SQL Saturday Dallas – Registration and Call for Speakers is Open!

I’m happy to announce that SQL Saturday Dallas is officially scheduled, and the registration and call for speakers is open.  This event will be held on Saturday, May 22, 2010, at the Region 10 Education Service Center in Richardson.

We’ll be accepting session abstracts until the middle of February, and have tentatively set an attendance cap of 500 people.  Be sure to register early, as we expect this event to fill up quickly.

Admission to the this event is free, though we’ll have to charge $10 to cover lunch.  You can pay for the lunch fee during the registration process on the website.

There are still sponsorship/advertising opportunities available for this event.  If you or your company is interested in advertising at SQL Saturday Dallas, contact me and I’ll put you in touch with our sponsorship coordinator.

Ping me if you have any questions, otherwise I’ll hope to see you at SQL Saturday #35 in Dallas next May!

Speaking at Ft. Worth SQL Server UG on Wednesday

If you’re in the Ft. Worth area next Wednesday, November 18, please join me at the Ft. Worth SQL Server User Group meeting at 6:30, where I have the honor of presenting my session entitled Intermediate SSIS.  This will be my first trip to the Ft. Worth group (my home group is over in Dallas), so I’m looking forward to meeting new people as well as the opportunity to speak. 

More information and directions can be found on the user group website.

Looking forward, I’m also doing a SQL Lunch presentation next month, and am trying to squeeze in another talk for the PASS BI Virtual Chapter before the end of the year; I’ll post info for those events shortly.

SQL PASS Summit 2009 – Parting Thoughts

So now that we’re 7 days removed from the end of the SQL PASS summit, I’ve finally managed to arrange my thoughts and put together some notes about an incredible week in Seattle.  This was only my 2nd summit, and the two experiences were vastly different (for my review of the 2005 summit, read “Don’t Be This Guy”).

Just a few highlights I jotted down:

  • The keynotes were painfully long.  The 2-hour opening event would have been tolerable if it was the only one, but each morning started with a lengthy series of addresses (and at least one sales pitch from Dell, which has already been appropriately addressed elsewhere).  More thought should be put into the length and content of these opening events, and the 2nd and 3rd days should be shortened considerably – keep those under an hour.
  • The Birds of a Feather lunch was a great idea!  Since I haven’t been to the summit in 3 years, I don’t know whether this is a new concept, but it seemed to go over well.
  • Ditto that for the chapter leaders’ luncheon.  We got the opportunity to meet 3 people from the Dallas area who were members of our mailing list but do not attend chapter meetings, and another 3 who had no knowledge of the local group at all.  I suspect there are other similar stories, so I count this as a win for the Dallas group and PASS as a whole.
  • At first I thought the rental of the GameWorks facility by Microsoft was a bad idea.  After all, if people are playing video games they’re not going to be networking.  But after attending and giving it some thought, this venue probably brought out at least a few people who wouldn’t have otherwise spent any time with peers.  In hindsight, I like this.
  • It’s been mentioned elsewhere, but it’s such a good idea that I’ll repeat it here: We need a way to quickly identify first-time summit attendees.  A ribbon on their name badge would probably work best, perhaps coupled with a networking event specifically for newcomers or those attending the summit alone.  Properly welcoming newcomers is a good way to encourage them to return again and again.
  • We should have either large printed schedules hung throughout the facility, or big monitors (like those showing the Twitter feeds) strategically placed showing the schedule.  The latter would allow for last-minute updates and room changes.
  • Twitter.  PASS organizers did a good job of embracing this phenom by showing the #sqlpass hashtag feed on several monitors, including the large ones in the arena before the opening ceremony.  If you’re attending the summit and aren’t using Twitter, get plugged in even if only for the duration of the conference.
  • The forums on the SQL PASS website for finding roommates and ridesharing were great ideas as well.  I think Jorge Segarra was the thinker-upper for this – kudos!
  • The PASS board of directors made themselves available for an open Q&A session on Wednesday, which was poorly attended.  There was lots of chatter about things that were wrong with PASS, but not a lot of representation at that meeting.  Where was everyone?  Hats off to the PASS board for opening themselves up for open questioning.  Two suggestions I have for this event (assuming we’ll get the same opportunity next year) is that the session should be better publicized, and it should be schedule when few if any other sessions are occurring – as it turned out, this time slot collided with one of Kimberly Tripp’s sessions, and many people chose the latter over the Q&A.
  • Logistics – need more seating in the common areas.  This may be a limitation of the convention center, but I suspect that couches and small tables/chairs could be rented for the event.
  • Geography.  There was a lot of discussion around the possibility of moving the summit to different locations, at least every other year. I like the idea, though I understand that we’d lose a lot of the Microsofties by relocating the event to Dallas or Denver or Chicago.  I think moving it to other cities helps to broaden the appeal, bringing along even more first timers.  We capture those new attendees by embracing them (see the 5th bullet above) and they convert into yearly attendees.  PASS grows, and the community is better through that growth.  Win-win.
  • SQL Karaoke.  It’s a great social event and the newest summit craze.  PASS should consider embracing this and have a karaoke night.  (I’m only half kidding… if done well it could be a nice addition to the after-hours events)

