Level of Detail is Hard

Earlier this week, I attended the 2014 East Coast Oracle Users Conference in Raleigh/Durham, NC. The conference was awesome. It was great meeting new attendees as well as seeing a few of the regular, familiar, faces in our community. That being said, if you’re in the area, I’d certainly recommend attending. Likewise, at the conference, I presented, for the first time, a trimmed-down, intermediate version of my “Life of an Oracle Query” presentation. Given the majority of seats were filled, my session had pretty good attendance: more so, generally, than the advanced version. Those I spoke with after the session, however, expressed their wish that I had gone into more detail. Having spoken with other presenters about this for some time, I know it’s a common theme and it’s in this area where I, and others, find it difficult to figure out the optimal level of detail. This is for several reasons:

  1. The number of advanced presentations a conference will accept is, generally, proportional to the number of attendees at the conference. As a speaker, pitching only advanced sessions puts you into a much smaller category with a lower probability of acceptance.
  2. When you live life in the low-level details of an implementation, converting it into much higher-level generalizations is hard. This is because, when you’re discussing low-level details, there’s not much deeper you can go. Conversely, when you convert those details to higher-level generalizations and abstractions, you’re not sure whether it’s too high-level and people will be bored and/or have to ask questions. While attending OakTable World 2014, Martin Bach started off his talk on Hybrid Columnar Compression internals by discussing his compulsion to create many slides saying, “I’m a geek and I get quite excited about all of this this. You need to now this and you need to know that as well!” I definitely understand and identify with his statement. I’ve always tried to boil-down complex details into simple, concrete, and useful information, but it’s certainly a difficulty for me.
  3. You can’t please everyone. When you do an advanced presentation, people who are into the details will be happy, but you’ll lose those who aren’t at that depth. Conversely, when you do an intermediate presentation, people who are into understanding the basic concepts will be happy, but you’ll lose those who want the details. If anyone knows how to please both in a 45 minute session, related to Oracle Internals, please let me know!

All in all, the feedback I’ve received has been positive and, for those who wanted the more advanced version, I’ve given them a copy of my advanced presentation. I consider these types of challenges good learning experiences, which only help me find new ways to present a wealth of cool Oracle details and share my knowledge with more people. Also, if you attended my session, thank you!

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