There are so many places to ask a question these days. I get plenty of questions via MSN Msgr and email, and do my best to answer those of course. But there are many others too. I figured I’d list some of the ones that I frequent, and challenge some of the readers here to check some of them out.
The MSDN Forums are terrific. Lots of really good people hang out there, including many Microsoft staff. They’re effectively the new version of the public newsgroups. It’s definitely worth asking (and answering) questions here, and I should probably choose this option more for answering questions myself.
Experts-Exchange is a much-maligned site, largely because to ask questions you need to have points. You can get points through a paid subscription, but you can also get points by answering questions. If you answer just a few questions each month, you can become a recognised Expert on the site, which lets you ask as many questions as you like, and also gives you the option of a “ad-free” environment. Many people still joke about the way that the site reads if you ignore the hyphen, but if you are an expert, this site is definitely worth hanging out on. You can register for free (getting you no points to ask questions until you’ve started answering them) at http://www.experts-exchange.com/registerFree2.jsp, so why not go there and register, so that you can start answering questions. They have a facility so that Designated Experts can get emails for neglected questions, giving you a much better chance of an answer than many other sites around. (Note – if you are a SQL MVP, or a MS employee, and you want to be fast-tracked into receiving the Neglected Questions notices, drop me a line and I’ll see what I can do for you)
Stack Overflow is a current favourite amongst many, because of the number of people that seem to frequent the site. It’s clean (very few adverts hanging around), and people seem to rush to answer questions as soon as possible. From a purely SQL perspective, I find that there is too much weighting on the iterative languages there, so many of the SQL responses seem to be provided by people who aren’t really SQL specialists. But it doesn’t mean that you won’t pick up some good tips there. I got started there by answering a question that has even ended up in the source for the site – which I’m still hoping will reach the magical “100 up-votes”, and I’ve continued to keep my eye out for questions there that need answering.
Server Fault is the system administrator cousin to Stack Overflow. If you have DBA-style questions rather than developer-style, then this site is very useful.
Using the same interface as Stack Overflow and Server Fault, but purely focussed on SQL Server is Ask SCC, run by the guys from sqlservercentral.com. It’s a new players on the scene, but I think will turn into a very useful site. The Stack Overflow engine isn’t bad at all, and the quality of answer at Ask SCC is excellent. I would love to see more people hang out there, as it serves a useful market for SQL specialists. At the moment it doesn’t do much traffic, but many of the people there are good SQL experts, and I’m convinced that you’ll get an excellent answer if you ask a question there. At the moment it doesn’t seem to be collecting poor answers as much as many of the other sites, so the ratio of good answers to poor ones puts you in a good position as an asker. I’ve posted my Ask SCC and Stack Overflow ‘flairs’ here, so that you can compare the two. If the numbers on the Ask SCC one have reached as high as the Stack Overflow one, then you’ll have a good indication that the traffic on Ask SCC has increased nicely.
In many ways, I tend to find that my efforts are focussed more on the questions that aren’t getting answered, rather than trying to catch the newest questions. On many of these sites, I’d rather find the one that the asker has had trouble with, hoping to provide the elusive answer rather than the obvious one. That question that got me started on Stack Overflow was an exception because I didn’t feel like any of the previous answers had really solved the question properly, but on the whole, my approach to Stack Overflow doesn’t really fit with most of the answerers on the site. I like EE because there really seems to be a focus on getting those elusive answers for people, and I know that Microsoft really focuses on getting answered questions sorted on their forums.
My challenge to you is to give back to the community this Christmas. Make it a resolution for 2010 if you will. Why not try to answer a question every week? And better still, make it one that everyone else has had trouble answering. Go to the lists of unanswered questions, and help someone out. Next time it might be you asking, and you’ll hope that someone takes the time to find your elusive question.
Plus, you might learn something!