Interview with Database TechNet Wiki Ninja – Mohsin Khan

Hello guys,

I’m happy to reach you all with another Interview with one of the popular Wiki Ninja.

As per time-honored tradition, today we’re publishing an interview with one of the popular authors in Technet Wiki who have enlightened us with quality posts. The "Monday - Interview with a Wiki Ninja" category in Wiki gives us the unique opportunity to honor the Wiki members for their contributions within the community.

The author on spotlight for today’s interview is none other than Mohsin Khan. Mohsin has contributed 9 articles and has an impressive conversion rate winning 8 Gold medals in Technet Guru Awards so far as per TechNet Guru: The Most Frequent Award Winners.  He was identified as one of the most eligible candidates for interview within community as per this article. The Gold Awards indicate the top quality of his articles.

Let’s hear the rest straight from Mohsin…

  1. Who are you, where are you, and what do you do? What are your specialty technologies?

Hi everyone! My name is Mohsin Khan. I was born and raised in Hyderabad, India. I currently live in San Antonio, Texas, USA. I hold a master’s degree in Computer and Information Systems Security and I currently work as a Senior Database Consultant for one of the world’s biggest healthcare companies. I am married to a beautiful wife and we have an adorable two-year-old daughter.

As a student pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Information Technology, I developed a keen interest in databases and by the time I completed the degree, I had made my mind to pursue a career in the field of Database Administration. I started off with Oracle and after a little while, switched to SQL Server and I have been working in mixed environments as a cross-platform database professional ever since.

As for the specific areas of SQL Server, I love learning and working with the High-Availability and Disaster-Recovery features that SQL Server offers. Other areas I like messing around with include Database engine internals, In-Memory OLTP, Azure SQL Database, and the latest — SQL Server on Linux. I hold Microsoft and Oracle certifications namely, MCSE: Data Platform, MCSE: Business Intelligence, and Oracle Database 11g Administrator Certified Professional (OCP).

I believe in the famous quote “knowledge increases by sharing but not by saving (Kamari aka Lyrikal) ” which inspired me to start a new SQL Server local user group called Data Platform User Group at Commerce (Abbreviated to DPUGC) in Commerce, Texas. I currently serve as the group leader and have spoken multiple times at the monthly meetings. My small contributions to the SQL Server community in the form of answering in forums, TechNet articles, speaking events, are nothing but attempts to pay it forward.


  1. What are your big projects right now?

Currently, I am working on some extremely important, multi-million dollar projects at the client which keep me occupied these days. I am also working on my SQL Server blog, which will hopefully be live in the first quarter of this year. Besides, I have more TechNet Wiki articles coming up, and more speaking events. My next speaking session is scheduled for February of this year at a local user group. In between, I am experimenting with SQL Server on Linux on an Azure VM. There are a couple of other community activities related to SQL Server on the cards, but it’s too early to talk about them. I will announce when the time comes.

  1. What is TechNet Wiki for? Who is it for?

TechNet Wiki is for anyone who likes to learn, help and get help with various Microsoft technologies such as SQL Server, BizTalk, SharePoint — you name it, Wiki has got it! It is a great platform to share one’s knowledge and experiences in the form of technical articles. From beginner to advanced, you will find different levels of articles on Wiki.  It is a database of articles written by folks ranging from beginners to some exceptionally well technology enthusiasts. Thus, the quality of articles ranges from a simple How-To guide to a more advanced and in-depth article — both of which are equally important to satisfy the different types of audiences.

Last but not least, Wiki is for anyone who is looking to improve their article writing skills. The authors get quality critiques and feedback on their articles which immensely help them to become successful authors in the long run.

  1. What is it about TechNet Wiki that interests you?

There are many things that interest me about TechNet Wiki, including, but not limited to the following:

  1. It has wide coverage of several Microsoft technologies.
  2. Monthly Guru competition which gets your article noticed and gets your hard work acknowledged.
  3. Great Search Engine Optimization which raises your article’s visibility. You are most likely to notice your article in the top search results on the famous search engines. Of course, this is on the understanding that your article has search keywords, appropriate tags etc.
  4. Quality critiques and great feedback from the judges and peers. I personally benefited a lot from the feedback on my articles.
  5. Quality updates/formatting from community members. Need help with formatting your article? It’s highly likely that your article will have updated to your satisfaction within a few hours of you publishing it. There are some super-active Wiki members that immensely help raise the quality of articles by making updates. Two such names that spring to mind are Peter Geelen and Richard Mueller.
  6. You don’t have to worry about the hosting. It’s more like “write it, and forget it!” Your articles reside in the repository outside your reach and you don’t have to worry about paying for the hosting or anything.
  7. You get recognition points! Sure, not immediately, but in the long run. The more popular your article becomes and crosses certain thresholds, the more points you gain. There are authors that have continually been gaining hundreds of points for articles they wrote years ago.
  8. Openness to accepting new authors with no prior writing experience. You don’t have to have prior experience to be able to start writing Wiki articles. However, it’s your responsibility to go through the articles that talk about the Wiki rules and writing style and what could potentially disqualify your article from being published.

