Eye on Oracle

Aug 28 2007   10:37AM GMT

Oracle ACE program “almost completely worthless”

Beth Pariseau Beth Pariseau Profile: Beth Pariseau

Howard Rogers at Dizwell Informatics claims, with a sort-of apology to everyone he’s “unintentionally” insulting, that the Oracle ACE program, which used to mean something, “has been rendered almost completely worthless.”

Says he:

There’s a bunch of complete nobodies who nominated themselves for starters and got approved despite a paucity of any demonstrated technical skill or community contribution at all. […] In fact, it turns out that you can be a technically incompetent looney and still be an ACE, because all you now have to do to be an ACE is present a lot, write a lot, have OCP certification and be on the beta program … and there’s no mention of anyone, anywhere actually vetting any of that writing or presentation for technical accuracy. […] I am reminded of the fact that there was once a time when, albeit briefly, OCP actually meant something, too.

Ouchy. Sounds like Oracle certifications and awards are undergoing something akin to degree inflation, whereby “degrees are conferred on people who have not learned all they should have learned in order to earn their degrees” – and furthermore, it eventually becomes a necessity to have these credentials as a baseline (just to get hired), so that more and greater qualifications are required in order to stand out from the crowd.

What do you think? Is the Oracle ACE designation effectively meaningless now? Does it say anything about real technical knowledge and ability?

