It’s been a little while since my last update, and there’s plenty of things to cover. Buckle your seat belts…
Blog Syndication News
Not a week goes by that I don’t hear from a blogger thinking about joining us. Our latest additions are Adam Haines and David Dye, as I announced on my blog recently, plus Jonathan Gardner (who I’ll announce shortly.)
We’ve reached a point where we’re turning down more syndication requests than we’re accepting. The chief problem right now is the language barrier: we’re getting a lot of international interest from bloggers who either write in another language, or English isn’t their primary language. As an experiment, I put out a call on Twitter asking if any volunteers would like to help these bloggers with their English, and I got an overwhelmingly positive response. From now on, that’ll be the approach I use. After the blogger has worked with a volunteer editor for a couple of months and has improved their writing, we’ll reconsider them for syndication.
The secondary reason for denial is plagiarism. When a new blogger approaches us, I go back through their history and double-check things like scripts, images, and explanations. We can’t syndicate material with any content copied from somewhere else, and Books Online is no exception. If you need to quote things in order to support your article, you need to properly attribute them with a link back to the source, and you need to make it clear that it’s not your own work. If it’s copyrighted material, you need to get permission from the original author. For more on the topic, check out my Q&A post on plagiarism.
In the coming months, we’ll still continue to see a steady rise in the number of syndicated bloggers because we’re working to bring more and more benefits for both writers and readers. To show you where we’re going, I’m going to start by talking about where the SQL Server community is at right now.
Right Now: Content is Hard to Filter
Some of us are voracious readers, going through hundreds or thousands of blog posts, tweets, and question/answer posts per week. We digest and sort through tons of content, and we try to share the best content with other readers by:
- Doing weekly link posts
- Sharing items in Google Reader
- Saving bookmarks in social networking sites
- Talking about links in Twitter
None of these are really good solutions because they don’t scale well to non-web-savvy users. Typical DBAs love things like email newsletters because the newsletter editors do all the filtering work.
Sites like Digg, DotNetKicks, and Reddit accomplish the filtering part. These sites let users vote on content, and the best content bubbles up to the front pages of these sites. This is better than nothing, because at least now users can go to those sites to see what’s popular right now on a given topic, but it doesn’t work well for users who don’t surf the web often. Those users want an email newsletter with the highest rated blog posts, wiki articles, answers, and so on, all in one place – preferably without tons of spam.
However, even where these sites succeed, they fall down when it comes to people. If the same one person writes three really popular SQL Server clustering articles in a row, these sites don’t really catch on and recognize that the author might be somebody to keep an eye on.
Right Now: Mentors are Hard to Find
One of the challenges with the DBA career is that we often work alone. We get thrown into this job by accident when our SQL Servers need a helping hand or when the only DBA leaves. Suddenly we have all these new responsibilities, nobody to mentor us, and no trusted local advisors we can call for a second opinion.
Several years ago when I was an accidental DBA with no training whatsoever, struggling to wring performance out of our SQL Server, our company decided to call in the best local consultants. We showed them our infrastructure and asked, “How can we make our transaction log backups faster?” They ran Perfmon and their eyes got big. They insisted something must be wrong, because there was no way we could possibly be doing this many transactions per second. After they double-checked their numbers and said they’d never seen a system doing that many transactions per second, my manager and I looked at each other and realized we were screwed.
We wanted more than answers – we wanted people. We wanted to find someone who had similar systems with similar needs, and we wanted to share our experiences with them. We wanted to build a relationship with someone long-term. We knew there had to be people out there like us, but we didn’t want to stumble through forums looking for someone with a particular profile. We didn’t have the time to read hundreds of blog posts to find the right answers or learn the best practices.
What User Profiles Could Look Like
The first site to open my eyes about how profiles might be different was Halopedia. It’s a wiki with a MediaWiki back end, just like SQLServerPedia, and they take user profiles pretty seriously. On this sample user profile, check out the content:
- User score – determined by their contributions to the community
- Recent blog posts
- Recent comments on other content
- Changes they’ve made to the wiki
- Gifts they’ve been given by other users
- Awards they’ve won for their work
Their user profile starts to grow bigger than just who they say they are (A/S/L), and starts to show what they do. Why not take it to the next level – beyond just their wiki and blog activity, why not let them integrate their:
And then let other users rate and comment on all of it, and have those ratings affect the user’s reputation? The more people like my stuff, the more my reputation grows. Suddenly, if I want to search for, say, replication, I can see the users with the highest ratings for that particular keyword, read the highest-rated things they’ve written, and maybe approach them to mentor me or do some consulting to fix problems in my environment?
Where SQLServerPedia is Going in 2010
In 2010, SQLServerPedia is focusing on two things: quality content, and now, and quality people. We want to hook you up with the right readers for your content – no matter where you write it – and promote more interactivity between you and your readers.
At the same time, we’re also focusing on making the experience easier for readers so that they can get the right content for their needs without trying to drink from the firehose of content out there.
I’m excited about what’s coming, and I can’t wait to share it with you early next year. In the meantime, happy holidays!