Sep 27 2014

PASS Votes… A little bit more #passvotes

I am putting up an abnormal Saturday morning blog post in support of the actions taken by the PASS Board last night.

The story so far…

In order to eliminate all the excess ballots (I received 5 one year although I only used one) being sent to eligible members of the PASS organization, a requirement to update your profiles in such a way as to firmly establish one each was implemented. Great idea. Unfortunately, somehow, the communication just didn’t make it out to everyone. And, some people didn’t quite get their profiles updated the right way. Suffice to say, when the ballots when out on the 24th, there were a lot of very disappointed and frustrated individuals, many of them long-time and dedicated members of the PASS community.

The Board then did the right thing. They gathered the information they had at hand. They investigated the situation in order to understand the possible solutions. They implemented a very substantial fix to the problem after they understood the issues they were dealing with  and the implications of the potential solutions. It’s almost like they’re DBAs or something. I’m extremely satisfied with the approach they took and the solution they have proposed. Further, I think you should take these positive and thoughtful actions taken by the board, and it’s existing membership, into consideration when you vote. These are capable and responsible people.

As for myself, as one of the people running for a position on the board, I could easily whine and complain about changing the rules right in the middle of the process. In fact, you do realize that making these changes actually has to be done, not in some arbitrary fashion, but following the laws of corporations as defined by the state of Illinois? Yeah. They can’t just do what they want. PASS is a legally incorporated entity that is required to obey the law in terms of its governance, which radically reduces the choices open to them. They must follow the law. I think a lot of the sturm and drang of the last few days didn’t take that into account in any way, shape, or form. I’ll tell you what I told members of the board:

I recognize that you are in a no-win situation. I will absolutely support any action you decide to take. Regardless of the outcome of the election, I will post no protest or complaint.

Go. Fill out your profile. Vote for the PASS Board.

Sep 24 2014

Thoughts on PASS Board Nomination Process: #passvotes

Having very recently gone through the nomination process for the PASS Board, I thought I would share a few things about it. Overall, it was a great experience. I feel that I really had to stretch to meet everything required of me. It was quite difficult to put together all the campaign material. Deciding on who to ask to give you recommendations was also very difficult. All, very much, as it should be. We’re talking about stepping up to run for the board of, essentially, a multi-million dollar corporation. It should be hard to do that. The interview process with the Nomination Committee was also no picnic. Most of these people had already served on the board, so they knew exactly what you, the nominee, was going to get into, so they asked about it. Heck, at the end of the interview process I was seriously questioning whether or not I should have run at all. Again, I think, as it should be. In all, I’m extremely impressed with the entire process, how the communications were done, the documentation, the nomination committee, all of it.

Well done PASS. And, special thank you to the Nomination Committee for all your hard work.

Now, i have a question, why didn’t more people do it?

It’s just me and three current members of the board running for reelection who have applied for the slate. Four people for three slots. Why not more? Are people just not aware of this? Or, are people intimidated by this process (not necessarily a bad thing)? Or, do people just not care? Maybe people think things are running swimmingly so don’t feel a need to rock the boat? I’m actually curious. Win or lose, I thought it was a great experience from which I think I learned a few things about myself. But I expected even more competition from a wider variety of people. I think there are a lot more of you that should be considering this. Next time, you need to run. Yes, you.

VOTING BEGINS TODAY!

Check your email for your ballot which will be emailed at 20:00 GMT.

For more information about me, why I’m running, etc., please check here. For more information about the PASS election, please go here.

Sep 22 2014

Communication and the Board: #PASSVotes

The whole idea behind PASS is to build a community of people who can assist each other in their daily work lives. PASS succeeds at that wonderfully. Further, PASS, the organization, tries extremely hard to let you know what it’s doing and how it’s doing things. You can read the PASS Blog to get all sorts of good information. One of my recent favorites was this great summary of how the Summit speaker selection process was run. I think it’s a positive thing that the organization is so open. I intend to take it one more step.

If I get elected (huge “if”), I’m going to make a point of blogging about, well, the stuff I end up doing. No, I’m not going to be the official mouth-piece for the organization, and no, I don’t mean I’m going to tell you secrets or spread silly gossip. I mean I’m going to share my thoughts and processes on the stuff that I’m doing within the board so that you know what you got out of me. Casting your vote is an act of trust. I want to do what I can to show I’m worthy of that trust, so this is my plan.

My name is Grant Fritchey. I’m the Scary DBA. I’m running for the PASS Board.

For more information about me, why I’m running, etc., please check here. For more information about the PASS election, please go here.

