Perspectives

The Future of Books Online, Part 3

By Brian Moran

In my last two commentaries, The Future of Books Online, Part 1 and Part 2, I focused on information I've learned from David Shank, Microsoft Group Documentation Manager for SQL Server User Education, about the direction of SQL Server Books Online (BOL). This week, I share my thoughts about how I think BOL's focus on education rather than simple documentation will affect the database training world.

First let me recap several key goals that Microsoft has laid out for BOL. Microsoft is moving BOL toward a model of continuous publishing which means BOL will be updated frequently. Microsoft is focusing BOL on the needs of its customers. For example new BOL editions will emphasize best practices how to information and tutorials. Microsoft sees BOL as a portal to other areas of SQL Server information. For example, BOL lets you search select community sites. Microsoft is considering integrating Virtual PC VPC images into BOL. These embedded images will create opportunities for providing more complete tutorials and offering a richer educational experiences directly within BOL.

What do all these goals mean to database professionals? I believe one of the effects of BOL's evolution will be to encourage Microsoft Certified Partners for Learning Solutions CPLS training centers that offer SQL Server content to dramatically change their offerings or go out of business. Don't panic. Let me explain a bit more. As BOL focuses on education and providing more hands on content in its tutorials especially tutorials that include VPC images that you can down load free users will begin to expect to learn about Microsoft products directly from Microsoft. How many people would need traditional training if they had access to a world class textbook, i.e. BOL that offers well written text supplemented by sophisticated VPC based examples.

Let's refine this idea further. Historically some of Microsoft's greatest successes have been in the platform arena. Microsoft offers platform plumbing that savvy third parties embrace and extend to avoid reinventing the wheel. Sure this means that Microsoft puts some companies out of business. This kind of organic change is healthy and necessary. If it didn't happen, we'd all still be running third party memory managers. Remember those days?

I'm not suggesting that publishers and training companies will cease to exist. But I do think it's an intriguing idea for Microsoft to view BOL and related education offerings as a platform BOL tutorials. VPCs and Web seminars should become educational plumbing that Microsoft can license in creative ways to savvy third party companies to extend and embrace. Imagine the cool innovative training that a third party community might create. Just an idea. My idea might be a bit provocative at least by database standards but I think it makes sense.

NOTE: David Shank has graciously invited SQL Server Magazine UPDATE readers to email him ideas about what BOL is doing well and not so well. Do you have feedback about what BOL should be? Send it to David at davidsha@microsoft.com.

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News & Views

SQL Server Magazine Launches Redesigned Web Site

In response to reader requests and feedback, SQL Server Magazine today launched a redesign of its website. The site a popular resource for SQL Server professionals features a complete article archive SQL Server event and community information an active forum community and links to ebooks, white papers, FAQs, special reports, and downloads of interest to DBAs, database developers, and business intelligence professionals.

The site's new design strives to address the needs that readers have expressed over the past several months. In addition to a cleaner layout and improved navigation, site developers have worked to improve search capabilities so that readers can get SQL Server specific results to their queries. SQL Server Magazine Technical Editor Diana May said, "We wanted a cleaner separation from the resources of our sister publication Windows IT Pro to recognize the distinct unique needs of the SQL Server community."

May emphasized that the magazine will continue to respond to reader feedback about the site.

Instant Poll Results

What SQL Server 2005 editions do you plan to use? Here are the results from the 72 votes deviations from 100 are due to a rounding error.

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In a Nutshell And Speaking of RSS Feeds

Readers have asked Kevin Kline how to receive his Web blog as an RSS feed on their computers. In this week's blog "And Speaking of RSS Feeds" Kevin provides several links that you can use to send the RSS version of his latest blog or Windows IT Pro Magazine articles that pertain to SQL to your computer if you have an RSS reader.  Read the instructions that Kevin provides and let Kevin know how you like this feature.

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  • Administration Storing Japanese Characters in SQL Server
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