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SELECT * FROM StackExchange. There's the Easy Way and the Hard, Data Fun, Way


Brent Ozar - How to Query the StackExchange Databases

During next week’s Watch Brent Tune Queries webcast, I’m using my favorite demo database: Stack Overflow. The Stack Exchange folks are kind enough to make all of their data available via BitTorrent for Creative Commons usage as long as you properly attribute the source.

There’s two ways you can get started writing queries against Stack’s databases – the easy way and the hard way.

The Easy Way to Query StackOverflow.com

Point your browser over to Data.StackExchange.com and the available database list shows the number of questions and answers, plus the date of the database you’ll be querying:


The Hard Way to Query StackOverflow.COM

First, you’ll need to download a copy of the most recent XML data dump. These files are pretty big – around 15GB total – so there’s no direct download for the entire repository. There’s two ways you can get the September 2013 export:

I strongly recommend working with a smaller site’s data first like DBA.StackExchange. If you decide to work with the monster StackOverflow.com’s data, you’re going to temporarily need:

  • ~15GB of space for the download
  • ~60GB after the StackOverflow.com exports are expanded with 7zip. They’re XML, so they compress extremely well for download, but holy cow, XML is wordy.
  • ~50GB for the SQL Server database (and this will stick around)

Next, you need a tool to load that XML into the database platform of your choosing. For Microsoft SQL Server, I use Jeremiah’s improved version of the old Sky Sanders’ SODDI. Sky stopped updating his version a few years ago, and it’s no longer compatible with the current Stack dumps. Jeremiah’s current download is here, and it works with the September 2013 data dump.




Why Go to All This Work?

When I’m teaching performance tuning of queries and indexes, there’s no substitute for a local copy of the database. I want to show the impact of new indexes, analyze execution plans withSQL Sentry Plan Explorer, and run load tests with HammerDB.

That’s what we do in our SQL Server Performance Troubleshooting class – specifically, in my modules on How to Think Like the Engine, What Queries are Killing My Server, T-SQL Anti-patterns, and My T-SQL Tuning Process. Forget AdventureWorks – it’s so much more fun to use real StackOverflow.com data to discover tag patterns, interesting questions, and helpful users.

A great resource, both Brent's post and of course the data for when you need some "safe" data, yet in a large enough volume to be meaningful...

Related Past Post XRef: 
Stacks and stacks of data - Your copy of the Stack Overflow’s (and family) public data is a download away

The Stack Family (StackOverflow, SuperUser, etc) gets OData’d via Stack Exchange Data Explorer
Build something awesome with the new StackExchange v2 API and win something awesome... 
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