Monday, October 15, 2007

A new policy of sorts...

Over time, the 'review followup' section on asktom turned into "let me ask you a new question here" section.  I found I spend almost all of my time doing nothing but review/followups (about 100 per day).

I've decided to change that.  I'm going to start ignoring (or deleting - haven't decided) review/followups that are not relevant to the original question that was asked:


That is what pops up now if you click on the review link.  My goal is to take 10 new questions almost every day during the week.  I work in various time zones and at various times - so the time of day the "I'll take new questions" will vary - but mostly expect to see it sometime between 6am and midnight - US East Coast time.

Hopefully, over time, I'll build of an archive of more "time relevant" questions as the review/followup bits drop off and new content is constantly added.



Anonymous Doug Burns said....

I think that's a welcome move, personally.

Mon Oct 15, 08:43:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous Keith B said....

I have to agree with Doug! As for not deciding yet, as long as you state - 'It better be new or it WILL be deleted' I think that's the route you should go, so should someone be 'searching' their hits will be more accurate. - Or use CTX to weight the results :)

Mon Oct 15, 10:06:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Raymond said....

Best idea! It will clean up ASKTOM a lot. Some of the questions and answers go completly of the rails. The original question "Why do I need an index on a foreign key" results at the end discussing clustering. Confused??? Wait until the next episode.

Mon Oct 15, 10:23:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous JL said....

i think than you should mark the post whit something like "out of context" or a color. This way the user and another users will understand it too.
May be after 1 week delete it.
Great idea!

Mon Oct 15, 10:44:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

At the risk of saying "me too", I agree with Doug Burns -- this is a welcome move. If I had a nickel for every time I read a new question that was tacked on to the end of a thread that started 4 years ago... You were being too tolerant of those who were doing that and they were definitely taking advantage of your good nature.


Mon Oct 15, 11:08:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Alberto Dell'Era said....

I agree with Doug Burns and also with JL - mark the not relevant questions with a different (smaller) font or color if you don't want to delete them, or add an "out of context" message in lieu of "followup" - "out of context" could be an hyperlink to a page where you re-explain the policy.

Mon Oct 15, 11:20:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous Robert said....

sheesh, you're getting harsh....


If it were up to me, I'd also limit the LENGTH of the post to say 100 lines.

It amazes me how one persons post would go on for pages and pages.

Mon Oct 15, 11:25:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous Anonymous said....


GREAT MOVE! As others have commented, this will really clean up asktom a lot.

While I'm at it, thanks for your continual work on asktom.

Mon Oct 15, 11:44:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Albaraha said....

A move to be welcomed honestly.
This is a tough work, Tom. But as we all know you're the man who can do that ;)
I can't imagine my self reading and following up 100's of posts every day ;)

Mon Oct 15, 12:17:00 PM EDT  

Anonymous Kevin said....

I wouldn't mind so much, if there was a means to actually ask new questions.

Currently that feature's turned off, and you're only means for asking a question anymore is just tack on a response somewhere...

Rather than cut everyone off, how about you just allow people to ask questions and then don't post on the main index until they question has at least 1 response?

That would keep dead questions from clogging the pipes, and still allow someone to ask something. They may not get a response immediately, but they can put it out there...

Also, what about putting a FAQ together about the most responded to/asked questions, to direct people to particular topics of interest? I know I've tried to search through responses on occasion, and have had a tough time finding an appropriate question or response for a given topic....

Mon Oct 15, 01:26:00 PM EDT  

Anonymous David Weigel said....

Yeah, but Kevin, the reason he doesn't take many new questions is because he spends all his time reacting to comments on old ones.

I'm very much in favor of making the no-new-questions-as-reviews policy stricter, but I hope there's a little leeway. In the post here, Tom says that the "review" must be in response to the "original question", but sometimes it seems useful to comment on Tom's answer, or to comment on a previous comment. As long as it doesn't stray very far, I hope.

Mon Oct 15, 02:29:00 PM EDT  

Blogger rhalabicki said....

