Picture Steve Ballmer doing his “Developers” moment of keynote insanity. (yes the link is to a google property.. Don’t ask me what hardware I’m writing this post on… but the software is Windows at least).

Replace it with Community. That’s what makes SQL Server different than a lot of other technology areas. I was selected to blog for the keynotes at the SQL PASS Summit this week but I had to present, my mind was in a few other places and the keynotes are being streamed live so I am not going to recap every little thing that happened today. Instead – I am going to share the first thing that struck me and how it always strikes me throughout everything that goes into and I see at the PASS Summit.

Community, Community, Community

That is what I wrote in Evernote when listening to PASS President, Rushabh Mehta give the opening keynote presentation on Tuesday morning (well opening after a Tina Turner impersonator told us we were Simply the Best). Everything PASS does, is and strives to be is around making and growing a SQL Server community globally.

You can see this in some of the goals for the organization to be realized by 2015 –> 1 Million hours of technical learning available to members; 250,000 members and 5 global regions actively supporting the SQL Server community for no other purpose than to serve the SQL Server community.

This year we had somewhere around 3,000 attendees from 48 countries. The keynote presentation is being streamed online to 49 countries to an audience of 4500 people. We have 191 Speakers (44 of whom were MVPs), 111 300-500 level technical presentations, 18 deep dive pre-cons and 168 total sessions.

The Microsoft stuff was interesting and neat – Some stuff that looks like it can be used to help better solve problems customers face. Some stuff that looks like it has potential promise to help people be more proactive with their environments eventually and new features. You’ll hear more about that from other bloggers and from Microsoft marketing soon enough.

I want to get back to

The Community

Rushabh told us today that we are simply the best because we give back. Because we let Microsoft hear our thoughts on this product we all make a living on, because we speak and blog and share. The more I think about it, the more I think Rushabh is correct – We are simply the best.

I don’t know if other technology communities have this atmosphere and I don’t even know if we do a good enough job letting everyone in our SQL Server community in on the secret but it is getting much better this year at this Summit and the influencers in our SQL communities all seem intent on making that so, so I know it will happen. I don’t even know if this kind of relationship exists within companies or large social networks in other areas of our life. What do I mean? Well here are just a few ways that I repeatedly see and hear about how we really are simply the best at being a community:

  • We all grow or no one grows – No one hoards information. Nearly everyone is willing to share information and is eager to do so. People speak and blog and tweet primarily because we want to see other people learn! I was due to speak today as an alternate (more on that in another post 🙂 ) and I heard from a few speakers advice like “if at least one person learns something they can use, you’ve done your job.”
  • We all give back – Look around. So many people volunteer in some way, so many people were reaching out at breakfast tables making introductions. I didn’t see a lot of strangers when I walked around. Everyone seemed engaged with someone else. We all help out where and when we can.
  • Our differences make us stronger – Our chosen path in life, our faith system, our political affiliations, etc. don’t seem to matter and don’t seem to divide us. Look around at various forums or even large twitter discussions that have happened when discussing/debating potentially volatile issues like gender roles, politics or faith. Instead of arguments, name calling and hurt feelings, everyone ends up respecting each other as people who share a common bond and friendship through it all. You can’t even get that in a small circle of friends sometimes!
  • We cheer each others successes – People who otherwise would be strangers but I sat next to, talked to once, “met” on twitter, etc. were encouraging me when I was going to speak today. I see it happen all the time. By and large, we seem to really enjoy lifting members of our communities up.
  • We genuinely care – I can’t tell you how many people I have seen have something bad happen to them and the reaction this community gives is outstanding. Cancer, deaths in family, struggles at home, employment situations (See Project Phoenix), anything bad, any struggle. I see it all the time on twitter and I’ve seen it first hand at various events this week – People genuinely asking, “how are you? what can I do for you? Are you really alright?” and then caring enough to really listen, absorb and be there for one another. I just don’t get why that works so well here.

I could keep going on. It is late, I just go back from hanging out with folks from this SQL Community and I need to sleep to be up early. I wanted to finish with a couple questions though –

“Why?”

I don’t get it. I don’t think I am just seeing it because of the couple of circles that I happen to intersect with, plenty of others that I just recently met commented on it also. Why does, what I call the SQL Community, seem to exist to lift each other up, teach, share and grow together? Why don’t we hoard information so we can be the one with all the clients but instead we even refer business to each other? Who or what is it that makes us like this?

“Is it not just us?”

Does this cohesion exist in other technology areas out there? I don’t see it but I am more a SQL Server person than any other technology out there.

“Is it just me?”

Am I crazy and just seeing what I want to see because I spend too much time tweeting to random strangers and just see this in that large handful of people? I don’t think so but want a sanity check.

“How do we spread it?”

I don’t know if there needs to be “One” SQL Server community when you think in terms of people networks. I think there are several and then several communities within the community. But when you think in terms of all PASS membership (again, not even close to the entire population of people using SQL Server) or in terms of all people using SQL Server, how do we spread this attitude and knowledge to them? I think the Orientation Committee idea Tom LaRock had this year is a great start, I think the social events like Birds of a Feather and ideas like the “First Timer” ribbon are a great start to rolling this community out to those attending the Summit. How do we reach beyond it?

(I lied.. One more thought popped into my head as I am trying to submit this) –

This is one of the biggest benefits of the PASS Summit –

My employer or wife might kill me for saying this but interacting with the community, meeting people and growing with others and helping others grow is the best part of this week to me. The sessions are great but I can watch the DVDs when I am not so tired. Having a time to give advice and get advice (do a lot more of the latter!) from people I look up to or want to get to know is incredibly valuable. To my career, I think it is more valuable than going to a bunch of sessions. Getting to talk to someone who has done what I want to do or think I want to do is worth the price of admission. Talking to an experienced consultant give advice as I go off on a consulting venture (with honest and open advice that will help me succeed, even in the same space they are already in! – see above – ) is priceless. Building a network of contacts with various skills (both SQL related and not) is so important. Getting to be who I am and be open with what I believe even to folks who don’t agree with me but respect my right to be who I am and still help each other out is something worth the price of admission.

Finally… (For real this time) My last question to you is – Why haven’t you come to one of these PASS Summits, to a SQL Saturday in your own area or even to a Local User Group? There is a group of people out there who want to take personal time and energy to invest in your growth waiting to meet you. Don’t miss that appointment.

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