You’ve got questions, we’ve got answers.
No, not Radio Shack – Twitter. Right now, no matter when you’re reading this, there are people on Twitter who can answer quick questions for you. Thanks to an excellent idea by Aaron Nelson (Blog – @SQLVariant), it’s even easier now. In this post, I’ll show how to ask questions and how to answer them.
How to Ask #SQLHelp Questions
Sign up for a Twitter account. You don’t have to follow anyone, but if you want to, I’d suggest following my SQL Server Twitter list instead of individual people. I’ve got a post on how to use Twitter lists, but in a nutshell, they let you keep in touch with a lot of people who focus on a particular topic. The cool part is that their tweets don’t clutter up your main Twitter page, which is important because there’s several hundred SQL Server folks on Twitter as of this writing.
When you need help, write a tweet and include #SQLHelp in the tweet, like this:
If your question involves more than 140 characters, you’ve got a few options:
- Post a question to StackOverflow if it’s a programming question, to ServerFault if it’s an infrastructure question, or DBA.StackExchange.com if it’s a SQL question. Tweet the link to your question.
- Upload screenshots to TwitPic. It’s a free service that tweets the images you upload. When you write the description, make sure to include #SQLHelp so that the smart folks see it.
- Upload files to FileDropper.com and tweet the link to the file. Remember that anything you upload is public – don’t upload your databases. It’s a great way to show query execution plans though.
After you click Update to post your question, click on the @YourName link on the right side of your Twitter home page. For me, it says @BrentO, because that’s my Twitter name. This page is your replies page – it shows anyone who’s mentioned your name. Then sit tight – as people reply to you, you’ll see the new tweets on this page.
When you reply back to users, the default Twitter action is to put their @Name at the beginning of the tweet. Edit the tweet first and put a period and a space before their name, like this:
This is because if you just start the tweet with @Mike_Walsh, then the only people who will see it are the folks who follow both you and Mike. If you start the tweet with anything other than an @ sign, then anyone who follows you will see your reply – regardless of whether or not they’re following Mike.
Don’t include the #SQLHelp tag in the reply, either. That just helps keep the #SQLHelp search cleaner.
When you get your final answer, post it a thank-you back to #SQLHelp, like this:
That way people know when your question is answered. If your question hasn’t been answered within an hour, you can repeat it again, but please don’t repeat it in less than an hour.
How to Answer #SQLHelp Questions
Set up a search in your Twitter client for #SQLHelp, or use one of these alternate methods:
As you’re interacting with the questioner, remember that they’re probably new to Twitter, and that you’re probably not the only one working with them. I open up two web pages – Search.Twitter.com with a search for the questioner’s username (so I can see who’s replying to them) and the questioner’s Twitter page (so I can see everything they respond back). That way you can keep duplicate interactions to a minimum.