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Learn to Help Yourself

I used to work with a guy who was adamant that before you asked him for help, you had done the following:HELP ME

If you were on his team (he was the lead) and you hadn't done these things, he'd send you away until you had. He was a subject matter expert and while he most likely knew the answer, he didn't want anyone relying on him as a crutch. It's one thing if the situation is critical. It's a different matter entirely if you have the time to do the research. One of the things he had seen over time is that the folks who started to search for the answers themselves seemed to grow better at their jobs than those who relied on the answers from others. There's some good reasons for this:

  • The mere act of searching for the right information means digesting that information in a more meaningful manner than having someone tell you to click on this menu item, type that, click OK. You actually spend time reading what to do and then seeing if it makes sense. So you have to process on it.
  • The act of searching often reveals other useful bits of information that may not be a solution to the immediate problem at hand, but that will be useful for something else, possibly even another problem you're trying to solve. This builds your overall knowledge.
  • You learn to be self-reliant, meaning you start to learn how to take a task through from beginning to end with minimal engagement of others. This makes you a more capable technician and worker and frees up cycles for your co-workers where they would normally be helping you.

On the SQL Server side of things, there are a lot of good resources out there. One of the things that can be most frustrating to folks willing to help others in the SQL Server space is when a question shows that a minimum amount of research wasn't done. For instance, if you're asking how to add a login to SQL Server, then that tells us you probably didn't even look, especially when there are videos which demonstrate how to add a Windows login and how to add a SQL Server login. And it doesn't matter if the question comes on-line in a forum or in person. Here are definitely some resources every SQL Server DBA should learn to use:

  • SQL Server Books Online (should be installed locally, but if it's not, you can view it online)
  • Internet search with site:sqlservercentral.com
  • Internet search with site:sqlshare.com
  • Internet search with site:sqlblog.com
  • Internet search with site:sqlteam.com
  • Internet search with site:sqlserverpedia.com
  • Internet search with site:support.microsoft.com
  • Internet search with site:msdn.microsoft.com
  • Internet search with site:serverfault.com
  • Internet search with site:stackoverflow.com

The only reason I suggest specific sites for the Internet search is to try and filter out the duplicates (copies) and sites that look authentic but aren't. And there are certainly more places than these to look. This is just a start. It gives a good mix of forums, blog posts, and straight up documentation. Typically, most questions I have can be found with the following searches. If not, I'll go to a forum and post what I'm dealing with to see if anyone else has run across it. If I need a quick and immediate answer, I'll hop onto Twitter and use the #sqlhelp tag. But I always try to help myself first.


K. Brian Kelley - Databases, Infrastructure, and Security

IT Security, MySQL, Perl, SQL Server, and Windows technologies.


Posted by jcrawf02 on 21 October 2011

this is a great idea. I'm going to stop answering questions so easily, because you're right, I'm doing those asking a disservice by not helping them find the answer on their own.

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