Friday, July 29, 2005

Funny Questions

Yesterday I wrote about a funny question I got, one that was unrelated to Oracle and databases but that sounded like it could have been. One of the comments received on that entry was to add an unusual story page to asktom, where I would hilight 'funny or strange' questions.

I think short term that might be amusing to some but long term it would be damaging overall. I think people should feel free to question authority, to ask why, to say “no, I don’t agree” and the threat of being on the “wall of shame” page or something like that would make people hesitate. I don’t ever want anyone to be afraid to ask a question, and having a page about questions that are ‘funny’ would be setting a dangerous precedent.

I get lots of questions, you only see about one third of them.  Today, right now there are 9,149 questions answered and published and 17,873 questions that were answered but not published on asktom.  In that 17,873 I’m sure there are some (I know) that those of us with years of Oracle experience would look at and say “wow, can you believe that”.  But that is the point – for people to have a place where they can ask those sort of things, to get jump started.  To get pointed to the right place.  I do not want people to be in fear of showing up on the funny pages.  I think it would send the wrong message.

So, while putting together a page of funny questions would be rather easy, it would go against what I’m trying to do with the Q&A stuff.  I remember some of the questions and misconceptions I had about databases and how they should or did work.  I remember when I thought DeCorte was a SQL keyword (see, now that would make a funny entry on a page of funny questions — “remember the guy who thought the DBA’s name was a keyword! Wasn’t he silly!”).

So, I’ll stick to pointing out ‘instant message’ speak – but leaving judgement as to what is a “funny or strange” question out of the picture.  Unless I get another one like yesterdays, which was funny as in “made me laugh” funny – not as in naive about databases funny.  I don’t want to discourage anyone from asking anything.

I guess I just think it might come across as being “mean”. I might be blunt sometimes, but hope it doesn’t ever come across as mean.  I like this stuff a lot (this database stuff) and really do want people to be successful with it.  If they are not successful with it, they won’t use it to its fullest potentional.  I want them to get to the next level. If they cannot get beyond level 1, they’ll never get to level 2 and higher. The “funniest” stories would probably come from them and I don’t want to scare those off.



Blogger scubajim said....

I think some of your unpublished answers and questions on ask Tom have other reasons for not publishing. I know I published one there and it is not published, but I got an excellent answer. I wouldn't have been embarassed by the question or answer being public in that case.

I suspect in this case the code might have been viewed as IP. (Although I did not view it that way) Anyway thanks for the answer.

Fri Jul 29, 02:34:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Thomas Kyte said....

have other reasons for not publishing.

Absolutely, I don't think I said this is the only reason. There are dozens of reasons.

Some include

o repetition, I just answered that question 5 times in the last month (but if I don't see it for a while...)

o I didn't (for whatever reason) feel it had broad apeal. This is done on a whim and I cannot always say "why" :) Depended on my mood.

o I didn't feel my answer was "robust" enough to be shared. It was more a concept than a firm solution to the problem.

o I answered with "when I searched for your subject [link here] I found these 5 articles, what did you see?"

o I felt the answer contained information that in the wrong hands (or at least without lots more information that I didn't have time to type in) could be dangerous -- but I knew the person receiving it would be able to deal with it.

and so on. There are many reasons, but among them is also

o the question was very much a newbie question and I didn't want people (as they have done) to come along and say "hey, don't waste bandwidth with this stuff....."

we were all newbies once upon a time.

You should see the stupid question I sent blogger once. Definitely a PEBKAC problem and I felt stupid for asking it (but sort of disappointed I never heard back from them)

Fri Jul 29, 02:46:00 PM EDT  

Anonymous Patty C. said....

If I could even get a question through on your website I wouldn't care where you published it. Seems as though every time I have a problem or issue that I could use your help with I am always faced with 'Sorry, I have a backlog right now'. It is just not right that people with non-Oracle questions even get a chance to ask them! Is there a trick to getting to be one of those lucky few a day?

Fri Jul 29, 02:47:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Jeff Hunter said....

Is there a trick to getting to be one of those lucky few a day?
Write a perl script to probe Tom's site every x minutes and try to get to the URL. Once you get the right URL you have all the time in the world to enter your question. On a related note, I wish Tom would spend more time answering new questions instead of entertaining the irrelavent followups like "that's nice about materialized views. My problem is with statspack and..."

