Tuesday, 31 March 2009


Here are some clips of my published work, including both technical and non-technical subjects. These articles averaged 1200 words each.

Five More Things to Unlearn About Oracle
(TechRepublic.com, 4/19/04)

Here’s an example using the sample data in the SCOTT schema. An employee record is deleted, and the change committed:

DELETE FROM emp WHERE empno = 7934;

The row is missing from further SELECT statements, and even a ROLLBACK command cannot bring the row back. However, a Flashback Query can display the contents of the table as it was 10 minutes ago, when the deleted row still existed:

WHERE empno = 7934;

This SELECT statement can be used as the subquery of an INSERT statement to reload the deleted data. Be aware, however, that INSERT will be subject to any constraints on the table, and that any INSERT triggers on the table will be executed.

Full article

Oracle Collaboration Suite Database Middleware
(TechRepublic.com, 2/13/03)

Oracle Corporation is hoping that the third time will be the charm for its latest try at an office communications platform with the Oracle Collaboration Suite (OCS). Two earlier products - Oracle InterOffice and Oracle Office Server - weren’t widely adopted. This time, however, both the underlying Oracle database and the Application Server middleware are more mature, and its main competitor's customers are facing expensive version upgrades.

Sara Radicati, president and CEO of The Radicati Group, spoke to press and analysts at the November 2002 OracleWorld Conference in San Francisco. She identified three key pressures that IT departments are feeling right now...

Full article

The Benefits from Using Wireless in Database Administration
(TechRepublic.com, 1/28/03)

It's 2:30 P.M. and you're working on-site for one of your customers. Your pager bleats out an urgent call from a second client across town whose server is down. You can try to help the second client on the phone—a slow, tedious process that may create political issues with the current customer. Or you can leave the one client to drive to the other. Either way, the second client’s server is down, and the clock is ticking.

The rapid expansion of wireless Internet access is making this scenario easier to handle. Now you can take out your Palm or Pocket PC and quickly correct the issue regardless of your location. You've become the wireless database administrator.

Full article

Microsoft's IT Lifecycle Frameworks
(TechRepublic.com, 10/24/01)

IT consultants at large firms use a company-defined project methodology to ensure that each project covers all the right steps. The methodology specifies actual forms and reports to be used at various stages of the project and specific rules for how the project will be conducted.

But what if you’re an independent or work for a smaller firm? You could imitate the larger firms and develop your own project methodology at great expense. But why reinvent the wheel?

For the past six years, Microsoft has been developing and refining its own set of project management tools. Originally developed within Microsoft Consulting Services (MCS), the IT Lifecycle Frameworks are available for free on Microsoft’s Web site.

Full article

No pain, no gain: Seeing opportunity as a free agent
(TechRepublic.com, 9/19/01)

A salesperson I know starts each conversation about a client by asking: “Where is their 'pain'?” He knows that unless they are motivated to change, he is unlikely to make a sale.

The same holds true for you as a free-agent consultant; unless your client sees a need to change something, they won’t hire you. Therefore, understanding what motivates people to change is the key to spotting opportunities.

An opportunity is a problem you can help with—at a profit. Learning to see opportunity means looking for all three parts of that definition...

Full article

Sunday, 29 March 2009

Training Tip: When You Train, Train

I think it was The Inner Game of Tennis, by Timothy Gallwey, that first taught me this lesson: when you are preparing for a class, prepare. But when it comes time to stand up in front and start the class, train.

You may not feel as prepared as you would like to be. The conditions may not be as ideal as you would like them to be. But once class starts, you are who you are, and the conditions are what they are. You go for it.  You give your current self to the group, just as you are, and you do your best. You train.

It's hard to stop the inner, critical voice that reacts when you make a mistake. It's hard not to wince or get flustered when your lesson plan just plain doesn't work for a given group. But training is as much a performance as a play (except that many of the lines are not scripted), and the show must go on. Adapt, go where it takes you in the moment.

Of course, you can and should review your performance in the classroom. Every time. But you do that afterwards, when the room is empty or you're at yet another chain restaurant having dinner. There have been weeks when I've devoted my hotel time to staying one day ahead of the students, constantly reviewing the day just past and prepping like mad for the day to come.

Disney is a model for me in this regard. In their theme parks, they have "on stage" and "off stage" areas. When you're on stage, in front of paying customers, you're expected to be in character the whole time, even if you're not on duty and just passing from one place to the next. No gossiping about your friends or school, no talk of religion, politics, or sex. That's for off stage, when you're behind the scenes. Some criticize this, saying that it is artificial and inhumane for workers to be unable to be themselves. But I think it's the one key thing that makes going to a Disney park different than other ones. You're immersed in the story, and they're careful to eliminate anything that distracts from that experience.

When you're training, you're on stage too. Play the part the best you know how. Then later, off stage, plan how you're going to make it an even better show next time.

Saturday, 21 March 2009

Training Tip: Training By Walking Around

In his best-selling business book In Search of Excellence, Tom Peters profiles companies such as Hewlett-Packard and United Airlines that practice "Management By Walking Around" (MBWA for short). Management is encouraged to get out of the office and into the field as often as possible to see things firsthand.

Too often, trainers feel constrained by the podium or other setup at the front of the room. They lecture from one spot, and answer questions from the front as well. "Training By Walking Around" means circulating in the room, teaching from various points.

Using a variety of media (computer, white board, easel, etc.) can help get you moving. It also provides variety to hold the attendees' attention.

This is especially important during lab exercises. It's tempting to retreat behind the front desk at such times; after all, you've been standing and talking, and now is your chance to sit, right? Wrong. Try this experiment: during a lab, ask if anyone needs anything.  Usually, you'll get no responses.  A minute later, casually get up and walk up and down the aisles. Chances are, someone will stop you and ask a question.

I will usually sit for the first five to ten minutes of a lab, then circulate, asking if everyone has gotten started okay. After another five to ten minutes, I'll circulate again, asking if anyone needs "another pair of eyes" to look at an error message.  Before the end of the lab, I'll make another pass silently. Usually by then people are stuck on a particular problem and will call me over as I pass by them.

I've even taught from the back of the classroom. I'd been presenting for a while, and could tell the group needed an energizer.  So I had them all stand and turn around, and I walked to the back (which was now in front of them.)  I did a contest quiz with a prize -- but because they were facing away from their notes and the computers, they couldn't reference them! We laughed about this, the act of standing re-energized the group, and we continued normally afterwards.