-Elisa

32  Comments on this Post

 
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  • Beth Pariseau
    Elisa, I intend to address this directly with Howard, but for the record here he's missing the point. The "Oracle ACE" designation is intended for people who are active in the community (via blogging, writing, presenting), not as an outright endorsement of technical expertise (although presumably anyone who is a community influencer has some level of technical proficiency). This is made fairly clear in the program documentation. No, we do not and cannot review the complete technical output of every candidate (how could we?) but rather rely on the "wisdom of the crowd" to help identify these candidates. This is definitely closer to the "Web 2.0" model than to the old-school "certification" one. We're just saying: "Keep up the good work; we support your efforts." And although self-nomination is OK, it's not necessarily in the candidate's favor, either. :)
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  • Beth Pariseau
    Useless? not really... you got a free pass to OpenWorld ;-) Seriously, I agree that many Aces nomination were not based on the quality of their writings but rather to their commitment to Oracle activism, imho.
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  • Beth Pariseau
    Thanks for your comments, Justin and Laurent. Sounds like there's some confusion in the community about what the ACE designation is really supposed to signify -- "technical expertise" or "commitment to activism."
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  • Beth Pariseau
    Here's the program's official description (from otn.oracle.com/community/oracle_ace/nominations): "The Oracle ACE Program is designed to recognize and reward Oracle developers and DBAs for advocating and evangelizing Oracle technology. Oracle ACE recipients are chosen based on their significant contributions to, and activity in, the Oracle technical community."
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  • Beth Pariseau
    I don't have any strong opinion on the ACE program but unfortunately I think that Oracle OCP Certification has become less challenging then it once was. I have OCP certification in versions 7.3, 8, 8i, 9i and recently 10G. I took a lot of the training in 7.3 several years ago and found it to be very detailed and challenging. I recently took both 10G courses and found the material much more superficial and with only two exams required to pass the OCP 10G it's much less challenging and can't help but lessen the value of the certification. As a DBA I can't understand how Oracle would remove the SQL Exam from the path as I spend a good portion of my time writing and tuning SQL. I would love to see Oracle get back to the spirit of the 7.3 certifcation when you really had to know the details.
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  • Beth Pariseau
    Ok Howard may have said it pretty blunt out, but he does have a point. Comparing OCP and the real purpose of ACE is one thing (thanks to Justin for that) but what added value does a blogger A has who "copies and posts about Oracle news, etc" to a Blogger B , take Tom Kyte for instance, who shares deep insights about Oracle (sometimes we do get to see barbeque pics but for most of the time he is very consistent. Same applies to Howard, he is very dedicated professional, ok he does have a venomous tongue, but that comes with the whole package. Yeah but it is also about pleasing a lot of folks who have to come from all sorts places. I saw a couple of folks suddenly added from China suddenly. How did all that happen? I too have been writing for about two years on Oracle and Virtualization, why didn't I come under Oracle's radar? (I did have a lot of principal Oracle consultants contacting me though). It is confusing indeed for many ACE folks who have indulged in "professional" blogging.
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  • Beth Pariseau
    If the ACE title is given for Oracle Activism then the name could be something like Oracle Evangelist, Activist or just orablogger. Why should it be a lofty confusing title like "ACE".
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  • Beth Pariseau
    In my line of business some of the very best Oracle people I know have not bother with either ACE or OCP, whereas some ACEs I know, weren't so hot when it came to a solid beradth of understanding and not only a real deep knowledge of many key aspects of Oracle but also the reasoned application of that knowledge.
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  • Beth Pariseau
    In my line of business some of the very best Oracle people I know have not bothered with either ACE or OCP, whereas some ACEs I have known, weren't so hot when it came to a solid beradth of understanding of database technology in general, but moreover lacked real deep knowledge of many key aspects of Oracle and the reasoned application of that knowledge, which I would say is somewhat telling.
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  • Beth Pariseau
    Personally I like the certification process for PMP. You not only take a test but you have to submit a portfolio that shows your experience. It makes sure that when your are given PMP title that you have done the work and have the experience. Taking test just shows that you can study and test well. Real life has a lot more different kids of pressures on you that make those early AM fixes or problem definition and resolution that much more important.
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  • Beth Pariseau
    I know a few Oracle Aces here in Australia and they are without a doubt some of the most technically competent people I know. Yes they also are active in the user community (blogs, papers, articles) but these too are public evidence of their knowledge.
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  • Beth Pariseau
