At last the agenda for the DE SIG
or "Sisyphus Revisited"
or "Where Have All The Oracle Developers Gone?"
Finally the full agenda for the Development Engineering SIG is published on the UKOUG web site. It's quite close to the wire ( the meeting is 19th September) but at least we made it. At one point I thought I was going to have to postpone the SIG until after the Conference because it looked like I couldn't get enough speakers. When I started n July the process of assembling the agenda I had the promise of presentations from three people who had not been able to make the previous SIG. Alas none of them could make September either. So instead of having to find just two speakers I suddenly had an empty agenda to fill, over the summer holiday season. That we do have a full agenda is really down to great support from our Oracle Buddies, Grant Ronald and Stephen Wallace, and sterling organisation by Julius Kisielius in the UKOUG office.
In the end I think it is quite a good line up:
- APEX - Ben Wooton, Oracle
- Oracle Data Hub Offerings - David Rowe, Rocela
- What’s new in Developer Forms 11g - Grant Ronald, Oracle
- The future of Application Development in Fusion - Susan Duncan , Oracle
So lots for developers - something on Forms, something on Fusion, something on TAFKAH - and something for systems architects too.
There are three obvious points about this agenda.
One is the omissions. Nothing on JDeveloper, nothing on SQL Developer, nothing on esoteric topics like PHP or .Net. Well, we cannot cover everything in every meeting and the DE SIG has a very broad waterfront to cover. Also, I have to work with what I can get. The Lord knows I have tried to get a PHP on Oracle presentation. I have struck out with three different sources. Maybe next year it will happen.
Secondly, there are two talks about Forms (the talk on Fusion will outline how Oracle is moving its applications from Forms to the Fusion tool set, which is Java-based). I was forwarded an e-mail recently from someone observing of the presentation on Forms 11g, "what is there left to say about Forms?" Now Grant will disagree but I have a certain sympathy with this viewpoint: Forms has been around for a long time and once you've got over the hurdle of migrating from client/server to web there really wasn't much new stuff in Forms 10g. However, a large chunk of the UKOUG development community are using Forms and I owe it to them to include talks on the tool set. As long as Oracle is supporting and indeed extending Forms there is news for the SIG to convey. Anyway, I asked this person what topics they would like to see in a DE SIG agenda. Naturally I am still awaiting a response.
Lastly, the speakers. Three are from Oracle and the fourth is from Rocela, a consultancy founded by ex-Oracle employees (indeed I think David is ex-Oracle himself). Again this is question of working with what I get given. At every SIG I stand on my hind legs and solicit presentations from the audience but the actual presenters are almost always from Oracle itself, other consultancies and vendors. These are three classes of people for whom presenting is a core skill. If you work in sales, pre-sales or consultancy you have to be able to explain technical subjects to a variety of audiences in a fluent manner. Obviously I am profoundly grateful for the support the SIG receives from the chaps and chapeses in Oracle but it would be nice to hear from some more "real people".
Call for papers
I guess many in the DE audience don't feel the compulsion to present or are too shy to talk in public or just don't think they have anything to talk about. Over the years we have tried to introduce a couple of different formats to encourage new speakers - short slots talking about a particular little utility or tool which we've found useful, war stories about when some project went horribly wrong - but these haven't taken off. Which is a shame, because giving a presentation can be rewarding in its own right - just ask Bob Baillie. So if anybody reading this (in the geographical environs of the UK) does feel inspired to give a talk please contact Julius at the UKOUG office (or leave a comment here). And don't worry if you have not spoken in public before, we will provide support. Indeed the UKOUG offers free course in presentation skills to its members (although you don't have to be a member to present at a SIG).
Developer SIGs vs DBA SIGs
The lack of "civilian" presenters does give me concern because it is a symptom of a larger problem, namely the relative small audience we get at the SIG. Normally we get between the mid-teens (Birmingham) and the low thirty-somethings (London). These attendance figures have been fairly stable for years now and seem to bear little relation to the agenda's content. By comparison the DBMS SIGs regularly get audiences in three figures. On the face of it this is ought to be surprising. After all, there are a lot more developers than there are DBAs. We could take 'em easy in a straight fight. So why are the DBA-oriented SIGs so much stronger?
Well, for starters their target audience is easy to define and relatively homogenous in its interests. If you look at the agenda for the newly-founded Oracle on Windows SIG you see the topics you would expect - availability, performance tuning, monitoring. DBA stuff is DBA stuff, only the peculiarities of the OS change. There is a large corps of excellent non-Oracle speakers, many of them "names" in the community.
The Development Engineering (Tools) SIG is different. The need for brackets says it all. Our audience is diffuse, our remit broad, our focus fuzzy. The community is diffuse, split between many different programming tools and job descriptions. It is hard to put together an agenda that will appeal to enough people that they will take a day out of their working schedule to attend. A VB.Net code monkey is unlikely to be interested in an agenda of mainly Oracle Forms presentations with a single talk on ADO. This is exacerbated by the trend towards platform agnosticism: J2EE developers tend to regard databases with distaste: they are closed, proprietary, difficult, non-extensible, nasty things. The whole point of frameworks like Spring and Hibernate is to shield Java developers from the database, so why would they want to attend, let alone speak at, a meeting dedicated to the Oracle database?
(Lack of) Conclusion
How I solve this conundrum is a different matter. It's been acknowledged for years that the UKOUG is failing to reach the developer community, and this failure extends beyond just the DE SIG: papers in the Development stream for this year's Conference constituted a scant 4% of the total submissions. Perhaps the problem is that there is no "Oracle developer community", just lots of people who develop stuff that happens to run against Oracle databases.
Anyway, for the moment at least I can relax. I have a SIG meeting with a full agenda to chair. But I know the satisfaction of organising a successful SIG will last until approximately 20th September. Then it will be replaced by the sinking realisation that it has to be done all over again.