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We're devoting an entire class to technical forums this week. Forums have been around as long as most of the online community services have been. They offer (mostly) unsolicited help at (mostly) no charge to the person requesting the help. The word mostly worked its way into that last statement quite a bit. There are resources out there that will allow the solicitation of the members and will charge for help. This class is not going to discuss any of those services. Why? Because we are discussing the SQL community and this community truly puts itself out in front of everyone in need without asking for much of anything in return. The community devotes countless hours to supporting the strong foundation that it has constructed over the years. Rarely will you find a part of it in which a request for money, goods or payback will be requested or expected. In most cases, the gratitude of the solution being worked out amongst ourselves is the reward and payback. The community takes that to heart and it is why you may not find another group like the SQL community.
All bases covered
SQL Server has grown to cover a wide flavor of specialized fields over the last decade. Business Intelligence, CLR specialists, Tuning Experts, Mud Wrestling administrators, SAN Experts, Broker Experts, Full Text Search Experts, T-SQL Experts…the list goes on and on. A lot of these experts fit into groups such as the BI group, the SQL Programming group and the DBA group. In each of these groups you will find leaders that jump at the opportunity to throw what they know out into the public to help with any problems, new development or implementations. These members of the community often are referred to as answerers. And even the answerers turn to the others for help in the time of need, so we all become answerers in the community.
How do you find these leaders and others that devote even minutes of their day to helping?
Below is a list of some sites that I, and other authors this semester, visit daily or hourly, or sometimes lurk at with their finger on the refresh button:
These forums are available for free and are a resource that should not be set to the side lightly. The members of these forums all have a great deal of unique, real-life experiences to share, and will help in building your own knowledge. If everyone in the community helps build the forums, the knowledge base that can be composed is truly infinite in nature.
Reward yourself by giving back
When asking questions in forums around the SQL community, there is one way that you will find even more value in the resource. Start answering the questions and helping others! No one knows the answer to everything! What will often happen is that you can assist in searching other resources, testing on your resources that may not be available to the other people asking for help or simply work through the problem and troubleshoot in your unique way. This builds both sides in learning more about SQL Server and everyone benefits.
Never feel uncomfortable helping others. Helping is one of the foundations of increasing your knowledge of SQL Server. Everyone won’t run into the same problem in our careers working on SQL Server, so we may never be exposed to specific situations. By giving back on these forums and working through issues that you may not have come across, you benefit by learning the situation, path to recovery and complete solution. Imagine the power behind that knowledge if the same problem comes up in your own environment someday! So when you ask a question on one of these SQL Server forum resources, think about looking around to see if you might be able to help out and give a little back. You may just become addicted like many of us have over the years.
It is absolutely critical to understand that the members in these forums do not have a binding agreement to help nor are they obligated in any way to stick through it. Usually, the members helping will go to great lengths to solve the problems. If a person does not stick through it though, becoming frustrated with them is usually not the best reaction. The member helping may have had a problem of their own come up, or had to leave their computer for a time. Every reply is given for free and as-is. Reacting negatively when a member that is helping you leaves abruptly may cause repercussions in the future, when you have another question.
When every resource fails you: Books Online, real books, your secret cube buddy that knows how to write SELECT *, the help desk solution of reboot doesn’t work - give the technical forums a try. When you get an answer and are sitting back relaxing, push the chair back to the keyboard and see if you can return the favor by helping on the next thread under yours.
There is no need to pull your hair out at the roots; no need to call the CTO and tell them you quit before they fire you for not being able to fix it; no need to literally break down. Give it a try and post your situation on a SQL Server forum. I think you will be pleasantly surprised at the results you receive.