19 Oct 2011 PASS Summit 2011 Recap
The PASS Summit has come and gone. If you were there, you participated in the single largest event full of #SQLWINNING ever assembled. It’s hard to put into words all of the emotions and events that took place last week so I am going to reach into the well again and pull out a movie to use for quotes that apply to the week that was. You’re welcome.
This year I am going to use Wedding Crashers. If you have to ask “why” then you haven’t seen the movie. Well, I suppose you may have seen the movie and are still asking “why”, so let me explain in terms you can understand: SQL Wedding. That’s right, there was a wedding at the PASS Summit. I am trying to dig through the Summit history archives right now and I don’t see any mention of a wedding taking place, during Summit, by two attendees.
So with that, let’s get this started.
“I’m not perfect, but who are we kidding, neither are you.”
This quote just about sums up the First Timers event for me. It wasn’t perfect, but it was good. I’m not sure people understand the logistics behind trying to assemble over 1,000 people in a single group activity. We failed on many levels. We had Big Brothers and Sisters that didn’t show. For those that did show, it was hard to find their group. The room we had was late getting changed over. One room we thought we had we didn’t have. It was organized chaos, at best. But it was also v1.0 of a product, with the Beta testing having been done just the previous year.
We have lots of areas to improve upon for next year, with the idea in mind that in 2013 we will be in a different venue altogether (Charlotte). But my goal for the event will stay the same: to find ways to get people connected. It was not very long ago that I was told by a good friend that PASS did a lousy job of helping people connect. I set out to change that, and I think we have. Time will tell, of course, but I think we are on the right track.
I have no idea how to top the entrance for next year. When discussing the event earlier this summer I asked for a “reveal” and the Red Carpet was what we could do regarding the logistics. I wanted the first timers to be treated like stars. Somewhere in that group of 1,000 is a future PASS President, and I wanted them to know it. I think we did that.
Name me one other conference, tech or professional, that treats its members with as much pomp and circumstance as we did this year. Go ahead. I’ll wait.
[I am also looking to form a committee to help plan and coordinate for next year’s event. I’ll pass along details as soon as they are available.]
“And I’m sorry I called you hillbilly. I don’t even know what that means. It’s OK. Do you mind if I get married now?”
Well, this is an easy one, because WE HAD A WEDDING! It was officiated by
Rob Zombie Denny Cherry (blog | @mrdenny) and attended by a dozen or so of us. The rehearsal dinner was sponsored by Microsoft (held at their Tweetup), the ceremony was sponsored by Confio (providers of something old, something new, something borrowed, AND something blue), and the reception was sponsored by PASS (Gameworks).
I met Tamara (rhymes with camera) last year at the Nashville SQL Saturday as she accosted me in Kevin Kline’s kitchen. Seriously. She ran over to me like a Japanese schoolgirl to introduce herself and scared the hell out of me (remember folks, I am a shy person by nature). I spent time with her and KLT and they told me about the NASA Tweetup. So, without them, I would have never known about the Tweetup, and never gotten the chance to share a launch experience with Karen Lopez (also in attendance at the SQL Wedding). In other words, I am a HUGE fan of theirs and being able to witness their wedding was very, very special to me.
I’m sure it was special for them as well, of course.
“HEY MOM! CAN WE GET SOME MEATLOAF?”
We do our best to provide our attendees with some decent meals. However we are limited by what can be provided on site by the WSCTC staff. The food this year was not the worst I have ever had there, but it also seemed to be lacking a bit. I really can’t put my finger on what was missing, but something just seemed “off”. Perhaps I have been traveling so much, to so many events, that the food available at most convention centers all seems to be the same. I don’t know, but I can look into this for next year. For example, why can’t we have popcorn as a snack in the afternoon, right?
Anyway, you have food options outside of the WSCTC, and I explored a few of them. I hit a handful of my usual spots and also a few new ones. When I arrived in town on Monday I met my friend Todd Robinson (@DevSQL) and we grabbed a bowl of pho. I was told about places that served tempura bacon, and another with braised bacon. It seemed that everyone I spoke with had found some local place to grab a bite to eat.
Bottom line: don’t just rely on the food that is provided, get outside and soak up some local city flavor while in town.
“You shut your mouth when you’re talking to me!”
At some point during the week I saw something on Twitter that summed up everything so perfectly, so elegantly: #sqlfamily.
Nothing else can describe the PASS Community, or the greater SQL Community, than that hashtag. We are a family. We don’t always get along, we often disagree and fight, we bicker a lot, we tease each other, and we are very quick to point out our faults.
But we also love and support each other. We vacation together and go out of our way to help one another when help is needed.
The PASS Community has grown because we continue to grow as a family, almost like rabbits at this point. We treat each other as best we can, in the way that we would want to be treated. I can be totally pissed at one person today and tomorrow I am going to stand by their side when they need it most. We are database professionals and the only people who understand us, are us, and for that reason alone we stand by each other no matter what.
Just like a family should.
“What is she doing back there? I never know what she’s doing.”
I disappeared during the Summit. A lot. And most of the time people were always wondering where I was going. And most of the time it was to a meeting of some kind. A few times it was for a session (I presented one 1/2 day session on Thursday, was in a panel discussion on Friday, and then in another session right after that one), and other times it was to support my friends with whatever they needed. In some cases it was to spend 10 minutes talking to someone that needed a friend, or to see a friend’s session, or to attend an event sponsored by PASS. I even walked the exhibit floor and thanked the vendors for coming and supporting PASS. There were only a few moments during the Summit where I was needed in fewer than two places at the same time.
