Hotsos Symposium 2010 — Battle Against Any Guess Is Won

Posted in: Technical Track

Video fragments of my session posted at the end — read on.

I arrived at Omni Mandalay Hotel on Sunday evening with Dan Norris. I was flying through Chicago and it turned out that Dan was on the same flight and only few rows behind me. Small world.

Preparations for the conference were very chaotic on my part and, of course, I didn’t have either of my presentations ready. I was very stressed and getting sick as well — it looked like a complete disaster waiting to happen. I’d like to say that I was feeling like Doug Burns as he often managed to get sick just before a conference. Of course, I worked on my slides for the last few days as well as on the flight and presentation was slowly getting there but boy was I tired!

I quickly said hello to the crowd in the bar on the way to my room and rushed away to do some more damage to my slides. And then I had a brilliant idea — I could still see one of my best mates and do something good about my presentation! I asked Doug if he was interested in the preview (he probably wasn’t interested but he couldn’t say it to me) especially that my session wasn’t on his original agenda. Of course, that would mean that he had to leave a bunch of other good friends and spend some time tete-a-tete. Knowing Doug, this is some of the hardest thing to ask from him but it shows how good of a friend he is! (Plus, everyone thinks that he is anti-social anyway. Shhhh!)

Doug has made my day — while he provided lots of ideas and feedback on few things that I was lucking, he generally approved the idea and confirmed that it wasn’t totally crazy. I guess that was all I needed back then and Doug knew how nervous I was about it. (Thanks mate!)

So I called Sunday a day very early and went to bed before midnight. I really needed some sleep. Woken up by the alarm at 5AM (I woke up few times during the night looking at the clock — making sure I didn’t sleep through) and slides were ready just before lunch. I even managed to do a test run and it took 65 minutes — a wee bit too long for one hour session. But it was good test and I knew I had to be just a bit more concise in few parts.

My morning was very productive. Unfortunately, I missed the opening keynote from Tom Kyte. Such a pity! If what Doug wrote is true, Tom was talking about the mistakes we make *because* of our experience and our assumptions. This was exactly one of the points I was making in my Battle Against Any Guess — experience is danger. I wish I could see Tom’s example. Oh well, maybe another time.

I managed to attend half of the Richard Foote‘s session on indexes but my mind was far away — with my own slides. Though, I did manage to focus on bitmap indexes part and the myth of bitmap indexes not working well for columns with high cardinality. Very interesting conclusions. I’m still wondering how much overhead updates will do to such bitmap index.

After lunch, it was my turn. I ordered few copies of the latest OakTable book — Expert Oracle Practices: Oracle Database Administration from the Oak Table — that I co-authored with the bunch of other Oakies. I contributed chapter 1 in the book titled just like my presentation — Battle Against Any Guess. The plan was to give a copy away during the presentation and do a draw for another one at the end of the session. I was so nervous that I forgot about it until the end of the session so I just did a draw for two copies. The lucky winners were Lynn-Georgia Tesch and Surendra Anchula. Congratulations! For the rest of you who left the contact details — please stay tuned and we’ll organize few things online.

Now the main topic of this post — my presentation. What’s unusual about this session is that it’s not some technical stuff that I usually do but a more conceptual and motivational talk. Could I pull it off? Well, I think it went fairly well in general even though I did identify few rough places and my lack of English language mastering. Might need to work a little bit more on the flow of the presentation.

We had quite a few good laughs. Later, people in the next hall were asking about it and Dan was making the jokes on the stage so it must have been loud. Anyway, I think nobody fell asleep and I managed to get people thinking about the topic. I received many “thank you” notes yesterday and compliments on a good session so by the end of the day I was more and more pleased. Thanks everyone for attending and especially big thanks to those of you who brought to my attention examples from their own battles. If you have more to discuss — contact me by email (my last name) {at}

Thanks to Marco Gralike for recording some fragments and sharing them. I think he has more to come.

This is the introductory couple minutes. You can definitely notice how nervous I am starting on the stage:

Solving the wrong problem example:

That’s all for now. Stay tuned — more to come.

Want to talk with an expert? Schedule a call with our team to get the conversation started.

About the Author

What does it take to be chief technology officer at a company of technology experts? Experience. Imagination. Passion. Alex Gorbachev has all three. He’s played a key role in taking the company global, having set up Pythian’s Asia Pacific operations. Today, the CTO office is an incubator of new services and technologies – a mini-startup inside Pythian. Most recently, Alex built a Big Data Engineering services team and established a Data Science practice. Highly sought after for his deep expertise and interest in emerging trends, Alex routinely speaks at industry events as a member of the OakTable.

4 Comments. Leave new

Hand on heart, I was flattered you asked me and pleased it went well, but you exaggerate my input!

Hotsos 2010 – Presenters, Presentations, Presenting « AMIS Technology blog
March 10, 2010 9:04 pm

[…] conceptual presentation of Alex Gorbatchev was cool and well thought out. To give you an impression I have two clips that […]

Anonymous Coward
March 12, 2010 12:46 pm

The battle may be won, but insurgents are still at large…

This story *really* happened to me today. I have to add that none of the characters are native English speakers, but English is our working language, and Oracle is the topic…

[Developer] Hello. I have been assigned a bug. This table is slow. The procedure does not run in the expected time. I want to partition the query to make it faster
[Me] Hi. Lot of stuff here…
[D] I just want some help on how to make this faster
[M] OK… let’s see… The easier way to begin is to produce a TRACE of the procedure. The trace will tell you where the procedure is spending its time. Without a trace, you can only make an EDUCATED GUESS, but this usually is not the best resolution path
… some more talk…
[D] Thanks for your suggestions. I am not very skilled in Oracle, but I plan to work with a collegue who has more experience than me. I want to fix this procedure as soon as possible, so I want to be sure to tell him the right technical words you used. You were talking to take an EDUCATED WHAT?
[M] Sorry… I don’t get you!!!
[D] You spoke about an EDUCATED SOMETHING we have to invoke on our procedure…
[M] G U E S S ????
[D] Oh, yes, it was that. Thanks. I will revert you our results.

Alex Gorbachev
March 12, 2010 2:04 pm

Dear Anonymous Coward,

Thanks for sharing this humorous example. Perhaps, you could propose D to spend 10 hours to try 10 things in attempt to fix we don’t know what (and of course it will take a week to find time) or get him to commit one hour of his time with you and then you would likely help him in another hour or so.

Good luck!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *