Physicians have primum non nocere – a Latin phrase that means “First, do no harm”. (Thank you, WikiPedia.)  I think for techies, our principal precept is primum RTFM.  (Here’s more Wikipedia, if you missed the joke.)

I don’t know as much about SQL Server as I should, or as I would like. I have at my disposal uncounted blogs, books, articles, magazines, seminars, webinars, deep-dive courses, conferences, MVPs, forums (fori?), and #SQLHelp on Twitter. This wealth of information is a great blessing, but it carries with it the curse of the information age: What to read, and when, and why, and for how long?  I have neglected the basics…I have not primum RTFM.  Brothers and sisters, it is time that I start.

For the next year, I will read from SQL Server Books Online – the FM, in this case – a little every day, and blog about it weekly.  Is this project sexy? No.  Exciting? Not so much. 

Useful? Educational? Interesting? You bet your Shasta.

Here is an excerpt from an email with Don Gill (Twitter, blog), the primary POC for BOL content. Don spoke about this in our interview at PASS Summit 2010, so I’m going to presume he’s good with the reprint. (All emphases are mine.)

…the most recent release of BOL was approximately 8.5 million localizable words (eg, non-boilerplate, precanned), was translated to 12 core languages with portions translated to a total of 23 languages world-wide. In addition to BOL itself, SQL content ships in partnership with Office, Windows, Visual Studio, the .NET SDK and several standalone applications (eg, Reporting Services, Data-Mining Plugins, Dashboards, etc). As a frame of reference for visualizing the size of BOL, the King James version of the Bible only has 775K words (though it is undoubtedly translated to more languages than BOL). Tolstoy’s “War and Peace” (translated to English) has only 560K words. Simply put, we write, augment and maintain “War and Peace” from beginning to end, more than 15 times in a given two to three year period.

8.5 million words…the mind boggles.

There’s no way I’ll get through all of BOL in a year. There’s very little chance I’ll hit every major area of BOL. But I intend to learn quite a lot, just by reading TFM. 

Come on boys and girls, sing along, okay? Download SQL Server Books Online from Technet, and follow along with this blog series via the RTFM365 tag.

Happy, informative days,
Jen McCown

27 thoughts on “RTFM365”

  1. Which books online version will you be using 2008 or 2008R2? ( I can see the linky goes to 2008 but I was wondering… )

    Good Idea and Good Reminder by the way!

  2. Todd,

    I reserve the right to skip around, but it’ll (nearly always) be 2008 and above. I’ll note the version I’m reading with each summary blog.

    I fully expect sometimes I’ll jump into R2 and Denali. The joy of this project (like most of my projects) is flexibility within the basic premise.

    Rule: Read from BOL daily, blog weekly.

    All else follows as it pleases me, and my gentle readers. :)


  3. Great idea just used RTFM yesterday, but in your links I really, really like JFGI. Been using that as well minus the F part but think it’s time to add it.

    Look forward to following along.

  4. That’s a pretty big undertaking. I don’t think that I know of anyone who has actually read through all of BOL (agnostic of version).

    I would be really interested in hearing your feedback. Best of luck!

  5. Ah, read carefully Don…I said I’d read BOL for a year, not that I could get through all 8.5 million words of it! I’ll keep you posted, but check back here from time to time, too…

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