Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Is SQL Anywhere Cool?

It's not that hard to get into the ServerFault beta...

[ "How hard can it be, they let you in?" says DoppelGanger ]
...all you need is 100 reputation points in StackOverflow and then follow the instructions on this page.
[ "And it's really easy to get 100 points on StackOverflow, isn't it?" ]
OK, here's why I think ServerFault's gonna be a huge success, just like StackOverflow: it's already got useful content. In fact, it's got the answer to the first question I wanted to ask.
[ "It's better than that, isn't it? It already had the first answer you were going to post, didn't it?" ]
Yes, that's right... I had a question, and I didn't look it up on ServerFault, I thought I would find the answer elsewhere first and post both question and answer, as my first working experience with ServerFault.

So I went and wasted a bunch of time, finally found the poorly indexed Microsoft KB page (it didn't include the message text I was getting), applied the fix, then went over to ServerFault to post the answer... and this is what I saw as soon as I started the "Ask a question" dialog:

My question was "How do I fix "MMC could not create the snap-in" in Windows?", and when ServerFault popped the list of "Related Questions" the very first one was an exact match: "MMC could not create the snap-in".

And yes, the answer was exactly the same as the one I was going to post. I'm guessing it didn't show up earlier in my Google searches because StackOverflow's still in beta.

When I wrote StackOverflow and ServerFault Are The Future I wondered if a site devoted to "people who manage or maintain computers in a professional capacity" would be suitable for asking questions about database servers. The answer is yes, ServerFault already has 34 questions tagged "sqlserver" and 15 tagged "mysql" in the first week of beta.

That means if your SQL Anywhere question is about writing application code that talks to the server, or writing SQL code that runs on the server, then StackOverflow is the place to be, but if you question is about, say, setting up a High Availability configuration, or backing up your 100GB database, then ServerFault is the place.

The question now is, "Will anyone go there, to ask and answer questions about SQL Anywhere?"

More specifically, "Will iAnywhere Solutions staff go there?" ...the vast majority of questions on the NNTP newsgroups are answered by iAnywhere tech support, professional services and engineering folks. Without them, asking a SQL Anywhere question on StackOverflow and ServerFault will be like asking a COBOL question... an experience in loneliness.

Maybe THAT'S the question: "Is SQL Anywhere cool? Or is it COBOL?"


tom s. said...

Sounds like a challenge. Good thoughts.

Chris K. said...

Suppose for a moment that iAnywhere Solutions started directing their customers to ask questions on SO/SF, and then directed their staff to answer questions on SO/SF. What would their customers think if they were treated as rudely as your first experience? ( )

Breck Carter said...

The rudeness is an acknowledged problem, not just by me, but by the StackOverflow powers-that-by. The real questions are, "Can it dealt with, or is it a showstopper?"

Initially, I thought it was a showstopper, but I have changed my mind.

For what it's worth, the rudeness I experienced was NOT associated with a question tagged "sqlanywhere". I am only really concerned with questions tagged as "sqlanywhere" plus whatever other tags are appropriate: sql, perl, etc (for StackOverflow)... for ServerFault, I'm not sure what the "other tags" might be, but sqlanywhere would be the minimum.

The SQL Anywhere NNTP newsgroups reside in a special place, an internet backwater so isolated even trolls don't visit. The other Sybase newsgroups, ASE and PowerBuilder in particular, have had huge issues with behavior far beyond SO's rudeness. As for public social networking sites... StackOverflow is mild-mannered by comparison.

When was the last time a SQL Anywhere NNTP post was canned for rudeness? When someone was blocked? "As far as I remember, never" is the answer that comes to mind.


Breck Carter said...

So yes, it may be a shock for some of the SQL Anywhere regulars... if they have no interweb experience outside these newsgroups. Personally, I recoil in horror at the crap that passes for human interaction on social networks, and yes, it came as a shock to me (as if you couldn't tell :)

But I've sucked all that up, my mask is empty, my breathing is free and clear... StackOverflow is so much better than the alternatives, it's just not funny any more.

Here's how it might work: A gradual shift, a gentle invitation to participate, with a careful watch kept. One problem is going to be the reputation whores who instantly post inadequate answers in the hope of gaining points. Graeme Perrow has written the best article about this and other problems at

With reputation points come power... power to do good as well as evil... to undo incorrect changes, to edit rudeness... that's what "careful watch" means. Effectively, we could take ownership of the sqlanywhere tag. Yes, there would be some work to do.

What we have now is not working; traffic's fading, virtually no newbies, and the new Google group sql-anywhere-web-development is unusable (as the traffic attests):

...or maybe nobody's interested in databases on the interweb anymore? Is that what the traffic means?

Anonymous said...

Good thoughts, I agree. And I'm also somewhat "shy" to leave the safe bay of SA news groups in order to reach open and possibly hostile water...

But as Chris Kleisath states in his current blog, if the iAnywhere staff would try something extraordinary and invite customers to a complete shift to SO/SF (and maybe give hints to use tagging consistently), THIS would be cool.

Volker is ready to follow

Breck Carter said...

Shyness is understandable. There are some nasty people on StackOverflow, folks who are trying to impose their own view of acceptable behavior, views that are contrary to the first page of the FAQ. But... I've started posting some stuff under the "sqlanywhere" tag to get the count up, perhaps encourage others to ask their own questions.
No nastiness encountered on ServerFault yet, but it's in beta.
One thing for sure: ServerFault and StackOverflow are completely different from discussion groups.

Breck Carter said...

Graeme Perrow posted a response to my first question on ServerFault... woohoo! Open the iAnywhere floodgates!

Anonymous said...

> virtually no newbies

And it is great. For that very reason SA newsgroups have very good signal-to-noise ratio. For comparison, a Delphi NG I regularly read has many newbies, and it is almost useless for anyone with a moderate Delphi knowledge (not counting the awful reputation Delphi get owing to that).

Anonymous said...

I'm quite surprised that there is no public discussion in the general NG on your thread refering to this blog entry:
Isnt't a NG exactly the right means to discuss such suggestions (whereas Stack Overflow would not, as I have learnt:).

But today the Sybase forums seem to make clear why a move to a web site would make sense:
Confine the "Misplaced Child-Links" in the product futures NG:

To add another slightly modified musical quote:
"A change would us good" :)