I think its a great idea, but you'll need to (like JL), you'll be spending more time justifying your deletions or getting annoying repeat posts

Mon Oct 15, 02:35:00 PM EDT  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

I would suggest you go a bit farther and lock threads after a period of time - say a year. I realize people often tag on with pertinent subqueries when new versions are released, but the problem is that less new discussion gets started.


Mon Oct 15, 02:43:00 PM EDT  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

I think you can use some help like a moderator or two :)

Mon Oct 15, 03:01:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Alberto Dell'Era said....

>you'll be spending more time justifying your deletions

Forgot to mention that's the reason behind my suggestion:
> "out of context" could be an hyperlink to a page where you re-explain the policy.

Mon Oct 15, 03:35:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Gary Myers said....

I like the policy. Maybe make it a bit more explicit that generally a comment more than 6 weeks after the original post will be 'assumed guilty [a new question] until proven innocent'.
Sort of on topic, how would you feel if some of the content of your AskTom responses ended up on

Mon Oct 15, 03:58:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Thomas Kyte said....

It'd be great if useful content ends up on - from anywhere.

As long as it is attributed (preferably with a link back to the original content), I don't think anyone would have a problem contributing there - I sure don't

Mon Oct 15, 04:09:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Stew said....

I join the chorus of thanks and positive feedback. May this policy also reduce the "ask in more than one place" phenomenon.

My preferred way of getting the advice I need is search, and deletion of the most "questionable" followups would tend to improve search results.

Mon Oct 15, 04:25:00 PM EDT  

Anonymous Anonymous said....


great idea !

and by the way:
how can I workaround the problem that version-enabled tables are not yet supported (10.2) by logical standby ?
:-D :-P

Mon Oct 15, 05:26:00 PM EDT  

Anonymous Donald said....

It's a perfect idea, but what about posts that are already in asktom's database?
It would be useful if they were cleaned as well. Leaving only the relevant information to the original question.
It's an amazingly huge job I know but it will take ages before searching for specific problems and anwsers becomes any clearer otherwise.

Tue Oct 16, 01:10:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous doug c said....

Clearly, something has to be done about the followups. But if you are doing that many per day, isn't the problem also more generally throughput? In other words, aren't *so* many people going to asktom that it is hard to keep up? I think locking down old posts is a good idea - and also - I actually mentioned this in an irrelevant followup on asktom, throttling the follow-ups just like the questions.. Limit them to like 20 at a time or something. Your site will be completely locked down from time to time, but it sort of is already. This gives people more time to browse answers, re-think, come up with a better question by the time they get to ask one. However, if you delete irrelevant follow-ups, it would probably be good to send an email - "Your post was deemed to be to far off the original topic" rather than wondering if there is something wrong with the website etc., when one goes hunting for their follow-up.

Tue Oct 16, 02:31:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

"Relevant" Can you define this.

Because most of the follow up are like this.

"I to have a similar problem and the problem is..."

When I need some clarification what I do is.

Search for related topics in the site (http:\ And try to find the answer. And once not able to find the exact answer will post a follow-up to a relevant topic which is some what similar to my problem (but not exactly).

So you mean to say I can’t do that any more :-(

Is it possible to increase the number of question from 10 to more…?

May be some energy drink which can turn you from fast to super fast could come handy!!! :-D

Tue Oct 16, 05:55:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Thomas Kyte said....

"I have a similar problem and it is..."

is probably not relevant to the original question, it is a new question.

Because, if it was similar enough, you would not need to ask - you would be able to see the technique applied to the original question and then apply that technique by yourself to your problem.

If you know enough to recognize that something is very similar - you should know enough to take that implementation and re-purpose it...

Hence, your problem will never be similar enough - it'll be something that to you looked the same, but it really must not be :)

Tue Oct 16, 06:21:00 AM EDT  

Blogger mathewbutler said....

I tend to agree that this is a good idea. Especially if it means that we all get to see more new posts - all the better.

I think though that often some good information comes out of the additional discussion after the original question has been raised. I'm sure though that whatever you come up with will leave scope for this to happen within the bounds of the original question.

