Collective Intelligence

  • Comments posted to this topic are about the item Collective Intelligence

  • For me it is both at one time or another.

    Challenging when you can use the information you are learning to solve an issue.

    Depressing when you find out you have only scratched the surface of some of the features of SQL Server or even TSQL.

  • Is the feeling of insecurity good or bad for your career? Is it motivating to try and absorb the entire collective intelligence of the SQL Community? Or is it depressing and frustrating?

    I have to agree with adzymcfadzy - it's a bit of both. Occasionally I'm feeling motivated and in a good mindset to learn, and at other times, I think of the SQL Server 2008 features that I know about, but have never had the opportunity, or the urge, to play with. Until yesterday, Powershell was in that category, and it's depressing to think how far behind the ball I am in that area.

    I think it is important to realise that everyone has their own facet and skill set separate to yours, and that YOU don't need to know all the answers. Instead, know enough so that you have a general overview, but you know where best to turn to when you need to ask the questions. I think this is ultimately better for my career - knowing everything intimately is impossible, but knowing where to turn and getting results is what counts.

    And it shouldn't be a feeling of insecurity. There's so much SQL work out there that the A-list SQL celebrities can't do it all themselves!

  • I totally agree that at least a little insecurity is good.

    This might sound ungrateful, but my job is too secure!

    I was recently blocked from taking a secondment I was offered within the company because my moving would cause too much instability for my current department.

    I then instantly became disinterested in my work and it's a real effort to do any form of learning.

    So, short of burning bridges, too much security can halt career progression!

  • I agree with Jim - I have always worked on the basis that I know I don't know everything, and in fact there's usually far more I don't know than I do know.

    The key, I feel, is to accept this state of affairs and use the knowledge you do have to help find the right information when you need it. In terms of career progression, recognising that you will always need to support and collaborate with other people, either within your organisation or nowadays predominantly online via forums such as, is vital and is a strength not a weakness.

    As has been mentioned, current and future software packages are so big and complex, no one person will ever be an expert in all areas. I usually go through all the menu options on a new package, noting new or changed items. At least I then have awareness of them.

  • Whilst I do not believe that a feeling of insecurity is a good thing and can have a negative impact on your performance, I think that a feeling of 'lacking current knowledge' is a good thing and drives you on to improve yourself.

    If you feel insecure at least some of your focus will be on those insecurities. For instance if you feel your job is not secure you will focus (perhaps) on looking at other jobs.

    If you feel that there are folk out there who know more than you or are better DBA's than you then, for me at least, that is the stick for self improvement.

    Don't we always want to be the best? Top dog?

    I know I do!

  • The more I learn, the more I know that I don't know anything.

  • I can't say I have ever felt "insecure" about not knowing everything, simply because I know and accept that it's impossible to know everything! I just take the view that if something comes up in my work that I've not encountered before then I find out about it, whether it be from someone else in my organisation or from the gurus in places like SQL Server Central and other sites like it.

    The other thing is, just as you think you have mastered a technology (or whatever) a new version comes out with lots of new features making use of new technologies. You can never keep on top of it, all you can do is use past experience to get to know what is important to know in your job.

    It's what has kept me in IT for 30 years, that non-stop learning process. Long may my ignorance continue!! 🙂

  • I think that feeling of insecurity is one of the drivers that makes us learn. I think one quickly realises in this profession that it isn't possible to learn it all, but what we are selling to our employers is our knowledge.

    If we want to maintain or increase the value of that offering, we need to keep our knowledge up to date, and add to it as time goes on.

    The way I look at it, you can either remember things, or look them up. The things you do frequently, you remember. The things you do occasionally, you end up looking up, which takes longer.

  • For me I don't think feeling insecure in your abilities or knowledge is ever a good thing, and in this context I'd suggest it's something that doesn't so much diminish with increased knowledge, but with increased experience of the industry. Early on in your career it can be very easy to assume there is no point trying to push for certain positions, since you don't believe your knowledge is even close to what would be required. As you gain experience, especially if you work more as a generalist than a specialist, you start to recognise that's not necessarily the case.

    For me I think the watershed moment was raising an MS support call years ago about a SQL replication issue, assuming I was missing something really simple, after all, what did I know about SQL! Finally got escalated to a 3rd line support person, spent hours on the phone to him, and when we finally found the resolve being told that he'd never seen that before and he'd learnt something new.

