I started the project a few years back when I noticed that on the Oracle Technology Network discussion forums, some of the same questions were being asked over and over again. Sometimes you'd get answers that were outdated; sometimes the answers were just plain wrong, and sometimes you'd get three different answers to the same problem. So I thought to myself, "Why don't I create a Web site and study some of these topics in-depth?" I picked a few esoteric topics and focused on things like pivot queries, integer series generators, and techniques for transforming numbers to words—the kind of things that aren't in the manuals, but that people need to do regardless.
While I was doing that, I found that I couldn't really present these solutions without explaining some of the underlying features that I used to create the solutions, so I added some tutorials on things like the SQL MODEL clause and regular expressions. The site just sort of grew from there. People seem to like the formula, and since I launched the site in late 2006, its traffic statistics are showing tens of thousands of visitors every year.
Q: How would you define innovation?
A: According to Answers.com, innovation is basically doing something new. For me, that's not enough. I think innovation has to go hand in hand with doing things better at the same time.
Q: What's the most innovative project or product that you've ever worked on?
A: That's a well-timed question because I've got a pet project I've been working on for the last few months. It started out as a utility for transforming query results into HTML code. As I looked at the design, I realized that I could use the utility for other things, so it has morphed into a universal translator for structured data. It also happens to solve a lot of problems that I've written about on my SQL Snippets Web site, such as generating comma-separated value files, generating DML [data manipulation language] commands, and doing string aggregation. It's not ready for primetime yet, but hopefully in the long run it will be an exciting and useful utility.
Q: How do you think Oracle's innovative culture benefits our customers?
A: Innovation thrives in the presence of diversity. One of the great things about Oracle is that the product offerings are so broad and so deep that when a customer has a tough problem to solve, they've got a lot of different tools in their tool bag for solving these problems. Another important aspect of innovation that flourishes at Oracle is that when you're in the presence of other people pushing the envelope, it spurs you to do the same.
Q: What do you consider to be the enemies of innovation?
A: Two enemies of innovation come to mind: dogma and complacency.
Q: Whom do you consider the most innovative person at Oracle?
A: Of the people I'm familiar with, two come to mind. Number one is Tom Kyte. I spoke earlier about dogma. Well, Tom's not afraid to challenge dogma, and his answers sometimes end up doing that. When Tom offers a solution that isn't traditional, he always backs it up with proof, so it's very hard to poke holes in his arguments and I give him big credit for doing that. The other person who comes to mind is one of our developers, Vadim Tropashko. I've communicated with Vadim on some of the discussion forums, and he's so smart, it's almost frightening.