quiz and then afterwards have first-hand knowledge of "I felt this was ambiguous" when doing the actual review. (Actually, a reviewer can do it already in a way by using "preview".) I think maybe some players might be persuaded to skip being in the competition, but they would miss the challenge of trying to solve the quizzes. But a reviewer can still do that if desired, so maybe we just need to tell players that they can still use their brain and "play" even when being a reviewer :-)

  21. I certainly would agree with reducing the workload upon yourself Steve - the amount of personal effort you (and Elic and others) put into this is much appreciated but it's way too much for you to continue indefinitely. I would still be very happy with a weekly quiz.

    I must admit also that I do feel guilty for not submitting any quizzes myself. I really should at least try to submit some. Unfortunately I can't offer to help with the reviewing as I don't have write-access to an appropriate Oracle database (hence I can't verify all of the answers).

    Kev Scott

  22. @Kev Scott

    For a personal playground database, I like to download VirtualBox ( http://www.oracle.com/technetwork/server-storage/virtualbox/downloads/index.html ) and then the database development VM ( http://www.oracle.com/technetwork/community/developer-vm/index.html ).

    That allows me a complete 11.2 setup to fool around in on my personal PC or laptop without even having to know how to install a database (very nice for non-DBA's like me :-)

    I am just hoping a 12c VM will be available soon - that would be nice ;-)

    1. Kim: Thanks for the links to the VirtualBox - I shall certainly give them a try later on :-)

      Kev Scott

  23. Steven,
    I will accept whatever you decide (of course, what choice do I have?), but as others have mentioned above, I like the idea of combining the pl/sql + sql - when in our jobs do we not face both? Even inside pl/sql we find sql, so improving one aspect makes both stronger. I'm not sure I was around when the word quizzes were going on, so I don't know what to say to that, other than if it provides a variety of the types of quizzes played, then I'm all for it.
    As far as writing my own, well, I've downloaded the material but haven't had time to decide what to write a quiz on! It might be interesting to have a weekly poll of players as to what they might want to learn more about (which could key players into what to write a quiz for).
    Anyway, I can't thank you enough for all the effort this labor of love of yours has meant to me.
    Thank you!

  24. Hello All,

    @Kim, regarding your remarks about the Community Quiz:

    Maybe your way of looking at the things as a "trained teacher" who is also very gifted for "training others" is a little bit different from ours, those who play daily and competitively.
    (as far as I know, you also do play, but non-competitively, which is completely different).

    Those who are "teachers by nature" may be delighted at the mere idea of just writing quizzes for the sake of teaching.

    As you describe the Comunity Quiz, however, it more and more resembles the "Problems" feature that was introduced some more time ago, where we once discussed solutions for the Quiz Tree problem that you proposed, remember ?

    But writing quizzes for a "live competition" is a totally different thing, at least for us,
    those who both write quizzes and play in the same competition.

    And when I say "live competition" I only look at the Daily Quiz as a Daily Challenge, regardless of whether there exists a Playoff or not.

    Being the exclusive mentor of a competition, like you are for the SQL quiz, but without playing it,
    is completely another thing.

    What was very nice in the Daily Quiz was exactly the mixture between Steven's quizzes and Player's quizzes, each of them with its own style and a very large domain of difficulty levels, even quizzes categorized in the same level
    were extremely various in their "real" level, and this is what made the competition to be "colored".

    Disregarding for the moment the very specific reason for which this discussion was opened at all,
    separating these quiz styles into different competitions, does NOT look to me as a good idea.

    What will happen, in fact, is that the only "real competition" quiz ( the weekly PL/SQL quiz )
    will always have Steven's style, while the Community Quiz will "fade out" after a very short time,
    due to the same reason that lead to this discussion in the first place.

    ( to be continued, because of size limitation )

  25. ( continued )

    I am not sure that all the players who already prepared their "stock of quizzes" and not yet submitted them ( and I also *am* one of them, I even have quizzes waiting for more than
    one year on my table ... ) will be "equally eager" to submit them to be played in just a
    conference-like forum, as the Community Quiz will probably be or very soon become ...

