Praise of OTN ForumsPosted: May 1, 2008
Sometimes readers of this blog email me questions. Recently it has been mostly streams related questions. Sometimes I have a good answer, and sometimes I barely understand the question, but there is one sentence I say in every reply:
“Why don’t you ask your question in OTN forums?”
Because seriously, there is no better place for Oracle questions. Often far better than Metalink (especially if bugs are not involved). You ask a question in XMLDB forum and there is a good chance that the program manager of the product will reply. Oracle program manager! You can’t buy this kind of support, but you can get it for free!
Jonathan Lewis must be one of the most expensive Oracle consultants, but if you post your performance issues in OTN Forums with good statspack report, he’ll often give you good advice for free! The best Oracle experts in the world are answering hundreds of questions every day, for free. This is simply incredible.
I started posting in OTN forums less than half a year ago, and I regret not doing it before that. I was aware that these forums existed, but I was highly biased against any kind of product forums. Lots of forums are full of lazy idiots asking questions and slightly less lazy idiots giving very bad answers. Only when I started meeting OTN regulars through their blogs, I realized that OTN forums may be different. There are still idiots asking idiotic questions, but there are also many many excellent and interesting questions, and the quality of answers is simply unbelievably high.
Keeping such an amazing signal-to-noise ratio in a public forum is not easy, and few OTN regulars help maintain the high quality by being rather harsh with lazy questions. It may be unkind to the people posting the questions, and is certainly very scary to newbies, but I appreciate their diligence. There are enough forums where bad questions are tolerated, I’m happy there are some where they are not.
Of course, even after few month of regularly posting questions and answers in OTN, I’m still a little scared before posting, rereading my post several times to make sure I’m not going to get flamed. I’ve been somewhat hurt by replies to my posts in the past, and I know it may happen again. I’ll gladly pay this small price in exchange for the best support forums in the world.
The main danger of OTN is that it is highly addictive. I started by posting a random question every few weeks, then I answered a question or two, and now I spend few hours a week reading threads and posting replies. Very little compared to “Top Addicts in Category” who seem to live in the forum, respond to every question almost immediately and post scores of answers each day. Still, even few hours a week makes it a serious hobby.
Why do I do that? Because there are truly interesting threads there every day, and I learn a lot by reading them. Because if someone asks a question and I know the answer, I enjoy helping out a bit to a fellow DBA, knowing that I’ll get help with my issues when I need it. Because sometimes I don’t know the answer, but the topic is interesting, so I’m happy to do some reading and testing and find out the answer. Because if I get the answer wrong, often a top notch expert will correct me and I’ll learn from that.
But probably the best reward is that after you follow OTN forums for a while, you start recognizing the regulars (some OTNers you can recognize by their SQLPLUS listings without even looking at the name!). Sometimes they even recognize you. And after a while you realize that there is a terrific community in there, with its own special humor, and it is really a fun place to hang out on the net. There are worse ways to waste time.