Monday, October 10, 2005

Oracle Metalink: Don't shoot the pianist

Laurent Schneider recently posted on his bad Metalink experiences. Let me show you my scars...

My first stand-out bad experience was an iTAR on generating checkboxes in JavaServerPages back in the days of JDeveloper 3.0. After two weeks of hassling I got told there was a palette with a Checkbox icon in the JDeveloper IDE. This much I knew already: it was for Swing programs. I tried to explain about the difference between Java for client/server and web but the iTAR got closed anyway. This was when the Java language support was still done by the database group, who really didn't understand building client-facing applications at all. One of our Java brains figured it out eventually.

The second bad experience was a year or so later. We were having some difficulties with BC4J which dragged on without resolution. The support guy, exasperated, asked why we were using BC4J as "Nobody was using, even in Oracle". I posted that to an ODTUG list, to stir up a response. Oh boy. Steve Muench fired an enraged e-mail back to ODTUG. I had the Support manager on the phone. I expect the poor second-line drone caught it in the shorts (which I do feel bad about. Sorry, whoever you were). Did we get our problem resolved? Again, eventually. Again, this was Java. Oracle really took a long time to sort out its support for Java. But that's how I discovered the OTN forums, so it wasn't all terrible.

The third bad experience, was some kind of database thing, I forget what. The first-liner resolved it to his satisfaction and closed the iTAR. I called back to explain that he had mis-read what I had typed in the iTAR and that his "solution" solved a completely different problem. He said, 'You'll have to open another TAR.' Now that's a lot of typing to do all over again. It took seven words, 'I want to speak to your manager', to get the TAR re-opened, and resolved pretty quickly thereafter.

I've been using Metalink and Support for over ten years now and I think three memorably bad experiences in that time is pretty good going. Most iTARs get solved, and get solved within a reasonable time. Of course, not working in production means that I can take a more relaxed attitude towards rsolution time.

The real problem with Metalink is the interface. When I first started using Support it was all done with phone calls. Which was great: I almost always got someone who was knowledgeable, so most TARs were actually resolved on the phone or else they turned out to be bugs, (As I was using Designer 1.2 on Windows for Workgroups 3.1.1 to generate Forms 4.5 there were a lot of bugs). What that meant was I tended to phone up Supoort to get answers to questions of the "How do I do ...?" variety. Now that iTARs have to be raised through a web interface everything takes much longer. There just isn't the immediacy of a phone call. In fact the iTAR process is so slow it's generally a lot quicker to use the Metalink search engine or Google. As a consequence I never contact support with a "How do I do ... ?" question. They're smart, these Oracle guys.

Of course, the Metalink repository is not without it's problems. Why is it so hard to filter out anything to do with RdB or Apps of any flavour? Why can't I explicitly search for (or exclude) stuff by document type (release installation note, error report, How To bulletin)? Why is the weighting of documents so poor? It used to be that the first result when search for an error number was the OERR document. Now it's quite frequently number 79/100. The answer is quite simple: poor metadata. The Metalink repository needs much better tagging. Of course there must be so many documents in the database you can see why nobody want's to undertake the task.

But then, but then. Only last week I started to raise a TAR because I had failed to find anything helpful in the repository. having typed it all in the TAR workflow suggested six documents that might solve my issue, and the second one did. Result! So the information is there, it's just sometimes so hard to find it.

It's easy to knock Metalink, but who would really want to be without it?

6 Comments:

Blogger Laurent Schneider said...

about bug 4533592, in 9.2.0.7, the client library has no permission for other. Well, I had to hurl when they said it is a security measure.

Anyway, Oct 14th, they said it is fixed in 9.2.0.8. Suddenly, do not ask why, on Nov 1st, they noticed it is fixed in 9.2.0.7. Howcome could they have a bug, which appeared in 9.2.0.7, fixed in 9.2.0.7?

They have a lot of incompetent support engineer, but still way more competent that our in-house support ;-)

I would say that Metalink Support is way not perfect, but it is probably much worst by MS SQL Server.

Cheers :-)

3 November 2005 at 03:30:00 GMT-8  
Anonymous laurent schneider said...

I just escalated that bug, and it seems they will react.

Sometimes they "want" you to escalate a bug just to get the ressource to work on that bug ...

3 November 2005 at 03:47:00 GMT-8  
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