Feb 242015

The results of the first ever database design championship playoff were announced today. Huge congratulations to Sean Molloy, Pavel Zeman and Justin Cave for taking the top three spots. Also thanks to everyone else who’s taken part in the quiz, answering questions, adding to the discusions and pointing out my mistakes ;)

With this in mind here’s a some of the facts and figures from 2014’s database design quizzes, along with related trivia:

-- How many player were there in total?
select count(*)
from   players;


-- The same number of calories as a 
-- Five Guys BLT

-- How many people took every quiz?
select count(*)
from   players
where  quizzes_taken = 52;


-- The ascii character code for 
-- the exclamation mark!

-- What was the total of all scores 
-- across all players?
select sum(scores)
from   players;


-- About the same mass in kg as a 
-- Saturn V Rocket (2,970,000 kg)

-- and how long did they take 
-- to place their answers?
select sum(user_seconds)
from   player_answers;


-- 40 days, 17 hours, 27 minutes and 52 seconds
-- About 0.46 years on the planet of Mercury

Want to know what all the fuss is about? Then just head over to PL/SQL Challenge and sign up for a free account. Who knows, it could be your name in lights this time next year ;)

Nov 042013
select my_thoughts
from   starting_the_db_design_quiz;

As regular readers will know, last month saw the start of the Database Design Quiz on the PL/SQL Challenge. I thought I’d share some of the background on how this came about and my thoughts and feelings on how it’s going, so here goes…

I’ve been player of PL/SQL quiz for a few years now. Writing code is only a small part of my current day job however – as a “Data Architect” more of my time is spent designing data structures (though I still get called on to help coding from time to time!). With this in mind, I’d started drafting up some questions for the challenge that were more related to my work. These didn’t seem to fit with the PL/SQL quizzes though. While there’s clearly some cross-over, it didn’t feel quite to have these in the PL/SQL or SQL quizzes.

So one night the summer while trying to get my daughter to sleep, I had a crazy idea – wouldn’t it be great to have a whole new type of quiz on the PL/SQL Challenge? It could be based around the theme of database design: creating and normalizing data structures and then the physical implementation of these. With this in mind, I drafted up some questions and sent them over to Steven Feuerstein.

Steven really liked the idea, but suggested that we gather feedback from players before going ahead with it. So we put together a post for the PL/SQL Challenge blog including some sample questions. I was amazed by the positive reception it received – clearly this was something many people felt was worth doing.

With this support clearly we needed to go ahead so I set about writing quizzes. I’d been thinking about possible questions for a while, so I had several ideas lined up and submitting questions has been (relatively) easy so far. I suspect generating new ideas will get harder in time though – I’m really impressed that Steven and Kim have been coming up with new questions for as long as they have!

In addition to writing the questions, I needed to find some people to help review them to ensure they’re up to scratch – it’s amazing how easily I’ll manage to miss a bracket or use slighlty confusing language.

I instantly thought of an old colleague of mine, Andy Wilson, who quickly agreed to help :) I also feel privileged that Kent Graziano – an Oracle ACE and published author on Data Warehouse modelling – agreed to help review questions. They have both provided some excellent feedback on the questions so far. I’m sure the improvements they’ve suggested are part of the reason the quizzes are getting good scores in post-quiz surveys. They’ve tidied up the language and pointed out some flaws in the questions.

With Kent and Andy on the job and a batch of quizzes ready, we settled on a launch date of 5th October to coincide with the start of a new quarter in the PL/SQL & SQL quizzes. As the launch date got closer got more excited and nervous. Would it all work out well? Would people play? Being based in the UK, the new quiz would start at midnight my time. I’d love to say I stayed up to see it start, but having a daugher under 1 is taking its toll and I can barely stay up past 9pm these days ;) I was up first thing on the 5th however (only partly becuase Izzy was already awake!), checking that the quiz was working correctly. Other than a slight typo in the question, it was a relief to see it live and functioning as expected.

So we’re now a month into the quiz and I feel like it’s going well – there’s only been one major disagreement so far and around 400 players per quiz, which is great. In all I’m happy with the way it’s going at the moment and feel really honoured that so many people have taken part. Hopefully this will continue you to grow – but for that part I’ll need help from you: by playing, adding your feedback to quizzes and spreading the word about this quiz we can help grow the community (including the PL/SQL, SQL and Logic quizzes too).

For those of you who’ve been taking part in the DB design quiz, I’d love to hear how you think it’s going. Are the questions interesting and varied enough? Are they too easy/hard? What have we not covered (yet) that you think we should? Please share your thoughts in the comments!