    A totally different idea would be to include ALL the 3 proposed quiz categories in a kind of
    "common competition" for a "common/single Playoff", but maybe with different ranking and qualification rules for each component competition, with a wider participation than the current Playoff, and so on, but that's a separate discussion.

    Regarding creating quizzes, I am very glad that @Chad's answer above just confirmed my supposition, the problem of most potential authors might have resided in elaborating
    the explanatory parts.
    Here, indeed, the style of each author may be totally different, there are people that like to speak and write a lot, ( as myself ! ), while others prefer shorter texts, and there is nothing wrong
    with this, I think it makes the entire set more colorful and interesting.

    @Gary is right, it is extremely difficult to play every day, but, in spite of this, I would NOT give it up
    for the "much cooled down" playing of once a week, even if practically each day can have its own competition played ...
    Once you have tasted the hard/demanding but so sweet taste of a daily competition,
    the feeling of a loss will be unavoidable.

    It may be a matter of personal preference, it is like comparing the life of someone who works
    as a freelancer or advisor, and finds himself in a different place every day, versus one who works
    in a single work place and continues every day what he started before.

    Regarding the issue of being a reviewer, I am sure that it is an extremely interesting activity,
    from which one can learn enormously.

    Technically, it is first of all a matter of having at hand all the database versions involved,
    which is not a small issue, and, second, as Steven said, one should be willing to give up
    competing, but still remaining committed to the daily task, which is not easy.
    I always had in my under-conscience the idea of "well ... one day, when I will really be unable to compete any more, I will probably want and try to become a reviewer",
    but, all this is still very far in the future, or at least, I want to hope so :) :)

    Thanks a lot & Best Regards,

  26. Hello Kim, All,

    @Kim, thanks for specifying this again :) :)

    I still did not have the courage to dare such an installation alone ...

    And, as far as I have heared, 12c is also available as a VM ...

    I have never seen an example of how such a VM database looks like when you effectively
    work with it, I am a Windows-er, so I don't know how Linux-effective you should be for
    being able to effectively use it, any more details on this issue would be extremely welcome
    for dummies like me, who are still in hunt after a database ...
    Maybe you can even continue in another thread about this ...
    I am sure that many players could be interested in more details :)

    Thanks a lot in advance & Best Regards,

  27. I'm with Chris - I'm impressed you've been able to sustain daily quizzes for so long.
    I'm impressed I've been able to play most of them!

    Your original suggestion sounds great to me - a weekly pl/sql, sql & design quiz sounds like something to look forward to, with some form of periodic championship.

    I would be skeptical of sustaining 52 community written quizzes per year, though - you would probably have a better idea of that potential. I do like the idea of re-using past quizzes, not just for practice but for a quality side-comp.

    On a side note, I do miss the APEX quiz, though I understand that was hard to launch and sustain.

  28. Hi Steve,

    My first thought on this was mild surprise, but reading through your reasoning I can see why you're proposing it.

    For myself, the Daily PL/SQL Challenge became too much. The quizzes became less relevant as the project on which I worked did not (at that time) support Oracle11g and did not use many of the Oracle or other features that the quizzes were quizzing about.

    Now we've been using 11g for some time and are looking at taking up 12c in the next couple of quarters, it would be a good time to return. With a weekly, rather than daily, PL/SQL Challenge the risk of answers being posted on social media ahead of results will increase - simply because of increased opportunity. I'm sure that's a risk you've considered.

    Also with a weekly quiz, I would find it hard to justify not finding the time and would therefore likely stick with it.

    If I may suggest for the proposed annual quiz that there be an option to exclude sets of questions - eg: those relating specifically to Oracle 12c features - then it would "level the field", making the quiz more pertinent to what the contestant does on a daily basis. I can also see arguments against this proposal ...