Sep 19 2014

A Manager or a Community Person: #PASSVotes

I am running for the PASS Board. You can read more about what I’ve posted and what others have to say here on this page.

Today I want to ask you a question. Should someone on the board be a manger or should they be a community person? Let’s avoid the easy answer of both for a moment, not because that’s the wrong answer, but because it’s the right one. Clearly you need a mix of these skills to be on the board. But, where you fall on my simplistic question could determine the kind of person you want to vote for on the board. Let’s discuss it a bit.

According to Wikipedia (deal with it), a board of directors is “meant to oversee the activities of a company or organization.” Well, my question is answered then, a manager is what’s needed. We’re done. Boy that was a stupid question Grant. But hang on a second. Let’s take a look at the mission statement of the PASS organization:

Empower data professionals who leverage Microsoft technologies to connect, share, and learn through networking, knowledge sharing, and peer-based learning.

Now what do you think? Do you just want some manager type, or maybe, just maybe, having a data professional directly involved in peer-based learning, for example, answering questions on SQL Server Central. A person heavily involved with knowledge sharing, maybe, running a blog and presenting webinars.  As for networking, let’s talk at one of the live events where I’ll be presenting technical talks. In short, I think I’m well positioned to answer the PASS mission statement. I have team lead and project lead experience. I’ve also helped run volunteer organizations. But, what I really am is a community guy. My passion and my interests line up directly with the PASS mission statement. This is a large part of why I’m running for the board. I believe in what the organization does and I want to help it do more.

So, I’m pretty sure we need managers, but I really do think we need community people too. If you agree, please consider voting for me, Grant Fritchey, during the PASS Election between the 24th and the 29th of September. Keep on an eye on your inbox for your ballot and your chance to vote. For more information about the PASS election and information on the other candidates, go here.

Sep 17 2014

I Am Running For the PASS Board of Directors: #passvotes

This year, I submitted my application to run for the PASS Board and it was accepted. This then is my announcement to all of you and the beginning of my campaign for election. My name is Grant Fritchey and I’m running for the PASS Board.

It’s traditional to either make all sorts of promises for the things you’re going to do or to attack your opponents. I’m not going to do either. I don’t have any grand promises to make. I’m not going to attack my opponents because I know and respect them. I’m voting for James Rowland-Jones myself and so should you. Let’s do this instead. Let’s talk about PASS, you, me, your career, mine, and how PASS can change your life.

PASS changed my life for the better. Like many people, I’m constantly trying to learn how to do my job better. In 2005, I got the opportunity to go to the PASS Summit in Dallas. Just like many of you, I attended sessions and learned all sorts of things. It was great. Right there, PASS can change your life by teaching you more about SQL Server and related technologies. Not life changing enough? Not for me either. While there, I met some volunteers who were helping to run the organization, so I decided to volunteer too. One thing led to another and suddenly, I knew people from all over the country and our “family reunion” was at the PASS Summit. Yeah, a network. No, not to look for a new job. That’s not the primary reason for having a network. The primary reason for having a network is an extended set of knowledge. I know some things my friends don’t. They know some things I don’t. We can help each other. PASS supplies the medium through Summit, SQL Saturdays, the BA Conference, webinars and the local user groups it supports to provide you with the means to build your own network. That’s pretty life changing, right? Yeah, I’m somewhat underwhelmed too. I also started speaking at the local user group that we set up and I started submitting to speak at PASS and finally made the big stage. Oh boy, I get attention. Yeah, that’s one reason for doing it, but, at work I started presenting a lot more too. I was presenting stuff to my team, my boss, their boss, and ultimately to large sections of the organization. Yeah, PASS can help you there too, again through SQL Saturdays, your user group, and maybe, for a few, Summit. There are also opportunities for you to write, record videos, help run the program committee, all sorts of volunteer positions within the organization that will assist you in building your skill set and your presence which will all be completely applicable inside and outside work. I’ve done many of these and they lead me to becoming an MVP and getting a fantastic job for an amazing company. I absolutely attribute all that to PASS. PASS changed my life, and it can change yours.

So, back to this election business. Why am I running for the board? Because I want to do two things. First, I want to help keep the organization going strong and I think it’s time that I volunteered at a higher level to make this happen. Second, I want you to find and take advantage of the opportunities that PASS offers so that it can change your life too. We need to get the word out to a lot more people in order to show them what the organization can do for them. It’s about teaching technology, sure, but it’s also about networking and mentoring and personal growth. This organization can, and will, change your life. The structures are there. You just have to make the choice to reach out and grab those opportunities. I want to share this with others. Those are my reasons for running.

