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Craig Kerstiens

Category: PostgreSQL

Exploring a new Postgres database

At past jobs I’d estimate we had 100 different production apps that in some way were powering key production systems. Sure some were backend/internal apps while others key production apps such as the dashboard itself. At other companies we had a smaller handful of Heroku apps that powered our cloud service, about 5-10 in total. Even just working with those internal apps it’s a number of things to keep context on. But when it comes to interacting with something you don’t know getting a lay of the land quickly is key. In helping a customer optimize and tune, or even just understand what is going on in their app an understanding of the data model is key.

As I just started a few months back at Crunchy Data I found myself digging into a lot of new systems and quickly trying to ramp up and get a feel for them.

An interview on what makes Postgres unique (extensions)

I’ve been at dinners before with developers that admitted developers, themselves included, can be a bit opinionated. In one case one said for example, “I love Postgres, but I have no idea why.” They were sitting at the wrong table to use Postgres as an example… But it is quite often that I am asked Why Postgres.

In fact a little over a year ago good friend Dimitri Fontaine asked if he could interview me for a book he’s working on for Postgres. I’ve long said their is a shortage of good books about Postgres and he’s done a great job with his in providing a guide targetted at developers, not just DBAs, that want to become better with their database. What follows is the excerpt of the interview from the book. And if you’re interested in picking up a copy he was friendly enough to share a discount code you can find below.

Interesting Upcoming pgDays

I’ve been to a lot of conferences over the years. PgConf EU, PostgresOpen, too many pgDays to count, and even more none Postgres conferences (OSCON, Strangeloop, Railsconf, PyCon, LessConf, and many more). I’ve always found Postgres conferences one of the best places to get training and learn about what’s new with Postgres (in addition to Dimitri’s recent book, more on that below). They’re my regular stop to catch up on all the new features of a release before it comes out, and often there is a talk highlighting what is new with a simple easy to understand summary once released.

I just got back from PGConf EU a little over a week ago and it was a great time. I’m sure we’ll see some rundowns of it start appearing on Postgres planet. But, as far as I’m concerned PGConf EU is in the past (unless your counting next year which is in Berlin-in which case I’ll see you there). For me it’s time to look to the future and there are a number of upcoming pgDays I’m looking forward to.

SQL: One of the most valuable skills

I’ve learned a lot of skills over the course of my career, but no technical skill more useful than SQL. SQL stands out to me as the most valuable skill for a few reasons:

  1. It is valuable across different roles and disciplines
  2. Learning it once doesn’t really require re-learning
  3. You seem like a superhero. You seem extra powerful when you know it because of the amount of people that aren’t fluent

Let me drill into each of these a bit further.

The biggest mistake Postgres ever made

Postgres has experienced a long and great run. It is over 20 years old and has a track record of being safe and reliable (which is the top thing I care about in a database). In recent years it has become more cool with things like JSONB, JIT support, and a powerful extension ecosystem. But, Postgres has made some mistakes along the way, the most notable being the name.

Postgres gets its name from Ingress. Ingress was one of the first databases and was lead by Michael Stonebreaker who won a Turing award for Postgres and other works. Ingress began in the early 70s at UC Berkeley, which is still to this day known as a top university when it comes to databases. Out of Ingress came a number of databases you’ll still know today such as SQL Server and Sybase. It also as you may have guessed by now spawned Postgres which means Post-Ingress.

Postgres 11 - A First Look

Postgres 11 is almost here, in fact the latest beta shipped today, and it features a lot of exciting improvements. If you want to get the full list of features it is definitely worth checking out the release notes, but for those who don’t read the release notes I put together a run down of some what I consider the highlight features.

PostgresOpen 2018 - First look at talks

PostgresOpen is just a few months away and our list of talks is now live and available on the PostgresOpen website. This year selecting the talks was the hardest yet not only due to the number of talk submissions, but also the across the board high quality of submissions. There is hopefully something for everyone among the talks, at least if you like Postgres that is.

If you’re thinking about joining us I’d love to see you there and buy you a beer or coffee. The conference is September 5-7 in downtown San Francisco, and early bird tickets are open for just another few weeks. If you want to save some money on tickets grab it and the room now before things jump.

But, if you’re curious for a sampling of a few of the talks I thought I’d break down my top five I’m personally most excited about:

Same great Postgres with a new player in town

Many of us have known how great Postgres was for years.

In fact I recall a conversation with some sales engineers about 6 years ago that previously worked for a large database vendor that really no one likes down in Redwood City. They were remarking how the biggest threat to them was Postgres. At first they were able to just brush it off saying it was open source and no real database could be open source. Then as they dug in they realized there was more there than most knew about and they would have to continually be finding ways to discredit it in sales conversations. Well it doesn’t look like those SEs or the rest of that company was too successful.

Postgres hidden gems

Postgres has a rich set of features, even when working everyday with it you may not discover all it has to offer. In hopes of learning some new features that I didn’t know about myself as well as seeing what small gems people found joy in I tweeted out to see what people came back from. The response was impressive, and rather than have it lost into ether of twitter I’m capturing some of the responses here along with some resources many of the features.

Guidance on performing retrospectives

In my career I’ve had to conduct a number of retrospectives. Ahead of them it already sucked, there was an outage at some point, customers were impacted, and it was our fault. Never was it solely on our underlying infrastructure provider (AWS or Heroku), nope the blame was on us and we’d failed in some way. And as soon as the incident was resolved, it wasn’t time to go home and decompress with a beer, it was time start the process of a retrospective.

Finding the motivation to get right back to work is tough, but not losing time is important. There is probably a lot out there on retrospectives, and in general I was well rehearsed at them. But since I’d not performed a large scale one in a few years I found myself rusty and thought it’d be good to share some of our process.