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SQL Server DBA Tips & Tricks

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The Plague of Plagiarism

Bloggle Bloggle

I Can Haz Ur Blogz?

If you’ve got performance troubles with an application that stores data in SQL Server, and especially if it’s a home-grown application (not a store-bought app), you can get dramatic performance improvements simply by focusing on some basic indexing techniques.  These tips and tricks pay off more than pouring money into hardware that might look good sitting in the datacenter, but doesn’t really make the application significantly faster.

When I go into a shop to speed up an application I’ve never seen before, two of my favorite quick-hits are from the index performance tuning queries from SQLServerPedia:

  • Find unused indexes – these are indexes the SQL Server engine says it’s not using.  Unused indexes incur a speed penalty because SQL Server still has to add/update the indexes as records change, so they make writes slower.
  • Find missing indexes – these are indexes SQL Server wishes it had available.

The above paragraph and information sounds good doesn’t it? Well guess what? They’re not my words, they’re Brent Ozar’s words from his article on SQL Server Index Tuning Tip: Identify Overlaps. Now had I not mentioned that fact, would you think I wrote it? Well that is the meat of a hot topic that spawned today on Twitter in the SQL community. Apparently a young man who recently graduated college decided to open a blog focused on SQL Server, UNIX and Oracle. The problem lay in the fact that all the articles on his site were not his own. What this guy did was use an RSS aggregator to point to prominent sites (such as SQLServerpedia, SQL Server Central and SQLblog.com amongst others) and so their content was then published on his blog. The big deal was that 1) He didn’t ask permission to republish their content and 2) He didn’t make it clear that the article you were reading was written by someone else. The ONLY credit given is a very tiny blurb on his About Me page that says “materials in this site has been collected from various sites and blogs and for that I thank them”. Riiiiight, that’s not exactly proper citation. Given that this guy claims to also have gotten a Master’s degree, I would think at some point in his educational studies the mention of proper citation and what plagiarism is.

Upon learning of this site and its apparent violations, members of the SQL community who had their intellectual property infringed upon took action by leaving fairly straightforward messages on this about page informing him that he was in violation and needed to remove content immediately otherwise harsh actions could be taken. Within a relatively short period of time the author got the message (sort of) by removing the menu options on his site, yet the content still remains if you look for it. Due to this fact I expect DMCA notices to start flying shortly and if the blogger still fails to comply then his hosting company should drop the axe. What’s interesting about this situation is the conversation that was spawned afterward on Twitter.

Todd McDermid (@Todd_McDermid on Twitter) had the opinion that the SQL community reacted much harsher than we should have and blogged about it in his article Another Instance of Plagiarism. In his post Todd does bring up some good points in that perhaps the hardcore lynch mob approach was a bit rash and perhaps a gentle “hey buddy, do you realize what you’re doing is stealing?” might be a more diplomatic approach but the problem is that many of these guys in our community whom are prominent bloggers have been burned plenty in the past. Brent blogged on How to Take Action When Your Content is Plagiarized and in it described a situation (not first, definitely won’t be last) where someone decided stealing content was acceptable. Are the messages left on violater’s site that they have to take down content or face DMCA report the nicest? Maybe not. Is it a necessary evil because of the countless times these bloggers and authors have had to deal with this? Absolutely. Todd outlines that this particular case the blogger in question may be starting out and not know better but after a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree and reading the numerous blogs he’s aggregating (which incidentally have blogged before on just this topic) he should know better. One could argue about what exactly constitutes “common sense” in this right but I’d argue someone who has gone through a master’s program should be very well versed in the art of writing and proper citation.

Some would argue that “nobody lost out” by what this guy was doing but I would disagree. This is a violation of someone’s intellectual property. When you decide to blog on a technical level you are taking your time to help educate the masses. You’re putting in a lot of hard work into formulating something that is uniquely yours and sharing it. “But Jorge, this guy was just sharing FOR you (well not me because I’m not worth stealing from which is comforting on some level for the moment)”, yeah but he wasn’t making it clearly known that it was not his work. If someone has a SQL problem and they quickly Boogle out a question what if they come across the aggregator’s content before they get to yours (the source)? If the person needing a quick answer simply finds the answer on his blog and goes on his way, guess who gets credit for that? The thief. Sure this guy put a very tiny note in his about page but who is going to look in there when reading content? Now let’s take this up a notch. You’re on the job market and the prospective company (like many do) do a search for you on the internet to see what pops up. Imagine how good your word and reputation would be to them if they saw an entire community backlashing on you because you were knowingly stealing content? It’s not worth it!

