Oracle Scratchpad

November 13, 2006


Filed under: Non-technical — Jonathan Lewis @ 10:23 am GMT Nov 13,2006

Here’s a guideline on how much trust to place in advice you get from articles about Oracle published on the Internet (even the ones published by Oracle Corp.):

  • If it’s not dated – don’t assume it’s true
  • If its date is more than about 18 months old – don’t assume it’s (still) true
  • If there’s no version number – don’t assume it’s true
  • If it’s not your exact version number – don’t assume it’s (still) true
  • For ‘technical implementation’ details, if there’s no platform mentioned – don’t assume it’s true
  • For ‘technical implementation’ details, if the platform’s not the same as yours – don’t assume it’s true
  • For ‘technical implementation’ details, if the feature set described does not match yours – don’t assume it’s true
  • If there’s no rational justification supplied,  and no repeatable test case – don’t assume it’s true

And even when all the details are perfect and there is a repeatable test case – and even after the repeatable test case produces the same results – ask yourself this question:

“Could there be a different explanation for the same set of results and, if so, how badly could this advice damage my system and how hard would it be to test my alternative hypothesis ?”

Once you’ve got through that lot – then you might be safe trying the advice on a development system.

Update 19th Aug 2010

Since this note was more than 18 months old it needed to be validated (according to its own standards) – and there were  a couple  more thoughts that crossed my mind:

  • If the only justification for a claim is an extract from the Oracle documentation then check that the quoted article (still) exists – and if it doesn’t exist or the quotation isn’t accurate don’t trust the claim.
  • If the only justification supplied in an article is an extract from the Oracle documentation don’t quote the article to someone else, supply the link (or reference) to the original documentation – it’s more likely to be in context, and it’s more likely to be corrected and brought up to date (eventually) if it’s wrong.

Update (20th Jan 2013)

Time passes so quickly – I should have reviewed and re-affirmed this item months ago. On the other hand, I’ve just decided it’s not really about Oracle (exclusively) and it’s definitely not a detail of technical implementatin, so it doesn’t really apply to itself. It’s going be valid for years.

Update (19th August 2015)

I just failed to follow my own guidelines – see posting referenced by the last pingback below – so I decided to remind myself of the comments I made all those years ago. And then had to insert one more caveat to the list.


  1. I trust your lack of trust! :)

    Comment by Tim Hall — November 13, 2006 @ 11:29 am GMT Nov 13,2006 | Reply

  2. Excellent! You just thrown away approximately 90% of Internet content ;) So be it.

    Comment by Q u a d r o — November 13, 2006 @ 12:18 pm GMT Nov 13,2006 | Reply

  3. Quadro, Only 90% ?! I was hoping for a much better hit ratio ;-)
    I did say “Don’t assume” – it’s not quite as terminal as “throw away”.

    Comment by Jonathan Lewis — November 13, 2006 @ 12:56 pm GMT Nov 13,2006 | Reply

  4. So don’t assume that for someone “don’t assume” doesn’t mean “throw away” :)

    Comment by Q u a d r o — November 13, 2006 @ 1:03 pm GMT Nov 13,2006 | Reply

  5. Thanks Jonathan!!! Thanks a lot!!! I was going to try and come up with some kind of consolidated documentation on hints. You just put a coming soon sign on that page. Just Kidding. If I proceed with my idea, I will definitely make sure that there is some truth to that story.

    Comment by Kirtan Desai — November 13, 2006 @ 2:20 pm GMT Nov 13,2006 | Reply

  6. […] All three articles were written more than three years ago; so when you review them, remember the advice I gave in an earlier post. […]

    Pingback by Bitmap Indexes « Oracle Scratchpad — November 29, 2006 @ 10:38 pm GMT Nov 29,2006 | Reply

  7. most excellent! ;-)
    I’ll put that in my presentation — if I may– courtsy JL wordpress blogsite ;-)

    Comment by cos — January 30, 2007 @ 6:35 pm GMT Jan 30,2007 | Reply

  8. […] for those of you who do want to live by “caveat emptor”, here’s a guideline that might help you avoid being burnt too often. Comments […]

    Pingback by Book content « Oracle Scratchpad — June 8, 2009 @ 7:13 pm GMT Jun 8,2009 | Reply

  9. […] think about quoting some advice you’ve taken off the internet, remember my guidelines about trusting information from the Internet – then try to follow the current (UK) slogan for handling swine flu: “catch it, kill […]

    Pingback by Old ideas « Oracle Scratchpad — January 14, 2010 @ 6:58 pm GMT Jan 14,2010 | Reply

  10. […] content out there which sometimes is completely wrong, so everyone should remember about this Good thing is they say We do not currently plan to maintain a historical archive for most content […]

    Pingback by More History « Timur Akhmadeev's blog — September 15, 2010 @ 6:10 pm GMT Sep 15,2010 | Reply

  11. […] age should be withdrawn in case they are out of date and misleading. (Clearly they’ve read my blog on trust – I wish the people maintaining Metalink would do the same as the magazine editors – […]

    Pingback by System Statistics « Oracle Scratchpad — December 17, 2010 @ 6:13 pm GMT Dec 17,2010 | Reply

  12. Looks like this post needs an update.

    SQL> select add_months(’19-AUG-2010′,18) from dual; — date of last post update + 18 months


    I’ve technically reviewed it and I think it is valid for at least another 18 months.

    Comment by Andy Klock — February 27, 2012 @ 8:07 pm GMT Feb 27,2012 | Reply

  13. […] I’ve often said about trust – keep an eye on the date and version of any article you read, it may no longer be […]

    Pingback by Modify PK | Oracle Scratchpad — February 1, 2014 @ 11:00 am GMT Feb 1,2014 | Reply

  14. […] had fallen into two traps – and one of them was documented in my own “Trust” posting from […]

    Pingback by Oops | Oracle Scratchpad — August 19, 2015 @ 10:02 am GMT Aug 19,2015 | Reply

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