    Elic may well not be making any signs of wear and tear evident in reviews / emails / ... - maybe that's a question for people close to Elic ... hopefully the reviewing process is at least as enjoyable as the authoring and competing.

    Thanks for listening.

  29. Frank, my apologies for not replying earlier regarding your request for word quizzes. Check out:

    Daily PL/SQL Quiz for 30 June 2010
    Daily PL/SQL Quiz for 2 June 2010

  30. Hi All,

    I greatly appreciate your work and I can completely understand you Steven, sometimes it is also difficult to find some time to play the daily quiz, so I can imagine how hard can be to write those quizzes. Therefore I like the idea to make the system "self-sufficient", but many rules should than be changed accordingly.

    I think that PL/SQL cannot be separated completely from SQL and database design, so what do you consider merging those quizzes and keep the rules for rankings and qualifications for championships almost unchanged in the following way:
    - Play 5 quizzes each week: 3 PL/SQL, 1 SQL and 1 Design
    - Rank the players for their results on those 5 quizzes in each week
    - Qualify for the championship quarterly in the same way as currently
    - Also write 5 quizzes for the championships: 3 PL/SQL, 1 SQL and 1 Design

    If players like to do the quizzes day after day they can schedule it, but probably for other players it would be more flexible to do the five quizzes at one go in a week.

    Thanks a lot!
    With Regards,

  31. Thanks, Zoltan. That's a fine idea....but at least right now, quizzes and LOTS of the PL/SQL Challenge database are collected into "domains" - technologies like PL/SQL, SQL, etc. We do not at this time support a mixing of multiple domains in a single competition. So to do what you suggest would require quite a round of analysis and, likely, refactoring. I am not really in a position to do that, time and resource-wise.

    But there is clearly a desire for cross-domain competitions, so we will be looking into that next year.

  32. Hi Steve,

    here is my comment:
    I'd love to play the PL/SQL challenge daily, it is often a good wake-up exercise to start the brain working.
    Since the beginning I missed only 20 quizzes (out of 924) - even during a cruise along the Norwegian coast (with Hurtigrouten ...) I managed to play ...
    But I understand your points and I will respect the change.
    I myself wrote two quizzes - after that I really admire you for being able to release one quiz daily - besides your 'normal work !!
    Thank you very much for doing this for such a long time - nearly 1000 times during the last 3 1/2 years.

    I will stay with PL/SQL challenge - no matter if it is weekly or daily.

    Greetings from Germany
    Ralf Kölling

  33. Thanks one and all for your comments and ideas and expressions of support!

    I have not yet made a final decision regarding the daily quiz for 2014. Still pondering the possibilities!

  34. Hello Steven, all,

    on one side I would pity it to not play a daily quiz (even if my achievement this week wasn't really good, because my head is full of Delphi at the moment [I'm on the EKON - a Delphi Developer Conference - in Cologne (Köln) at the moment]), but I can understand you Steven that you won't pay so much time to create 5 so wonderful quizzes every week.

    Perhaps it would be possible to generate only two "daily" PL/SQL quizzes per week - one you could play from Monday to Tuesday and the second from Wednesday to Thursday and the Friday (perhaps also Saturday) would be there for the community quiz (I know it's easy for me to say when I haven't found the spare time to just create one quiz, even if I already have a really good one in my mind).

    Kind regards and also greetings from Germany,
    Niels Hecker

  35. Hello All,

    First of all, I am glad to here that a final decision was NOT yet made :) :)

    Anyway, regardless of whether and how the formula will be changed,
    I would suggest again to find a possibility to have each quiz opened for being played
    for more than 1 single day.

    As one who did not miss any single quiz for more than 3 years,
    I should witness however that sometimes I feel under a terrible pressure that for some reason
    or another ( software, hardware, web site, personal problems, you name it what ... )
    I might miss a quiz.

    Once in the past I remember that it was suggested to leave each quiz open for an entire week,
    I think that even 2-3 days would be a great enhancement, if technically possible.