So what does one do? Well you could ask the author for permission to repost content. For the record I asked Brent if I could borrow that first paragraph for this purpose (thanks Brent!). Or, and I know this is crazy, COME UP WITH YOUR OWN CONTENT! It’s not easy but it definitely pays off and in the end you get mad street cred *fist bump*. So don’t steal content, people work hard to produce this stuff and in the end you’re only going to make yourself look worse by pretending to be something you’re not.

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A Decade in Review

Wow, what a decade! We’ve seen quite a bit of change in our world (9/11, a war or two, minority as President) and I’ve had quite an eventful decade myself. Here’s a quick list of stuff I can remember off-hand that’s happened in the last 10 years (order not necessarily linear, more stream of thought at time of writing):

  • Visited France
  • Graduated high school (I know, many of you are going to hate me for being this young)
  • Visited England
  • Visited Canada (term “visited” is loose here, basically drank and ran amok as only college kids could)
  • Graduated college (Go ORANGE!)
  • Got my blue belt with stripes in Brazillian Jiu-Jitsu
  • First job in IT as a desktop tech
  • Ran first 5k
  • Attended first Tampa Bay SQL Server User Group meeting
  • Met the love of my life, Jessica (aka @thenovicechef on Twitter)
  • Did a hell of a lot of growing up
  • First major job change (current job)
  • Got a dog (to be followed by a few cats)
  • Started presenting on SQL Server
  • Passed 70-431 to get my MCTS: SQL 2005 certification
  • Got married!
  • Started blogging/Tweeting
  • Presented at first major SQL event (SQLSaturday)
  • Started volunteering for as many PASS opportunities as I can
  • Helping to organize SQLSaturday #32 for Tampa (it’s on January 23rd, register now!)
  • Accepted an offer to co-author a book on Policy Based Management ( Apress.com )*

*Thanks Colin for reminding me!

I’m sure I’m missing quite a few things but man its been a crazy 10 years! In that time I’ve done a lot of growing up (insert jokes on my age here) and I’m grateful for everything that has happened and all the people I’ve met along the way. It’s been quite a journey and this is only the beginning. This last year alone has been absolutely amazing what with celebrating my 1 year wedding anniversary and all of day-in-day-out interaction with the SQL community. I’m shocked about how fast these last 10 years has seemingly flown by and I’m looking forward to the next 10! Hopefully you guys will still be along for the ride as I continue my adventures in blogging and blowing up your Twitter feeds.

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System Documentation: What’s Your Method?

As a system administrator it’s your job to know the ins and outs of the systems you manage. But are you the only cog keeping that particular wheel turning? If you were to leave your current position, or God forbid, something were to happen to you would your company be able to move forward without you without ill effect? This is where proper documentation becomes a crucial part of your job.

Now some would argue that if you document your responsibilities/job/systems/etc you become dispensable. While yes that could be true I dare to say that you really shouldn’t have to worry about that. In my opinion if you’re doing your job, and doing a good job at it, those who matter will notice and this becomes a non-issue. Properly documenting your system if anything then becomes an aid to you to help you do your job better. Yesterday Jonathan Kehayias (Blog | Twitter) wrote a great article on the importance of good documentation. If you get a chance I highly suggest you give that a read since it brings up some great points that include turnover, management, and compliance auditing.

Currently I’m trying to get a handle on the documentation of my systems at work. At the moment my current thought is to create a Word document template that simply has fill-in-the-blank type fields and for every new system that comes online I simply fill out a new form. These forms will be kept in our Sharepoint site and that way those who need access to them (i.e. on-call personnel, Help Desk staff, other system admins, etc.) know where to find them. Of course one could argue the problem with this method is that people who don’t necessarily NEED to see everything in that documentation have access to it. To that I say this, why not? I may take a little flack for saying this but here goes nothing. I believe the world of IT has drastically changed in the last few years (duh). Granted I’m still young but from what I’ve witnessed we are coming from shops where mainframes were king and jobs and knowledge were extremely siloed. Now before you start blasting me on silos, I know they still exist but go with me on this.

