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2020 in review

Well…its been quite a year!  I downloaded the Oxford “Words of the Year” report which came out with gems such as

  • Bushfires
  • Impeachment
  • Coronavirus
  • Lockdown
  • Social Distancing
  • Zoom Bombing
  • Mask Shaming
  • Black Lives Matter
  • Cancel Culture
  • Superspreader

amongst others. “Covidiot” cracked a mention and remains a personal favourite Smile, although reading the list above could perhaps be considered just a reinforcement of another of the words…”doom scrolling”.

Business as usual

It is astonishing that just 11 months ago, the year had commenced like any other. Advocates, Aces and PM’s all came together to share their knowledge at the Israel Oracle User Group event in Tel Aviv.

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I grabbed this next pic from the front of Oren Nakdimon‘s place where he and his family hosted us for a magnificent dinner – definitely a highlight of the trip, and in hindsight, a brutal reminder of the importance (and subsequent loss) of face to face networking.

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After the event, I took a couple of days vacation and travelled to Petra for the first time, which was breathtaking.

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Enough time has passed now for me to share a funny tale about the Petra experience.

We left Petra around 5pm, and then its a 5 hour bus ride back to Tel Aviv. About half way through the ride, in the pitch black of the desert, our bus was brought to a halt by our driver at a small intersection. Two small mini-vans then arrived from another direction and our driver told us all to exit the bus and get into the mini-vans. This wasn’t mentioned on the itinerary, but with slightly raised heart rates, the ten of us travelling split into the two vans.

Off into the dark we drove in a new direction. After about 40 minutes, in the absolute middle on nowhere our minivan came to a halt and our driver switched off the engine, and thus we sat in silence and darkness. No explanation given. As we soon discovered, our driver did not speak english and none of us were fluent in the local dialect. Another ten minutes passed and every time we tried to communicate with the driver, he simply made a “Sssh” sign with his finger. Now a good deal of panic was starting to set in, and we started to discuss fleeing the bus, to rushing the driver, and countless other options that are borne out of paranoia. Just as we were doing this, two taxis emerged on the horizon. Even then, we were thinking to ourselves: “Is there where we are all never seen again?” Thankfully, one of the taxi drivers spoke english and shed some light. It all turned out to be a miscommunication – the large bus was needed elsewhere, the minivans were a substitute, and ultimately the tour company decided it would be cheaper to grab taxis from the current point and take the minivans back to their base.

Or at least that’s what we were told Smile

Then onto Italy, where as always the Italian Oracle User Group were fantastic hosts, treating us to a wonderful tech event, as well as experiencing the sights (or should I say sites Smile) of Rome and Milan! Thank you again to Francesco, Roberto, Gianni and the rest of the team for their hospitality.

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The only time Francesco doesn’t wave his arms when speaking, is when there is a glass in his hand Smile

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And of course, coffee as only coffee should be!

Reaching out to the next generation

In February I spoke at SINFO, a tech conference organised and run entirely by a student body in Lisbon, Portugal. It was nice to speak to a large group of tech-passionate individuals who were still “finding their way” in the ever changing I.T landscape. Many were unaware that databases underpinned so much of the software they used on a daily basis.

A nice surprise on the flight to Portugal, was that one of the flight attendants was a friend I had coached at volleyball many years ago in Perth. Sally was nice enough to take a few minutes for a chat and a selfie, but alas, the upgrade to business class did not eventuate Smile

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And then everything changed

My itinerary for March initially read like this:

  • London for a meetup,
  • then to Ireland for their event,
  • then to Netherlands to meet with Qualogy,
  • then onto Romania to present at their user group meeting,
  • back to Netherlands for an APEX event,
  • then to London for customer meetings and then home

Then as the COVID situation grew in seriousness and global scope, there was a manic few weeks where events were being changed and/or cancelled on a day to day basis. The Ireland event got cancelled, and so I went straight on to the Netherlands for the Qualogy event, which was a great success. Big thanks to Patrick Barel for his organisation of that event,

Then the APEX event got postponed and customer meetings in London were abandoned. I was starting to panic about travel, and thus I did the Romanian event as a virtual one via Zoom from my Amsterdam Hotel, thanks to a lot of assistance from Mirela from the Romanian User Group.

The seriousness the COVID situation really hit home when I saw a notification from the Australian foreign affairs department advising that if I didn’t get home in the next few days, then the borders would be shut with no target date for re-opening. I then spent more time on the phone with travel companies than any other time in my life! This was followed by an anxious 24 hour wait in Amsterdam trying to get all of the ducks in a row so I could get home to Perth. Thankfully, Amsterdam is the perfect place to wander to get rid of all the stress.

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Finally the confirmations came through and I manage to rearrange my travel to immediately head home. Until that moment, I was unaware how lucky I was until I discovered that I had scored one of the very last flights to Perth! Thus when I entered transit in Dubai, I was met with this sight – one that I doubt will ever be repeated. Besides a few remaining shop staff, as far as the eye could see, I was the only person in the terminal!

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A virtual world

With face to face meetings on hold, database advocacy still must go on so virtual events became the norm.

Luckily for us, AskTOM had been running the Office Hours program for 2 years, so we were already well equipped in terms of running Zoom sessions, and it was a privilege to be asked by others within the Oracle organisation for tips and techniques on becoming fluent with the various hardware/software technologies that make for good virtual presentations.

For me, this was an extra challenge because most sessions I give are in the evening Perth time, so having anything resembling natural lighting is difficult. Thankfully, LEDs don’t draw too much power, otherwise I think I would need to invest in some solar powerSmile. And who needs expensive acoustic sound panels when a blanket can just be hung from the ceiling!

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So whilst some very late nights have become the norm, I also appreciate the fact that the embrace of virtual events means I could “attend” some conferences that I normally would not be able to due to the travel distances. However, nothing will ever replace the fulfilment of face to face events, and already we’re starting to the see effects of “zoom burnout“. One of the big challenges for 2021 is how to avoid virtual events being viewed as “just another webinar”.

But one personal benefit of the new virtual approach to conferences, was that more time at home meant that I could bring an new addition into the family. I got Bailey from a greyhound rescue centre in April, and he occasionally makes an appearance in Zoom calls.

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Wrapping up 2020

With all the challenges of 2020, I hope you have still got value out of my tech content this year. After all, my job is to make you be more successful with the Oracle Database. I think I’ve still managed reasonably productive output this year:

  • Presented 46 conference sessions,
  • Published 81 videos,
  • Published 67 blog posts,
  • Answered ~600 AskTOM questions,
  • Responded to ~1000 AskTOM comments

but I’m always keen to hear your ideas, your needs and yes, your frustrations as well. There have been a lot of cool new things in the Oracle landscape this year, and in particular, lots of great leaps forward in the amount of free stuff you can use.

So I look forward to hearing from you in 2021. Until then, in whichever way you observe the festive season, please stay safe and healthy, and hopefully 2021 will continue to strengthen our Oracle community.

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PS – if you’d like a funny (but very NSFW) summation of 2020, here’s a classic made by Jason Redwine on Twitter from July.