Don’t Let Developers Ruin Your Reputation

Developers hate it when pesky users raise bug reports against their wonderful creations. I’m a developer myself and have sometimes found myself mystified why a specific piece of code didn’t work in a specific case.

But don’t ever let developers tell the users that the code works fine, and the problem must be with the user.

I communicate with a lot of people and have been using Contactually to keep a central record of all my contacts. One nice feature of this tool is that it can use IMAP to connect to my mailbox to include the emails I’ve sent in the overview. For some reason, this IMAP functionality stopped working, and after some back-and-forth with support, I was told that the problem was with my password.

This is a rather disingenuous excuse, as the software already gives me an error if I enter an invalid password. It reminds me of the Beavis and Butthead episode called “Customers Suck“, where the two idiots don’t want to serve customers and can’t even be bothered to come up with a good excuse.

However, the poor customer service employee had no choice but to pass this lame attempt at blame-shifting to me. I had to cancel the service.

Make sure you are not allowing your developers to shrink their responsibilities and ruin your reputation with customers internal and external.

Why I Now Hate Apple (Hint: Chatbots)

In a famous Monty Python sketch, John Cleese tries to return a dead parrot to the shopkeeper where he bought it. However, the shopkeeper is impervious to reason and claims the clearly dead parrot is still alive.

Monty Python Dead Parrot sketch

I just had a “dead parrot” moment with iTunes support. Their support used to be excellent, but the humans have now been replaced by imbecilic chatbots. This is a serious miscalculation.

What really annoys customers is when they are not listened to, and not listening is the one core competency of today’s chatbots. Being served platitudes about “we understand you are unhappy” doesn’t make me happier…

If you are considering chatbots for some aspect of your operation, make sure to offer an option for the customer to give feedback. Apple doesn’t, and Tim Cook probably thinks their support is brilliant. It isn’t.

Oracle Critical Patch Update

Oracle has released the latest quarterly critical patch update (CPU). The database gets off lightly this time with two moderate severity vulnerabilities in SQL*Plus and the Oracle JVM. On the other hand, Oracle Secure Backup is not very secure with a bug that can be remotely exploited without authentication. Bad.

The Fusion Middleware stack gets 31 fixes, of which 20 are in the bad group of remotely exploitable without authentication. There is a lot of WebCenter stuff as well as some WebLogic and little Oracle Service Bus. Read the notes and update your environments.

Almost all of the Oracle applications (E-Business Suite, Siebel, J.D. Edwards) are also vulnerable, many through the critical Apache Struts 2 vulnerability (CVE-2017-5638). Oracle has fixed everything related to this Struts 2 bug in this CPU, but if you are running anything else based on Struts 2, make sure you update to a non-vulnerable version.

Do You Need to Learn a New Technology?

TL;DR: Yes.

Developers often ask me which language or tool they should use or learn. I have definite opinions on good and bad tools for various tasks, but the most important tip is to continue learning new technologies. This gives you joy in your life, prevents burnout, and provides a platform when the time comes to move on from your current technology.

For your day job, you want a language that is stable or increasing. It doesn’t matter if it is outside the top ten in rankings like the TIOBE index. For example, Oracle’s proprietary PL/SQL database language has been hovering around place number 20 for many years, and PL/SQL programmers are not likely to be out of a job anytime soon.

But you still need to continually add to your skill set. People who keep doing the same thing lose the joy and wonder of making something work, which is often what got them started in IT in the first place. To prevent burnout, carve out time to work on something new every week.

Don’t expect your employer to give you this time. In some organizations, you might be able to use allocated training time to learn something on your own, but even Google’s famous “20% time” for side projects is 20% on top of the 100% you already work.

You should be grateful you have the privilege to work in IT. To keep that privilege, you should invest time in yourself and your life.

This is an excerpt from the monthly Spiritual Programmer newsletter. Don’t miss the next issue, sign up here

IT Entering the Dark Ages (Again)

Historians have described the period following the collapse of the Western Roman Empire (400 to 1400 AD) as the “Dark Ages.” Existing knowledge was lost and society regressed to a more primitive organization and technology.

In IT, we do not learn from history. We routinely throw away existing knowledge to start over, constantly emerging from each dark age only to enter a new one.

I was just reminded of this unfortunate tendency when I opened The Economist on my iPad. I used to read the magazine in traditional form on dead trees (aka paper) but moved to their iPad app to get my magazine on the publication date and not two days later. Their first iPad app reproduced the magazine layout with several narrow columns of text, re-using centuries of typographical knowledge. But in the new version, the clueless digital natives have decided to make the text one wide column with the lines way too close together, which makes it much harder to read.

Next time you get the bright idea to change something that has worked well (a page layout, a business process, or an IT framework), reflect on whether the change will really make it easier for the system to fulfill its promise.

Why Does Oracle Exist?

At an Oracle Partner event this week in Croatia, I got the latest updates on Oracle’s products. And it hit me that nobody, not even Oracle, understands why the company exists.

