Another Question Of the Day

Yesterday I submitted a new question of the day based on the best idea generator you can find – something that went wrong at work. It had the added merit of having an error message that didn’t clearly state the problem. Once you have the problem and the answer then it’s just a matter of writing the story, the answers, and the explanation. I say just, because it’s still not easy. For this one I deliberately tried to eliminate all the common debugging steps that I think an average DBA would try. I like having more than one answer that is correct, I think it makes it harder and more interesting (or more aggravating perhaps). I like to put in obvious wrong answers that are obvious if you know the topic – but tempting answers if you don’t! The explanation is the easy part and I’ve started adding an “about the question” section to explain how/why I wrote it and asking for feedback.

The title I submitted was “Access Granted or Not?” if you want to study ahead of time, not sure when it will be published.

Blogging-Write More 3

Blogging isn’t easy. You have to come up with a topic, write about it, and then release it for the world to see. That’s three kinds of pressure. Now most of us don’t have hundreds or thousands of readers, but the pressure is still there, and it can lead to the trap of not writing. Not writing because you don’t have any ideas, not writing because someone has already written about it, not writing because you don’t have time or energy to write it perfectly, maybe even not writing because no one reads the posts or comments on them. Here’s my Zen advice: write more. Write about things that interest you, that you learn about, that you care about. Posts don’t need to be an arbitrary length. Post a sentence, a paragraph, or more – whatever you feel like writing. Blogging is about writing. Just write.

Does writing more make you a better writer? Yes and no. Like most things in life if you do it enough you get past syntax, past the fear of saying “it’s done, you can look at it”. Writing more, especially quickly, isn’t going to magically improve your spelling and grammar. Work on it,or not, as you prefer. Writing more will make you better at taking thoughts from your head and getting them into a shareable format. That has value far beyond blogging. It will change how and when you communicate, especially via email.

How long does it take before it gets easier? It’s not 5 posts, it’s probably not 50. At 50 you’re making progress and somewhere between there and 500 you feel like you can at least write about a topic when needed and you’re a lot – a lot! – better at finding topics.

Want to take a break from writing? Absolutely! Just put a post up that says you’re on break. To me that looks so much better than a blog that is active, then abandoned. Which do you think looks better then the next client/employer happens across it?

I’ve written this in about 5 minutes and it probably shows. I’ve got an hours worth of thoughts on this, but I don’t know when I’ll find that hour, so I’d rather put this out now and maybe, just maybe, spur someone to start, or resume, writing.

Notes From The April 2014 oPASS Meeting

  • Same room but different seating arrangement. Instead of separate table pushed some together, used the space better and more a feeling of being in a meeting and less of “islands”
  • My first presentation on learning went well for a first time out. Hard to tell if it hit home or not.
  • Second presentation on credit cards went well, audience seemed engaged, though I managed to not explain what PCI the acronym meant – ouch. Easy to get immersed and speak in acronyms
  • Maybe more sensitive to it since I was speaking, but saw more new faces than usual, all drawn to learn about credit cards. Now if we can just get them to come back!

Farewell Brook Ranne 3

For members of the SQL community in Orlando and Chicago you’ve probably heard that Brook Ranne died on March 29, 2014. Brook was part of our group here in Orlando, someone growing into SQL Server and always ready to volunteer, especially at SQLSaturday Orlando and Tampa where she was almost always managing the check-ins. She moved to Chicago and started participating there too. I was surprised when I got a call from PASS about it and we started working to make sure everyone local knew (and kudos to PASS for making that effort).

Once you have the news, then what? I knew Brook at the meetings, but I didn’t know her family, and beyond the shock of losing someone from the group, what do you do? I think Pam Shaw created this simple memorial site and I think there was a meet up in Chicago for people to spend time with her husband. Maybe PASS sent flowers or a donation. It feels like… not enough. My condolences to her family – I wish there was more.

I hesitate to write the rest because it’s not about Brook, but it feels like the place to think on it.

Just over a year ago I wrote We Need A Place for SQLFamily News because of the death of the spouse of a long time oPASS member. We need that. As the years go surely many of us will move on from SQL Server to management and other pursuits, but I suspect many will stay with SQL until they retire, or sadly, die. Even if I move away from SQL at some point there are people that are community friends – people I’ve talked to, had dinner with, but that I don’t regularly correspond with, and it would be nice to know when things like that happen. As far as I know PASS doesn’t budget for sending flowers or anything along those lines, nor do we at oPASS or MagicPASS. I’d like to see that change (though I know it usually gets done, budget or no).

Writing a Question Of The Day–More Notes

Today I wrote another question based on an error message. I included the error message in the question this time and it’s reasonably helpful, but the question text will, depending on how you read it, point you to the one good answer or convince you the answer must be somewhere else. I’m guessing it will turn out to be an easy question because the wrong answers seem like wrong answers if you understand how SQL works. If you don’t, then you will probably get led astray and learn something. I also included more in the answer about how I thought of the question, in part to help them map a question to the real world and in part to see if my giving those kinds of examples I can get them to think “I get error messages all the time, I could write one of these questions”.

It’s Not All About The Keys–Question Of The Day

My latest question is live today, called It’s Not All About The Keys. It’s a three pointer, if score matters to you, and that also indicates it’s not an easy or obvious question. I think it’s an ok question. Re-reading it today and reading the comments I still find it really hard to put in some “confusors” without totally muddying the water. Close to a 50% success rate, which seems good. Hope you’ll give it a try and post a comment about it.

Simple And Amusing Question Of The Day

I was working on a script today to check the range of some values and trying to take the time to handle edge cases, even though I don’t expect them (edge cases!) and ran across something I knew but hadn’t thought about. Good fodder for a question, but not a complicated question, at least if it’s asked clearly enough and I wanted to try a simple, one point question. That mean a fun title (that might even be a hint), all the obvious possibilities for answers plus a couple more just in case. Dress is up with a movie reference (you’ll have to wait) and a song reference in the answer that will stick in your head and it is (or should be) a fun question. Even a fun question can teach something though, and this question is designed to get you to ask why, to think about why something is the way it is. It’s trivia, but useful trivia. I’m writing it expecting close to 100% of people get it right. I’m also deliberately mixing it up, I’ve posted some hard questions and for anyone seeing my name, they may be looking for more to the question than there is!

Questions are half the value – a good explanation is the rest. For this one a single link proves the answer and I didn’t explain the wrong answers. In part because I think it’s obvious, in part to see if anyone misses that detail enough to mention it. If anything I’m expecting complaints for making it too easy. We’ll see.

Not scheduled yet, will probably show up at in a few weeks.