PG Phriday: Community Edition
Postgres is one of those database engines that carves out a niche and garners adherents with various levels of religious zeal. The community, while relatively small when compared to that of something like MongoDB, is helpful almost to a fault. Members from the freshest minted newb to the most battle tested veteran will often trip over themselves to answer questions found in the various dedicated forums, mailing lists, and chat rooms. To that end, let’s answer one particular question that ties everything together: what exactly is available to someone who wants to participate with the Postgres universe these days?
First and foremost, the Postgres site has a community page to start our trip into those most arcane depths. For obvious reasons, this is probably the most comprehensive resource available for interacting with the Postgres community in one way or the other. Let’s explore a bit.
At first glance, it’s just two innocuous paragraphs with a sprinkling of links and a couple of sidebars. Delve into the mailing lists however, and our trip down the rabbit hole begins in earnest. There are quite a few categories of interest, and subscriptions work in the usual ways: regular delivery, digest, or lurk-only for those who only feel comfortable asking questions rather than answering them. I personally subscribe to these, but there’s no reason to restrict yourself to my esoteric interests:
- pgsql-admin: Admins and admin wannabes; the perfect place to just talk shop with other DBAs.
- pgsql-general: The potpourri of database discussion. They’re also not kidding when they say “Please note that many of the developers monitor this area.” Several of the most prolific committers take time to answer questions from this list.
- pgsql-performance: I spent a lot of time with a database that handled over a billion queries per day, and needed this list in order to survive. After a while, I picked up a few things and started answering questions myself. Anyone can follow that path.
- pgsql-hackers: The Postgres devs post here. And boy do they take advantage of every opportunity to do so. Threads range from proposed features to detailed critiques of potential patch-sets. These discussions have been known to go on for years, covering hundreds of back-and-forth messages before something finally becomes fully incorporated into Postgres. There’s no better way to keep up with the future of Postgres and watch the feature vetting process in action.
That is just a tiny fragment of what’s available there, and the message traffic is fast and furious.
Chattier Than a Chat Bot
It would seem that a sizable contingent of the Postgres community maintains careful watch of the #postgresql channel over at irc.freenode.net. But it wouldn’t be the New Web if there wasn’t also a lively group over at the Postgres Team Slack.
While the mailing lists are great and responsive, there’s something to be said about live responses. In the case of the Slack channel, there’s also the benefit of formatted code pasting. Unfortunately neither of these resources are readily archivable to be available in perpetuity, nor is there any easy delineation of topics since chat is a free-for-all. This makes it somewhat difficult to refer to past discussions with any reliability—such is the black-hole of transient conversations.
Despite that, being in a virtual room with other Postgres users makes it much easier to informally swap examples and ideas. If AOL or Yahoo chat rooms were still a thing, there would likely be Postgres communities there as well. Maybe I’m looking in the wrong spots, but I find this particular resource critically under-utilized. Social media has purportedly replaced chat rooms, but it’s a demonstrably different concept that hopefully makes a comeback.
Speaking of social media, there is a Postgres Facebook group, and of course a PostgreSQL Google+ group with a related PostgreSQL community. And we can’t leave out the PostgreSQL Twitter.
Beyond these, local communities often have their own user groups so people can actually get together and treat Postgres like a hobby. I joined the Chicago PUG back when it started, and try to attend whenever I’m in town on business. There’s something to be said for the personal touch. It’s not official, but many of these groups tend to coordinate their activities through Meetup, which is handy for users of that service.
For those who live in an area without a local Postgres group and don’t feel comfortable starting one, Postgres has a bevy of conferences running through the year. One or more of these might be nearby, so why not attend and meet some of the people who make Postgres tick? I don’t go to all of these, but Postgres Open started in Chicago, so I’ve tried to make a regular appearance when I have interesting (and presentable) material. I also hear good things about PGConf US over in New Jersey.
And that brings us to PgUS and its ilk. While Postgres has no official owner, there is a lot of coordination between the various enclaves to reach some sort of consensus as to the direction the project takes. Some of this is in the form of advocacy and education, so there’s no need to be a Postgres prodigy to contribute.
For those stark few who find database engines exciting, meet up with your fellow “non-robots” and spread the word!
Part of learning about Postgres and spreading its use is consuming the copious blogs, wikis, and manuals dedicated to the subject. You likely came here from Planet PostgreSQL, which acts as the official blogroll/RSS-feed for all of the various articles that regularly churn out from sources such as myself. If not, there is no better way to stay abreast of new Postgres techniques, features, or just useful knowledge lost to the annals of history. Many of the Big Names(tm) regularly post on their personal or company blogs, and all of these critical insights get syndicated in a single place for everyone to enjoy.
Lest we forget, there’s also the PostgreSQL Wiki. Any sufficiently vetted community member can make entries here to make the Postgres world a bit more complete. Unlike the official documentation which concentrates specifically on describing functionality in the context of reference material, the Wiki is more human friendly and elastic. I often refer to new release pages to act as a cheat sheet when sharing new features. And where else can they put a complete list of foreign data wrappers or procedural languages, when most are not even officially Postgres projects?
I have to admit I usually feel too timid to taint any official Postgres resource with my inane rambling, but someone did it for me a while ago, so maybe that fear is unwarranted. We’ll see what the future holds!
The Postgres community is part of the reason I am where I am, and know what I do. I learned enough on the job and through the mailing lists that I wrote a book on High Availability and Postgres to share the wealth. It is an invaluable resource for anyone who is willing to learn, and potentially a better one for those who are capable of contributing. The people are friendly, capable, and enthusiastic. That last one always makes me laugh considering the relatively dry nature of the underlying material: database software. We’re excited users and advocates of database software. If anyone had told me as a child that this would be my future, I would have just responded with: boring!
But it isn’t. It really isn’t, and I have no real answer as to why. Maybe it’s the challenge, or perhaps the community itself and its limitless encouragement. Whatever the case, Postgres is my bag. To that end, this will also be the last official PG Phriday on this site. Perhaps it was inevitable given my dedication to the cause, but I’m now a member of the team at 2nd Quadrant. As such, it only makes sense that my Postgres-related material originate from that unified front. Their blog is also part of the Planet PostgreSQL feed, so if you haven’t already, consider this a second entreaty to become a regular reader of that site.
Here’s to the future of Postgres, and everyone that works to ensure it’s a bright one!