Why ‘dba.se’ and not ‘data professionals’ or something else? What’s the scope of the site?

2012-05-29 by . 0 comments

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This question gets asked a LOT on our meta, on meta.se, and it gets asked even more frequently in our chat by new users once they really learn our scope. Here’s some examples, just for fun:

And by rights, the title of “DBA” (database administrator) is not one that should be bestowed upon me. My pedigree is web-programmer, but I’ve been described by friends as a renaissance man, since I can do the entire field of web programming, from server configuration to database setup and configuration to web programming. It’s true that I know how to best utilize JSON or XML, that I know what binary transfers look like, I can decode compressed streams on the fly for debugging, and I’ve been playing with this stuff since before Apache had a version 1.0 (ok, that’s hyperbole, but I was there long before the 2.0 debut). But it’s also true that I can’t be as specialized as the three dbas that sit across the hall from me during the day.  So I make up for that by keeping my ears open, and sharp, and paying attention to what they do.

And therein likes the crux. They do a LOT. So when the site was originally launched, we wanted it to be called “databases” but everyone was worried that it was going to get swamped with questions about configuration of the server before installing the database (rightly belongs on ServerFault) or that people would want to post a lot of shopping list questions (Q/A is hard, let’s go shopping). So someone (I wasn’t privy, I can’t comment) decided to call it “database administrators” when they launched the site, thinking “this is the target audience of the site, database administrators”. The first problem with that train of thought is this:

What people associate with a dba

That’s the sort of face people tend to associate with a dba! He’s not very approachable is he? (Actually this is George Beech, a very valued employee with Stack Exchange http://serverfault.com/users/5880/zypher and I think most metaheads will recognize that picture ;-) ~ Thanks for being a good sport George!)



A popular DBA consultant, Brent Ozar





When in reality this is much more likely to be your local dba:


So we now have a cultural bias to avoid, but truth be told, if you told me to go ask the first guy to get something done, I would be scared too! Fortunately I work with these guys on a day to day basis (neither of the above two, sadly, but my dbas are just as photogenic as the second guy, Brent Ozar), so I know that they’re quite approachable.

The second problem with that train of thought is that we don’t just cater to current database administrators, but those who will be dbas, as well as those who just need the advice of a dba for a particular problem, such as database design, or recovery, but who can generally manage all day with no problem (much as I can manage most of my databases on a day-to-day basis, but sometimes I have to call in my dbas, and they prove why they are an absolute necessity on my team, improving performance in ways I didn’t know could be done!).

So we got stuck with a name that doesn’t quite work for us, which only means it falls to us to make the name dba more palatable. And that’s what we aim to do here at dba.se, is to dissolve the wall between you and the dbas in your life, and help you understand just WHY they want you to do those crazy things they sometimes demand of you, like changing your schema, or putting data on different servers.

So what sort of questions can you ask on dba.se? So long as they generally fall in the range of our FAQ, they’re pretty well fair game. That means NoSQL, SQL, Relational, NonRelational, BI, Data Warehousing and anything else you can think of. And if you find one you really don’t know if we’ll work with, ask on our community governance site: http://meta.dba.stackexchange.com/. We definitely love to consider enhancing our scope where it’s appropriate (it’s why we now do BI on our site). So that’s how our site got its name, and what we plan to do about it going forward in the future. Got some questions for me to elaborate on and help make this dialog better? Feel free to hit me with them in the comments, in chat http://chat.stackexchange.com/rooms/179/the-heap or on our meta feedback post http://meta.dba.stackexchange.com/questions/699/.


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