Tue Oct 16, 08:00:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Kim Berg Hansen said....

Tom, this is a great idea. I look forward to the day when the button to ask new questions is available more often :-)

One idea popped into mind.
You said:

"I have a similar problem and it is..."

is probably not relevant to the original question, it is a new question.

I agree that if the problem is really similar to the original question, then the answer can almost always be figured out from your original response.

So if the problem is "not quite similar enough" to figure out the answer then the proper way is to ask a new question and not do a follow-up.

But in those cases where a user asks a new question (not a review) that is "somewhat similar" to an old question - would it not then be of help to you if he stated a reference to the old question?

For example he could click "Bookmark" on the old question and get a permalink to paste into his new question?
Or perhaps the "New question" form could have a new field "Reference question(s)"?

That way the new question could skip repeating those parts that are identical to the old question and concentrate on the differences.

I know it could be argued that there are advantages if each question is concise and "self-contained", but being able to "link" new questions to old questions has other advantages.
It would give a "proper" way to put those "I have a similar problem" question and these questions would be in the proper restricted question queue rather than the un-restricted follow-up/review queue.

Question to other blog-readers:
Would you use such a feature in new questions?

Tue Oct 16, 08:00:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

you have my vote Kim. Thats a good idea.

Tue Oct 16, 09:26:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

How many people try to ask questions but can't?

If it is 20, allowing 10 isn't so bad.

If it is 2000, allowing 10 isn't so good.

Ever try to get through to a "popular" government agency before answering machines were invented?

How about after call queue's were invented?

Would you rather be on hold, be on hold with messages about how long the queue is, or leave a message and have them get back to you? Does your answer change based on your trust or previous experience with the organization?

Do you know anyone who's entire job it is is to get through to people on the phone? Have you ever felt that is your job, when it isn't?

Now, apply these thoughts to an answer website.

Yes, throughput is one issue. Quality of questions is another. Repetition of questions is a third. Is playing throttling games the answer? Does that solve the issues?

Perhaps some queing and distributed moderation of questions might help. The the issue becomes "merely" one of how not to dilute the Asktom brand.

word: dygmiths

Tue Oct 16, 09:51:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Thomas Kyte said....

How many people try to ask questions but can't?

doesn't matter - I only scale so far.

Your examples/analogies do not apply in this case - I'm not a calling tree, I'm a single individual.

Would you rather

a) I take zero new questions because I'm doing the mish mash of review/followups that are ill thought out

b) I take SOME new questions - more than zero - because I have the time to suddenly.

Tue Oct 16, 10:04:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Kim Berg Hansen said....


absolutely b)

most definitely b)


Tue Oct 16, 10:14:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous Kevin said....

I have an idea... it may not be great, but it might 'solve' some of the issues.

Tom is only a single person. A hugely important, gracious, and skilled individual, but still just that... an individual.

The problem is that we have 20,000 people, who would like that individual's skills, but only enough time for a few.

Rather than cut everyone off. And continue to follow the old 'review' method, which takes time away from Tom to re-iterate what was already said...

Instead, make it much like a game.

Everyone could post their questions to a section which Tom then reviews. Which ever questions Tom deems 'worthy', he'll post answers to on his board, that others can comment on. If Tom has additional time available, he might continue to comment on those questions.

This solves the problem of people not being able to ask new questions, and give's Tom a chance to ignore those questions that tend to be irrelevant, asked numerous times already, or don't provide any real information to form a response to.

The top winners are the ones that are: clear, concise, informative, and pose a real quandary.

Those winners would get a response from Tom.

Everyone else will have to wait, or try again with on the next question/answer period.

Perhaps, make a deadline of a week, or a few days perhaps?

It would seem the most fair to Tom, who is likely getting inundated with an ocean of queries.

Just some thoughts....

Tue Oct 16, 01:02:00 PM EDT  

Anonymous karthick said....

Kevin I don’t think that would be a good idea.