    Thanks a lot for everything & Best Regards,

  36. Hi all,
    I understand Steven - PL/SQL is not everything.
    Regarding Quarterly PL/SQL Championship: maybe more quarters can count, i.e. Q1,Q2&Q3 for Q3 Championship, so there will be enough quizzes but newjoiners will particapate only after 3Qs.
    Regarding mandatory Community quizzes - maybe ranking is better criterion for new quizze then poor number of played quizzes. If player achieves some ranking then he has honor to submit new quizze. :)
    Milan Vontorcik

  37. It is such a pity to lose the daily quiz.
    It is much more pity there are so few players willing to create quizzes.

    We need to find 20 volunteers who will take the commitment to build 3 quizzes per quarter.
    Just 3 quizzes. Just 20 volunteers.
    That will be enough to keep daily quiz and totally free Steven from excessive and wasting daily work.

    I am ready to sign up.
    I dare to say - Iudith will join. She has a lot of quizzes already :)

    So we need 18 volunteers. Just 18.

    There are 2,030 active players. About 500 play every day.
    Can't we find 18 of them?

    Best regards,
    Viacheslav Stepanov

  38. You are correct, Viacheslav. It wouldn't take all that many people. Certainly I would continue to write some/many regardless.

    And in the past few weeks I have seen an uptick in quizzes from players. But not enough.

    I am, therefore, still planning to end the daily quiz.

    BUT, two things:

    1. We are in the process of redesigning quiz submission (tho not the wizard, per se) so that you will be able to much more easily create a new quiz (briefly, we will provide templates that provide a lot of the content for you, as well as setup code, and more).

    2. I ask players who feel as strongly as Viacheslav about the daily quiz and feel that they could submit at least one quiz for next quarter to either send me an email (steven@stevenfeuerstein.com) or reply with a comment on this post. Then I can get some idea of how many quizzes I could expect from players next quarter.

    Thanks! Steven

  39. Hello Steven, All,

    I should witness that I have become extremely lazy in the last several weeks in what concerns finalizing my quizzes, though some of them await for more than one year to be polished
    out in their final form...
    I would just say that unfortunately there are also some objective causes for this laziness ...
    but, I beg everybody to believe me that in any case and any situation, my very last reserve of time
    and energy is always dedicated to the PL/SQL Challenge :):)

    I have seen that at least one of the new authors complained about the difficulty in using the submission wizard. I also do have usually not a few problems in editing my content, mainly because I am cut/pasting from Notepad, where I prepare my quizzes, and the wizard editor is "very generous" in adding a lot of strange line breaks inside the text, so I have to work a lot to clean it up, because what I see displayed
    is almost always different from what finally appears on the quiz page.
    But these are technical issues, so no problem from my side.

    My main problem is still in elaborating the overall explanation and sometimes in finding the best resources, and, also, in deciding which ones from my numerous test cases are worth to be
    included as choices in the final quiz. Each time when I start working on this issue, instead of making decisions, I add even more and more potential cases, "to learn/assimilate the topic more deeply"
    for myself, especially if not an every day one ...

    @Viacheslav, you are right, thanks as usual for your confidence :)

    Of course I do sign up with the promise to submit my usual quota of quizzes for the next quarter(s),
    as long as I still do have interesting ideas, I will always continue to do it :) :)

    I find extremely hard these days to finalize anything that I start to do, not just the PL/SQL Challenge,
    lots of ups and downs in all the areas, but PL/SQL Challenge is THE thing that I would never
    give up doing :) :)

    Hope always for good news :)

    Thanks a lot & Best Regards,

  40. @Viacheslav, I really like the idea. I do sign up and ready to submit couple of quizzes per month.

  41. Hello Viacheslav, Steven, all,

    it'd be a shame to lose the daily quiz, so I volunteer as a regular quiz author, as well - I guess 3 quizzes per quarter should be manageable (I'm a little bit unsure whether I'll be able to come up with enough good ideas for quizzes, but time will tell, I guess).

    Kind regards,