    Howard has clearly made an unfortunate comment, as is expected when you use so broad of a brush to pass judgement on a group of people. I, for one, highly value the ACE program - It is an excellent motivational tool that brings benefit to everyone involved with Oracle's products. There is incentive to provide help on OTN (However, I think they can improve the current system with a rating-based one). There is notoriety for those who sacrifice their time to help others. Everyone seems to get something out of it. As for the comments, one should feel shameful any time they look down their nose at others. An Oracle ACE that is a little green at the moment, clearly has the drive and motivation to be an amazing technologist. I applaud them all.
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  • "John
    HJR is right. The Oracle ACE thing is worthless. Oracle may well believe that it is nothing more than a badge for those who advocate Oracle, etc. However, some ACEs obviously see it as a meaningful and well-deserved Oracle accreditation of their amazing skills (I base this on the fact that some of them really do sound-off about it on OTN). I certainly believed it was meaningful - until HJR blew the whistle, in his usual, sensitive way! Now that the "truth is out there", I would expect any real Oracle pro who has an ACE award to send it back, and do something to rid themseleves of the title. Including HJR!
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  • Beth Pariseau
    I always find articles and thoughts about certification, Oracle specifically, entertaining. As I am sure all of you realize, you are always going to have a wide range of skill level and personality for any given certification; from the idiots to the true gurus. It is interesting that the ACE program is being compared to the normal certification program as they are apples and oranges. I do not know much about ACE, but I have respected the members who are indeed technology evangelists whom I have had the pleasure of conversing with. But I do know about the certification program, and I can say that is _sorta_ worthless in its current form. My "platform" (aka "soapbox") is that Oracle should downgrade the names of all the certifications while keeping the tests exactly the same, thus the OCM becomes the OCP, and the OCP becomes the OCA.
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  • Beth Pariseau
    I'm always suspicious of these self proclaimed 'gurus'. Most of them, in my experience, are your stereotypical glory hunters. The type who has to be the center of attention. "O look at me, I wrote a book"..."O look at me I gave a talk at an Oracle conference"..."O look at me, I'm so underutilized at my job that I've had time to respond 5,000 times on OTN". Smug, arrogant, full of their own sense of self importance and quite irritating. Just my opinion.
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  • "John
    Comment by Steve — August 30, 2007. "I’m always suspicious of these self proclaimed ‘gurus’. Most of them..." Agreed. The Oracle "community" is awash with various numpties, masquerading as Superstars.
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  • Beth Pariseau
    Interesting comment from Steve. "I’m always suspicious of these self proclaimed ‘gurus’. Most of them, in my experience, are your stereotypical glory hunters. The type who has to be the center of attention. “O look at me, I wrote a book”…”O look at me I gave a talk at an Oracle conference”…”O look at me, I’m so underutilized at my job that I’ve had time to respond 5,000 times on OTN”. Smug, arrogant, full of their own sense of self importance and quite irritating. Just my opinion." I think he might have a good point and I remember thinking the same myself on a few occasions. However, my personal response to that feeling was to think - 'I can do better than that' - and to do something about it. i.e. If presentations are just given by self-centred glory hunters (and I still think there's a possibility that Steve's right), then why not put some work in and give presentations myself, to redress the balance? Because, in the end, it's very easy to criticise and less easy to contribute. There might be a lot more work goes into those presentations or books than people imagine and the easiest way to find out is to do it, rather than talk about it. I genuinely welcome Steve's comment, because it keeps people on their toes, but I'd prefer Steve spend some time putting together a presentation on the stuff he's learnt so that others can benefit, rather than leaving a negative blog comment, which is a much easier option. I can at least take comfort that I've always encouraged as many people to present as I can (hardly 'O look at me') and I hope Steve does, too. I'm a natural cynic, but I'm starting to wonder whether that's a mistake.
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  • Beth Pariseau
    My experience has been different, let me name some names, I have found extremely valuable info from a few ACEs, I really like the way Arup Nanda writes, also Jeff Hunter, Steve Adam, Jonathan Lewis, et al. So I think at least some of them ACEs are great. So at least some of them ACEs are awesome. As far as OCP, I have lost faith in that program a long time ago, I am 9i certified myself, but was deeply disappointed when I found the same exact questions on the internet and recognized them from my exam. Therefore, I decided not to become 10g certified and humiliate myself, although I have 10g exp. and very comfortable with it for about 2 years now.
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  • Beth Pariseau
