My Experience at UKOUG Tech13

Dec 10, 2013 / By Maris Elsins

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UKOUG Tech13 was great! Not only because of the amount of interesting presentations to choose from, but also because of the surrounding events. I felt this conference was quite different from previous UKOUG Oracle Technology & E-Business Suite events in Birmingham (I’ve attended six previous events so you can trust me when I say that.) I decided to take a few notes about my experience at the conference to reveal what made it such a great event to attend.

The Changes

This was the first year Oracle Apps and Oracle Tech streams were separated in two different conferences. This is a great change for most Oracle DBAs, because the conference is able to concentrate more on Oracle Tech topics. However, I personally missed the opportunity to attend a couple of presentations for Apps DBAs. I usually looked for these presentations at previous events, as UKOUG conferences had been the only events (that I knew of) in Europe that gave a voice to Apps DBAs too. This year, it was no longer possible — on the other hand, I’m not interested in Apps Tech stuff only. I like learning new things about the database too, like performance tuning, internals and advanced troubleshooting. This conference had the widest selection of topics to chose from.

“Six presentations per company” is another change introduced this year. Alex Gorbachev discusses it more in his blog post here. I think this rule makes the conference worse, and not because Pythian had to remove some of the presentations and I couldn’t meet a few other colleagues. Mainly because the overall quality of the topics presented at the conference was artificially decreased. If I was able to suggest an experiment I’d ask UKOUG to remove that rule for the conference next year to check if the average marks from the session feedback surveys increase or decrease when the rule is not applied. I think the score would increase.

Meeting and Making Friends and Having Fun

The is the most important part of the conference for me. Nothing attracts so many great people working with the same technology as a good conference. It was great to finally meet some of the community activists that I knew from twitter and blogs only: Øyvind Isene, Osama Mustafa, David Kurtz, Philippe Fierens, Tim Hall, Alex Nuijten, Martin Bach, Elliot Zissman, Alex Zaballa, Fahd Mirza, Marcin Przepiorowski and others I forgot to put on the list. I checked and confirmed the rumors that a great way of making new friends is volunteering for some work. This time I volunteered to be one of the RAC Attack Ninjas and in the end, it was more fun and less work than I expected.

Me and Andrejs Karpovs practicing some useful RAC Attach Ninja moves.

Me and Andrejs Karpovs practicing some useful RAC Attack Ninja moves.

Having fun is undeniably an important part of the conference. The brain needs to rest from the intense learning experience, and trust me, there were plenty of options to chose from. There were the official social events, and usually some unofficial events too. Take a look! These are my colleagues Michael McKee and Luke Davies discussing how useless Twitter is at one of the unofficial events.

"Luke, Twitter is useless!"

“Luke, Twitter is useless!”

There are ways to spend quality time, even if you’re tired by the end of the conference. The city can offer something you won’t find anywhere else.

Attending Manchester United vs Everton

Attending Manchester United vs Everton

The Twitter

Oh man, this was intense. I’m glad I had prepared for this by buying an extra battery for my phone – the money was well spent. The statistics – 150 tweets in 5 days. This doesn’t sound too much, just 30 tweets a day, but for me, who had been doing an average of ~1 tweet a day, it was a lot. I even saw my name in twitter analytics board in place 3 ranked by twitter mentions, but this most likely is because @UKOUG retweeted almost all of my tweets!

Twitter Analytics by Rittman Mead

Twitter Analytics by Rittman Mead

At one point, I almost quit tweeting from the conference but one tweet kept me going:

If you asked me which of my tweets highlights the experiences in the conference best, I’d choose this one, which also brings me to the next topic – my presentation.

My Presentation

OK, this was not really my presentation. The topic was submitted by a good friend of mine – Yury Velikanov, who was not able to attend the conference. I volunteered to present the paper as I thought it would be easy – topic by Yury, slides by Yury, speech by Maris. I was not a first-time presenter. I actually counted around 15 presentations I had delivered at international conferences all done in English (not my native language as you might have noticed by reading this blog), so I felt confident. I had seen Yury present the topic, I had checked the slides carefully and changed a few things, I understood the topic, so what could possibly go wrong? Anything. There were two things that went wrong for me.

  1. The Auditorium. This was the first time I presented in the largest room at the conference. I found out which room it was on Monday. The presentation was on Wednesday, so I had two full days to panic. Having the biggest room had put additional pressure on the task and yes I was worried.
  2. I and two other Pythian speakers – Luke Davies and Michael McKee – decided to rehearse the presentations in a hotel room on Tuesday afternoon. And I’m glad we did, because I struggled a lot – I was not able to formulate the thought fluently, and I was not able to do much more than reading the bullet points. There were couple of complicated slides that I couldn’t explain at all. My morale went down to zero, and panic levels skyrocketed. But I’m extremely glad we did the rehearsal, as I found out I was not ready at all by that time. That day I spent 6 hours preparing for the presentation. I reviewed all the slides again, and again. I put down some notes, which I never do for my own presentations. I tested few things that I wasn’t 100% sure would work, as I had to present them. I exchanged a number of thoughts with Luke and at 2AM I closed the laptop.

My presentation “10 Ways to improve your RMAN script” was scheduled for 10:05 on Wednesday. I got up early to rehearse it one more time in front of the hotel mirror — I felt I was much more fluent, but I was still not satisfied. At that time there was nothing more to do and the auditorium was waiting for me. I can’t say much about my own performance. I only remember all panic disappeared in first 3 minutes of the presentation; In fact, I panicked much more in front of the mirror than on the stage — I think I did OK. Not perfect, but OK. The most important thing for me was to come to these conclusions:

  • Presenting a topic which I didn’t write is much more difficult. I usually think a lot about the topic before submitting it, and I know large part of the content I’m going to include in the presentation. I missed this stage of preparation and therefore had to spend way more time on working through the slides to prepare the speech.
  • Rehearse the presentation at least a day before the show. This reveals how ready I am and I can still use the time left to improve the presentations.
  • Rehearse the presentation shortly before they “go live” on the day of the speech. This reduces my panic levels and puts my brain on track for the topic aI present.

I’m looking forward to receiving the session evaluations as this was a unique experience for me and I really hope I didn’t disappoint anyone. I appreciate the support and feedback I received on twitter. Thank you for that. And thanks to Yury for trusting the delivery of his presentation to me.

Learning

There were many  great presentations but these are the ones I enjoyed the most. I’ve already managed to use some of the lessons I learned from these sessions in my day-to-day work.

  • Jonathan Lewis: “Compression: Index, basic and OLTP”
  • James Morle: “Optimal Oracle Configuration for Efficient Table Scanning”
  • David Kurtz: “Partition, Archive, Compress, Purge – Keep your ERP on the Road”
  • Christo Kutrovsky: “Maximise Data Warehouse Performance with Parallel Queries”
  • Frits Hoogland: “Hacking session: Advanced profiling of Oracle using function calls” – this was the only presentation I attended at “OakTable World UK 2013″ conference.

This is the short summary of my experiences. I’m really happy I was able to attend the conference and meet all the people I usually meet virtually. I’m already waiting for UKOUG Tech14. See you there!

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