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Growing the SQL Community – Carefully

If you’re a blogger or a twitterer or a SQL speaker or PASS volunteer, you do it because you have found it to be fun, worthwhile, even challenging perhaps. I bet you remember doubting the value before you started and hesitating to take the leap, and maybe you tried it because you had someone inspire you, or – maybe someone twisted your arm a little!

Because we find it fun, we like to share our passion, and it’s easy to forget that not everyone has the same interests, the same outlook, or is in that place in life where they are ready to try something new. There’s a tendency to think and say “I did it, so can you”. The possibility exists, but it’s just not that simple! It’s less about ability, more about desire.

I was reminded of this recently by a friend who knows several other people that are passionate about community. He enjoys learning, sees the value of professional development, and sees that getting that development is possible by carefully choosing how and when he learns, but doesn’t want to go further, for now at least. Doesn’t diminish him in any way. He has goals and priorities, and they are different than mine. Not worse, just different, and perhaps more balanced!

For those of us who are really passionate about the SQL community, what do we do to encourage others to participate? Sometimes we can just point to the door, saying “here is the path I took”. Sometimes we can open the door by coaching them through a few blog posts or helping them build the first presentation. More often we lead by example, doing the things we enjoy and trying to do them well, encouraging others – subtly – to try it as well.

But what we shouldn’t do is arm twisting. It’s all too easy to start to pressure people, especially friends or co-workers, to walk the same path you do. Rarely works, and even when it does, it rarely sticks. We end up alienating the people we’re trying to help.

What can do is find low key ways to share our enthusiasm:

  • Treat hem to dinner or a drink if they’ll attend a chapter meeting (make sure the topic is one they will find interesting)
  • Offer to car pool to a SQLSaturday and be willing to leave whenever they are
  • Share a blog post via email and talk about not just the post, but the author of the post
  • Ask them to write a guest blog post about a success they have had at work, or co-author an article with them
  • Be there when they are ready to take the next step

It’s easy to push too hard. I don’t do it often, but I know I have at times. Well meaning, but no less annoying to the person on the other side. If nothing else, maybe writing this will reinforce that for me.


I'm Andy Warren, currently a SQL Server trainer with End to End Training. Over the past few years I've been a developer, DBA, and IT Director. I was one of the original founders of SQLServerCentral.com and helped grow that community from zero to about 300k members before deciding to move on to other ventures.


Posted by Steve Jones on 25 June 2010

I might try to get people to help volunteer as well, maybe something small with PASS. Ask them to review an article, or one of your posts. Show them that it doesn't have to be that scary to participate.

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