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T-SQL Tuesday #36 - SQL Community (Guest Post)

tsql2sdayThis blog post is part of T-SQL Tuesday, a monthly SQL blog party with a rotating host and common topic. This month marks #36, hosted by Chris Yates (@YatesSQL), and the theme is "SQL Community". This post is not mine, but the handiwork of Andy Levy (@ALevyInROC), a first timer at the 2012 PASS Summit. Andy doesn't have a blog yet, but was compelled by the topic so I offered to let him post on my blog as a guest. Hopefully this won't be his only post and we'll see his own blog up and running soon!

I'm very new to the SQL Community and still finding my way around. I had been exposed to it a little through SQL Saturday #129 and several MVPs I've spoken with over the past 18 months or so, but my first real exposure to the community was last week at PASS Summit 2012. I was completely blown away.
I arrived not knowing anyone, and feeling a bit overwhelmed by the sheer enormity of the event. 3900+ people. Sessions & events (official & unofficial) stacked from pre-dawn until midnight or later. Tweets flying by at a ridiculous pace. But after a couple hours, I finally came to a realization: These are my people. We're all here for similar reasons, but we don't have to have serious technical discussions all the time. In fact, in a lot of cases it's better that we don't. We can talk about topics at a high level, then redirect for more detail - "go read so-and-so's blog, he had a real good post last month about that" or even skip technical discussion entirely - "I had that particular experience, but now I need something different, and really want to move more toward doing this other thing." We don't have to get into details if we don't want to.

I met one woman near the Community Zone on Wednesday who told me that I should come speak at her user group - not 10 minutes after we  met for the first time. But I don't have anything to present. No worries, she says - surely I can come up with something. The following day, a discussion about SQLite came up, and Brian Davis pointed me at a blog post he wrote last year about working with SQLite from within SSMS. This got me started on about a half-dozen ideas for ways I could use data that I already had, ideas that were relevant to another hobby I engage in, which eventually I could turn into a presentation for a user group. Wow! I stumbled into a topic for a presentation - and the very notion of speaking at a user group - thanks to two brief conversations with members of the SQL Community. I had previously tried blogging and failed due to a lack of material. Now I see that I have my own ideas & insights into topics discussed by others that I can contribute back to the community, so I'm thinking about starting up again.

There's a recurring theme of "everyone in this room can learn at least one valuable thing from someone else in the room" that I've heard for quite a while, both in conversations and presentations, and now that I've experienced it firsthand (both as a learner and a teacher), I see just how true and valuable it is. It's very karmic - today I may get help from someone via twitter, and tomorrow I may be able to help someone else out the same way. There's no competition, it's incredibly collaborative & supportive. There's a tremendous feedback cycle - someone writes a blog post, someone takes the idea & make some adjustments to it or takes it to the next logical step, and then the original author integrates that feedback - or someone else can pick it up and run with it.

SQL Server & our general job roles may be the reason why we congregate at Summit, SQL Saturdays & user groups, but it's not what brings us together. What brings us together is the conversations we have on the side, sharing not just technical expertise but life and career knowledge & insights. The passion for the community is infectious - I've already asked my local chapter president how I can get involved with planning the local SQL Saturday in 2013, because I want other people to experience what I've experienced from this community in a very short time already.

Note from Kendal: Did you like Andy's post? Follow him on Twitter and encourage him to keep it up!


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