    These days I feel secure in my abilities, with a better understanding of my strengths, coupled with the knowledge that there is so much more I can learn. That gives me the desire to keep trying to improve myself. Perhaps if I was in a position where I only worked in SQL then I might feel different, but then in that situation I'd hopefully know a lot more about SQL specifically than I do now!

    I think umailedit's comment sums up career development in computer perfectly though!

  • I agree with adzymcfadzy, as several others have - sometimes a bit of both (motivating sometimes, depressing and frustrating other times). I don't think insecurity in itself is good for a career, but I do think that what a lot of people call insecurity - even with reference to themselves - is really just healthy humility. DBAs, at least as much as other IT workers, can benefit greatly from healthy humility.

    I think I mostly have the healthy humility part mastered, but I have to be honest and say that feeling insecurity or "unhealthy" humility is very easy regarding SQL Server specifically, and databases in general. It's almost as if you can tell that if anyone says databases are easy, they really don't have a healthy respect for just how hard database administration is.

    I constantly wrestle with different ways to increase my SQL Server knowledge, and I rarely feel that I am learning enough, fast enough. And I sympathize greatly with anyone else out there who feels like they are always behind the curve. SQL Server is a gargantuan topic. A lot of days that is also what makes it the most fun in the world. It's like that room in Raiders of the Lost Ark that keeps going, and going, and going. Never boring, that's for sure.

    Thanks for this question, and thanks to everyone out there who is sharing their SQL knowledge in books, blogs, articles, comments, and so on.

    - webrunner

    A SQL query walks into a bar and sees two tables. He walks up to them and asks, "Can I join you?"

  • I freely admit to feeling extreme depression at times because I'm just not as smart as many of the people I know and I've met. It can be daunting just to be around people like Paul Randal or Adam Machanic or Gail Shaw.

    So that insecurity can really grind you down.

    But then I get back to my job and I'm around regular people who don't follow #sqlhelp on twitter and don't participate in the forums here at SSC and don't read blog posts and don't write blog posts and don't try to write articles & books... And I realize, yeah, I'm not that smart, but I can be better informed than my peers. So I keep plugging away, mixed between elation when I get something working and depression when I see that someone else already has it working and it's better than mine.

    "The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood"
    - Theodore Roosevelt

    Author of:
    SQL Server Execution Plans
    SQL Server Query Performance Tuning

  • The part of IT I find most challenging is not learning or understanding the technologies ...

    ... but discovering all the really important things that *aren't* documented

    those are the niggly bits (bugs, undocumented behaviours, mistakes, subtle stuff)

    I call it my "gotcha-base" it is thousands of .TXT files that describe any non-obvious or unexpected behaviour

    An example from the T-SQL world could be that datetime stores the number of 1/300s of a second

    so that {ts'2010-01-01 23:59:59.999'} will round up to {ts'2010-01-02 00:00:00.000'}

  • I don't know that I agree with being insecure, but I know that in spite of the vast amount that I have learned about SQL, I know that there is even more that I don't know about it. Personally, I try to learn at least one new thing a day (not necessarily in SQL, but in something) - if I don't, then I feel that I've wasted a day.

    @Lutz - I agree with your ignorance comment. And, it's good to see someone that can actually use that term properly.

    Microsoft Certified Master: SQL Server 2008
    Author - SQL Server T-SQL Recipes

    If you can't explain to another person how the code that you're copying from the internet works, then DON'T USE IT on a production system! After all, you will be the one supporting it!
    For better assistance in answering your questions
    Performance Problems
    Common date/time routines
    Understanding and Using APPLY Part 1 & Part 2

  • This is a healthy discussion. Warm, fuzzy, but mostly as objective as opinions go. Great stuff though.

    Maybe what is needed is a solution to the problem: There is a considerable number of sources of data we access daily in order to stay informed and useful at our jobs. How to consolidate these various sources of data?

    I don't propose to have an answer, but there is a collective of very smart people right here in sqlservercentral on staff and in this very thread. I say let's use the collective to find solutions FOR the collective.

    Off the top of my head, what is needed is a platform that pulls from Twitter, Facebook, SQLServerCentral, StackOverFlow, etc. something like Ushahidi[/url], but tailored to DBAs/developers. I propose a sort-of data analysis platform for data analysts.

    Ideas please?

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