In today’s IT world there are simply so many things flying at us at all times. With the rate of new technologies coming out and with organizations trying to do more with less in this economy I think its more important than ever to make knowledge transparent across the enterprise. If someone wants to know what I do as a DBA why not let them know? That person could be interested in jumping in the administration world themselves and just need the basic knowledge and understanding to do so. Another example would be explaining to a project manager the technical pieces of the project they’re managing. How many times have you seen a project dumped in your lap and the necessary components are things that you either A) Don’t support B) Have no in-house knowledge of the necessary technologies.

From my experience knowledge dissemination becomes all the more vital as systems become more tightly integrated. Look at the Microsoft suite of products. Sharepoint is a collaborative portal designed to let people across teams and enterprises share and disseminate (damn I love this word) knowledge with ease. Well in order to stand this product up you’ll need someone who understands databases and their management/administration, someone who understands architectures and how best to implement them, maybe a trainer to let end users understand how this new technology works, desktop personnel to understand the technology and how to troubleshoot it, etc, etc.

As I’m writing I’m realizing I’m really digressing from my original point which is about documentation methodologies. I’ve laid out my general plan for documentation of systems but my original intention of this post (besides my slight soapbox rant up there) was to see how the rest of you guys/gals handle your documentation. Strict methodology and templates? Random documents thrown out on a shared drive or somewhere on your drive? None? Let me hear from you in the comments.

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Contest: Name My Chicken

sqlchicken So in my first post I explained that my moniker was inspired by the rubber chicken hanging on the wall in my cube. After realizing that he’s now become an integral part of the office in that we all squeeze him whenever something breaks its time he had a name. That’s where you guys come in!

My chicken needs a name. Anything. SQL-related is cool but it doesn’t really matter as long as its befitting its awesomeness. After all entries are in we here in the office will go over the entries and decide a winner. Unfortunately I don’t have the backing of Godaddy.com on this one like the SQL Rap Contest so sadly I don’t have any prizes, just bragging rights. I’ll set the deadline to two weeks from today (Friday June 12th). Feel free to submit entries here on this blog or DM them to me on Twitter.

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Hatching the SQLChicken

Hello world! Sorry, just seemed like the appropriate way to kick off this blog. If you’re reading this you probably Googled technology, sql and chicken which makes me think you’re a mad scientist (and that’s awesome), you’re looking to cure your insomnia or you got rickrolled on Twitter to get here. Either way thanks for reading!

As for the moniker I’ve decided to take a page from SQLBatman and SQLFool (both awesome SQL bloggers for those who don’t know) and create an alter ego for my online presence in the community which is memorable. Why SQLChicken you may ask? Well for one its easier to remember than my real name and two I have a rubber chicken hanging on my wall that we in the office squeek every time something goes down. Some days its quieter than others…*le sigh* The chicken was a gift from my uncle-in-law who gives them out to people who will appreciate them. Obviously he knows me well. Also it allows me to make quirky, cheesy puns like the title of this article. Boo yah – two birds, one stone…errr egg? Ok, I’ll get better at this…hopefully. I also have to give a special thanks to Brent Ozar of Quest Software and SQLServerpedia for writing a great starter guide for tech blogs. I highly suggest you check it out!

A little about me: My name is Jorge Segarra. I work for University Community Hospital in (mostly) sunny Tampa, Florida as a SQL DBA and system administrator. I have a beautiful wife and some four-legged children. Yes they’re pets…damn that probably sounds weird too…we have 2 cats and a dog. There, that makes me look a little more sane and not like I have mutant children we imprison. I’ll shut up now. You can follow me on Twitter, my newest tech addiction, at http://twitter.com/sqlchicken.

Anywho, I’ll be blogging about mostly SQL-related stuff but also anything in technology that tickles my fancy at the time. Hopefully you find this blog somewhat interesting, entertaining and useful!

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