The only promise I’ll make is that if I get on the board, then the passion I bring to, well, everything, will be applied to whatever work I can do there to keep this organization running and get you the opportunities to change your life. Please vote for me. My name is Grant Fritchey and I’m running for the PASS Board.

For more information about the election, to see if you are eligible to vote, to see the other candidates and all the rest of the details, go here.

Sep 16 2014

PASS Summit 2014 Pre-Conference Seminar

I’m putting on a pre-conference seminar (also known as a pre-con) at the PASS Summit this year. I’m really honored to be able to present this and I’m pretty excited about it. So, if you want to talk query tuning, let’s get together at the Summit. For a few fun facts about the event, check out this Q&A over at PASS. To register for the event and my pre-con, go here now.

Jul 21 2014

Victims of Success

I took part in the PASS Summit 2014 selection committee this year because I was really curious about seeing how the sausage gets made. I’ve seen how actual sausage gets made and I still eat sausage.  Despite a few hiccups and communication issues, internal and external, I think the selection process for the Summit went really well this year. But, there was still some controversy. Being a naturally pushy person, I got involved in the controversy, for good or ill, and subsequently have had conversations with many people about the selection process (which, reiterating, I think went extremely well overall). But, the one thing that kept coming up over and over was a simple question:

How come I/PersonX didn’t get picked?

The easy answer is because you/PersonX had a horrible abstract. But you know what, in probably most cases, that’s not true. Good abstracts by good people didn’t get selected, so what the heck? I think the more complex answer does not go back to the selection committee or the selection criteria or the selection process. Do I think some improvements are possible there? Yes, and I’m putting my foot where my mouth is (or something) and joining the committees to try to make some tweaks to the system to make it better (and really, we need tweaks, I want to repeat, risking ad naseum, the process went well and worked great and I’m happy I took part and I think the outcome is pretty darned good). No, the real problem lies elsewhere, SQL Saturdays.

I’m not saying SQL Saturdays are themselves a problem. What I’m saying is that PASS took on the whole SQL Saturday concept for several reasons, one of which was for it to act as a farm team for speakers. This will be my 10th Summit. Looking back to 10 years ago, while I really loved the event, oh good god have the speakers improved. I remember sitting in sessions with people who were mumbling through their presentations so much that, even with a microphone, you couldn’t hear half of what they said. Slide decks that consisted of 8-12 pages of text (yes, worse than Paul Randal’s slides, kidding, don’t hit me Paul). Speakers who really, clearly, didn’t have a clue what they were talking about. It was kind of rocky back then. I learned my second year that you had to talk to people to find out, not just which sessions sounded good, but which speakers were going to present those sessions well enough that it would be worthwhile. Why were there so many weak presenters? Well, because there was almost nothing between speaking at local user groups and speaking at Summit (I made the leap that way). There were a few code camps around, a couple of other major events, various schools and technical courses, and Summit. I don’t know how the old abstract/speaker review process worked (and I apologize to whoever read my first abstract because I know now just how horrific it was and I’m so sorry I wasted your time), but I’m pretty sure they were desperate to get enough submissions that sounded coherent with a speaker attached that probably could get the job done. Not any more.

Now, people are getting lots of opportunities to present at SQL Saturday events all over the world. And it’s working. We’re growing speakers. We’re growing good speakers. Don’t believe me? Then you go to two or three events in a month, sit through 8-12 sessions, mostly by newer people, not Brent Ozar, not Denny Cherry, not Kim Tripp, and you review them, each, individually, then go back and try to pick the best one. Oh yeah, there’s going to be a few dogs in the bunch, but overall, you’re going to find a great bunch of presentations by a great bunch of speakers. Our farm system is working and working well. But there’s a catch.

Because we have upped the bar pretty radically on all the introductory level speakers (and if you’re thinking about presenting, don’t let that slow you down, everyone starts at zero and goes up), that means the competition at the top (and yes, I do consider the Summit the top in many ways, not all, see SQLBits) is becoming and more and more fierce. That means, my abstracts probably need quite a bit more polish than they’re getting (and so do yours) because there are a whole slew of speakers coming up that are writing killer abstracts. That means I need to really be concerned about the evaluations (despite the fact that I get dinged because the stage is low, the room is hot/cold, lunch didn’t have good vegetarian choices, England left the Cup early, all outside my control) because there are new speakers that are knocking it out of the park. In short, you/I/PersonX didn’t get picked because the competition has heated up in a major way.

In short, a sub-section of the community, defined by those who wish to speak, are victims of the success of the farm team system as represented by SQL Saturday. On the one hand, that sucks because I now need to work harder than ever on my abstracts, on the other, we’re going to see very few instances of really bad presentations at Summit. We’ve improved the brand and the community. It’s a good thing.

