The SQL Server Community

April 14, 2010 at 8:53 am (PASS, SQLServerPedia Syndication) (, , , , )


I attended, and spoke at, the inaugural meeting of the Seacoast SQL Server User’s group last night. There were about 60 people in attendance. An excellent turn-out and congratulations go out to Mike Walsh (blog | twitter) and the other organizers.

I was curious about something after watching Mike present the PASS monthly slide-deck. He asked how many people were PASS members. Approximately a third of the audience raised their hands. When it was my turn to speak, I asked how many people had heard of Buck Woody (blog | twitter). I was honestly shocked when only about 6 people raised their hands. Then I asked how many had heard of Paul Randal (blog | twitter). This time I had about 9-12 people. Finally, I asked about Brent Ozar (blog | twitter) and only had about 4-6 people raise their hands.

Today I was reading the minutes from the PASS Board meeting from March. Oh, as an aside, well done, thank you, and hearty congratulations to the board for performing this act of openness. In it, they were talking about, what else, the SQL Server Community.

It got me thinking. When I say “community” in referring to the people that use SQL Server, a lot of the times, I’m talking about the vocal and visible people, the PASS board, Brent Ozar, Buck Woody, Paul Randal, Denny Cherry (blog | twitter), I can keep going, all the bloggers I read, all the tweeters/twitterers/whatever that I follow, all the posters at SQL Server Central (especially those on The Thread) and at Ask.SQLServerCentral.com… You get the point. Even with that little list there, I’m leaving out people that I like and admire and learn from. But you know what, most of those people, know who Buck Woody is. Most of those people know who Paul Randal is. Yeah, most of them even know who Brent Ozar is (probably). But, based on my completely un-scientific survey, that’s only about 10-15% of all the SQL Server users out there, at the most 20%.

On the one hand, you can say, “Oh crud. We’re only hitting 10-15% of the users despite busting our behinds writing blog posts, tweeting, answering questions on forums, presenting at user groups, SQL Saturday events, PASS Summits, Connections. I might as well get a case of botulism.” And it could be disheartening. On the other hand, you could say, “Holy crud, we can grow this community three or four times and still not even be hitting half of all the SQL Server users out there. Oh boy, I’m going to blog more, tweet more, write more books…” because our growth potential is HUGE!

So, to the board of PASS I say, again, thanks for posting the minutes, and thank you for your hard work. You guys have fantastic opportunities in front of you. Good luck. To all the bloggers, tweeters, posters, presenters¬†& authors, and my friends that fit many or all those categories, what are you doing right now? We’ve got a market to penetrate. Stop lolly-gagging and get to work.

23 Comments

  1. Jack Corbett said,

    I’ve had a discussion similar to this with Andy and Kendal pretty regularly. The regulars in our user group would know most of those names, but in reality it’s a small group that really takes part in the community.

    My last SQLSaturday talk in Tampa, I asked who attended a user group and out of about 25, it was less than half. How do we get them to a user group? How are they learning?

  2. GratefulDBA said,

    Grant – Enjoyed reading your post first thing this morning. Being a fairly active (and vocal) member of JSSUG here in Jacksonville, I’ve also caught myself wondering just how many of the local SQL professionals truly are getting “touched” by our blogs, tweets, conferences, etc. I think though I may have come to the same conclusions as you…

    I see steadily increasing attendance and participation in JSSUG.

    I see completely “sold out” SQL Saturdays from coast-to-coast.

    Kynd [sic] folks like Brent, Paul, Denny, Jorge, etc have always had a lot of followers on Twitter, but I bet they’re still getting more every day. That tells me we’re reaching more people. Even me with my paltry 214 followers has seen a steady increase in tweeps following the GratefulDBA and perhaps even caring to hear what’s on my mind.

    I cannot speak for any other blog other than my own, but I see increasing hits to my site over time.

    So, I’m gonna have to agree with you, that even though we are connecting with more and more people every day, I think yes, our growth potential is HUGE!

    Have a grateful day…Troy

  3. MeltonDBA said,

    Of those that have followers on twitter and the traffic you see coming to your blogs can you get an idea of the area/region it comes from? I would just be curious if of all the followers and readers each of you have if they are concentrated in a certain region of the world (or US).

