Anthony Nowocien



Tags:   postgresql    paris    france    pgday    migration    postgresqlfr   
Category:   Interviews   
Interviewed by: Andreas Scherbaum

PostgreSQL is the World’s most advanced Open Source Relational Database. The interview series “PostgreSQL Person of the Week” presents the people who make the project what it is today. Read all interviews here.

Please tell us about yourself, and where you are from.

Hi, I’m Anthony Nowocien. My name comes from my Polish side and some of my looks from my Trinidadian side. I live and work in Paris as a PostgreSQL DBA.

Anthony Nowocien (Photo by Edouard Elias)

Anthony Nowocien (Photo by Edouard Elias)

How do you spend your free time? What are your hobbies?

I would say I used to have a decent amount of free time, but this changed 3 months ago with the arrival of my little (and cute if you’re wondering) baby girl. On the hobbies part, I play chess, some board games, do bird photography, some exercise at the gym and enjoy Asian restaurants. I used to sing in a choir a long time ago and sang in some restaurants/hotels during the 3 years I spent in Beijing.

Any Social Media channels of yours we should be aware of?

Last book you read? Or a book you want to recommend to readers?

The last book I’ve finished would be The Human Stain, by Philip Roth. The one I’m currently reading is Astrophysics for people in a hurry, by Neil de Grasse Tyson.

What is the best advice you ever got?

I very much like this quote: “Our life is frittered away by detail… simplify, simplify”.

When did you start using PostgreSQL, and why?

I have (almost) always been a Linux user, but different experiences led me to being a SQL Server DBA. As I had to solve this cognitive dissonance, I decided to dig into PostgreSQL. Having enjoyed SQL since my studies, I chose the most compliant in 2013. I did spend a fair amount of time pondering the different options and I’m glad I made this choice. I attended the first Paris PostgreSQL meetups that were organized by Dimitri Fontaine and was hooked in this community. I’ve never told him before, but those meetings played a huge part in my interest in both the RDBMS and the community and I’m very skeptical I would be here today without those evenings.

Do you remember which version of PostgreSQL you started with?

I’ve used some 8.X version, but my memory is quite fuzzy on which one. I’ve started using it seriously at work with 9.0 though.

We have this funny system with both university and “engineering schools” in France and I’ve studied at both. The first one gave me knowledge, the second one employability. Being a DBA is for me more about skills than knowledge, so studies did help on understanding databases, but the most important thing would be to get your hands dirty. They say an expert is someone who has made a lot of mistakes in a very narrow field. As I’ve done more than my share of it, I will take this opportunity to thank everyone who helped and paid me to do so :).

What other databases are you using? Which one is your favorite?

I used SQL Server for several years, but also MySQL/MariaDB, some Oracle, MongoDB, Cassandra, ElasticSearch, Neo4j, DynamoDB… My favorite database has a nice blue elephant as a logo.

I have not contributed to any code in the main project yet. I have written code for tools in the ecosystem, mostly focusing on migrations ones like ora2pg and my own code2pg.

Any contributions to PostgreSQL which do not involve writing code?

That’s mostly how I contribute I would say. I’m involved in the PostgreSQL FR association as its secretary, was an organizer behind 2 pgday and try to share news/articles/events happening in the PostgreSQL world. The PostgreSQL FR association started a cross enterprise work group that is quite unique and successful. It’s a place where companies get to exchange on issues they face, things that work (or not) for them. Simon Clavier has been doing a lot of good work as a host. The group also produced a “Transition guide to PostgreSQL” which was well received and I would like to see an English version of it. I’ve done documentation translation too and greatly admire people who can keep doing this year after year (wink Guillaume).

What is your favorite PostgreSQL extension?

pg_stat_statements and I will be glad to see it in core.

What is the most annoying PostgreSQL thing you can think of? And any chance to fix it?

Some thoughts:

  • PostgreSQL is not owned by a company. That’s great and I can’t think of another serious RDMBS where it’s the case. It also means that the PostgreSQL “brand” is a bit harder to market. It sometimes takes a while to reach agreement on some topics.
  • It gets a while to understand how the project works, with its numerous mailing lists, contributing process, IRC channels… This might be a bit off putting for possible contributors.
  • I would very much like to see “official” tutorials, videos, … to help people new to this database.

What is the feature you like most in the latest PostgreSQL version?

Coming in version 13, I very much like the concept of “trusted extension” that will enable a non superuser to add some extensions.

Adding to that, what feature/mechanism would you like to see in PostgreSQL? And why?

Having CREATE ASSERTION would be huge, where you would be able to define constraints on a number of rows and not just one. On a higher level, anything that would make PostgreSQL easier to operate on large datasets (like sharding in core) or more cloud ready (auto failover).

Which PostgreSQL conferences do you visit? Do you submit talks?

I was looking for my 4th pgconf.eu this year, but will have to wait. I sometimes submit talk proposals and recently gave talks for pgday.fr, Paris Open Source Summit and PostgreSQL Sessions.

Do you think Postgres has a high entry barrier?

For an end user, no. apt-get install postgresql and you can start being productive. If you want to contribute code, I would say yes.

What is your advice for people who want to start PostgreSQL developing - as in, contributing to the project. Where and how should they start?

I would gladly say that there is more to contributing than development: events, documentation, promotion, making sure that with your behavior the project is welcoming and inclusive to all, …

Do you think PostgreSQL will be here for many years in the future?

Bruce Momjian will answer this better than me in his talk “will PostgreSQL live forever ?”.

Would you recommend Postgres for business, or for side projects?

PostgreSQL is definitely “business grade” and so many companies are switching to it. And if you want to have fun and your own projects with it, go for it!

Are you reading the -hackers mailinglist? Any other list?

I’ve subscribed to -advocacy, -announce, -general, -hackers, -performance, -web and some french lists also. I have not been reading hackers enough lately and will try to correct this.

Anything else you like to add?

Best of luck with your PostgreSQL related projects, you’ve come to the right place :).