As Published In
Oracle Magazine
January/February 2007


When Keywords Collide

OTN 3.0 beta brings semantic search to Oracle Technology Network users.

In the previous edition of this column (November/December 2006), I described the so-called semantic search infrastructure behind the virtual press room at I am happy to report that this infrastructure has been extended to power a new "OTN 3.0" Web site beta. This proof of concept, currently running in parallel with the production version of the Oracle Technology Network (OTN) site (and based on a subset of available content), will generate crucial community feedback and, down the road, help us create a template for a new semantic search-powered OTN.

The differences between OTN 3.0 and the current OTN site are too numerous to describe here, but to a user, the site meets the bar set by Arthur C. Clarke's famous aphorism, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." In OTN 3.0 beta, the user is in complete control of the information taxonomy—in other words, users have the ability to control (well, "filter," really) the content of any given page, rather than being guided through an endless series of static paths.

As I explained in a blog post about this subject ("The Semantic Web Runs on Oracle"), the problem with garden-variety search is that you don't know what you're missing—your search results will only be as good as your keywords. With semantic search—and OTN 3.0 is essentially a semantic search view of OTN content—you needn't supply any keywords at all; the back end already knows more of them than you could ever hope to provide.

OTN 3.0 also contains interesting visualizations that allow you, for example, to see who the most active discussion forums posters are in a "cloud" view, and to view the posts of any given Oracle ACE across a certain subject or time period. This is great stuff.

"Greatest Hits" of 2006

One of the guilty pleasures of a new year is "contemplating the silent highway," as I like to say—looking back at the previous year and determining what it can teach us about the new one.

OTN Locator

 OTN home

 OTN headlines

 Free software downloads


 Technology Centers


 Technical articles


 Discussion forums

That process takes physical form in the OTN's Greatest Hits CD—a library of the most-popular content published by OTN during the calendar year—distributed annually at Oracle OpenWorld. For example, here are the most-popular technical articles published last year across the developer, DBA, and architect roles:

1. "Oracle Database 10g: Top DBA Features," by Arup Nanda (Oracle ACE)
2. "Installing Oracle Database 10g on Linux x86," by John Smiley
3. "Best Practice PL/SQL," by Steven Feuerstein (Oracle ACE)
4. "SOA Best Practices: The BPEL Cookbook," by various authors
5. "Build Your Own Oracle RAC 10g Cluster," by Jeffrey Hunter (Oracle ACE)
6. "Build a .NET Application on Oracle Database," by John Paul Cook
7. "Installing PHP and the Oracle 10g Instant Client," by Christopher Jones
8. "An Introduction to Linux Shell Scripting for DBAs," by Casimir Saternos
9. "Guide to Linux File Command Mastery," by Sheryl Calish
10. "An Introduction to Java Map Collection Classes," by Jack Shirazi

So, what does this list tell us? First, it tells us that OTN users are interested in practical, actionable content. (No surprise there.) It suggests that the relatively advanced design concept of service-oriented architecture (SOA) is attracting measurable attention across Oracle's installed base. But most important, it suggests that .NET and PHP are continuing their progress in joining Java and PL/SQL as top-tier "communities of interest" in the Oracle world. Now, that's important information for the coming year.

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Identity management—the centralized management of the user identity lifecycle across the enterprise—is an area demanding serious attention.

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Justin Kestelyn ( is the editor in chief of Oracle Technology Network.