As you said 20,000 visitors to asktom. Now you let every one to post when ever they want and what ever they want.

And one man TOM has to read all the 20,000 and pick the best. He will end up just reading he can never answer.

Ask a question not enabled just tells us one thing... “Dude you still have time to search for your solution... Search… Search… Search… ”

Wed Oct 17, 02:50:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Gary Myers said....

Another alternative is for a forum of potential questions, with the 'public' voting up for the one they most want the answer to and voting against ones they think are undeserving (eg easily answered from the documentation).

When Tom has time he simply picks off the questions that have the highest 'please answer' score.
It would need some sort of registration/login scheme though.

Wed Oct 17, 03:20:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

It's such a bad idea, I have difficulty believing that you dreamt it up.

Loads of good, interesting and useful postings are created on AsTom that would fail to meet your new criteria. As someone said earlier: posts along the lines of "I have a similar problem" or "Is this related?" are good, not bad. Sure, junk the 100% daft & utterly off-topic posts, but don't throw the baby out with the proverbial.

And let's not forget the aeons you've spent having cyber wars with certain Oracle "celebrities". So much for "My time is precious, etc."!

Be brave, and make it even easier on yourself: stop doing AskTom and Hey Presto! you can go back to whittling on your verandah.

Wed Oct 17, 06:32:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Thomas Kyte said....

It's such a bad idea, I have difficulty believing that you dreamt it up.

You seem to have missed the point.

Instead of a good interesting useful posting being hidden as a review/followup on an entirely unrelated page - with a meaningless (to it subject).....

That good, interesting, useful posting is itself a page.

You seem to have missed the point that this actually permits me to take a new QUESTION every now and then.

What Aeons of time are you referring to? I have no clue what you mean by that.

I don't know how to whittle - sorry.

Wed Oct 17, 06:37:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

Maybe I just like the "organic" feel to threads that "evolve". The conversational style is, I think, conducive to seeing how Oracle matters relate to ecah other. Also, there is a search facility on Ask Tom, and it works, so...

Aeons: The intergalactic war that involved planets Kyte, Burleson, Conway, Ault, Rogers, Mars, Saturn, etc. that you eventually had to close, probably to stop the server's disks filling-up.

Whittling: It's easy to learn.

Wed Oct 17, 08:43:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Thomas Kyte said....

the Aeons you refer to were a distraction, over two years ago, and are a prime example of precisely why the followup/review stuff is not the way to go...

It is a waste of time to reply to every followup - so - I'm not.

Wed Oct 17, 08:48:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

Ultimately, you will only win if YOU ask questions that YOU answer... i.e. another blog. And while I'm on THAT subject: as hard & painful as it might be, bin the blog, and just do the Q & A. Exploding batteries, holiday snaps, etc. are mildly interesting, but every exploding battery story is one less question answered. I did say hard & painful.

Wed Oct 17, 08:54:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

(I'm the anonymous that had the dygmiths word)

Of course you only have limited time. Of course you personally only scale so far... or do you? That's what delegation is all about. We've all seen jokes (and even some serious queries) about asktom being a bot and such. You obviously have a lot personally invested in being in control of this thing. That is good! A lot of us are big fans of you knowing your stuff and being willing and able to answer anybody who asks anything remotely resembling a reasonable Oracle question. I think you've posted that you like that too, or at least it keeps you on your toes.

Perhaps it is time to fork asktom into a asktomcloud and a realasktom, the former including some of the suggestions in this blog, and the latter implementing your more strict requirments. There's nothing saying you can't do both, but of course the stress-reducer for you is the ability to control how much you personally do. I think it may look to you more like a zero-sum game than it does to others.

Gary's voting suggestion is good, but I have to mention it shouldn't be final - I think there are a lot of things that you or other very forward looking people come across that would be very interesting conversations, that the mad crowd would not understand to vote for.

Personally, I'm against locking threads, short of extreme abuse. A lot of people still are going over the same old issues as newbies, and some answer change with versions. Some are way too long though, I have no answer short of a fanclub digesting things for the wiki. Deleting things (again, besides extremes) has its own problems, move to a "maybe you should ask this on usenet :-)" folder or something.