    I am happy to say I recognized each of those names and follow them on their blogs. I am on twitter but don’t have the opportunity to get on it much (at least not until I get me an iPhone :).

  4. scarydba said,

    I know there are methods for exploring where your followers come from on Twitter, but I’ve never looked into them myself. For blogs, there are a lot of tools out there. Google’s Feedburner for one is a great way to track who’s visiting your blog and where they’re from. FWIW, my modest little blogging efforts primarily result in visits from the US.

  5. GratefulDBA said,

    My blog is hosted through WordPress just as Grant’s is. I use a pretty nifty little plugin called “MyStat” (http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/mystat/) that does a great job of breaking down site visits by all the usual metrics; country, browser, pages viewed, etc. Check it out if you have a chance.

  6. Brent Ozar said,

    I got a chuckle out of the people raising their hands. I’m still stunned when anybody knows me period. The vast, vast majority of SQL Server people don’t read blogs, use Twitter, etc.

    Out of the MCM candidates in my rotation, only a few knew me, and these were Master-level people. It killed me when they asked, “How do these instructors all know you?” I wanted to yell, “Why the hell don’t they know YOU?!? Get out there and network!”

  7. scarydba said,

    I’m surprised you didn’t yell that. Good gosh, I would have expected the Masters course to practically be a family reunion.

    I’m clearly not the brightest tack in the box, because I’m surprised that more people aren’t using all the tools available to them. Especially when those tools are FREE! Ah well, I’m slow.

  8. Bill Graziano said,

    Great to hear the positive comments about the minutes. One question I’ve always asked people that have never heard of PASS is what they read regularly. Then I can go target them. I’m really amazed at the number of people that attend a training class and read a book or two and stop there. They never venture out into the blogs and web sites.

    Maybe we could have the SQL Server installer automatically sign them up to a few blogs :)

  9. scarydba said,

    Oh crud, one of the bosses, everyone, look busy…

    Hi Bill, thanks for stopping by.

    The minutes were very interesting. They really do provide a sense of what’s going on. That sense was largely missing up to now. I thought about commenting on the content but decided not to since I wasn’t sure I had something constructive to add.

  10. Andy Warren said,

    Nice post Grant. I agree that there’s a lot of people out there we’re not touching…yet!

  11. scarydba said,

    Nuts. Another one of the bosses. Snap to everybody…

    Andy… we sure weren’t expecting you around here.

    Thanks for posting on the minutes. They were a good read. We’ll get the other 80%, or at least a lot of them.

  12. Jorge Segarra said,

    Great post Grant and excellent points! It’s always funny attending a SQLSaturday that is 200-300 people strong and you ask “who knows what PASS is?” and only a handful raise their hands. As social networks become more acceptable in the workplace (i.e. companies actually realize they’re a resource) I think the community will naturally grow. Until then let’s all keep blogging our brains out and make that Boogle index work for its money!

  13. Allen Kinsel said,

    Grant, you nailed it. Im always shocked when I go to a community event thats not pass branded perse at the amount of people who are totally unaware of the community that exists online & off.

    The problem is that many people look at the community like a high schoolesque clicque and feel left out or dont want to try and break the ice and join in. Many ive talked to are simply afraid to join in the conversation for fear of ridicule by those who’ve been doing this longer. Just like in all “groups” we all had to start somewhere and overcoming that fear is a huge part of it.

  14. Kostja said,

    Grant, I think everything you wrote is true in the same way for the .NET Community. At least from what I experience here in Germany both PASS and INETA and also all the (User) Groups themselfs have a huge potential.

    One reason that it’s kind of hard to exploite this potential is, that you have to work on it continuously and that if often has something to do with marketing.

    Good community people don’t necessarily are always good in both of these :-)

    But I agree – let’s see this potential as a chance and let’s exploite it!

  15. scarydba said,

    Whoa! Thanks for stopping by everyone. Excellent points one & all.

  16. Adam Machanic said,

    Nothing against Brent, but he’s not in the same league, fame-wise, as Kimberly, Kalen, etc. I’m not surprised that few people in NH know who he is. It would have been much more interesting had you asked about LOCAL people who are well-known. I’ve been saying this for years and I’ll say it again: Whether or not PASS claims to be it, there is simply no such thing as “the” SQL Server community. There are MANY SQL Server communities, and there is no reason to expect normal people to be able to pay attention to more than one or two of them.

