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A Couple Days With Joe Celko

We were lucky enough to have Joe come to Orlando to speak at SQLSaturday and we also talked him into doing a one day seminar about all things SQL. If you've read his books you know he sat on the SQL ANSI committee for a while and that he is one damned smart guy. If you've read his forum posts (on SSC or elsewhere) you're probably thinking that he's a curmudgeon, or worse!

So what's he really like? He readily admits to being a curmudgeon on the forums, but also says it's a persona he's adopted to try to blast people into learning about SQL in an effort to prove him wrong, and hopefully learning quite a bit in the process. I believe him about the persona, in person he's a great old guy to sit and talk with, polite, thoughtful, and somewhat stubborn! I told him I'm not sure I agree with him on how effective this online "Evil Celko" persona is, but we agreed to disagree and I couldn't help but laugh about it as we talked.

Brian & I had dinner with him on Thursday evening and that was quite a time. Joe's a wine drinker (but not to excess), always wears a black three piece suit (from JC Penny no less), and on this trip had on Mensa cuff links. Joe is pretty adamantly anti-identity column, where Brian & I are realistic enough to see that they are entirely useful tools in the SQL Server world. It proved to be an interesting conversation and while we didn't get Joe to change his views, I think I now understand his better. It's not the identity he's railing about, it's the fact that there can be gaps in the keys (failed insert, etc) and based on his background working in areas that require serious auditing its just a poor implementation. He prefers the use of a sequence table to guarantee no numbers are missed. I think it's splitting hairs and in a lot of cases the separate table isn't worth the effort. Maybe I'm wrong! But the highlight of the evening was when Brian misunderstoond (or Joe misspoke) Joe to say his wife was half his age. Joe is 60, give or take, and Brian just had to follow up on that! Turns out it's his niece that is half his age, but it still made for quite the amusing cap to a nice evening.

Joe's a theory guy if not quite an academic. I - like most of you I suspect - are product centric pragmatists that are trying to get work done. I don't always agree with him, or heck, even understand him, but I think we need him just like we need artists and musicians, people that help us see what might be possible. Just when you think you've got him pegged he'll launch into some funny story, or as at the seminar on Fri, was explaining that he likes the GROUP BY ALL syntax in TSQL even though it's not ANSI compliant.

He's going to be doing some more seminars for us and probably consulting on some curriculm, but what I'd really like to see is MS or Sun or Google or Yahoo (maybe not Oracle!) hire him and see if he can push some of that theory into making the database world a better place. One of you 17 readers of my blog must know someone way up there!


I'm Andy Warren, currently a SQL Server trainer with End to End Training. Over the past few years I've been a developer, DBA, and IT Director. I was one of the original founders of SQLServerCentral.com and helped grow that community from zero to about 300k members before deciding to move on to other ventures.


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