But when I disappeared most people had no idea where I was going. And some times I could say where I was going, and other times I could not. And I didn’t always handle it very well, but I did try my best. I joked on Twitter the week before the Summit that I needed a handler for the event, and I really could have used one. I am hoping that next year I can just pay Colin Stasiuk (blog | @BenchmarkIT) to be my handler and get me from one scheduled event to another and allow me to focus on where I am as opposed to where I need to be next.
“You didn’t happen to catch my speech on the Paraguayan debt and money supply issue did you? Are you kidding me? I thought it was great! Your argument for the inverse ratio of capitalization to debt was genius. Now if we could just get Congress not to be so short-sighted. Yes! Well put. Short-sighted. John, what d’you say we head onto the deck and light up a couple of cigars?”
This quote between John and the Senator strikes me as something that happens between Summit attendees all the time:
“So, what did you do?”
“I said no, but I would be happy to help him check. And then he got pissed and said I was nothing but a roadblock to his productivity.*”
“Yeah, I have a similar douche-canoe on our dev team as well. You need to let it go, though, otherwise it will consume you.”
One of the best things about being at the Summit is striking up a conversation with someone and suddenly realizing that you are not alone. It is an awesome feeling, and one I was lucky to experience in my first Summit. Most MSSQL DBAs are working alone in their shops, making it difficult to know if their struggles are unique or not. But at the Summit you can connect with others that have shared experiences, making you feel less alone in the Universe. And that is a very powerful feeling. I liken it to being enlightened.
[* – Actual quote from a developer once that said my not giving him access to tempdb was a roadblock to his productivity. I wish I were making this up.]
“I’ve been thinking about what you said and I think the problem is that I’m not being adventurous enough for you.”
This quote is for the non-Dewitt keynote presentations I have seen the past few years. They have been less than adventurous, to say the least. I am not trying to be disparaging in any way here, just trying to help explain what it is that we would want to see. And believe me, we do know what we want.
For example, did we really need to see an demo of Excel that showed us how kids like frozen yogurt? Of course not. And I also didn’t need to see a demo that showed me how easy it is to find out who Alan Rickman is…I already know who he is!
Look, Microsoft has been collecting data for over a year with Systems Center Advisor (formerly Project Atlanta). Why not use your Excel juju to slice and dice actual performance data for our crowd? We would have eaten that up like candy and asked for more. Would it have been that difficult to show your shiny new tools but in a way that would be more applicable for the crowd you were speaking to? Frozen yogurt? Really?
Bottom line: show us the tools you want, but with data and examples that are relevant. Otherwise we get the feeling that your slides are canned and not special for us. And while that may be the truth, it wouldn’t hurt to toss us something to make us feel like you prepared something special.
Before I forget, a big THANK YOU for revealing the name SQL 2012 at the Summit. That was awesome. Now, about those Mayans…
“Please don’t take a turn to negative town.”
On Tuesday morning, while grabbing my backpack to leave for the Summit, my laptop fell out of the side pocket and onto the floor. My first thought? “Crap.” My second thought? “I’ve dropped laptops before, it will be fine, just pack it and check on it later.”
Later came the next morning, as I wanted to start prepping for my talk on Thursday. I opened up the laptop and started it up and was greeted with this:
Uh-oh. I was starting to panic until I was reminded by Jonathan Allen (@fatherjack) that I had dual screens as a presenter and should be able to present with little issues. That reduced my stress levels somewhat and a quick check in the speaker room that the VGA output wasn’t damaged and I was ready to go. The real downside to all of this was that I didn’t have my presenter view available, so I needed to know all of my slide transitions, which I didn’t. So I had to make it up as I went along and I won’t really know how I did until I get back my evaluation scores. I think I managed it well enough but had a few issues when trying to demo some things on a VM inside my VM Workstation on the laptop. If I get docked for that, so be it, I was the klutz that dropped the laptop.
I think the lesson here is this: check your zipper. Otherwise you never know what may fall out.
[smacks his butt] “Watch me take this on down the road.”
To say I was overbooked at the Summit is an understatement. I was everywhere, and nowhere, all at the same time. And every time I had to excuse myself to go somewhere I felt bad for doing so. The worst example happened at the Birds of a Feather table hosted by Allen White. We were having a discussion about Service Broker, which got diverted to triggers, and as my hatred for triggers bubbled to the surface I did my best to stay calm. A few minutes later I got up and thought I mentioned to Allen that I had to go to the meet and greet for the Board of Directors that was about to start. I don’t think Allen heard me and was confused as to why I was leaving the table so suddenly. Allen, I apologize to you and everyone else at that table for leaving in that manner, and will do my best to be very mindful of my manners next time.
I could go on about all the time I had to leave one event or another. Next year I am going to set my schedule and not promise to be in two places at once.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the energy of the Summit, all of the exciting things to do and people to meet. I am flattered that I get invited to four different dinners in one evening. I want to spend time with everyone. I just don’t like the looks I get when I have to move on to the next one in order to keep a promise. So, next year, I promise to make fewer promises.
There you have it, the PASS Summit 2011 recap:
See you next year!