  17. scarydba said,

    Hey Adam,

    That’s a great point. Given the chance to do it again, I would ask about Aaron, Andrew, you, just to see if the distribution changes. I’m guessing however, that it will remain roughly the same. I’m thinking people just aren’t as plugged in as we all think they are.

    I agree with there being multiple communities too. Just online there’s all the different places you can go to talk about SQL Server, MSDN, SQL Server Central, SQL Team, just to reel through the ones at the top of my head. There’s little cross-over between them either. That doesn’t even begin to break down the idea across user groups, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, blah, blah, blah.

    I still see utility in PASS though as a… aggregator maybe a good term, of as many of the communities as it can.

  18. Adam Machanic said,

    PASS certainly has its utility; just pointing out that you (and anyone @PASS) should not be surprised by these kinds of survey results. Makes a lot of sense to me. Every time I speak I ask people how many of them read SQLblog. Get a lot fewer raised hands than I would like, even though our traffic stats tell me that we’re doing quite well. Normal people just don’t have time and energy for all of this stuff. We–the people who ARE actually really plugged in–are not normal. We’re obsessives. Not that there’s anything wrong with that!

  19. Chris Switalski said,

    Excellent blog Grant.

    Its nice to know that people like you and all those you mention are there for people like me. I just wish I new and was more involved in “the SQL Community” many years ago. I attended my first PASS back in November and ever since have really tried to follow and read as much as I can from yourself and all those that you mentioned. However, I have to agree with Allen Kinsel a bit as well; the community is a bit intimidating and I am just amazed with the knowledge “out there”. To be honest I feel a bit stupid or like “if I’m a DBA I should know that already” thus I am hesitant to contribute and or ask questions. Again its nice to know that people like you and the others will not treat people like me as “not worth your time” and do whatever you can to help me advance my knowledge.

    Thanks

    Chris(crswit on Twitter)

    P.S. NIce kilt by the way

  20. scarydba said,

    Nah, don’t hesitate to dive in. With the exception of Adam & Paul and a couple of others, we’re all very human. Heck, I spend most of my time blogging about how I figured out stuff that tens of thousands of others already know. For some reason I still get a few blog hits.

    And you can get a kilt too: http://www.utilikilts.com

  21. Seacoast SQL Server Users Group - April Meeting | SQL Server Blog - StraightPath Solutions said,

    […] Grant Fritchey – Anyone who has seen Grant speak needn’t read further. He was great, as usual. Had the crowd laughing and speaking out loud in unison reiterating earlier points he made. I was approached by people afterwards who were impressed by his style, knowledge and excitement. A sysadmin colleague of mine told me after, “that guy was really excited about the product. I didn’t know a lot of what he was talking about but you could tell he was excited and really likes working with SQL.” The audience picked up that excitement and were glued. […]

  22. Dave Schutz said,

    CBusPASS is hosting SQL Satururday #42 on June 26 and we just had a discussion about our keynote speaker. We have a MS evangalist scheduled to speak about Azure, but one of our members suggested maybe we should talk about PASS instead. This discussion has me thinking maybe he is right. How do we promote our local chapter and PASS to the attendees? We’ll hand out the usual literature and have it on the presentations, but is that enough?
    We do have Brent, Jeremiah Peschka, and Allen White as speakers among others (although no Grant Fritchey), but I don’t think that’s what most are coming for. People are signing up without knowing who the speakers are. Just like I signed up for Summit without knowing who is presenting.
    I think PASS has a great opportunity at Summit to promote itself and the experts but am not sure it does it well.

  23. scarydba said,

    You’ve got Ozar, Jeremiah Peschka & Allen White? What the heck do you need me for?

    If you want to push PASS, then you need to push PASS. Get a couple of people to relate why they think it’s a great organization to belong to (24 Hours of PASS, SQL Server Standard, SQL Saturday, the Summit, virtual Chapters, SQL Server Standard, yes mention that twice). Get someone to promote a great experience they had volunteering, because it’s a volunteer organization.

    Those are my thoughts on the topic.

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