PL Developer Summit at PgCon, May 21!

UPDATE: We have 18 PLs. Added to the list from comments. 🙂

You’re probably aware that PostgreSQL supports a few procedural languages, PL/PgSQL being the most well-known for compatibility with Oracle’s PL/SQL.

Interest in PostgreSQL Procedural Languages (PLs) has grown significantly in the last few years and so PgCon is hosting a special PL summit on Saturday May 21, 2011.

Did you know that there are 17 other procedural languages are currently implemented?

  1. PL/Tcl and PL/Tclu
  2. PL/Perl and PL/Perlu
  3. PL/Python and PL/Pythonu
  4. PL/Ruby
  5. PL/Java
  6. PL/Lua
  8. PL/Js
  9. PL/Proxy
  10. PL/PHP
  11. PL/sh
  12. PL/R
  13. PL/Parrot
  14. PL/scheme
  15. PL/Perl6
  16. PL/PSM
  17. PL/XSLT

And we have at least one proprietary PL from EnterpriseDB:

We invite PL developers, PostgreSQL core hackers, those interested in future PL development and PgCon attendees interested in learning more to attend!

Before we decided to create this summit, I put together a survey for PL developers. All survey respondents wanted a summit to happen!

The most popular topics were:

  • Postgres PL Interface Improvements
  • Connecting with other PL developers
  • New features in PLs
  • Hacking together
  • State of PLs
  • Distributions and builds
  • PG9.1 extensions vs PL languages
  • Security (pl vs plu)
  • PGXN

The most popular PLs were:

  • PL/PgSQL
  • PL/Perl
  • PL/Python
  • PL/R

The summit is open to attendees of PgCon and special guests. Please RSVP and help set the agenda.

The agenda and any results of the summit will be published on the wiki.

Weekly tweet digest for 2011-02-27

Wrap-up meetings provide feedback that teams need to improve

(originally posted on tech emma)

Nobody likes admit­ting mis­takes. Except this guy.

Getting peo­ple to go to a post-mortem meet­ing is easy. Getting peo­ple to par­tic­i­pate with­out a sense of impend­ing doom is hard. Most peo­ple don’t want to be there. They show up ready to fight or make excuses, with a pit in their stom­ach as they wait to talk about what went wrong.

So, how do you fix that pit-in-the-stomach feeling? We’ve worked on this a bit at Emma, and here’s my formula:

  • Set high-level, achiev­able goals and have meet­ings even when things go right.
  • Focus on how every­one will work together to make things bet­ter in the future, not what went wrong.
  • Get every­one to participate.
  • Share with the whole com­pany what the group learned.

Now might be a good time to tell you that I wrote about some changes to our inter­nal down­time process last week (read that post here); today I’d like to fol­low up with details about our ver­sion of a post-mortem meeting.

Set high-level, achiev­able goals and meet about success

A main­te­nance win­dow here is con­sid­ered a suc­cess when we make our changes, recover from any fail­ures with­out impact­ing pro­duc­tion and end on time.

As a group, we decided what’s okay to include in the win­dow, and stripped out some riskier changes. Those included tasks that were hard to esti­mate time for, or ones that would push against the amount of time we allo­cated for test­ing. At this point, going into each win­dow, we have a clear list of tasks, and we can assess suc­cess or fail­ure of each task after the change.

In that first win­dow in January, we com­pleted the following:

  • Upgraded our PostgreSQL databases
  • Recovered 5% of the disk space on our largest data­base cluster
  • Fixed a long-standing main­te­nance issue with par­ent tables on our largest database

We decided to have a meet­ing after the win­dow — regard­less of whether the change suc­ceeded or failed.

Talk about what went well (aka Why I decided to call these meet­ings “wrap-ups”)

I always hated call­ing these dis­cus­sions “post-mortems.” I get why tech peo­ple want to com­pare the process to a med­ical pro­ce­dure, and I love a good zom­bie movie, but it sets the wrong tone. I decided to call them “wrap-ups,” to help make it clear that we’re there to reflect on the project, not find blame.

And here’s what we try to do in each wrap-up:

  • Spend time talk­ing about how things went well, and why
  • Focus on how to improve future projects
  • Distill what we learned

Documenting how the team man­ages main­te­nance win­dows makes the great work peo­ple were already doing vis­i­ble. We also open up the meet­ings so non-IT folks at Emma can con­tribute and make them better.

Conduct the dis­cus­sion for 100% participation

After a main­te­nance win­dow, we com­mu­ni­cate the out­come to the rest of our col­leagues. Then, I sched­ule a 30-minute meet­ing with a sim­ple agenda. We go over what hap­pened dur­ing the main­te­nance win­dow to:

  • Discuss what went right
  • Discuss what went wrong
  • And deter­mine what we could do to make things bet­ter next time

In our most recent wrap-up, seven peo­ple attended, and I requested at least one com­ment from each per­son on the agenda bul­let points.

What we learned

In just 30 min­utes, we came up with plenty of things that the group felt good about doing well and a set of clear changes to make in the future.

Here are some of the things peo­ple liked:

  • Creating a cus­tom error mes­sage for the main­te­nance window
  • Having a phone bridge and using Campfire through­out the win­dow to communicate
  • Using a wiki page to orga­nize tasks and each task’s owner dur­ing the main­te­nance window
  • Using the change win­dow to test out new Linux ser­vice scripts for the sys­tem admin­is­tra­tion team

This was our first main­te­nance win­dow where we used both Campfire and a phone bridge at the same time for the whole team. We chose Campfire because any­one new who joined could eas­ily see what con­ver­sa­tion had already taken place. We used the phone bridge to make it sim­ple to type com­mands and stay in touch at the same time.

In the past, we’d used email and RT tick­ets to doc­u­ment what was hap­pen­ing in the main­te­nance win­dow. Everyone loved hav­ing a wiki page to ref­er­ence and update instead. The wiki just had a bet­ter UI than email or a ticket, and pro­vided a bet­ter experience.

Finally, the sys­tems admin­is­tra­tion team used the win­dow to test out new ser­vice start/stop scripts for a series of cus­tom appli­ca­tions. This is the type of thing that can go un-exercised when you rarely have down­times or main­te­nance win­dows. The team was smart to seize the opportunity!

We also thought a few things didn’t go so well:

  • We didn’t give our cus­tomers enough of a heads-up.
  • Steps for the changes should have num­bers, not just times asso­ci­ated with them.
  • Our test­ing took quite a while because the change affected all the data­bases at the same time, and tests only looked at one data­base at a time.

There may have been other things that peo­ple thought we could have done bet­ter, but we kept the list short and action­able. We’ll change the process slightly in the future to inform cus­tomers bet­ter, add num­bers to all the steps and test data­bases concurrently.

Beyond this cur­rent win­dow, I also asked every­one to imag­ine how we might do things dif­fer­ently or bet­ter dur­ing other downtimes.

A few ideas included:

  • Trying out video con­fer­enc­ing dur­ing the main­te­nance, like Tokbox, to help make com­mu­ni­ca­tion even better
  • Pulling in more helpers for test­ing — for train­ing, and mak­ing the work­load lighter for the QA team
  • Using Salesforce to com­mu­ni­cate upcom­ing changes internally

My favorite sug­ges­tion, though, was:

Feel free to com­ment below — I’d love to hear how you man­age your meet­ings, and what you’ve learned.

Weekly tweet digest for 2011-02-20