So – as I write this, it’s the Monday evening after Summit…
Emotions are still fresh, but my mind still trying to double-clutch its way back to thinking about how to apply all the things I’ve learned and I’ve been struggling to find words to answer the question asked for this one, but I think it was narrowed down to one tweet that we’ll get to in a moment.
Like many of you, while I work around a lot of people, and work with people, most of the work I do is fairly solitary. I don’t often get a chance to learn with or just relax and chat with folks outside of work who are fighting the same battles, have similar goals, and are struggling with similar issues.
I’d been working quite a few overtime hours, plus getting ready for my first presentation in a long time for SQLSaturday 337, so I was a little frazzled coming into Summit14, and was, frankly, looking forward to what I’ve taken to calling “Summer camp for Geeks”.
Take the best thing you can remember from any summer camp you’ve ever been to. (For me, regardless of the camp, it’s the camaraderie – so let’s go with that).
Take that camaraderie – and add to it the concept of a support group. Oh, for those who haven’t been part of a support group, let’s just go to our old friend Wikipedia, which states, in part:
In a support group, members provide each other with various types of help, usually nonprofessional and nonmaterial, for a particular shared, usually burdensome, characteristic. Members with the same issues can come together for sharing coping strategies, to feel more empowered and for a sense of community. The help may take the form of providing and evaluating relevant information, relating personal experiences, listening to and accepting others’ experiences, providing sympathetic understanding and establishing social networks.
Wait – let’s look at those last two sentences again one at a time…
“Members with the same issues can come together for sharing coping strategies, to feel more empowered and for a sense of community.”
Uh – yeah – there’s 5,000 of us from all over the planet, most of us working in pretty solitary kinds of positions, where it’s often hard to talk about the issues we’re facing, often because we’re the only ones in the company facing them. Interestingly, we’re often introverts, which means at some level, we’re okay with the whole “working by ourselves” thing. But it is nice to know you’re not the only one out there trying to invent this particular wheel, or shove this particular boulder up a hill… Again… (see Sisyphus). That brings us to the second of the two sentences:
“The help may take the form of providing and evaluating relevant information, relating personal experiences, listening to and accepting others’ experiences, providing sympathetic understanding and establishing social networks.”
Just read that again… I know, it’s likely the third time… Right – then look at the picture of the community zone below from the tweet by Neil Hambly (B|T)
I was just stunned at the simplicity of Neil’s comment, “This what #sqlhelp is like in the flesh Many folks just in the community zone waiting to help others”
Just from this shot, I see Kevin Kline (B|T) chatting with someone on the floor on the left. Wendy Pastrick (B|T) is chatting with someone about dead center. I think that might be Grant Fritchey (B|T) there in one of the blue shirts in the background. I know for sure there was at least one SQUEEEE! (B|T) there. 😉
I know there are other folks I didn’t get a chance to meet or can’t recognize in this shot – but I was in the same spot that Neil was when he took that picture and saw the same thing.
And heard the same thing.
And it was people simply wanting to help others who were going down the same path. People would come to that blue carpet and be welcomed in. They’d reach out for help, and there was someone in there, reaching back. Understand, there were folks just starting their careers in there mixed right in with folks who were pillars of the SQL community, there were beginners, MVP’s, and MCM’s, and all were reaching out to each other to help.
That help took all forms. Sometimes, someone just needed to talk something out. Other times, it was a deep conversation. Often there was laughter, and what became known as #sqlhugs as those of us who’d emailed or tweeted with others for years finally got to meet them face to face. In the shot, you see people talking with each other, you see people on their laptops while on support calls during the conference itself (it was obvious on some, you could hear one side of the conversation, “…Okay, now click ‘next’…”)
And for some, just like Neil said, it was #sqlhelp in the flesh.
If you’re not familiar with the #sqlhelp hashtag – click on that one on the left there – it’ll take you to the post Brent Ozar (B|T) put out on his blog to explain how it works, with the opening line: “You’ve got questions, we’ve got answers.”
And at summit – sqlhelp wasn’t just something we typed.
We got to see some of the people behind it (that’s be all of us)
We got to meet them.
And we got to experience that camaraderie of summer camp and the warm embrace of a support group.
We got to hear the laughter behind an LOL as someone got a joke, or got to actually see, talk to, and listen to the folks behind it.
And over time, what became clear to me is that while I’ve used #sqlhelp in the past and monitor it in the present, #sqlhelp isn’t just some search engine that spits out answers like ones and zeroes. . It’s real people, with real experience (and real questions), again, some just starting out, some, like I said, pillars of the community, but who all take or make the time to get an answer for you, and then, often, check back with you to make sure you got it.
#sqlhelp is folks who care, folks who’ve reached forward to others in their careers and are now reaching back to help those who need it.
That’s one thing I learned at Summit this year. Not just in my head, but in my heart.
And in case no one’s said it out loud, it’s appreciated.