    A couple of comments... ...First to Brian Fedorko 1. You said, "Howard has clearly made an unfortunate comment, as is expected when you use so broad of a brush to pass judgement on a group of people." I wasn't using a broad brush and I certainly wasn't passing judgement on a group of people. I have quite carefully explained why I think the ACE *program* has been *devalued*. No judgemental comments were made at any time about any person or group of persons, and the concept of 'devaluation' means the program must at some point in the past have once had 'value'. Similarly, "As for the comments, one should feel shameful any time they look down their nose at others." There is nothing in the original piece (which I hope you've taken the trouble to read) which 'looks down the nose' at anyone. There is merely the observation that the ACE award used to be given for technical expertise, along with advocacy and activism, but that the requirement for technical expertise has recently been DROPPED. There is also the observation that some people (not many, but some) who have acquired ACE at this lower level of technical requirement should not have done so, no matter how eager, enthusiastic or activist they've been about Oracle's products. An ACE "that is a little green at the moment" is certainly to be applauded... but shouldn't be an ACE. Call that looking down my nose at people if you insist, but it's actually more a criticism of the program than of any person or individual involved. And second to John: 1. "I would expect any real Oracle pro who has an ACE award to send it back, and do something to rid themseleves of the title. Including HJR!" I've already said in the original blog piece that, however hypocritical it might be, I intend holding on to the ACE award and to keep mentioning it on my CV -though not banging on about it on my website. Much as I would like to be able to afford to behave entirely honourably, my job prospects are better for the ACE award, and I can't pretend otherwise. I have a mortgage to pay, cats and wallabies to be kept in feed and software licenses to buy: I am not going to make it harder for myself to do those things, I'm afraid. There is also the fact that Justin, despite what he wrote at (1) and (4) above, has now acknowledged that technical proficiency *is* a requirement for ACE, not just for ACE Director as the official website currently says. He's also on record as at least acknowledging that suggestions about ACEs approving prospective ACEs and so on should be considered as a way of improving the program. It would be churlish to raise these issues, get some buy-in about them... and then throw the thing back in their faces just as they start to respond. And finally, to Steve: 1. "I’m always suspicious of these self proclaimed ‘gurus’" I couldn't agree more. And that's why a program officially instigated and managed by Oracle Corporation that used to have the likes of Ken Jacobs on the committee vetting ACE nominations is (a) such a good idea and (b) not something to be tossed aside lightly for the sake of getting numbers up. If the ACE program worked as it should, gurus wouldn't need to proclaim themselves: the Corporation would be doing it for them.
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  • Beth Pariseau
    It depends if you see the Oracle ACE as something that is considered as a "recognition" or as a "door opener". The Oracle ACE's that participate in the community SHOULD receive the ACE as a recognition of their on-going activities. If people need the ACE in order to be recognized or to get them a better job (like a paper based certification without the background knowledge and hands on experience) then it will indeed become worthless. How about a community based rating system? ACE's that are actively engaging in the community will get the support of the group, others won't. This could be done with a feedback system in the OTN forums (extra points for good reactions), same on the OTN website (extra points for good white papers), etc.
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  • Beth Pariseau
    Last december I recieved an ACE award. I have no clue who nominated me, or on what basis I was rewarded an ACE award. For all I know, all I did was spent some of my spare time at the forums on OTN answering some questions about OAS. My first reaction when I recieved this award was: someone is making fun of me, this cannot be true. I am in no means even close to the level of knowledge of most other ACE'es (at that time), although I do know a thing or two about OAS. I am no OCM or OCP, nor am I planning to study for any certificate at the moment (they show that you can study and pass exams, they do not show craftsmanship). I am proud to have recieved this award though, and I am not sending it back. In my day to day work as DBA this award has made my work even harder, because for some reason people start to challenge your knowledge. This might be because certain people think you are a self proclaimed guru, even though all you did was spent some of your spare time helping other people. So, in short: all that ACE tells, is that you shared knowledge with the Oracle community. Obviously you should have some level of knowledge about some part of the Oracle technology stack, otherwise OTN will think twice about rewarding it. It does not say you are a guru or an attention whore. True guru's are known anyway, ACE or no ACE. (attention whores too, for that matter)
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  • Beth Pariseau
