I own up. It’s a fair cop. It is 27 years and 5 months since my last confession. Since then, I have sinned, Holy Father. In fact, I have committed an absolutely heinous crime. Please forgive me for I have submitted multiple random guesses.

May the high priests (and priestesses) of the BAAG movement, please have mercy on my wretched soul.

Recently, I have been guilty of supporting and even proposing a multitude of ‘any guesses’, all of which were proposed as possible solutions to solve a critical system problem on a production system:

  1. I failed to cough and splutter in an effort to stifle my laughter when a manager suggested that 500 European users adopted shift working to clear the backlog.
  2. I didn’t shout down a ludicrous proposal to reboot the Siebel Enterprise every 4 hours in order to maintain some level of service.
  3. I wrote on a whiteboard that consideration should be given to reinstating the previous version of the application even though this in itself was risky, time-consuming and unlikely to address the root cause.
  4. I even proposed patching to Oracle with no supporting evidence whatsoever.
  5. I shuffled nervously and blushed when the customer asked ‘Who do we escalate to when you fail to fix this problem ?’
  6. I watched in silence as the SAN man was stood against a wall and pelted with questions as senior management all pointed fingers in his direction.
  7. I failed to stand up for righteousness and technical purity as runaway, rogue sessions were maliciously and arbitrarily terminated by an Oracle DBA.
  8. I failed to suggest running a trivial SQL to determine index fragmentation and stood by as 74 indexes were needlessly reorganised.
  9. I watched helplessly as a systems administrator claimed the problem was ‘definitely in the underlying disk I/O subsystem’ simply because 8,000 operations a second were being performed.
  10. I failed to raise my eyes skywards and embark on a spontaneous two hour training session with a DBA who claimed the ‘buffer cache hit ratio was fine’ and the problems only started once users were allowed onto the system.

My only defence is that all of the above ‘any guesses’ created enough of a diversionary smokescreen to buy me enough time, alone in a darkened room, to analyze multiple Statspack reports, reproduce the majority of the problems in SQL*Plus and then prove the behaviour was improved when statistics on empty tables were dropped and two additional indexes created.

This lucky ‘guess’ miraculously restored performance and stability. So you see, ‘any guess’ is not always such a bad strategy, after all.