On accessibility in our community

Azure Data

Today I want to write about the community that brought us all together. The community that got this very website on your radar. The community that got many of us spending lunch breaks, evenings and weekends learning about the Microsoft Data Platform at free local events.

This community has had various organizations steering its direction through the years, including SQLSaturday, PASS, and more recently the Azure Data Community. These organizations may operate within this community and have a large overlap of membership, but they do not represent the community. The community is you who are reading this.

On Twitter, we call ourselves #SQLFamily. Families love each other, they disagree, they work together, they argue, they spend a lot of time together and sometimes get tired of each other, but we still consider ourselves a family. The best possible measure of this data platform community is how we go out of our way to help others, personally and professionally. That’s what it means to be a family.

As some of you may know, I am a founding member of the Azure Data Community advisory board. The advisory board belongs to you, the community. Our job is to advise Microsoft. We do not work for Microsoft. We work for #SQLFamily. We work for you.

Being founding members is a lot of work because we have to decide the rules, write the policies, and figure out how best to do the thing we’re tasked to do. Our job is to advise Microsoft on how best to serve the data platform community.

We take care of all members of our family. We make sure they have what they need, and don’t just assume they’ll “figure it out.” It’s our responsibility to make sure that everyone gets the most out of learning about all things data.

With that in mind, I’m working with various people like Meagan Longoria (blog | Twitter) and Tracy Boggiano (blog | Twitter) on ways to make our community content more accessible. While the focus will be on presentations, we’ll give broader context so that it can be applied generally. The goal here is to provide the knowledge and tools to our community so that accessibility is built into our presentations from the start. This is something we should all be doing, all the time.

It is our responsibility as community leaders to be as inclusive as we can. Screen readers should be able to read our slides. Our videos should have human-reviewed captions. In-person events should have ramps for wheelchair accessibility, including the stage. Neurodiversity is another factor we have to consider, as is colour-blindness. This is over and above the gender and racial bias in our industry. This family is made up of many different types of people, and we have to make the effort to include them as much as we can.

Keep an eye out for this information as it becomes available. You’ll find some of it here on this blog, but it will lean heavily on the work Meagan, Tracy, and others have already put in. Microsoft will be linking to it, bringing it to the attention of you, the community.

And please feel free to contribute. Help me raise the voices of people who have already done this work — as we ourselves improve — and give them the credit they deserve. We need to lead by example. This is about making our community better, empowered by Microsoft.

4 thoughts on “On accessibility in our community

  • Well said, the community is us reading this.

    I would like to give you a feedback: when I go in the Azure portal the Support page shows:

    – Microsoft Q&A
    – StackOverflow
    – @AzureSupport
    – Serverfault

    This is all very confusing. Basically what Microsoft is saying is: “for support you have to pay. If you don’t pay, just spam the communities”.
    This is not a savvy way to implement a community in any way. This is how to throw the garbage out.
    In a pandemic scenario, when Meetups and conventions are virtual the community is mainly virtual and Microsoft is not showing real interest in growing one.

    Take for example PowerBI, the community URL is https://community.powerbi.com/.
    Once again another website for another community.
    If Microsoft is aiming to centralize all products in Azure they have to do the same with communities. We cannot pass our time posting the same question in different communities.

    When you talk about communities the StackExchange galaxy is the one who won. Wouldn’t be easier for Microsoft just to stick with that?
    Eventually ask StackExchange to create a clean subdomain like https://azure.stackexchange.com/ and get serious about creating a community?

    Because redirecting people around is just a mess.

  • Thanks for your comment, Francesco. While I certainly appreciate your frustration — having just spent a month resolving a support issue with Microsoft myself — your concerns do not fall within the mandate of the Azure Data Community advisory board, which you can read at length here: https://techcommunity.microsoft.com/t5/azure-sql/making-your-voice-heard-with-the-microsoft-data-community/ba-p/2440668, and therefore I am unable to help.

    Speaking personally now, I will say this: If you have found a bug in a Microsoft product, and open a support case which demonstrates the bug, you will not pay for that support. Otherwise, it is not unreasonable to be expected to pay. Any free assistance you can get from various communities that have sprung up over the years is thanks to free time those folks give up to help out (the exception is Microsoft’s Q&A site if you are dealing with a Microsoft support engineer, but because it is free, it should be considered accordingly).

    As for StackExchange, it’s a privately-owned enterprise, separate from Microsoft, offering community support for a number of technologies outside of Microsoft’s sphere. It would not make sense to offload community support to a third party over which they have no control, especially since there is no quality assurance. Bottom line: if you want Microsoft support, you’ll need to pay for it from Microsoft.

    I have forwarded your comments all the same, and once again empathize with your comment.

  • Thank you,
    I read the link. If I understand well I can suggest to Microsoft what I need, right?

    For example: Azure Migrate is compatible with AWS, GCP, VMware… but not Azure-VM. This is a problem because we have no tool to discover and assess a SQL Server estate which is already on Azure-VM.
    (I wrote an article because I found myself in this situation and it was a mess of a problem to solve: https://www.jeeja.biz/2021/07/08/how-to-discover-sql-server-instances-on-azure-vms/)

    Is this something that the Azure Data Community advisory board can flag to Microsoft ?

    • As noted previously, the community advisory board is a feedback loop between user group and conference organizers, and Microsoft. We are not in a position to offer technical support. Please direct your query to Microsoft Customer Support.

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