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Community Communication

Community Communication

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?

I'll  take four!

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.

4 Pingbacks/Trackbacks

  • The shared experience is the exact reason why we’re so successful and why I have so much fun with the SQL community. There are very few other programming communities that do as good of a job making nerdery this much fun. I think you nailed it perfectly.

    • Thomas LaRock

      yeah, shared experiences and a support group i think are the two key factors.

  • Very good as always!

    • Thomas LaRock

      you’re just saying that because the only thing you’ve read in the past ten days has been your own Manifesto.

      Thanks anyway, though. And welcome back to humanity.

  • I think we need that on shirt, Jeremiah:

    Making Nerdery this much Fun

  • Agreed.

  • True. I have a VERY low bar for these kinds of things. I’m just glad you finished a lot of the sentences and had the punctuation generally in the right areas. I’ll tape this up on the fridge with your brother’s straight A’s report card. You’ll always be our “special little guy”.

  • I also should have asked, where do you guys get all of your cool names? LaRock? Seriously? That was your birth name?

    I am changing my last name to Kickzass.

    When are we starting the SQL Hoops League? Game nights will be Tuesdays, every six months (at conferences). Champion for this season will be crowned in 2018 after a 12-game regular season and a best-of-three championship series.

    We are still looking for a slogan. I figure you guys can come up with something considerably more clever than I can.

  • Good post. Not sure it completely answers the question, it’s one I’ve thought about too, hard to tell if I’m biased about our world. I think there is a lot of synergy across all those things. I’d be interested to see if we could find a way to identify a tipping point where it started to be different from other communities, that would be pretty valuable to understand.

    • Thomas LaRock

      good question! at what point did we tip as a Community? i hadn’t thought about that. I suppose it is a result of ‘accidental’ DBAs, which is a result of MS providing the product that others were forced to administer, and from there the forming of a support group and outlets for people to share experiences.

  • As long as the SQL Hoops league is followed by #sqlkaraoke – then I am game. Morning games before SQL Saturdays?

  • Not sure at about the accidental DBA’s. Not sure we’re different! Like to think so.

  • Mike Decuir

    Do Oracle DBAs have anywhere near as strong of a community as the SQL Server community? If they don’t, that would seem like a promising place to find the traits that make the SQL Server community so unique.

  • New PASS t-shirts:

    Front = “Just like Band Camp, but better”

    Back = PASS Logo and website


    Front = “Bacon, Band Camp, and PASS”

    Back = “What happens in Seattle…”

    • Thomas LaRock

      nice ideas for shirts, perhaps Confio can just have them made up instead?

  • I think the tipping point is the fact that no other technology community wants to have a SQL Hoops league with the male players wearing kilts and eating bacon on the sidelines while drinking beer!

    I agree with the idea of a hoops league with regional champions facing off at PASS for the “Final Four”.

    • Thomas LaRock

      Yeah, those DB2 DBAs would be worried about breaking their hips.

  • Tipping Point…seriously. I have been thinking about that for a long time as I have participated in the user communities for Oracle, Sybase and DB2 as well and they are not as energetic and dynamic as the SQL Server community. But why?

    Oracle = I think the answer is attitude and Ellison. Oracle is a older community with a larger install base. However, the user groups are less frequent and usually controlled more by Oracle vs. the users. OpenWorld is far from “open”. It is more of a Ellison showcase of acquisitions. The Oracle audience also just does not seem to get excited about events and there appears to be more of a “love / hate” relationship with Oracle vs. Microsoft users.

    Sybase & DB2 = easy…old and dying technology. Sad, but true. I started my career working in the DB2 (mainframe) arena and then went onto Informix (which IBM swallowed). Sybase seems to have more energy these days with Wall Street and the recent acquisition by SAP. But IBM and DB2 while having a fairly large footprint, the community is non-existent. Less than 300 people at IDUG this past spring…very sad for an event that once had over 7,000!

    Bottom line…younger, more energy, more social media and more communication. The SQL Server communities simply like to talk more, share more, pump their chest and shout out to the world.

    Does this answer the question? Not really. However, if we peel back the onion I think you can see some of the obvious differences.

    Keep up the good work!

    • Thomas LaRock

      Great points, now I remember why I wanted to work for Confio, because I get to work with you! I think the part about younger and more energy is a good one. Plus MS is making a push into social media and collaboration tools, whereas the other platforms cannot make as big a dent or have as much influence.

  • Dave Schutz

    I like David Waugh’s t-shirt idea, especially the one with bacon.
    What’s makes us so willing to communicate, network, and share our expertise with others? Maybe it’s the push from those at the top who encourage us to mentor and help each other. There are so many of you who blog, answer forum questions, etc. all for free, so that the rest of us can grow.
    And like Jeremiah says: we make nerdy fun.

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