So back to me and my experience.  As I shared in the aforementioned blog a few weeks ago, I had a mediocre experience four years ago at the summit because I was essentially a wallflower.  Yes, I attended the sessions and dropped in on the parties, but didn’t get engaged with other attendees and ended up going back to the hotel early a couple of times.  I’m happy to report that last week’s experience was a 180 degree turnaround.  Building on the lessons I’ve learned since, I spent all of my non-sleep time with other people, talking shop, discussing careers, and cutting loose a bit.  I lost count of the number of people I met for the first time, and I caught up with many others whom I rarely see or haven’t talked to in a while.  I still need to work on meeting more people at big events – I tend to get caught up in conversations and hang with people for a while, when I should be circulating more.  I’ll put that on the list for next year.

If you didn’t attend the summit this year, I hope you’ll consider it for next year!  The costs are reasonable when amortized over the year, and you can cut your lodging and transportation in half by sharing.  The PASS board and volunteers did a great job with this event, and I for one am looking forward to next year’s summit.  Hope I’ll see you there!

SQL PASS Summit 2009 – Day 3

The day started off with the Quest Software breakfast presentation, to which I arrived late to find a standing-room-only crowd.  I left early to find a spot to sit – after yesterday’s interesting but much too long opening ceremony, I elected to catch up on blogging and attend the keynote virtually via Twitter.

I attended Andy Leonard’s session entitled “Applied SSIS Design Patterns” during the first breakout of the day.  I’ve corresponded with Andy several times over the past few months, and after our first face-to-face on Sunday evening, I was especially excited to see this presentation.  He did a great job of explaining how to develop an SSIS package structure to make logging and error handling much easier.  It was one of the highlights of the summit so far.

After lunch, I hit the BI Power Hour presentation, which was intended to give an exciting and fast-paced tour through some upcoming features of SQL Server and related BI components.  Although it was interesting material, it was so high-level and abstracted that it was difficult for me to buy into the excitement.  I did see a few nuggets that interest me, among them the map controls and other new additions to Report Builder 3.0.  I also dropped in on a high-level session describing the Kimball methodology for DW/BI processing.

Next up was the most interesting part of Wednesday.  The entire PASS board of directors attended a moderated Q&A session where PASS members were invited to ask questions in an open forum.  I’d like to say thanks to the board members for opening themselves up to this line of questioning, but frankly I was disappointed at the lack of turnout of the general membership.  There was a great deal of discussion and lots of complaints about the recent BoD election, and in light of the interest sparked by this discussion, I expected more representation.  I don’t subscribe to the theory that “if you don’t participate, you don’t get a say”, but if there really are so many things wrong with PASS, shouldn’t we have more people coming forward to offer up a better way of doing things?  However, despite the minimal representation of the membership, I was pleased with the open discussion that resulted.

Wednesday night was the Microsoft appreciation party at GameWorks across from the Sheraton.  There were a LOT of people who attended, thanks in no small part to the free drinks and unlimited game play.  I spent some time getting to know Blythe Morrow and Jason Strate and discussing all things PASS.  Afterward, we dropped into Vessel, a trendy and ridiculously expensive bar just a few blocks away, and ended the evening back at the tap house playing pool with Tim Ford, Patrick LeBlanc, Jessica Moss, and others.

Tomorrow is the last day of the Summit!  Though I’m looking forward to going home to see my new baby daughter, I’m going to miss being here.  It feels like the central of the SQL Server universe this week.

SQL PASS Summit 2009 – Day 2

Day two of the summit found me in the keynote, an interesting but much too long (2 hours) for comfort.  Among the most notable information was the confirmation that SQL Server 2008 R2 will definitely be released during the first half of next year, along with a couple of new SKUs for the product.  Also part of the presentation was a demo of a SQL Server application running on a 192-processor box sitting on the stage.  Interestingly, the server started making a lot of noise after the demo, resulting in a lot of Twitter speculation as to whether the server would either explode or lift off.

I started the training day in a business intelligence session, which I ended up leaving early mostly due to some audio issues with the mic.  I took the opportunity to jump over to the session of fellow Dallas-area tweep Trevor Barkhouse, who did an excellent job on his first PASS Summit presentation.  I spent the rest of the time slot visiting with a couple of folks at the PASS booth.

Lunch was the best part of the day on Tuesday!  I spent two hours at Joe Webb’s table talking about technical consulting, as part of the Birds of a Feather lunch.  I’ve been corresponding with Joe via e-mail and Twitter for a while now, so finally meeting him in person was a pleasure.  About a half dozen other people came and went, each with a unique perspective, and the ensuing conversation was insightful.  My takeaway from this was that it’s possible to make a very comfortable living as an independent consultant, but this life is not without its risks or costs.