    To Steve: ---- I’m always suspicious of these self proclaimed ‘gurus’. Most of them, in my experience, are your stereotypical glory hunters. The type who has to be the center of attention. “O look at me, I wrote a book”…”O look at me I gave a talk at an Oracle conference”…”O look at me, I’m so underutilized at my job that I’ve had time to respond 5,000 times on OTN”. Smug, arrogant, full of their own sense of self importance and quite irritating. Just my opinion. ---- Mhmmm I'd be very careful about these statements. OK let's take them one by one: >“O look at me, I wrote a book” OK speaking about my experience here. I've not written a book. I've written a few articles in my website though. Each one of them took me at least a week and some even a month to complete, and some really needed more than several full work-days to complete in a such quality I'd like them to be. Looking at that I can only admire people that have written a book with really good technical quality because I had almost all of my statements explicitly to test on db and it takes time. It takes much time. >”O look at me I gave a talk at an Oracle conference” I've not talked at Oracle conference. However I've seen bad talks and good talks. I'm sure that preparing a good talk either takes much time or needs much experience, so for a good talk I can only again admire theese people. >”O look at me, I’m so underutilized at my job that I’ve had time > to respond 5,000 times on OTN” Mhmhmh most of OTN members (OK SQL/PLSQL and Database general members) that have over ~3K posts are quite knowledgable. And it really takes much time to answer the questions if one wants to do that with good quality. And most of them dont market their answer count. Just look at OTN forums in their very beginnings for example http://forums.oracle.com/forums/forum.jspa?forumID=61&start=60000 http://forums.oracle.com/forums/forum.jspa?forumID=61&start=55000 http://forums.oracle.com/forums/forum.jspa?forumID=61&start=50000 Many of them have zero replies. Many people went away without a single answer. OK probably that activated them to find more solutions themselves, but these people have done much to answer these questions over the time. So OK I agree that are worthless books, I agree that are worthless speaches, and slef promoting people in OTN not giving answers or giving anwers to questions that weren't asked initially but this is minority. Every society has it's own gutter, every society has people living just on anothers people work, every society has people taht want to sun themselves on another people glory, so there is no wonder that Oracle society also is similar to that. Of course it is at least partially Oracle's responsibility at least not to encourage such society gutter.
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  • Beth Pariseau
    I have no problem at all with community-based awards and recognition for 'spending some of my spare time at the forums'. I think that's an admirable thing for anyone to do. I also agree with you that to do that sort of thing, it helps to have "some level of knowledge" about the products/tech stack. One would look pretty foolish offering help and advice on things one knew nothing about, after all. But here's the rub: the ACE program used to explicitly state that 'proficiency' or expertise WAS a requirement. But those words were removed from the latest description of the ACE program. On top of that, a new designation, 'ACE Director' was invented and it was *explicitly* stated that to be an ACE Director, you had to have qualities "above and beyond" what an ACE has to have: and one of those qualities was technical proficiency or expertise. In plain language, it used to be a requirement to have technical proficiency to be an ACE, but that requirement has been dropped and transferred to the ACE Director level instead. That is why I called my original piece 'Devalued'. It's got nothing to do with wanting to sneer at the peasants, look down my nose at people, etc etc. It's just an observation that when I got my ACE it meant one thing and now it means something else. Let us by all means have a program to recognise those who are advocates and who spend their time helping others, even without being top-notch technical geniuses. Let us even call that award 'ACE', if you like. I'm all in favour of such a thing and would welcome it. But I was talking about a quite different program. One that used to exist to recognise other things than that, but which doesn't any longer. Or maybe it does, because Justin now says the technical proficiency requirement hasn't gone away at all, it's just a bad piece of writing on a website that seems to suggest otherwise... !
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  • "John
    HJR: Considering that YOU raised the (fair & honest) point that the Oracle ACE award is worthless, then how can hanging-on to it be sane? Any prospective employer will now have a pretty good chance of finding your anti-ACE diatribe and, I suspect, be at the very least puzzled that your ACE award features at all in any of your literature, or web pages. I know I would be.
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  • Beth Pariseau
    I don't know who these Aces are who go on about it on OTN or who are self-proclaimed glory hunters. I probably hang out on OTN rather more than I should, and I have never seen any of that. I think perhaps some of the more cynical commenters above are mixing up the attention-seeking self-publicist snake oil salesmen out there with the Ace program. I agree with Jacco though, that although it may look good on the CV, perhaps it gives the more cynical or jealous an excuse to look for the slightest slip from perfection in order to judge you an attention-seeking self-publicising smartarse. (Which obviously I am.)
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  • Beth Pariseau
    "If people need the ACE in order to be recognized or to get them a better job (like a paper based certification without the background knowledge and hands on experience) then it will indeed become worthless." well, apparently having a blog listed at Oracle also means nothing. And then, we see blog entries like this one: http://sabdarsyed.blogspot.com/2007/09/my-blog-has-been-added-in-oracle-blogs.html Then Justin tells us that the ACE program is just a "peer" thing, with no other value. And Howard tells us it's great for employment prospects. Hmmmm... Me theenks a lot of folks aren't reading off the same page. But the clown show must go on... Just as an end note: how come only Fusion folks ended up as ACE "directors"? "Jobs for the boys"? more like : rats leaving a sinking ship, but I digress...
