Blogging is Like Throwing an Open House Party

At this party, I served the world's tiniest deep dish pizza.

At this party, I served the world’s tiniest deep dish pizza.

For the last few years, I’ve blogged much more on BrentOzar.com than I have here. In part, that’s because I’m more comfortable writing technical blog posts. It’s easier than a more personal post for me. “Here is a problem. Here is a solution!” That’s a pretty simple formula.

We get a lot of readers on BrentOzar.com. And I’ve been really lucky: I have great SEO on some posts over there. If you search on “SQL Server Cluster”, “SQL Server Transactional Replication”, or “SQL Server Rebuild Index”, my posts are likely to come up on the front page. (It depends on which search engine you use, of course.)

This means my posts get a lot of visitors. I’m really honored by that. It’s just incredibly cool to get the opportunity to have so many people read your work.

It also means my posts get a fair amount of comments. Some are questions, some are opinions, and some are readers responding to other readers. I try to keep up and answer the comments as best as I can.

The last few years of blogging have given me an interesting perspective on what it’s all like.

Writing a blog post is like planning a big party

Like most technical bloggers, I put a lot of work into my posts. Even short posts usually take me around 90 minutes to write. I’m not a fast writer, and I’m obsessive about details.

The posts I wrote above that are more popular are also longer and took me more time. Each of those posts took me more than six hours to write, proofread, and prepare. Luckily they were each on topics I’m quite comfortable with and often use in my work, so there wasn’t additional research time: when that’s needed it’ll easily triple the amount of time for the post.

Writing a post is a lot like planning a huge party. You think about who’s going to come and how you can provide them with the best experience. You plan what you’re going to provide, make sure everything is laid out properly, clean things up obsessively.

At first, nobody comes to the party

When you first start blogging, or even often when you put a post out on an existing blogs with readers, you don’t always get an immediate huge response. Often, the post goes up and there’s…. silence. Maybe one person stops by and say you helped, and you’re really happy to see that.

But often, especially at first, you wonder, “was this really worth all the effort?”

Sometimes your party guests aren’t perfect

Occasionally your post may get picked up by a popular website, or linked to by influential folks on Twitter. This can be a bit like having EVERYONE come to your house party. People you’ve never heard of. People who may not like the party you planned, and who may not behave well. And some people just aren’t sure HOW to behave.

You’ll get comments on your blog posts from all sorts of visitors. You’ll probably meet all of the following people:

The guest who’s too cool for this party. Whatever you wrote, they just want you to know it was awful. This is the same person who put out cigarette butts on your parent’s couch back in high school.

The person who thought this was a different party. Does this work for Oracle? I heard this was an Oracle party. Let’s talk about Oracle.

The imitation host. This person forgets they were a guest. They subscribe to your post and answer EVERY question or comment immediately and try to run the whole show.

The person who drinks too much. They really like your post, but they’re so excited about the topic that they just get a little toooooo carried away. “I’m going to chain together 12 instances of Express Edition with linked servers and it’s going to be AMAZING!”

That depressed guy. What you wrote sounds cool, but sadly this fellow can never use it. Ever. And he’s really really sad.

The person who didn’t read the invitation. You asked people to bring a beverage to the party, but they showed up empty handed. This is the blog reader who reads the title, but not the post. They just scroll to the bottom and ask their question, which is probably answered in the post’s second paragraph.

The perfect party guest. This is most people! They show up, have great manners, and offer good questions and insightful comments. They play nicely with others. There’s just so many other weird personalities that show up on the internet that it’s easy to forget that these people are really the majority.

You’ve got to accept all your guests (almost)

Some of these guests can be a problem. There’s trolls on the internet, and you don’t have to let someone troll you. If you get abusive and inappropriate comments, use the power of the delete button.

But for everyone else, I train myself to like them, or at least accept them, even if they get on my nerves. They’re taking the time out to interact, and they’re also taking the time to read my post (well, most of them), and that’s very, very cool.

The more parties you throw, the better it gets

If you blog consistently, you’ll get a great base of “perfect readers”. Over the last few years I’ve been working on making my technical blogs pretty consistent on BrentOzar.com. I try to build up a few posts every few weeks and get them scheduled. It’s not easy for me, but I’m happy I do it. I learn from writing, and also from all the great guests who stop by the blog and are kind enough to leave questions and comments.

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What Grown Ups Should Do For the Holidays

When I was a kid, growing up seemed like a drag. The world is wonderful and new for kids, and the holidays are full of magic, presents, and never-ending fun. Grown ups, it seemed, miss out on that.