Anyway, on to the topic at hand.

I don't think it would be appropriate to have a "funny page" on That's an "official" Oracle site and represents the company well. You wouldn't want that type of ridicule turning off potential customers. I think the blog is the perfect place for generalized funny stories about certain situations.

Fri Jul 29, 03:13:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Bill S. said....

[quote]patty c. Said:
Is there a trick to getting to be one of those lucky few a day?[quote]

Yup - keep the AskTom home page open in your browser, and refresh every few minutes until you see the Submit A Question button. The earlier in the morning, the better the odds but I've gotten in at 4 p.m. EST on some days. And if you have a head-banger of a problem, it's worth the wait. :D

Fri Jul 29, 03:16:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Robert said....

I agree with what you said Tom. You have a very international readers and I guess a big part of them won't find it funny.

Fri Jul 29, 03:57:00 PM EDT  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

Being a newbie is not fun. Trying to figure out fact from fiction/myths is the hardest. I was thrown in the "deep end" 5 years ago after our database administrator left and I "just" transitioned over to the IT side from the lab (was a chemist) and started to attend the oracle 8i classes at Oracle University. I recall some of the ridicuously simple and naive questions I have asked before.

I am very glad I ran across Tom's website and books about 1.5 yrs ago. Being able to ask Tom questions that I cannot find from Metalink or reference books is the best! It may be simple/stupid in an expert's eyes but the answer may save me from doing something really stupid!

Thank you for deciding a "funnies" page is not appropriate on 'asktom'. (or you will see a good amt of entries from me).


Fri Jul 29, 04:29:00 PM EDT  

Anonymous Rob H said....

Here's a funny question, how do I find a dba job thats fun, challenging and not full of MBA's who 'know' data?

Fri Jul 29, 04:30:00 PM EDT  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

A funny page may also encourage some deviants to post questions just to make it on the wall of shame. That would be a waste of everyone's time.

Fri Jul 29, 04:35:00 PM EDT  

Anonymous Sean Dillon said....

I agree you shouldn't publicly humiliate the innocent. On the other hand, would it hurt that bad to publish the "WHAT'S MY PASSWORD ON ARIA" story? :)

Fri Jul 29, 04:40:00 PM EDT  

Blogger scubajim said....

I agree public humiliation or anything that smacks of it is not appropriate. Glad you don't do it.

Fri Jul 29, 04:59:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Tarry said....

I like Kathy's(Sierra) book(s) where she say's "There are no dumb questions".

Everytime you're catching up to someone who's a bit ahead of you, you feel awkward of asking questions that are "ah, it's not that hard, is it?" for him/her.

I never stop thinking aloud, or asking for that matter.

You(One) will never be able to know everything. Deal with it(justly ;)).

Fri Jul 29, 08:59:00 PM EDT  

Blogger gregory_b said....

This reminds me of the Shark Tank column at the end of ComputerWorld, where the idea is to make fun of users who make stupid mistakes.

A close reading, however, often shows it's the computer tech person who made the mistake.

That Senior Vice President is smart. He would not have used the CD tray as a coffee mug holder if he had been properly trained.

It's better to be helpful and respect others. Otherwise we risk coming off like an elitist snob, like some guy who enjoys sitting at an oak table....

Sat Jul 30, 05:42:00 PM EDT  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

The Oak Table... I think they are very well experienced etc, but inadvertenly they have portrayed (probably unintentionally) themselfs a bit of an elitst group. Still I like to learn from any one who supplies proofed solutions.

Sat Jul 30, 10:00:00 PM EDT  

Anonymous Bill Tomlin said....

A funny questions page would be bad. Dumb questions are fine. You should never confuse ignorance with stupidity. The only problem is when people repeat the same questions/mistakes all the time.

Mon Aug 01, 05:22:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

Though unrelated but here is a resource for thousands of funny questions Funny Questions

Sun Jun 04, 07:18:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

The correct url is

Sun Jun 04, 07:21:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous Sanjay said....

What a great this funny questions I think some fo his unpublished answers and question on ask tom have other reasons for not publishing.

Wed Apr 16, 02:46:00 AM EDT  


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