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When Do You Know That You Know

Why, when you can help others, that's when! 

In my role as a senior Moderator with the MSDN SQL Forums, I am often asked "How do I become a Moderator on the Forums?"

I am quite appreciative and heartened when folks indicate, and then demonstrate, their interest in helping others. Volunteering to assist on the MSDN Forums is an excellent 'give-back' for all of those times when someone offered us a hand, gave a suggestion, helped us solve our pressing problems.

Participants typically arrive at the Forums the first time seeking help, and when they find the environment is supportive, and they are met with grace, they come back the next time they are stuck. After awhile, some begin offering suggestions to questions and problems that are posted. For many, it can become an exhilarating experience to help others that are in a difficult situation; it becomes a validation that we actually 'know' something. Many of us actually are 'pushed' to learn more, dig deeper, search for things we had not considered, re-consider solutions that we thought we had down pat, and reexamine nuances. For those that regularly visit and help on the Forums, the Forums become a source of self satisfaction -a place where we are 'validated', a place where we learn, and a place where we teach.

So to the question of 'How to become a Forum Moderator?', let me offer the following:

  • When you respond to a question, don't just provide an answer -help others understand why your suggestion works.
  • Make an effort to offer an explanation for your suggestion. Offer a demonstration. Provide enough demo code so that a reader can easily reproduce your suggestion; make it a 'teaching' moment.
  • In any code that you provide, take a few extra seconds and follow 'Best Practices' -naming, formatting, etc. Remember, you are 'teaching' by example. How you do something often carries more long term significance than the specifics of what you do.
  • Many others will read the question and answers so try to be as 'generic' as possible in your suggestion and demonstration so that those additional readers can easily extrapolate and adapt to their problems.
  • Beware of keeping a positive attitude. Remember that once you were a beginner too. Assume that everyone is doing the best that he/she can at that moment.
  • Sometimes folks will be unappreciative, perhaps even 'snippy' toward you. That happens. Don't take it personally, just ignore it and move on to a different thread. Let someone else handle the post and the attitude.
  • If you find that you are annoyed by a post, let it go, move on to a different thread, let someone else handle it.
  • When someone offers a better suggestion than yours, complement them. Sometimes the original poster doesn’t know that it is a better suggestion and when you so indicate , they will more likely select the 'better' option.
  • When someone adds to or clarifies your suggestion, positively acknowledge their contribution, for it really is a group effort.
  • When it becomes obvious that you 'blew it', either from misreading the question, or responding before coffee, or just being in too much of a hurry in life, accept it and move on. It just seems petty to attempt to defend or offer excuses for our mistakes.
  • And most importantly, keep posting, keep contributing, keep helping others.

In the MSDN SQL Forums, we (Moderators) notice those that are actively and positively contributing to the Forums. We have developed a process where we invite folks to be a designated 'Answerer', where we then actively mentor those 'Answerers' and help them hone their presence and skills and may eventually acknowledge that persistence with promotion to Forum Moderator.

And it is a lot of hoopla about little. We don't get paid. We don't get free passes. But we do feel good about helping others. And we have some public acknowledgement for our efforts. And let me tell you, reading those two words 'Thank You' can make my day!

So keep posting and helping ...


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