It turns out that growing up isn’t terrible. It’s not even so bad to have to act like an adult most of the time. These days, the holidays are an incredibly busy time for me: there’s always loads of work, not enough time for shopping, and friends making delicious food somewhere nearby. It’s easy to get swept up in it all and forget about what’s going on, really.

2013 has been a great year, but it’s had a few events that have reminded me about what’s important.

The worst thing about growing up is that you lose people. Life is fragile, and we’re all here for a limited time. We all lose amazing people in our lives, and the longer we live the more loss we see.

Here’s what’s important for grown ups to do on the holidays: tell people that you love them. It’s a time to stop and really enjoy moments with your friends and family. It’s a time to value what you do, and respect yourself and others. You may not have all the magical forgetfulness and wonder that you had as a kid, but telling people that you loved them brings back a little bit of that childlike perfection.

Life is short. We work to make it great.

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How I Got Over Google Reader and Learned to Love Newsblur

Update: I eventually left Newsblur for Feedly. I periodically had issues with missing feeds in Newsblur that I didn’t notice for a while, and Feedly seems more consistent. The UI on my Android phone is also really nice. I am still over Google Reader, though.

I was sad when Google Reader died and went to the Google Graveyard. I was SERIOUSLY sad, that’s not a metaphor. I’d used Reader for years– I have no idea when I started using it. I thought that as long as the Internet existed, Reader would exist.

I read lots of blogs. SQL Server blogs. Paleo blogs. Delicious looking food blogsScalability blogs.

Kendar-Newsblur

This is How I Newsblur

When Reader died, I wasn’t sure what to do.

I Picked Newsblur on a recommendation

I don’t really like to stop for applications. I asked Jeremiah what he was going to use. He said Newsblur. I asked him if it was good for normal people who wanted to see pictures of cupcakes easily, or if I’d have to use a command line to do everything. He said I could see my cupcakes.

Off I went. Months later, I love it.

Newsblur gets better and better

I use Newsblur on my phone and by web browser. It’s easy to read in both places. It gets my posts frequently. It works reliably and well.

And the coolest thing is that Newsblur frequently improves. The fellow who writes Newsblur updates it often. He’s really just a guy out there who started this thing because it was interesting to him. I like it so much that I bought a premium account which does cool things.

And you know what? I don’t mind paying. I love supporting a software developer who makes a really cool app. In fact, I love that a lot more than using a free app from Google that I just took for granted.

Google Reader, I don’t even miss you anymore.

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GUIs Aren’t Just for Newbies

Many people believe that if you’re an experienced developer or DBA, you always use command line or script based tools. That’s how it worked in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, right? So graphical User Interfaces (GUIs) are for beginners– it’s code that the pros use.

I agree, to an extent. Code’s great for creating repeatable change scripts. It’s great for automation. It’s needed for source control (duh).

Script MeBut don’t give up on the GUIs.

GUIs Help You MAKE Scripts

One of my favorite features of SQL Server Management Studio is that it helps you script things out. For most tasks, you can stage them in the GUI, then find a button that allows you to script the task out.

That’s great for helping you check that code in, record it in your change process, all that great stuff.

GUIs Make Some Things Easier

It pays to spend time with a GUI, because there’s all sorts of hidden goodies.

With SQL Server, it’s worth it to keep the latest and greatest installation of SQL Server Management Studio on your desktop machine. You can download it for free. You don’t have to update the version of your production server.

In SQL Server 2012, new GUI features help you do restores of damaged pages much more quickly, and streamline some steps.

Don’t Assume GUIs Are BabyProofed

One of the reasons I like to script out from a GUI is that it doesn’t always do exactly what I think it will. Examining the script it creates may help you notice things that are going wrong. In the worst case, the script will at least leave you a bread crumb trail to work out later what actually happened.

Those new GUI features for restores I mentioned in SQL Server 2012 are a case in point: if you don’t know exactly what you’re doing, you could accidentally take your database offline when trying to restore a copy– or even lose data.

Don’t Judge A User By Their GUI

I work with lots of clients, many of whom have used SQL Server for years. Some like using the GUI more than others.

It turns out, using the GUI for occasional tasks isn’t really an indicator of skill, intelligence, or speed. People who’ve written good automation still sometimes use the GUI to take care of a one time task quickly– and they are even fast at doing it! GUIs really do make some tasks quicker and easier, as long as you know what you’re doing.

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