I’ve grown up reading Tom Clancy and probably most of you have at least seen Red October, so this book caught my eye when browsing used books for a recent trip. It’s a fairly human look at what’s involved in sailing on a Trident missile submarine…
Have you ever voted against something only to be glad later you got out voted? Too many years ago the idea of a question of the day for SQLServerCentral came up for discussion. I was against the idea not because it was a bad idea, but because it is one more thing to do every day. Few people appreciate the grind it is to try to have new content of any type ready every day and I’ve always tilted towards sustainability, even if it meant not doing a good idea at times. I was right that it was a lot of work of course, but it has been fun to watch it grow. I wrote a good chunk or two of the questions in the beginning, but Steve Jones carried most of the load then (and now!). Many of those questions got bundled into books called SQL Server Stumpers which back then were sold for something like $6, but now available for free as a PDF – not bad material for interview prep.
Fast forward a lot and it’s been too long since I wrote any questions and like any task, it takes some practice to get it right, along with finding something interesting to turn into a question. In Database We Trust is one recent question I posted. I think not a bad question, many a bit trivia-ish, but it’s interesting to read the comments attached to it. It’s hard enough to just convert something interesting to a question, then you have to back up and try to think like the person solving it. Do you have enough clues? Some confusing or misleading clues? Can they easily rule some answers out based on other answers? Or in my case I set the right answer count at 2 instead of leaving it “check all correct answers”.
Questions are approachable writing. You need an idea, a few sentences and a few options for answers, and some links and explanation to support the right answer (and please do explain why the wrong ones are wrong too). I’d bet that once you have an idea, you can do a good draft in an hour. You can pick any topic, something you know or something you learned (preferably the hard way) and the best part is you get to go back and look at the stats for the answers and the comments – a lot more feedback than you’ll get on a blog post or even an SSC article. Give it a try, you’ll have fun doing it!