Jun 26 2014

Passion

I know I tend to be overly passionate. It’s something that has gotten me into trouble in the past. It’s also probably a huge factor in the things I’ve been able to accomplish in life. I’m bringing it up at this time because I think passion is causing some conflict within the community around the Professional Association for SQL Server (PASS).

On the 25th of June just past the announcements went out for the sessions accepted at the PASS Summit 2014. I found this stressful and exciting two ways. First, and for me personally, most importantly, because I had submitted several sessions and I desperately wanted to speak at the PASS Summit (I’ve spoken there every year since 2008 and I’ve made the Top 10 sessions two years in a row, for which I’m truly grateful, back to our story). Second, because this year I wanted to help make a difference so I volunteered on the selection committee (and I was on a committee other than one I submitted for, I didn’t influence selection there at all). I wanted to get my sessions accepted, and I wanted to see the work I put in on display. Happily, both occurred. But, the day was marred.

Let’s sidetrack (again) for a moment. I consider myself to be just a guy, a DBA, a developer, an IT pro. It’s what I’ve been doing for 20+ years (yeah, I’m old) and I’ve been relatively successful at it. But, I’m also a Microsoft MVP, a published author, frequent blogger, and an international speaker. I attribute most of that stuff, not to any great ability I have, but to a lot of luck, a lot of hard work, and, here’s the kicker, to my involvement with PASS. Go back ten years, I went to my first Summit down in Dallas, TX. I attended sessions and went back to my hotel room, except one night. During that day I had spent a little time chatting with a company and they invited me to a party they were throwing that night. I went. And I met some people. They were just DBAs and developers, just like me, but, they were also involved in the organization that put on the event, PASS. I liked these people. So, I started volunteering which led to another Summit and another and writing and speaking and… well, let’s just say, getting involved was a good thing. Being passionate about it all paid off, literally and figuratively. I really do owe PASS and the people that make it up a lot.

So, there are a lot of passionate people in this little gang of ours. And some of those passionate people didn’t like the outcome of the selection process. Being passionate, they voiced their opinions. LOUDLY. At length. Some of what they said had merit. Some of what they said was just hurt feelings. Some of what they said was a complete misunderstanding of how things worked within the committees and the selection process. But a lot of passionate people, who care about PASS, argued for a little while about the Summit selections. And, being a passionate guy, I took part. A lot of the work I did for the committee wasn’t making the light of day (more on that later, maybe, depending on how some internal communications turn out) and I was quite passionate about that. I don’t know this for a fact, but I suspect pretty strongly that my passion, what’s more, my public passion, around this topic made some people angry. I’m positive that others passion for the topic, regardless of their causes and the rightness or wrongness of their cause, definitely made people angry. Here’s where I get in trouble.

Get over it.

If we didn’t care about PASS and what the organization has done for us, and how we’d like to help it, and help others, and grow it, and reward ourselves (because I do believe everyone is fundamentally greedy, might as well acknowledge it), and just plain replicate the experience for others that I’ve had (because it’s been an overwhelmingly positive experience, I can’t say enough good things about PASS), then there wouldn’t be any passion. And if there was no passion, there would be no brouhaha and hurt feelings and the developing cliques (oh yeah, people are drawing lines like this was a war in the Balkans, apropos on the 100th Anniversary of World War I). But you know what, if there wasn’t any passion for, in, and around this organization, then it wouldn’t be the organization that it is.

It’s a great organization and people are going to be passionate about it. Cope. Passion is going to lead people to saying negative as well as positive things. Deal. People just might say negative things about you. Develop an epidermis.

Look, we should be able to disagree without being disagreeable, but passion leads us down dark roads sometimes. Let’s try to be understanding of that fact and recognize that the passion that makes this organization great is also the one that’s going to lead to conflict sometimes. Let’s just try to remember that and maybe we’ll be able to work towards sharing the great things this organization does with others and fight with each other less. Maybe.

NOTE: I made an edit about the work I did on the selection committee. It was on a track that I didn’t submit for. There was no way my work there could influence my selection. Plus the fact that the abstract evals and speaker evals were done by two different teams of people. Just want to be clear about that.

Mar 21 2014

PASS DBA Virtual Chapter Talk

I almost forgot to tell you about the Database Administration Virtual Chapter meeting next week, March 26th, 2014. I’ll be doing a talk about query tuning in Windows Azure SQL Database. It’s a talk I’ve given before (it was in the top 10 at the PASS Summit last year). Come find out why you’ll need to tune queries in WASD, the tools you get, and the glorious fact that you’ll actually be actively saving your business money by tuning queries! Click here now to register.