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  • "John
    Jacco Landlust: You said, "Last december I recieved an ACE award. I have no clue who nominated me, or on what basis I was rewarded an ACE award. For all I know, all I did was spent some of my spare time at the forums on OTN answering some questions about OAS." and then... "I am proud to have recieved this award though, and I am not sending it back." Er, you don't know why you got one, but you are proud you did? The logic of that escapes me.
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  • Beth Pariseau
    @John: English is not my native language, so excuse me for not being clear enough. I am no OCP, I did not write any book, nor do I have some brilliant blog. Apparently the OTN community (or at least one person of that community) did think I helped enough people to reward me this award. Next I tell that I am proud for getting this award. What part of the logic in this did you miss? Is getting proud because you receive appreciation something out of the ordinary? I am sure I did not get this award because of my blue eyes and blonde hair. Next to proud I am realistic though and I do not want to put myself on the same level as people like Jonathan Lewis, Thomas Kyte, etc. That would be plain arrogant.
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  • Beth Pariseau
    http://www.dizwell.com/prod/node/977 Thanks to Howard for raising these issues; we'll all get a better program out of them!
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  • Beth Pariseau
    "Any prospective employer will now have a pretty good chance of finding your anti-ACE diatribe and, I suspect, be at the very least puzzled that your ACE award features at all in any of your literature, or web pages. I know I would be." Actually, it wasn't an anti-ACE diatribe. It was an anti-what-have-they-done-to-the-ACE diatribe. Well, actually, it was a piece of carefully considered anti-what-have-they-done-to-the-ACE *criticism*, but I digress. Point is, I am not against the ACE award per se, but against an ACE award being cheapened by letting just about anyone in solely on the grounds that they post a lot, without worrying about the *quality* or utility of what they post. However, it would seem that "appearances can be deceptive" on this score, and that this isn't what is happening. See below. I'm also against a 2-tier ACE program where one bunch of people automatically get promoted to Division 1 leaving everyone else, regardless of technical merit, in Division 2. That definitely has happened, but it was never the main point of my criticism. In a more recent blog piece at http://www.dizwell.com/prod/node/977, I have now retracted the 'dumbing down' criticism, in favour of a 'please write your web pages more clearly' one. As I say, I still have issues with the 2-division thing. Indeed, I still find that decision simply bizarre, but there you go: what's done is done. The passage of time might help resolve that one, perhaps. I'm sorry if that disappoints anyone. I know some people would like me to trudge off in high dudgeon, hurling ACE awards in all directions. Indeed, I suspect that some read the original piece as a fit of pique, though it was nothing of the kind. Instead of a nice black-and-white high contrast answer, however, I can only state that the point at issue is a lot subtler than that, and Oracle have made some moves to address some of the points I raised. In short, it would be churlish to raise an issue, get someone to move to address it, and then stomp off without letting them complete their work. The saner approach I think is to sit tight and see what happens.
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  • Beth Pariseau
    I have to agree with the spirit of Howard Rogers effort. I am not an ACE so I have to depend on the "kindness of strangers" when I post questions. I would indeed like to know the calibre of the person answering, especially if I plan to use their response in a work situation. I am grateful to Howard Rogers for clarifying the current multiple meanings the ACE status has and that it COULD just be someone who posts alot. While I am not sure it will result in a better program, at least now I am warned. If ACE is to mean something then everyone needs to agree on that meaning. Otherwise, it is becomes completely worthless. Perhaps it is just a question of the right word - like Oracle Advocate rather than Oracle ACE. Like the cliche, we all need one version of the truth here.
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  • Beth Pariseau
    As the sole DBA at a university, I have no time to peruse OTN at all. it's either MetaLink, Google, or documentation (sometimes even books!) for me because those are the quickest ways for me to get the information I need. although I've been working with Oracle since 5.1, then 7 upward, I've never felt the need to pursue certification, nor have my employers. in my opinion, it's like pursuing a master's in computer science when you already have a bachelor's and 20 years experience. if a potential employer requires that I have certification, then I probably won't be working for them. this is not to say that I look down upon anybody who pursue certification, not at all, but it's not something I will be doing. for my job certification is not necessary. learning is. unfortunately, since Oracle has chosen marketing over robustness and reliability, more of my daily activities are driven by Oracle errors and snafus, rather than learning more about what I need to be doing. *soapbox on* Oracle had no business releasing version 11 until they ironed out more the problems with Oracle 10.2. I've had more issues with Oracle 10.2 in the past three months that I've had with 9.2 in the past three years. *soapbox off*
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