I am sure I am missing several other Wiki benefits, but the above is what comes to my mind right now.

  1. What are your favorite Wiki articles you have contributed?

Of all the articles I have contributed so far, my favorite ones are as follows:

  1. SQL Server: How To Perform Piecemeal Restore and Partial Backup of a Database
  2. SQL Server: All about detach and attach operations and common scenarios where they may or may not work
  3. SQL Server: Concurrency Control Models, ACID properties and Transaction Isolation Levels
  4. SQL Server Transaction Log Internal Architecture — Facts Every SQL Server Database Professional Should Know 

The main reason for them being my favorite is the level of information they contain. The top two ones present several scenarios that you, as a DBA, are likely to encounter and ways you can get out of them. The other two talk in-depth about the internals of transaction processing and transaction log, respectively. My fundamental goal in any article is to cover as many details as possible while making sure it doesn’t get too complicated or overwhelming for the readers.

  1. What could we do differently on TechNet Wiki?

Wiki is already a well-established platform that has evolved over time, however, I think a few changes could potentially add more value to it and improve the user experience. By the way, it’s likely that fixes/workarounds for these already exist and I am just unaware of them. Or, there could be valid reasons for not having them and I totally get that.

  1. The editor: Sometimes the editor ceases to work. You would have to open a new tab and paste the article contents into it and go from there. Maybe a visual editor equivalent to the default WordPress editor would help.
  2. If you take too long to update an article, chances are your session will timeout. This usually happens in the case of long articles with several images etc. Maybe increasing the session timeout would help fix this so folks can take time to edit articles.
  3. Add a feature that lists all articles written by an author. I know there are ways to search for all articles authored by an author (for instance, by typing first published by followed by author’s name in the search box or creating a user page and manually listing all articles authored by him or her), but adding a feature would make it quicker to navigate.

On the flip side, most of the issues can be resolved quickly with a little help from the senior community members. So, by the time you write your second article, you will be well-versed in the platform.

  1. Who has impressed you in the Wiki community, and why?

In my opinion, all community members do a great job in their respective domains in empowering the community. While I haven’t had the chance to interact with many Wiki community members, one person that stands out in the crowd is Visakh Murukesan, who’s a several-time MVP. From being one of the judges at the monthly guru competition giving great feedback on the articles to giving helpful advice on how to improve at writing Wiki articles, Visakh has always been a great help. When I first started writing Wiki articles, I had several questions. Thankfully, he came forward and pointed me in the right direction. Ronen Ariely (MVP) is another such community leader and a judge at the Wiki guru competition. Ronen is very active on the TechNet Wiki Facebook group giving great feedback and tips on how one can improve their work. Post a question and expect his response within a short space of time (Of course unless he’s busy). Oh, by the way, Ronen and Visakh are authors themselves and write great in-depth articles at Wiki. Others include Syed Shanu and Kamlesh Kumar — they are very helpful in their respective areas of expertise.

As an author, one looks forward to the feedback on his/her work so they know what’s missing and how they can improve further. By providing elaborated feedback, these community members have been doing an amazing job. As Drew Brees said, “Sometimes all you need is just for somebody to believe in you in order to be able to accomplish maybe what you never thought you could”.

  1. Do you have any tips for new Wiki authors?
  1. First and foremost, thoroughly read the Wiki rules and ensure your article isn’t violating any of them. There are several helpful Wiki articles out there(for example, this) that talk about things that disqualify an article.
  2. With the high level of openness comes great responsibility. While you are allowed to edit any article written by anyone and you get recognition in the form of medals after crossing certain thresholds, however, make absolutely sure that the updates you plan on making improve the overall article quality or add value to it and not be counter-productive. The goal is to improve the article and not diminish its quality.
  3. Do not write blog-type articles. There’s a reason why TechNet Wiki calls them articles and not blogs. At the minimum, I’d suggest going for approximately 2600 - 3000 words.
  4. Thoroughly research the topic for your article. If you are making an argument, make sure to back it up with evidence.
  5. Always back up the content before you publish an article, there’s a chance your session will time out and the browser will potentially freeze. You can always publish in smaller multiple chunks.
  6. Use proper tags and keywords for better SEO (Search Engine Optimization). That said, do not use too many keywords or tags. That could turn out to be counter-productive.
  7. Things to write an article about include How-To’s, tutorials, walkthroughs, Bust a myth, examine a problem and talk about the solution, pros, and cons of some feature etc.
  8. Follow-up and make updates to your old articles to keep them current.

Thanks Mohsin for your high quality contributions to the Technet Wiki community. Expecting lot more from you in the coming months. Glad to hear in detail from you.

A very big thank you from all of us in the Wiki Community!