Friday, June 19, 2009

The Lowest Bar

In my Modern Resume presentation, I tried to structure it to go from easy to hard things to do in terms of branding yourself. So the order has been:

  • Profiles (social networking)
  • Blogging
  • Authoring
  • Speaking
  • Volunteering
  • Leadership
  • Research

Actually I added research later, so that is at the end when it really is the easiest (I think) for people to do. Or maybe not. It requires some confidence in yourself to admit mistakes and ignorance, so maybe it’s not easy.

At a recent presentation I was discussing this with Andy Warren and he disagreed. He said blogging was hard for most people, that they can’t maintain it and my bias as a writer has me spending too much time on it.

I think I agree after some thought on the matter. Writing is hard for many people, and even though they recognize that it’s a skill they need to IT (writing, communicating), most people won’t do it any more than they have to.

So what is the correct order? How should I focus on them in my presentation? I think for the average guy/gal, the easiest things are likely :

  • Profiles (social networking)
  • Research
  • Volunteering
  • Leadership
  • Blogging
  • Authoring
  • Speaking

    I’ll play with the order, but I am interested to see what others think. My view is that speaking and authoring, trying to put out a message, is still hard, but volunteering your time and knowledge, either in IT or outside, is probably easier than blogging. Even leadership, being a team lead or project lead, is probably easier for most IT people.

  • Tuesday, June 16, 2009

    Am I a bad employee if I don't blog?


    Blogging is not for everyone and you don't want to give the impression you are something you are not doing something right if you don't blog. Not everyone is a writer, not everyone likes putting their thoughts down, and not everyone is brave enough to publish out on the Internet.

    It takes a thick skin, and even after doing this for years, I still get attacked regularly, and I don't always take it well. I'll admit it gets to me. Luckily I have a good support system with my wife and friends that can pick me up when I've had a particularly nasty comment.

    I do a presentation on The Modern Resume, telling people how to big a more noticeable presence in the world, making yourself stand out more. I think blogging is the easy way to do this, but there are others:

    • Volunteer your time - Answer questions online, help out a non-profit group, or something like this.
    • Lead or manage - at your company, mentor someone, work with a church or other community group
    • Do your own research - Learn how to do something, and then show your boss or a prospective employer.

    I don't think you can get away from writing completely since you'll need to document and explain things you've done. However it can be as simple as notes you've made to yourself and a few lines on your resume or CV.

    Writing is a skill, however, and I'd encourage you to develop it. If you don't want to blog, it still makes sense to pay attention to how you communicate in email, in reports, and in documentation. Learn to do it better and your career will benefit.

    Monday, June 15, 2009

    Pensacola Results

    A week ago I spoke at the Pensacola SQLSaturday event to about 30 people. A few drifted in late, so I’m not sure of the totals, but I did get these metrics from the surveys, when I had 24 people in the room:

    Social Networking

    • Facebook – 18, or about 75%
    • LinkedIn – 12, or about 50%
    • MySpace – 2, or a little less than 10%, but one said he didn’t ever use it.
    • Plaxo – 6, or about 25%
    • Twitter – 2

    This is a little better than I’ve seen in the past in Denver, so it’s good that there are more people putting a profile of some sort out there.


    3 people had technical blogs, so only about 10%, which is on track. Almost 80%, or about 22 people, read blogs regularly.


    The author poll, once again very few people recognized authors from their pictures, despite knowing the names. That's good news if you want to raise your profile, but keep a good portion of your privacy.

    Thursday, June 11, 2009

    Writing Technical Articles - Finding Ideas

    This is part two of a series on writing a technical article. The advice might apply to non-technical articles, but I’m focusing specifically with my examples on technical pieces. Other parts are listed at the end of this article.

    I've been asked often about where I get ideas from. The answer, for me, is everywhere. Every conversation, email, article, almost everything that happens in my life triggers thoughts and ideas, and as a writer, I tend to think about how I would write about things.

    That took years of practice, and constant writing to develop that skill, but I've heard similar things from people that don't write daily like I do. However I do have a few ideas and thoughts.

    First, anything that you do in your job can be an article. Any problem you solve, any solution you implement, they can be an article. No matter what you're working on, I can likely find a way to write it into a technical article.

    Second, remember that you are teaching someone about the technology. You want to consider how you would mentor someone else about this technique. If it's anything non-trivial for a layman in your area, it can be written about.

    I tend to focus more on beginner articles, and I think that's a good place for new writers to consider. Different publishers will be looking for different levels of content at any time, and they'll often let you know if your article doesn't meet their needs.

    As an example, here are a few things that I've seen happen in my environments and then written about:

    • Exceeding the size of a INT in an identity column from over 4B inserts.
    • Moving tempdb
    • Template use in Query Analyzer
    • Routing issues when multi-homing a SQL Server
    • Designing a simple database for a specific type of content.

    Some of these are beginner, some of them are more experienced, but the topic doesn't matter. Different publishers will have different criteria for what they will publish.  They will let you know, and you can work on your article based on where you will publish. SQLServerCentral will publish almost anything while MSDN will be very choosy about which topics they release.

    Any problem that you have solved is likely something that plenty of other people have not. And the longer you worked on it, the less information you found on it, the more likely it's a good candidate.

    The one thing I caution people against is writing general overviews. Too many people write these, and they often don't add information or knowledge to the world. We each have our own voice, but overviews are so generic that you likely won't reach different people with yours. Instead focus on a specific area and give details. Your readership will appreciate it.

    Writing a Technical Article Series

    The rest of the series on how to write a technical article.