You’ve stumbled upon this blog, and you’re having a pretty good time. Now you’re wondering, “Where else can I network with database folks, get to know them, and talk shop?” You’re not getting out due to the quarantines, so your local user group isn’t fulfilling your networking cravings. You wanna know what else is going on. I’ve got a ton of good news.
We’re freakin’ everywhere, and it’s all free to join. Here are some of my favorite community gathering spots – but I don’t want you to think I use all of ’em all the time, by any means. Dabble around a little, then pick the ones that works the best for your own style.
SQLCommunity.Slack.com – get your instant free invite, then join channels like #SQLhelp for Q&A, #welcome for general chat. To see the list of popular channels, click the + sign at the top right of the channel list.
Then in the Sort method at the top right, choose most members to least, and that’ll find the lively rooms. I would disable notifications in your Slack client though – people tend to talk a LOT in here.
#SQLhelp, #SQLfamily, and #SQLserver on Twitter – the more you use Twitter, the more you start to follow specific people, have discussions, and build up your own personal network. This is probably my favorite out of the options in this post. In the beginning, before you’ve picked the folks you want to follow, just read posts with the #SQLfamily tag and find folks to follow.
DBA.StackExchange.com – like StackOverflow.com, but for database questions. I’m now up to 3 different ways to ask questions – Slack, Twitter, and DBA.se – but here’s how I think of ’em: Slack & Twitter are best for short, clear questions that are going to require a lot of back-and-forth discussion to get an answer, but you’re pretty sure you’ll get an answer quickly. DBA.se is for questions that will require more detailed documentation, and may also need to stick around on the web for a while in order to get a really good answer. (Questions disappear pretty quickly from Slack and Twitter.) Before you post a DBA.se question, check out Writing the Perfect Question by Jon Skeet. It’s a lot of work, but when you have a complex question, the free consulting help from the community pays off.
Reddit – /r/sqlserver, /r/sql, and /r/database – because these are general subreddits, the discussion isn’t very targeted: you get a wide mix of technical questions, career advice, and just interesting links. If you had to only pick one place to network, this probably wouldn’t be a bad choice because it gets you a wide variety. There are a lot of homework questions posted here, though.
SQLServerCentral.com forums – forums are so 2000, I know, but hear me out: a lot of us in the database industry aren’t exactly spring chickens. If you’re the kind of person who enjoys a good old-school forum, there are hundreds of other folks actively chatting over at SSC. Check the Active Threads and Latest Topics.
Blog comments: I know it’s gonna sound strange, but the best part of some web sites are actually the comments. For example, I read Hacker News and BringATrailer auctions mostly for the insightful (but also crazy) comments. If you read blog posts for the comments, it’s best to read the posts (and the comments) about a week after they originally go live. That way you’re seeing the regular readers’ comments, and the author’s responses, but you aren’t subjected to the crazy Googlers who stumbled in six months later and want to ask totally irrelevant stuff. Here’s how I do it: I share my favorites, all my subscriptions, or OPML file – there are a lot of people publishing a lot of good free content these days. I read hundreds of posts per week to keep up, so if you haven’t got time for the pain, just hit my live favorites or my live bookmarks. But just check into those once per week, and read the comments then.
In summary, the SQL Server community is one of the most active, open, and friendly free communities I’ve ever seen. Folks love sharing their knowledge and meeting new peers. Find the platform that works the best for you, and you can enjoy free networking with your peers all year long.
Just be aware that as you start to do networking, especially in the year 2020, you’re going to encounter a lot of folks who use networking spaces to talk about other stuff, not just SQL Server. People have all kinds of opinions about all kinds of subjects, and thanks to the online disinhibition effect, they sure like to share their opinions publicly. It’s up to you to find the right medium that works best for you. Don’t fall into doomscrolling, spending all your time reading everyone’s every opinion about every news story.
Curate what you see on a daily basis. If someone isn’t bringing you joy, unfollow them. If a social network isn’t making you happy, leave it. Use free networking to help you survive and thrive during these tough times: it can be a force for good and happiness.