During my last night in New Orleans for TechEd I was approached by a man who stopped me and said, essentially:
“What makes you guys so special?”
The man was Rob Collie (blog | twitter), and he was asking about the SQL Community as a whole. And I really had no answer for Rob. We talked about it for a while, trying to figure out why the SQL Community seems to be much more social, and much more willing to help one another than other technical communities. I had noticed that even in the MVP forums that the SQL forum was always one of the more heavily used forums when compared to others. But why?
In the time since Rob accosted approached me I have been able to reflect a bit. I think I understand a few of the reasons why our Community is so chock full of awesome. Feel free to correct me if I am wrong, or if I have missed anything.
People Crave Shared Experiences
This should not be a shocker to anyone, but we as humans tend to want to have shared experiences with one another. I really don’t know why that is the case, but it certainly seems to be true of most. It happens all the time in conversations when someone relates an experience and someone else responds by affirming that experience by sharing memories of their own. Something like:
“This one time, at band camp…”
“Yeah, I went to band camp once. It was full of awesome.”
Since DBAs are people too it makes sense that many of us already have the innate desire to share experiences. But so does everyone else, right? So clearly this is not enough to explain why we are special, but it does help explain why we all look to congregate and communicate.
We Are Organized
We, as database professionals, have a professional association (PASS), that allows for all of us to find ways to connect (and stay connected). I recently asked Rob if there was a user group or association for, say, Excel users. He didn’t know of any such groups, and I started thinking about all of those other MVP forums. What about the xbox MVPs? Is there a professional association for xbox users, for example? Or Zune?
For us DBAs we have such an association in place, and I think that is a contributing factor, no question. But other professional associations exist, so this is not enough to explain why we are so special. There must be something more.
We Have Vehicles For Discussions
Once we start to connect with each other at face-to-face events (user groups, SQL Saturdays, PASS Summit, etc.), we then need to have ways to stay connected once those meetings are over. We have that with Twitter (even have our own special hash tag for help, #sqlhelp, which we use when we have questions for one another), as well as Facebook, LinkedIn, and various public forums. We write articles for websites and try to find ways to help others learn something new.
None of these vehicles are for our use only, so this is not enough to explain why we are so special, there must be something more.
We Form a Support Group
Since most of us are in a production support role, a natural question is “who supports the support people?” Why, we do, of course! We need to be there for one another, because there are times when we know we need someone there for us as well. Many DBAs work alone in their shop; the lone voice of reason amidst a sea of madness and sloppy agile programming methods. Who else can understand the life of a DBA except for another DBA?
We tend to be very supportive of one another. We help each other when we have questions. We are allowed to make mistakes (especially if we learn from them and don’t repeat them very often). No one is scorned, or banished from the Community for not knowing something. About the only way to get yourself in trouble is to plagiarize our material. Stay clear of content theft and you are welcome to join in our conversations.
Other communities simply do not seem to act in the same manner. I think that what makes us so special is that, as a whole, we are made up of people that are not afraid of two things. First is that we are not afraid to ask for help. Second, we are not afraid to provide help.
Add It Up
And you get the SQL Community, which is indeed a very special Community to be a part of.