And I like the non-Oracle stuff on the blog!

Wed Oct 17, 08:47:00 PM EDT  

Anonymous Stew said....

As Shakespeare's Marc Antony would say, "I come to ask Tom, not to tell him."

asktom is first and foremost a tool for Tom to answer questions, plus a record of the original dialog between him and the questioner. We're not reading Plato or Aristotle: we're live with Socrates (the first to say "I'm a terrible philosopher").

Who is stopping us from turning the answers into more structured knowledge? Tom has done this already more than once, using a proven technology called "books".

Thu Oct 18, 08:28:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

That comment about Tom wasting time blogging about exploding batteries was tacky.

By following that logic we could say that about anything. Paying his mortgage, buying groceries, whatever, "he could have been answering questions...."

He always consistently answer's questions, what he does with his other time isn't relevant.


Thu Oct 18, 08:09:00 PM EDT  

Anonymous doug c said....

I am curious, now that the new policy is in place - have your site stats changed at all?

Thu Oct 18, 10:29:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Thomas Kyte said....

have your site stats changed at all?

I'll check that out in about a month or so - small term fluctuations are meaningless, need more data points.

Thu Oct 18, 10:32:00 PM EDT  

Anonymous Mark Marucot said....

I like the idea of deleting or ignoring comments which tends to be a new question. I would suggest to allow other users to tag the comment as "New Question" which gives you in your dashboard the list of comments tag as "New Question".
I'm not sure if this will work in terms of funding or code changes in Ask Tom. Just my 2 cents. =)

Fri Oct 19, 01:43:00 PM EDT  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

Alexander: Paying his mortgage, buying groceries, whatever: they are all normal-we-all-do-it things and I wouldn't suggest that Tom stops doing any of them. My point was that the Blog is a bit like peering into Tom's head when he's daydreaming. Kinda fun... then dull... then tedious... then a big, overblown, yawn-inducing exercise in drivel.

Every Oracle DBA/Developer/wannabe has a blog, now, and Tom's is, sad to say, dull as dull can be on a particularly dull, wet Wednesday afternoon. Good old Ask Tom is world-class and fabulous. At least it was when the free for all attitude reigned supreme.

Mon Oct 22, 10:52:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous Andy C said....

Anonymous: If you don't find much of interest in Tom's blog, why do you spend so much time reading it (and trolling) ? Do us all a favour and go elsewhere.

Wed Oct 24, 03:41:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

AndyC: I see. Not going along with the herd is trolling. Hey! It's nice to be one. I'm back off to my little, dark hideaway 'neath a bridge, now. Where are those 3 billy goats Gruff?

Wed Oct 24, 03:01:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Thomas Kyte said....

Anonymous -

one does have to wonder what your point is, given that you don't like what you read here - why would you keep coming back?

When a blog (or anything) I used to like or read gets "boring" for me - well, I stop wasting my time and stop going there.

You are just wasting your time by coming here obviously - doesn't make you look very intelligent.

Truth be told, the only way anyone will know their stuff isn't "useful" is by people not looking at it anymore. You've come here at least three times - you've increased the hit count by that much, you sort of make it look like a popular place to go.

Your premise that I should stop doing this and spend that time doing questions on asktom is sort of absurd. Do you think I'd stop doing a recreational thing (this) and replace it with work? Not likely.

This falls into the same category as paying my mortgage, buying groceries, fishing, tending to a garden. You wrote in a moment of clarity:

they are all normal-we-all-do-it things and I wouldn't suggest that Tom stops doing any of them.

guess what this is.

Again, if you don't like it, just stop coming - it really is that simple isn't it? You have that choice - exercise it.

Wed Oct 24, 03:13:00 PM EDT  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

Possibly point people who want to ask a new question after you've done your 10 for the day to:

a) search the archives, or
b) try elsewhere e.g.

Thu Nov 08, 09:49:00 AM EST  


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