I looked at their website but was unable to find a mission statement or discern any coherent vision. It seems Oracle exists simply because it does.

Back in their database days, they wanted to manage all the world’s information. But in their current incarnation, their vision more cloudy than cloud.

Why on earth does an enterprise software company like Oracle dabble in chatbots? Why are they building an IFTTT clone? Why are they running “Oracle Code” events and talking about everything but Oracle software? Why are they coming from a sub-one-percent IaaS market share and announcing their intention to rule the IaaS world?

What Oracle should do is:

  • Build on their strength in SaaS. I believe they are on track to living up to Mark Hurd’s vision of being one of the two SaaS vendors  with 80% of the market (and no, SAP won’t be the other one)
  • Provide PaaS trials limited in power, but not in time. Nobody can figure out how to use Oracle PaaS offerings in meager 30-day trials
  • Concentrate on real differentiators like Application Builder Cloud Service (and stop trying to provide their version of every cloud service in the universe).

Oracle is a great software engineering company. I hope they figure out why they exist.

Oracle Stock Rises on Cloud Surprise

Stockbrokers were taken by surprise by Oracle’s Cloud revenue when Oracle announced quarterly results last week, and Oracle stock duly jumped by seven percent. It has fallen back somewhat since but is still up three percent.

ORCL

(source: Yahoo Finance)

Oracle Cloud revenue is up by 63% and now makes up 13% of Oracle’s $9.3 billion quarterly revenue. It is not clear how much of this is the “cloud credits” that is reportedly bundled into renewal and new on-premise deals. It will be interesting to see if customers find a good use for these credits and will buy more once they are used up.

As an ERP and database company, it would make the most sense for Oracle to push their strong SaaS and PaaS offerings. SaaS and PaaS currently make up 85% of Oracle cloud revenue, but they have decided to try to muscle into the already-crowded market for commodity computing services. With $195 million of IaaS revenue, it doesn’t make much sense for Oracle to try to catch up to Amazon’s $3.5 billion.

Trying to Make Oracle Cool

Oracle currently hosting a series of Oracle Code events across the world, today in New York. You’d expect an event with this name would focus on Oracle tools, but no. Oracle instead decided to throw together presentations on every buzzword they could think of. So if you attend an Oracle Code event, you can hear about Node.JS, DevOps, microservices, Agile, Docker, Spark, JSON, Chatbots, and Kafka.

This is like Sears or Macy’s sponsoring a snowboarding competition. The hip crowd might show up, but they won’t shop at the department store afterward.

Oracle has powerful, productive, mature tools like APEX and ADF, as well as new and interesting things like Oracle JET and Application Builder Cloud Service (ABCS). But they decided to spend this year’s developer outreach budget on events almost completely unrelated to Oracle technology. Not a smart move.

As an Oracle developer, don’t let this marketing misstep get you down. Oracle has great development tools, even if they don’t talk about them. And hey, today’s Oracle Code event in New York even has a session on SQL and PL/SQL by Peter Koletzke. There is hope.

 

This content originally appeared in the monthly Oracle Tool Watch newsletter. Don’t miss the next one, sign up here

Should you learn Spring or Oracle ADF?

My answer on Quora to “Should I learn Spring or Oracle ADF?”:

Oracle ADF is a specialty skill, Java Spring is a general skill. Java Spring should be your default choice, unless:

  1. You work in an company that has made Oracle ADF their strategic choice, or
  2. You come from a 4GL tool like Oracle Forms and don’t know much Java yet

With ADF, you get higher productivity but less control. It was created by Oracle to build their SaaS applications and allows you to build user-friendly applications quickly, as long as you are content to stay within the framework.

In general, developers like Java Spring better because it allows them more control and requires more code. Managers like ADF better because it allows developers to build applications faster. Developers normally don’t learn ADF unless their boss tells them to.

Link to Quora: Should I learn Spring framework or Oracle ADF?

Oracle PaaS Partner Community Forum 2017

In two weeks, I’m off to Croatia for the Oracle PaaS Partner Community Forum. The agenda covers a lot of the Oracle PaaS cloud services:

  • SOA Cloud Service
  • Integration Cloud Service
  • API Cloud Service
  • Java Cloud Service
  • Application Builder Cloud Service
  • Developer Cloud Service
  • Application Container Cloud Service

I’m looking forward to seeing the latest improvements to the Oracle Cloud services and hearing from my fellow ACE Directors who have actually used them.

This event is free for Oracle partners who are members of one of the EMEA Oracle partner communities. The conference runs from March 27 to March 29 with optional hands-on workshops on March 30 and 31. There might still be spaces left – check the registration page at http://tinyurl.com/paasForum2017.

If you can’t make it to Croatia, and you have a burning question about Oracle PaaS Cloud services, feel free to comment and I’ll try to have your question answered by one of the knowledgeable presenters there.