Prior to this year, I’d never attended an event focused on PostgreSQL. Heck, I’d never attended an event that had an intentional track or learning pathway, or whatever, focused on PostgreSQL. In the past year though, I’ve now attended four. As a complete newbie, let me tell you a little bit about the PostgreSQL community as I see it.
The very first word that comes to mind when I think about the PostgreSQL community is that it is welcoming. Like the SQL Server community that I’ve been practically living with for the last almost 20 years, the people who make up the PostgreSQL community are very kind, giving, friendly people. I mean, I’m a Microsoft MVP (and an AWS Community Builder), which, to a degree, makes me an enemy of the open source world (not really, at all, but you know what I mean). Yet, other than a couple of comments about my MVP jacket I was wearing because it was cold and that jacket is awesome, I’ve been treated exceedingly well.
For example, at the PASS Data Community Summit (which had a PostgreSQL track this year), I had one of the leaders of the PostgreSQL community give me a nice elephant pin, right off his own lanyard, because they ran out before I got there. It was a silly little thing, but it meant a lot to me at the time.
However, that kindness applies to more important matters too. Because I’m learning PostgreSQL, I ask, what can easily be termed, dumb questions. Yet, the people attending, speaking at, organizing the events, answer them with understanding. There’s no belittling. There’s no gatekeeping. PostgreSQL people, with their incredible volumes of knowledge, are very much about sharing.
I’m extremely happy and grateful to be involved with these people.
Everything isn’t sunshine and roses.
One thing that does strike me, again, as someone coming from the outside, is how top down the management of the events seems to be. Yeah, there are local Meetups or whatever that are completely under the control of individuals, but the rest of the in-person events I see are very managed from a central location. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing as such, but it does feel a little different than, I’m going to use this as a comparison again, the SQL Server community.
In the SQL Server community, well, it’s a little bit of a rowdy environment. You’ve got SQLSaturday, Data Saturday, Bits, SQL Day, PASS Data Community Summit, SQL Konferenz, Grillen, Tech Outbound (totally still a thing, I’m going to beat Tim about the face & neck until we cruise again), Techorama, and a bunch of others (several of which will beat me up because I didn’t list them). And that doesn’t even include all the Azure User Groups, unaffiliated user groups, Meetups and the rest. There are so many because the community is very bottom up. If someone, even a vendor, wants to put on any kind of an event, any where, and label it SQL Server, they just do it. PostgreSQL seems a lot more constrained.
This means, as a new person, with a very centralized management of quite a few of the events out there, it can be pretty intimidating to try to break in. I haven’t seen the kind of “farm team” approach that stuff like Data Saturday and SQLSaturday give us for growing new speakers, new community organizers and such. You have to get hooked in to the central group to make things happen. I think that’s stifling some innovation that could be happening.
However, I also see this changing. Further, see my first thought, these are extremely welcoming people. They’re very open to new ideas and new approaches.
One suggestion/request. I’d love, love, love to see Data Saturday & SQLSaturday organizers talking to the PostgreSQL people and vice versa. Ya’ll can help each other.
I just want to reiterate how grateful I am to all the people I’ve met in the PostgreSQL community. They’ve been so wonderful. They’re great to hang out with, fun to talk to, and extremely giving and helpful. This is important because I think a vibrant, kind, we must emphasize kind, community is absolutely vital to the long term viability of software in this day and age.
In the old days, there was a lot of belief that if you had more knowledge than your peers, whatever you do, don’t share it. That special knowledge makes you more valuable. Nowadays, most of us readily recognize that there is plenty of work to go around. Further, a rising tide lifts all boats, meaning, my sharing knowledge with you doesn’t hurt me. Sure, it helps you, but then either, you’ll help me, or you’ll help someone else, and they’ll help me. In short, as we all get better, we all get better.
I’m very much enjoying my PostgreSQL journey. And I’ll say this without equivocation. If the community was not as strong, vibrant, giving and kind as it is, I’d be looking at another tech stack to be adding to my skill set. PostgreSQL is amazing technology, without a doubt. It’s the community around it that truly makes PostgreSQL as much a paradigm shift as it has become.