I spent the remainder of the afternoon taking in parts of several sessions.  I had a great time taking in multiple sessions at once through Twitter – following the #sqlpass hash tag is almost like attending every session at once.  I’ve got another blog post planned to discuss my reflections on the use of Twitter during this conference.

This evening held the exhibitor reception in the main exhibit hall.  There was food, giveaways, vendor demonstrations, and lots of swag.  I spent some time catching up with Kendal Van Dyke, whom I just met on Sunday, and Wes Brown, a fellow Texan whom I’d just met tonight.  Later, I was invited to the SQL Sentry party at the Tap House next to the Sheraton, where I’m almost certain that the sheer number of people in the room was a violation of the fire code.  Thanks to Peter Shire and the other SQL Sentry guys for their hospitality.

SQL PASS Summit 2009 – Day 1

Day one for me began with a leisurely breakfast at Top Pot donuts with Jack Corbett, Andy Warren, and Don Gabor.  We were joined briefly by Robert Cain,  and Greg Larsen.  We talked PASS, career development, networking, and various other interesting (perhaps even a few uninteresting) topics.  Don’s perspective as a nontechnical person was refreshing, and since we’ve spent a good deal of time recently discussing building a network of contacts, I made a number of mental notes to follow up on for later.

At midday, I attended the chapter leaders’ roundtable meeting.  I’m not a group leader, but our chapter president wasn’t able to come to the summit so I sat in for him.  Led by MVP Greg Low, this roundtable allowed group leaders to give input on how PASS could help them to grow their groups.   A number of good ideas were floated (more on that in a later post), and I was able to meet some more Tweeple for the first time, among them TJay Belt and Tim Ford.  Several of us went to lunch afterward at the restaurant in the Sheraton, where I met Michelle Ufford and spent some more time with Andy Leonard.  We talked SSIS, compensation, practical jokes, and bacon, but not necessarily in that order.

Don Gabor’s one-hour networking presentation for volunteers was valuable and immediately useful.  He gave us some practical ways to meet people, remember names, and maintain good conversations.  A couple of practical exercises were included to both demonstrate his logic and to help us meet other people in the session.  He offered a longer, $60 two-hour version of this content, but I skipped it to go meet some folks and work on a blog – a good decision, as it turns out, as I was called away by work to address a critical issue.

Walking through the concourse I bumped into MVP trio Geoff Hiten, Ken Simmons, and Jonathan Kehayias, who were in search of sustenance.  We picked up Aaron Nelson along the way, and the five of us walked down to the Tap House, a hip restaurant and microbrewery.  Good conversation ensued as we discussed previous PASS events and worst practices in SQL Server.

A general reception and dinner was held in the early evening, where we got to see some of the heavy hitters in SQL Server answer difficult questions in the Quiz Bowl.  To the surprise of no one, the Tripp/Randall team kicked tail in the contest.  I practiced my the lessons learned from Don’s session earlier today and made cold introductions to several people.  I stopped to talk with the virtual BI chapter folks and tentatively booked a webcast speaking opportunity for later this month or early next.

The SQL Server Central casino party followed.  I’m a sucker for a poker game, especially when it’s with my SSC friends and presents opportunities to meet new SQL Server people.  I didn’t win anything, but scored some networking points nonetheless.  At the party, several of us got together and elected to find a karaoke joint.  After getting lost on the way, we finally arrived at Bush Garden, a small Oriental establishment which was summarily taken over by geeks.  We closed the place down after 1:30 (it’s been years since I’ve done that), and after getting lost – again – on the way back, I finally arrived in my room about 2:30am.  Expect me to be half-asleep at the opening keynote on Tuesday.

More to come…

SQL PASS Summit 2009 – Day Zero

For me, today was the start of a six-day SQL Server adventure at the PASS Summit in Seattle.  The day started off not so well, with my 2 year old finding – and losing – the digi cam’s memory card, which is apparently obsolete and can’t be replace.  Off to an unscheduled trip to Best Buy for a new camera.  At Love Field in Dallas, I had a nice long visit with an agent of the TSA, where I was briefed about the proper packing of liquids and was subsequently relieved of some of what I’d packed.

I was able to meet up with my friend and Summit roommate Jack Corbett on the second leg of my flight, and he and I caught up on all things PASS and various other topics.  After arriving in Seattle, we met up with Wendy Pastrick and Damon Clark and shared a town car over to the Sheraton.

After dinner, we headed to Zig Zag just down the hill from the hotel and a few hundred yards from the famous Seattle fish market.  I met for the first time several SQL Server tweeps I’d never met, including Andy Leonard, Jason Strate, Grant Fritchey, Chris Massey, Colin Stasiuk, Scott Schwartz, and Todd McDermid, and also caught up with Jason Massie and Jessica Moss, among others.

The day’s been a long one, and coupled with the 2-hour time difference and last night’s change back to standard time, my body clock is a wreck.  But fatigue bedamned, it’s going to be a great week.