I've just attended my first user group in Poland, the very-excellent POUG. This was the first international version of the conference, having been run previously just within Poland. Based on these two days, I would say it was a resounding success! There was a great atmosphere there, really engaged and enthusiastic. The size of the event, friendliness, and fun made it a very welcoming one, and reminded me a lot of my first ever conference that I attended (back in 2010!), the Rittman Mead BI Forum.

I travelled out to Warsaw on the Thursday, and attended the speakers dinner. It's always nice to see familiar faces and meet new ones - as well as enjoy some jolly good food. The next morning I went for a run at the nearby park, enjoying the sunrise over the water

The conference had two tracks, focussing primarily on the database but with some BI content too, as well a talk about property graphs. The first session I attended was also one of my favourites. It was "DBA, Heal Thyself: Five Diseases of IT Organizations and How to Cure Them", presented with great humour and energy by Jim Czuprynski. Some of the uncomfortable truths about mistakes made in the field of IT were laid bare, with no prisoners taken! Whilst it was based on the database, much of it was applicable to OBIEE. Things like reliance on bespoke scripts, avoidance of new features, and general ignorance in the field were covered. You can find an article on the topic from Jim here.

After Jim's session was Hans Viehmann talking about Property Graphs. I wrote an article that was published on OTN just last week about this and it was great to get chance to meet Hans, and hear him speak.

I skipped the next session to do a bit of slide polishing and geek chat with Christian Berg, before getting lunch - which was really good:

After lunch was OBIEE presentations in both tracks, by Christian Berg, and Kiran Taylor. I sat in on Christian's "Fifty shades of #fail", which is a fun walk through some of the many ways that OBIEE gets done wrong.

My talk, "(Still) No Silver Bullets - OBIEE 12c Performance in the Real World" was the last of the day. I've given this talk quite a few times now, but still enjoy delivering it each time. The topic's one I've spent so much time working on and find so interesting, that it never gets stale! You can find the slides here and set of related links here.

The day finished with the POUG After Party, which was at a bar in the center of Warsaw. Good beer, good food, good music - and plenty of geek talk! I really have to take my hat off to the organisers of POUG, they did a great job.

The second day of POUG brought more good presentations. I got to see Neil Chandler speak, about execution plans and how they can vary - and how to ensure they don't unless you want them too. It was really interesting, and took me back a few years to when I last looked in-depth at this kind of stuff. After Neil was Jim again, talking about analytic functions. Most of these I knew about, but one that was new to me (and I'll definitely be using) was the PERCENT syntax for FETCH FIRST - very neat.

The audience at POUG seemed to be predominantly DBAs and database developers, and this kind of talk is just great for spreading awareness of new functionality that is going to make people's jobs easier, and their code run faster. The final talk of the morning was from Martin Widlake, presenting a great discussion about efficient and maintainable bulk processing with SQL and PL/SQL. With his very accessible and engaging presentation style, Martin's talk was an extremely pragmatic and valuable one. Everyone loves a deep-dive geekout on system internals (don't they??), but arguably the most value to the widest section of the audience comes in learning, or being reminded of, how to code and design systems well.

Even without lots of BI content, I found the conference very useful. Whilst Oracle CBO internals may not be my day to day work, many of the topics discussed in a database context can easily be transplanted to the BI world. Performance is performance. Diagnostic approaches are tool-agnostic. As well as the presentations, the opportunity to exchange ideas and war-stories with other experts in the industry (over a beer, usually…) is the kind of thing you just don't get from reading the manuals or a bunch of PDFs.

So that was POUG, and all too soon time return home. Bravo to the organisers of POUG, and here's hoping they run the conference again next year!