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.  Lists 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:

Asking a #SQLHelp Question

Asking a #SQLHelp Question

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 if it’s a SQL question.  Tweet the link to your question.
  • Include screenshots if possible.
  • Upload files to 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 Notifications tab (or bell icon) at the top of your Twitter home page.  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:

Public Replies on Twitter

Public Replies on Twitter

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:

Got My #SQLHelp Answer

Got My #SQLHelp Answer

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 – 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.

Thanks again to Aaron Nelson (Blog@SQLVariant) for suggesting this!  I think it’s a great way for the community to get even more involved in real time.

Brent Ozar
I make Microsoft SQL Server faster and more reliable. I love teaching, travel, and laughing.

I’m mostly a figurehead here at Brent Ozar Unlimited. My true skills are menu advice, interpretive dance, and reading Wikipedia.
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  1. I wondered why you guys kept replying in Twitter with .@brento.

    Makes sense now.

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  3. Alright, you got me, I’m finally tweeple now. Or does that make me a twit?

  4. Haha. I like the test case tweets, Brent 😉 Great idea. I’ll enjoy following that hashtag. To be honest, I don’t answer much on serverfault or stackoverflow or even the msdn forums because typically by the time I hit the site there are a lot of answerers already. In twitter even without the hash tag I’ve been able to be a part of a task force helping folks’ problems. Following this tag will make it easier.

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  8. Brent, Thanks a lot. I am still somewhat of a jr. SQL Server DBA and I also do Oracle and Sybase. This will help a lot I think and because of this I finally had to give in and start tweeting.

    Thanks for all your posts they have been a big help to me.

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  20. Brent,

    Perhaps this article should be updated to reflect include in addition to as a place to store questions. Also, I think and pastebin should be mentioned as places to store (broken) example code.

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  27. I still see this post getting passed around quite a bit to explain how #sqlhelp works. I’m feeling too lazy to write an updated version myself, so instead I’m just going to point out a few updates:

    – twitter now allows you to upload photos (and video, and animated GIFs)
    – twitpic is dead
    – there’s a “Notifications” tab (and/or a bell icon, depending on your screen size) at the top of twitter to see replies now (vs “click on the @YourName link on the right side of your Twitter home page”)

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