Good information is easy to find
September 24, 2009 10 Comments
Serious technologist and part-time enthusiasts alike know that the Internet is awash in information. Much of the information is good. Some of it is, well, not so good. And unfortunately, some of it is just plain wrong. It can misleading at best and downright damaging at an extreme. Applying what you learn on the Internet is Caveat Emptor or “Let the buyer beware”.
So how can you separate the wheat from the chaff? How can you easily find the rose among thorns? To answer that, let’s consider the medium or form of the information provided.
Newsgroups and forums
When looking for a solution to a specific question or problem they are experiencing, one of the first places many people turn is the newsgroups and forums.
Google Groups is a great place to start if you’re unfamiliar with newsgroups. You can think of newsgroups as the billboards of the information super hi-way. They are messages that anyone can read. Google Groups provides a good, web-based front end on the the NNTP service that makes it easy to search through all of the posts.
There are other sources, too. Microsoft maintains some news servers that host newsgroups for many of their products, including SQL Server.
One thing that attracts many people to the newsgroups is that they can use their preferred newsreader to browse the newsgroups and manage their posts. You don’t have to use the web front end.
The challenge that most people face when using newsgroups is easily identifying the sound advice from the rest of the noise. Newsgroups are not regulated or monitored, and that can be a good thing. It allows everyone to contribute freely. But it also means that anyone, yes anyone, can say pretty much anything on newsgroup with little ramifications. This can lead to some unusual and potentially unsound advice.
That’s not to say that newsgroups are a free for all. No, there are really dedicated folks, many are MVPs, who constantly peruse and police the newsgroups. They offer good advice and call out those who are misguided in their input. But this is an informal system at best.
Forums are very similar to newsgroups in many aspects – people post questions and other people respond with advice or solutions. Forums typically only have a web front-end and are specific to a particular company or organization. There are lots of good SQL Server related forums that you can frequent for information.
SQLServerCentral.com, SQLTeam.com, the MSDN Forums are all great places to look for information. Most forums have official moderators that monitor the discussions; they ensure that bad advice is not being proffered and to keep the posts on topic.
StockOverflow.com and ServerFault.com have taken the forums concept to a new and different level. Questions and responses are monitored not just by a few moderators but essentially by the community at large. You can vote up or down responses to a particular question to indicate those that you find most and least valuable. This allows the community to, and trusts that the community will, elevate the helpful replies while allowing the rest to fade away.
Blogs & Web Sites
Blogs and other web sites can also be a great source of information. Most every morning, I have a list of blogs that I read using a RSS (Really Simple Syndication) reader. My reader of choice is Google Reader, but there are lots from which to choose.
Once again, you should be careful and confirm whatever you read on a blog posting before running off and implementing it on your server. Anyone can create a blog and claim to be an industry expert. So it helps to find a few names that you trust and start with them.
SQLBlog.com is a great place to look for SQL Server related blog content. To blog there is by invitation only and most of the bloggers are SQL Server MVPs so you can pretty sure that you’ll receive sound advice. The Technet blogs are also a great reservoir of technical knowledge, as is SQLServerPedia.com.
Find a who’s who
Still not sure where to start? Well, there are some really dedicated folks out there who create a sort of a Who’s Who for bloggers. Thomas LaRock is one of the most well known in the SQL Server realm. He regularly updates his rankings list of best SQL Bloggers. As a matter of fact, my blog made his most recent list. It was promoted to msdb status.
This list is by no means to be considered exhaustive. As a matter of fact, as soon as it is published it’ll likely be dated. So if you know of any resources or links that I’ve missed, please feel free to share them in the comments section.
Update: Shortly after I published this blog posting, I was reminded of another resource that’s definitely worth mentioning – SSWUG. The SQL Server Worldwide User Group provides articles, forums, & scripts to its members. It also combs the internet to aggregate articles from other sources to present them in one consolidated location. Another interesting concept from SSWUG is its virtual conference with some of the biggest names in the industry presenting sessions online.