Being a Good #SQLHelp(er)

If you are active on Twitter, you may have found your way to the SQLHelp hash tag and seen the high level of interaction. SQLHelp has become a popular method of getting quick answers to SQL questions. The community has really rallied around this resource and made it a top medium for get technical assistance and advice. Everyone who answers questions on SQLHelp is doing so voluntarily, and it really relies on people providing what time they can.

Like any good resource, SQLHelp is only as good as the people providing assistance there. There is always room for more people to help out as they can. We always need more SQLHelpers, and here are some resources to help make you a productive and helpful SQLHelper.

Some Problems too Complex for 140 Characters

Some questions may take a lot of space to explain the intricacies of the problem or may require a lot of space to explain a solution. There are many forums around to which you can take a question and discuss further while still keeping SQLHelp in the loop. Politely ask someone to visit one of the forums you prefer and post the details there and then reply back to the Twitter thread with the link to the question.

This gives you both plenty of room to make any explanations needed but also keeps it open to others on SQLHelp to lend their expertise as well. Stack Overflow, the SQL Server Central forums, and are some popular examples of forums that SQLHelpers recommend. If you have some other favorite forums to use, please let us know in the comments.

Sharing Plans

We get a lot of performance related questions on SQLHelp and often you will need to see the query plan(s) involved to be able to diagnose the posters’ questions. SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS) supports exporting the query plans to a file that can be attached to the posts in almost any forum. Some forums have limitations on the types of files that can be uploaded and they may need to zip file before attaching it.

Some users may not want or may not be allowed to share query plans as they contain database object names. SQLSentry added the ability to upload plans that have had potentially sensitive information obfuscated and uploaded to their Answers forum on directly from their Plan Explorer Pro tool. You can read more about this tool in this blog post by Aaron Bertrand: A new Q & A site, with plan uploads directly from Plan Explorer!.

Sharing Code

Some questions on SQLHelp can only be answered with code samples or solutions. Barring the most basic SELECT query, very few code samples are going to fit within the 140 character limit. Remember that the 140 includes the space for the original poster’s Twitter alias and the SQLHelp hash tag. The space disappears a lot quicker than you might think.

Some situations may call posting an actual blog post with the code to answer a question, but sometimes you just want to post some code and move on to the next thing. This is where the site PasteBin comes to the rescue. PasteBin gives you a medium to post code that has syntax highlighting by code type and provides a static URL for the paste so you can share it with others. You can also sign up for a free account with your Twitter handle or post as a guest. The free account option is great for those times where someone asks a question that you answered previously. It is easy to find previous pastes to share them again.

Welcome Aboard Fellow SQLHelper

Most of what you need to be a good SQLHelper will be provided by whatever Twitter client you prefer and your own desire to help others. The resources listed here will help you in those situations where you need a little extra help outside of Twitter.  I hope you’re feeling enabled because we need your help over on SQLHelp right away. I look forward to seeing you there.

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