You’re ignorant. About lots of things. Yes, you are.

Feel offended? We’re all ignorant about lots and lots of things.

Last week I wrote a non-technical blog post The Golden Rule – maybe just optional now? about the growing lack of civility in the world at large. That elicited almost 40 responses (thanks!) so I’m going to intersperse more non-technical posts in with the technical ones – as I have a lot of views to express :-)

This one is about ignorance. In my opinion many people don’t understand ignorance and take offense if you say they are ignorant about such and such. In fact being ignorant just means that you don’t know something – it’s not derogatory or a statement of blame.

And it definitely does not mean that someone is stupid. However, time and again I see ignorance equated with stupidity. This is very common to see on internet forums where question posters can be heavily railed on by more experienced people for not knowing X or Y about SQL Server. And do you think that’s going to make them come back to ask more questions to learn about SQL Server? No.

[Edit: I’m not saying that people use the word ‘ignorant’ all the time, but the implication is there.]

An example: yesterday on a distribution list I’m on, someone asked what to tell a DBA who insists on rebooting SQL Server regularly. The first knee-jerk reply to the alias was unfortunately “You’re fired!”

Wrong answer.

So often I see knee-jerk responses to problems and questions – and they’re usually wrong – as in this case. Jumping to conclusions quickly can be damaging – something I used to do a long time ago when I first started my career and I was slowly trained out of it (thankfully).

The correct response to the original question would be to ask the DBA *why* the server is being rebooted and the rationale behind rebooting being the preferred fix for the problem. And then educate.

Here’s something you may not have thought about: every single person in the world starts out with absolutely zero knowledge about SQL Server.

When I joined the SQL Server team on February 1st 1999, I knew zip about SQL Server. Now I know lots about many aspects of it, and still zip about many other aspects of it. The same goes for Kimberly. And Kalen. And Itzik. And many others that the community considers an expert in SQL Server. Nobody knows everything about everything, and everyone starts from scratch at some point in their careers.

Today there is a growing proliferation of involuntary DBAs who have to deal with the big, complex beast we know of as SQL Server. You can’t expect people to know everything straight away. You can’t expect people to necessarily know what they *should* know, that comes with experience. And even experienced DBAs who’ve learned that SQL Server does X sometimes don’t know that the behavior changed and now it does Y instead. Sometimes people aren’t given time to learn by their employers, and non-work commitments stop them spending hours of their own time learning.

So next time you see someone asking a question that you think is so simple that they should know the answer, or that *everyone* knows you shouldn’t do X or Y, cut them some slack and educate them nicely. Empathize. Don’t belittle them. Don’t rail on them.

And don’t equate ignorance with stupidity.