Mar 17 2014

SQL Saturday: You can’t have it all.

SQL Saturday’s are awesome! Let’s get that clear up front. The organizers of SQL Saturday events are glorious individuals. Let’s get that clear too.

I want to be up front about those things because, well, I’m going to be critical.

First though, I want to establish my bona fides for what I’m about to say. I helped organize two SQL Saturday events and two other local events before those. I also help Red Gate Software run half-day seminars all over the country. So, I have some idea what goes into the organizational side of these things. I’ve presented at eleven SQL Saturday events in just the last year. I’m on the schedule for, I think, 6 more between now and August. So, I think I have some idea what it’s like to be a speaker at the events. And, I work for a vendor who puts money and swag up at the events in order to get some advertising. Which gives me some ideas behind what makes the vendors happy too. Further, I’m one of the community. I attend the sessions, talk to the sponsors, take part in the after events, the whole magilla. I don’t think any of this makes me an expert or makes my voice more important than anyone else, but it all comes together to show that I’m not utterly clueless in my opinions (which, I know the adage, opinions are like certain body parts, everyone has one, and they all stink).

Organizers, I’ve seen this issue a lot and it’s just getting worse. This issue is going to hurt you with, in no particular order; speakers, sponsors and the community. What are you doing? You’re trying to have it all.

You want sponsors, right? The sponsors frequently ask for one thing… please, please, please, let us do a presentation so we can show off how wicked awesome our products are to the most motivated people in the region (yeah, the people who are giving up a Saturday to learn technology for their jobs are the best people in the area where that SQL Saturday is taking place). So, you agree to letting the sponsors have a talk… ooh, but when to schedule it?

You want BIG NAME speakers, right? Although I’m absolutely convinced that big name speakers don’t really draw people to your event. Good sessions, usually defined by good session titles, draw people to your event (and good communication on your part through various venues and… well, that’s a different discussion I’ll leave for Karla). But, the belief is there, so people try to get Brent Kline and Kendal Ford and Jes Misner to come speak at their event. BUT, you also want to meet the needs of the local community so you can grow new speakers, so you’re going to take in a bunch of new people too… ah, but how do you schedule that?

And you’re committed to your community too, right? And one of the best ways to show your commitment to your community is to host a panel at lunch. The most common panel is Women in Technology, but I’ve also seen or heard about panels on educating young people, charities, user groups, and all sorts of things. Great stuff really and a big part of why the SQL Family is so wonderful. We really do try to help each other out. We really do care, and those panels give people a chance to communicate what they’ve done to others who may want to contribute in the same way. Ah… but when can we schedule this panel?

By now, I’ll bet many of you know what I’m about to say. But, before I say it, let me point out one more thing. SQL Saturday’s are all day affairs. And if anyone goes to the entire thing, they’re in the building from 8AM to 4PM (or so), so, we’re going to feed them something at mid-day. That really bites into our schedule too.

When can we put all this together? A WIT panel, sponsor talks, new speakers, experienced speakers and lunch…. Hey, hold on. Let’s put it all at lunch. That’s just a gaping hole in the schedule begging to be filled.

And there lies the problem. Putting all this together, all at the same time, hurts something. And, putting it all at lunch, pretty much hurts all of it. It’s hard to get your food and then find your way to a room to eat it in, or, conversely attend the session you want and get your food later, or, try to eat and then go into a session half way through. You can’t do it all. And then, when you think about the audience mix you just created, you’re hurting new speakers because people may skip their session to attend the sponsor session or the WIT panel. The WIT panel is going to suffer because you scheduled an experienced, known, speaker at lunch because you just ran out of room to put them anywhere else. And the sponsors… I’ll be blunt. We want eyeballs. And you just gave them alternatives, and we know they already have alternatives with our competitors doing a session at the same time, but did you have to clean out everyone for the WIT panel too?

In short, organizers, you need to start to pare it down. Don’t try to do it all. You want to support sponsors at lunch? Cool, do that. Schedule the WIT panel to 1/2 hour before the prize drawing (I’ve seen that done, it worked well). You want to have sessions at lunch? Fine. Don’t schedule the sponsors for then. Extend the day and have sponsor sessions before or after lunch. Want to get eyeballs to the local speaker or the big name speaker? Cool, but leave the sponsors out of it. Can’t work out how to fit ALL this in? Then don’t. Don’t even try. Give up on some of it. Pick and choose to make your event yours. But don’t try to cram so much stuff in that you basically make it difficult for the speakers and the community and the sponsors and the attendees.