In my previous column, I discussed research and mentioned that it's an obvious but often-overlooked way to find answers to many of your questions. This week, I want to talk about where you can start your research.
Many users post questions in public Help forums that they could easily have answered by reading online documentation or by trying out different scenarios for themselves. For example, questions frequently appear in the SQL Server public forums about capacity, such as, "How many tables can one database contain?" or, "What's the maximum size of a row in SQL Server?" The SQL Server online documentation contains a concise page called "Maximum Capacity Specifications" that answers such questions, and a quick search of the documentation usually returns this page. Another example is a question such as, "If I granted a user permission to SELECT data from a table, but also denied him or her permission to SELECT from the same table, what permission would the user end up with?" The easiest way to answer this question is to create the situation on your own system and observe the results.
Why Not Research?
Why do people pose such questions? I can think of a couple of reasons:
- People don't realize what resources are available, or the resources aren't easily accessible.
- People think that it takes too long to research the answer on their own, or they think that it's faster to find someone who already knows the answer.
I really can't argue with these reasons, but when people ask me these types of questions, I usually point them to the appropriate resources. Why? Because if you find out about available resources now, you might turn to them when other questions arise. Also, research has many far-reaching benefits beyond giving you the immediate answer you're after. While researching, you might uncover related topics, raise other questions, and polish important skills you need for working with the technology. If you truly want to become adept at using a particular technology, you must get your hands dirty.
Where Are the Answers?
Where else can you look for answers? If, after consulting the product documentation and trying to create scenarios for yourself, you still have questions, you should certainly consider the public Help forums as a resource. The people you encounter there, both moderators and participants, really do want to help you. You can also try magazines such as SQL Server Magazine and Windows 2000 Magazine, which have extensive Web sites that include article archives, discussion forums, and an FAQ site. Microsoft has a Web site devoted to support, as well as its TechNet site and the Microsoft Developer Network.
If you have other suggestions for how users, whether newbie or almost-guru, can find answers to their technology questions, let me know by posting your suggestions as a Reader Comment.