05 January 2015

Happy New Year, and....New and Revamped Quizzes for the New Year

Happy new year to the thousands of Oracle technologists who played a quiz or otherwise visited and benefited from the PL/SQL Challenge in 2014.

The Challenge continues into the very frosty New Year (as I write, it is 0 degrees Fahrenheit here in Chicago), but first, let's do (some of) the numbers from 2014.

Over 4000 Oracle technologist took at least one quiz in 2014. 

Altogether players at the PL/SQL Challenge submitted over 114,000 answers to quizzes (including practice quizzes and tests).

Along the way, we had lots of help from several reviewers. Elic was our superstar, the main reviewer on PL/SQL and SQL quizzes. Livio Curzola helped Eli make sure that the Logic quizzes were top-notch. Many thanks to both of you, as well as players like Iudith Mentzel, who wrote several quizzes for PL/SQL Explore. 

Thanks also to Kim Berg Hansen, our SQL Quizmaster, and Chris Saxon, Mr. Database Design (and, as of 1 January our newest Oracle Database Evangelist!), for providing interesting and challenging quizzes all year.

Wow. That's a lot of devotion (writing quizzes, reviewing quizzes, playing quizzes) to improving one's skill set in SQL,  PL/SQL, Database Design and Logic.

Now let's take a look at 2015.

As you may recall, back in March, I rejoined Oracle after a 22 year absence. Not too surprisingly, I got really busy. One "victim" of my busy-ness was a decision to end the daily quiz after four years (whew). I really hated to do it, and consider that quiz one of my finest accomplishments.

So we shifted to three weekly quizzes and life went on. But since I was spending less time in every way on the PL/SQL Challenge and since it turned out that many players really thrived on the discipline of playing a quiz every day of the week (crazy people!), our numbers have dwindled a bit through 2014.

OK, fine, but what about 2015? The new year provides us with an opportunity to expand and reorganize our quizzes.

Why, you might ask, would we consider doing this? Let me count the ways.

1. We replaced the daily PL/SQL quiz with two competitive quizzes, PL/SQL Challenge and PL/SQL Explore. The former is written solely by me (Steven Feuerstein); the latter was intended to feature lots of quizzes by players, exploring "nooks and crannies" of PL/SQL. I have, however, written most of these quizzes, and there is no clear distinction in the content of the two.

2. The Oracle Database Evangelist team I have been tasked to build is now taking shape. This means that, among other things, Natalka Roshak is now a full-time SQL Evangelist, and part of that job (I have decided) is to write a weekly SQL quiz. That means that we will now have two SQL quizzes - so what will be the difference between these two?

3. We added a PL/SQL Deja Vu quiz, featuring a previously-played quiz. Now that the SQL quiz has been going on so long, perhaps we should add a SQL Deja Vu quiz as well.

We (myself, Kim Berg Hansen, Natalka Roshak, Chris Saxon and Dan McGhan) have been discussing these ideas and decided we'd generated enough interesting thoughts to share them with you for feedback.

I expect that we will start this new configuration on 1 April 2015, the start of Q2 and the fifth anniversary of the PL/SQL Challenge (!).

Here's what we are currently thinking about for....

PL/SQL Quizzes

1. PL/SQL Language quiz: covers the features of the PL/SQL language, including best practice, performance, etc. Pretty much what the PL/SQL Challenge has been. Primary author: Steven Feuerstein, others welcome! Rankings qualify for annual championship.

2. PL/SQL Built-ins quiz: focuses exclusively on the built-in or supplied packages. This would replace, in essence, PL/SQL Explore. Primary author: Steven Feuerstein, others welcome - especially with more specialized packages with which I have minimal experience. Rankings qualify for annual championship.

3. PL/SQL Deja Vu: as before, features a quiz from the past. Non-competitive.

SQL Quizzes

1. SQL Features quiz: covers the features of the SQL language, from DDL to DML. Primary authors: Kim Berg Hansen and Natalka Roshak others welcome! Rankings qualify for annual championship.This quiz would generally avoid performance-related features, because the second SQL quiz would focus on:

2. SQL Performance quiz: while I don't feel there is enough on PL/SQL performance to have a separate quiz just one that, it does seem more than possible to do this with SQL. And it certainly is a topic of endless interest and discussion. Rankings qualify for annual championship. Primary authors: Kim Berg Hansen, Natalka Roshak and Chris Saxon; others welcome!

3. SQL Deja Vu: features a quiz from the past. Non-competitive.
Database Design Quizzes

Stick with the current weekly quiz, but probably steer away from quizzes that focus primarily on performance, since the SQL Performance quiz will cover that. Rankings qualify for annual championship. Primary author: Chris Saxon, others welcome!

But we can also add a DB Design Deja Vu quiz.

Logic Quizzes

We are exploring replacing the competitive Mastermind-based quiz with a new logic quiz that uses different formats. Part of the problem with continuing with Mastermind, is that we have published (and others have no doubt built) automatic solvers.

And we can also add a Logic Deja Vu quiz.

Database Administration Quiz (?)

I have had several requests to start up a DB admin quiz, and am happy to do so, but we need someone to step forward and take overall responsibility for managing the quiz.

Any takers?

Names for Quizzes

As our quizzes grow in number, I'd also like to come up with less generic and more interesting names for our quizzes. Kim Berg Hansen offers a bunch of ideas below, to get the creative juices flowing. We'd love to hear your ideas!

1a: PL/SQL Language
1b: PL/SQL - Language par Excellence
1c: PL/SQL - Code of Choice
1d: PL/SQL Challenge
1e: PL/SQL - Code Genie

2a: PL/SQL Supplied Code
2b: PL/SQL - Don't Reinvent the Wheel
2c: PL/SQL - Already Invented
2d: PL/SQL - Modules Supplied
2e: PL/SQL Built-ins

3a: SQL Language
3b: SQL - The Way of the Set
3c: SQL - Set to Win
3d: SQL Magic
3e: SQL - Game, Set and Match
3f: SQL - When It's About Data
3g: SQL - Dancing with Data
3h: SQL - Mind Over Data

4a: SQL Performance
4b: SQL - Go to Warp 10
4c: SQL - Go to Warp 8
4d: SQL - High Speed Pursuit
4e: SQL - Data Formula One

5a: DB Design
5b: Database - Craft Your World
5c: Build a Better Database
5d: Database - Building Blocks
5e: Database - Data Builder

6a: DB Admin
6b: Database - Operational Administry
6c: Database - Operating Theater
6d: Database - Smooth Operator
6e: Database - Data Shaman