With the Internet comes responsibility, however; reading something online does not make it true. This is why I prefer communities and interactive blogs (where you get more insight than from just one "author"), over paper books or passing some certification exam. Those things have their merits of course; while I have never taken an MS cert exam, I still have a bookshelf — and this isn't even the whole thing — that represents a small forest, from which I glean tidbits all the time:
In fact, just last week, I had three of these books out on my desk with about 20 new dog-eared pages.
I also think that a lot can be said about being in an environment where there are other smart people to bounce ideas off of. This morning, for example, I learned a boatload of stuff (in comparison to what I already knew) by sitting with a co-worker for 5 minutes and going over some C# code I was re-tooling.
But in my opinion, the interactive nature of the growing SQL Server community is where people in our corner of the technical world can learn the most. Having the perspective of so many great minds at your disposal can be an intoxicating thing… you just have to get over the nerves of asking questions of folks like, well, you know who you are. (I don't want this to turn into an ass-kiss-fest, but there is an unprecedented number of smart folks bending over backwards to help this community.) And it doesn't stop online … there are also free events like SQLSaturdays, paid resources such as the PASS Summit, and training courses that, while not free, can be worth every penny (I wrote briefly about Paul and Kimberly's course earlier this year). I don't think you can say any of this about the PHP, Oracle or Flash communities – at least not with a straight face.
In the end, this installation of T-SQL Tuesday has me thinking of all the ways we learn, and how impressive it has been that the way we learn has evolved so much, even in my own relatively short career. And with the caliber of folks donating their time, energy and brainpower into making the community better, it can only be — as Radioactive Man would say — Up and Atom!