My experience over the last few events has been that SQL Server Professionals are shifting on how they search for help or assistance when it comes to SQL Server. In the past we had forums, books, and our personal network. However, now we have added resources that we didn’t have back then. I recall searching for many help topics in the books that came with SQL Server 6.5. Today your materials for SQL Server help from Microsoft are best to get online ensuring that you have the most recent information. Where do you search for answers, do you go beyond your favorite search engine?
Blogs and Articles
I get a lot of information from blogs and articles. I am not sure if this method of passing along information will become obsolete. For me the difference between a blog and an article is the structure of the information. I find that blogs are not as structured as an article. At the same time I think of blogs as a way to document the information that you have; other people just have access to it. Articles and blogs are a good method of getting information as a whole rather than specific narrow subjects. For example, a specific blog or article could pass along great information on how the log reader agent works, whereas a series of blog entries or articles would be the best way to cover a topic like replication in place of a book, or searching the help topics themselves.
I have to be honest, I have a love hate relationship with Twitter. When it first started to gain traction I could not understand why people would post so many updates, with such a small amount of space and find it useful for anything. My opinion has changed, I really enjoy the idea of these short messages, and with the added items such as tweet pics, short url’s and the usage of hash tags I am not sure there is not a faster means of communication. If you are new to twitter you can feel relieved that it is really easy to get started.
To get started in twitter first you need to sign up for an account at twitter.com. From there I have found it is easiest to get a feed reader, such as TweetDeck (Free Download). Start with some search criteria such as a hash tag or two and assign that to a column in your tweet deck. A hash tag is the pound sign (#) in front of some text that is meant to allow users or twitter to search on tweets of a specific subject. The very popular #SQLhelp is for people asking or answering questions on SQL Server. From there make sure you follow people that tweet about topics you like. Your twitter handle will look something like @SQLShaw (My twitter handle). A must read for new twitter users is an e-book about twitter from Brent Ozar (@BrentO) that can be round here http://www.brentozar.com/twitter/.
I am surprised at the number of videos that I find online for instructions. There are a number of them on SSWUG that can be more help than you realize. Then if you need something outside the realm of the database sphere there is always YouTube.
If traveling to a conference is too expensive for you, or if traveling is just not something you enjoy, you have options. There is always the time away from work that you may be concerned about; getting multiple consecutive days away from the office can often cause a backlog of work. A virtual conference is a fraction of the cost of an in-person conference while having many of the same speakers and content. An upcoming virtual event can be found here on April 20th to the 22nd , 2011. I will be at the DBTechCon conference, look for me in the common room. If you keep an open eye it is easy to find a discount code. (SP11DBTechCS, make sure you click on the button that allows you to update the price after entering the code.)
Conferences, books, magazines and user groups are still great places to get information. I participate in each of those as often as I can. I hope that with some of the points I raised in this article you can see there are other options out there on the internet to finding SQL Server help. I don’t think I have ever had a faster response for a help request than what I have seen on twitter. I simply post my question and follow it up with “#SQLHelp”. When I want to really dig deep into a topic I look online for an article, or an e-book even.