Sunday, June 19, 2016

Blog retrospective

Not long ago I suddenly realized I had published my 100th blog post, so I figure it's time to look back and write down some thoughts about the blog.

I started this blog in 2008, so it has taken me all of 8 years to produce one hundred posts. Not exactly a huge output when compared to many other bloggers, but at least the pace has been reasonably consistent over the years, and hopefully most of the posts have been useful. So why am I bothering with blogging at all? Primarily, it's a good way to document and have easy access to information that I find useful in my own work, but I also want to contribute to the community and help other people be successful in their work.

Back in 2008, I had been working with Oracle and PL/SQL for about 10 years already, but was just getting started with APEX. One of my first posts shows that we are on APEX 3.1 and we are getting to grips with the differences between DBMS_EPG and mod_plsql. It seems that none other than Joel Kallmann himself was the first ever to post a comment on my blog, what a flying start! :-) (And by the way, it was Joel who told me just last year that one is supposed to write "APEX" in uppercase, not "Apex" like I have done for the first 7 years on this blog...! As you can see, I'm now firmly in the uppercase APEX camp... :-)

I have always been a believer in the "fat database" paradigm and in 2009, I wrote some posts about it. The same year, I released my open source project, the Thoth Gateway, a replacement for mod_plsql that is written in C# and runs on Microsoft Internet Information Server (IIS) as an ASP.NET web application. To create it, I had to dive deep into the internals of the PL/SQL Web Toolkit (OWA). It's really interesting to see all the amazing stuff in APEX that has been built on top of the rather humble foundations of OWA.

In 2010, I started looking into the use of JSON from PL/SQL, and I also published some utilities to parse CSV and return it via a pipelined function. I've had lots of use for that in the years after.

2011 was another productive year, as I launched the PL/SQL Utility Library, soon codenamed Alexandria. (With names like Thoth Gateway and Alexandria Library, it's no big secret that I enjoy studying ancient Egyptian history!) Another important milestone in 2011 was the PL/SQL API for Amazon S3, another package that I have had good use of a number of times since then.

In 2012 I released a PL/SQL API for MS Exchange, which was fun to write but I actually haven't had much use for this myself so far.

In 2013 the most popular post was the one about Oracle 12c XE, or rather the first mentions of this as-yet mythical creature. Based on the hints dropped by Oracle, this will be released some time after Oracle 12.2, so I believe it's still a couple of years to wait.

In 2014 I looked into the JSON capabilities of APEX 5.0, and I also updated the Thoth Gateway to use the ODP.NET Managed Driver to simplify installation.

In 2015, I wrote a four-part series on how to install Oracle XE, ORDS and APEX on Linux. As well as learning myself a lot about Linux, I think it helped a lot of people judging by the great feedback I got on this series.

I'll finish this retrospective with a look at some statistics. For some reason, Blogger only has statistics going back to May 2010, even though I started by blog in March 2008. Anyway, below is a chart showing the page views per month. It shows a slow rise from a couple of thousand page views per month, up to the current average which is about 20,000 page views per month.

 But look at the anomaly in the chart: In August 2011, it shows 18,000 page views! And what's more, those 18,000 page views were in a single day, not a total for the month! So what happened back then? At the end of July, I wrote a post called "Mythbusters: Stored Procedures Edition". It was my attempt to refute all the usual arguments for why "stored procedures are bad", which is what every Java/.NET developer tries to convince you (and yet they struggle mightily with their ORMs). My post caused a heated debate on the blog itself, and also on Hacker News and on Reddit. I guess we could have the same discussion all over again today. But instead of arguing, let's just go out there and build some kick-ass web applications with PL/SQL and APEX. "The proof of the pudding is in the eating", after all! :-)