What does community mean to you?

Should vendors support your community?

How important is community involvement? 

I recently talked to a PR guy with one of the vendors who writes an entire suite of apps for SQL Server and he said that his company is trying to get more involved in community because it's expected.  That really threw me for a second because it never crossed my mind before that our community may actually expect their vendors to be part of the community by sponsoring events.  I've put off writing this blog for a while because I thought that I might have some more solid answers to give, and I also wanted to talk to a couple others about it to see what they thought.

All of the big vendors in our space sponsor our SQLSaturday events as well as some other things, but SQLSaturday is the biggie.  For those of you who don't know, SQLSaturday is a free 1-day conference that goes on worldwide all throughout the year.  MVPs (like myself) and many others, donate their time and even pay their own way to teach at these events.  They're driven entirely by donations from vendors and without them, the event would be lost.  Many of the venues don't hold the same values though so much of the sponsorship money goes to the venue itself.  The only cost to attendees is typically $10-15 for lunch, and that's optional.

And there are so many vendors who have pledged that they'll sponsor every SQLSaturday event, and I don't have to tell you that it can get quite expensive for them.  And sure they get something out of it.  They get to setup a table and talk to the users and get contact info.  But I can almost guarantee you that what they get in contacts isn't as much as they spend on all these events.  So it becomes a true community support effort.

My big question though is do we as a community really expect them to spend that kind of money?  Well, I've thought about this long and hard and personally I don't.  I don't think that just because you write an app for SQL Server that you should be expected to put all your earnings back into the community.  It's interesting to me though that some of these companies think they need to.  Don't get me wrong, I'm grateful that they're doing it and I hope it's working out for them.  I just don't think we as a community have the right to govern where they spend their money.

I've talked to a couple others about this, and they both said, "Hell yeah we expect companies to be part of the community."  Well, ok then.  The community as a whole definitely benefits from it and that means that DBAs should be getting smarter so eventually they'll be demanding more from the vendors. 

So whether you think we deserve to get the vendor support like this or not, we definitely have it.  And this is the biggest difference between SQL Server and Oracle communities.  I know plenty of Oracle DBAs, and you just don't see these types of events on the Oracle side.  The business model in that community is typically if it doesn't cost way too much, it's not worth anything.  Everybody thinks they've got to get rich off of everything they do.  Well I'm here to say that there are dozens of us in SQL Server who not only don't make a dime on most of the training we do, we actually pay out of our own pocket for the privilege.

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