Oct 22 2015

ZOOMIT!

Guilty.

I’m at least one of the people who yelled Zoomit during a keynote at PASS Summit.

I want to take a moment and explain why I did it and why it was wrong.

I was frustrated. I’m watching a presentation on a HUGE screen, from about mid-way in the room and the presenter is earnestly showing off a cool new feature of SQL Server in about 3 point font and saying “… As you can see …”.

No. No I couldn’t. After a little while of staring at the blur on the screen and hearing the person say I could see this or see that, I popped. I was interested. I was paying attention. I really and truly wanted to see what was on the screen and I honestly could not. So, I yelled at the stage.

I was wrong.

The person on stage probably didn’t have Zoomit installed. Nor did they know how to use it. They probably also didn’t know that Windows has a magnification utility built in (don’t like it, but it’s there). My yelling didn’t help them at all to discover this information. Further, it probably made them even more nervous. Neither of these improved the experience for anyone in the audience. Finally, it was unprofessional behavior. That’s the important one.

What should I have done? Find a positive solution. Get a hold of someone, anyone, from PASS, from Microsoft, and let them know that we can’t see. Nothing is going to get fixed at the moment, but the feedback has to be delivered. It can just be delivered in a way that’s helpful, not hurtful. Write a blog post? Sure, but try to make it a positive and helpful one. Tweet about it at the time? Yeah, why not? Just make the tweets informative as opposed to negative. Communicate the necessary information (and yeah, it was necessary) in a way that does two things 1) It gets heard and 2) It provides help to those who need it.

I seem to frequently serve as a negative example. “Don’t do what I’ve done. It hurts” is a repetitive message I deliver. Please remember. PASS Summit is a blast. It is. The event has changed my life in a positive way and I’ve grown to truly love the giving community that built and continues to improve the PASS organization. So don’t do what I’ve done. Have fun at PASS, yes. SQUEE and hug your friends. Wear a kilt. Go to the parties and imbibe. Just remember, through it all, you’re still expected to behave as a professional. Don’t follow my bad example. Instead, build on the positive aspects of PASS and the community in a positive fashion.

See you next week!

Oct 20 2015

Statistics for the New Data Pro

Next week at the PASS Summit I’ll be presenting a session called Statistics for the New Data Pro.

You can read the abstract at the link. I just want to emphasize that this is a beginner level session. I think way too many people who are just starting out with SQL Server don’t understand the role that statistics play in determining how your queries are going to behave. What’s more, too many people don’t know how to get and read statistics to understand how it is that the optimizer thinks you have X number of rows in your database that match a given value. I’m going to make darned sure that the people who attend this session come out with a full understanding of how to read the statistics. This includes the good information available in the header, how the density graph is used, and a complete understanding of the monstrosity that is the histogram (it’s not that bad).

We’re also going to talk about statistics maintenance. You need to know how stats get updated because they absolutely impact how your queries are going to behave. There are a couple of ways that statistics are automatically maintained and I really want to be sure that you know what those are. We’ll also talk about manual maintenance, which must be done.

Overall, this is meant as a session for those who have stumbled into a position at work that requires them to be a Data Professional. You can call it accidental DBA, or reluctant database programmer, or just the poor individual who was left standing when everyone else stepped backwards one pace. If you already feel you have a firm grasp of statistics, awesome. You might not want to attend this session. It’s Summit. There are others during the same time slot. But, I have a request. Could you please direct your junior DBA to this? If you know someone who’s just getting started writing T-SQL code, maintaining a server, developing applications and reports, I think this session would do them good, so please send them on over.

Also, on the topic of statistics, I’d like to suggest that you go to Erin Stellato’s session, Statistics and Query Plans. That’s going to add a bunch of information in addition to what I’m covering. Plus, she’s a great speaker. It takes place the day before my session, but that’s OK. We’re covering different information. They’re very complementary sessions.

Sep 14 2015

PASS Nominations Committee 2015

The Nominations Committee has done their job and the final report has been published.

Good luck to everyone running. Thank you for stepping up and taking part in this process.

This is the first time in a very long time that I don’t get to put out a “You should listen to me and vote for…” blog post. Since I’m on the board I feel more than a little squeamish coming out for any candidate. If I openly support Person Y over Person X, have I just yacked off all the supporters of Person X? Have I yacked off Person X? Most importantly, have I potentially poisoned a relationship that I need in order to be effective while on the Board? Add to that the fact that I was ask to serve on the Nominations Committee this year. Now I’ve been asked to sit in judgement of a number of people and declare their various fitness for the board. Yeah, no one is getting a nod for the election this year.

Instead, let’s talk about the Nominations Committee (NomCom) process. The members of the Committee are publicly announced. The process in support of the NomCom is also published. I was assigned volunteered to be on the NomCom as one of the Board representatives. Kidding. I was very happy to get to take part in it this year since I had just gone through it for the first time last year. The committee operation was great. Not surprising. Look at the people on the committee. We met a few times to be sure that everyone was acquainted with the rules of the election as well as each other. Then we scheduled interviews with the candidates that qualified based on the documentation in the process. We were able to read their applications ahead of time. The interview consisted of us taking turns asking questions. I kept notes of interesting answers, answers I liked, answers I didn’t, and used the notes to come up with my rating of each candidate (No, you can’t see the notes. I burned them and then scattered the ashes). From where I sat, the process was smooth and straight forward. It was a real pleasure to work with all the other committee members. I’m not blowing smoke here. We really had fun. Did I mention we kept a chat going through Skype during the interviews so that we knew who was asking which question next… and so we could have a little fun picking on each other (not the candidates, we are professionals). Evidently Grant and #2 seem to be connected in some fashion (you had to be there).

I honestly can’t think of any major process improvements I would suggest for next year. One minor change I’d like to see introduced is that the documentation we currently have conflates Management and Leadership. I think they’re different, very different, and should be graded differently. It’s a very minor change, but one I think that’s important.

In short, I think the PASS community was well served by the members. We asked tough questions of the people running for the board. Each and every one gave great answers. It’s the kind of experience and process you want to take part in as a volunteer.

Thank you to my fellow Committee members. You guys were great.

Aug 13 2015

PASS Board Update: July 2015

I was actually travelling for most of July and some of that was on holiday with the family, the real family. That’s why I didn’t get a June update posted.

I don’t have anything much exciting to report. We’re finally getting data out of our Chapter database and can report some interesting stuff. We’ve added 29 new chapters in the fiscal year of 2015. 10 in the US, 12 in EMEA, 2 in LATAM and 5 in APAC. There’s a bunch more. Not sure when it’s all supposed to be published, but I’ll share some of it now, just ’cause. Our chapters logged 1,405 meetings in fiscal year 2015. That’s a pretty serious amount of training. Well done everyone! Thanks for all your work Carmen.

I missed the July board meeting (holiday, family, apologies, but priorities). The June meeting minutes are already published for those interested. It was my second in-person meeting with the board. The interesting things for me were the executive committee election and the discussion around SQL Rally. I recognize, at this point, it’s all old news, so I’m unsure what to add. I’m very excited about Adam Jorgensen being the president of PASS (although, I also would have been just as excited about having Tom LaRock for another term). SQL Rally… It was a good idea. Unfortunately it was not doing what it should have done, provide a mid-ranged event with minimal management needs. Rally was costing tons and tons of time & money on order to get put on. With the growth of SQL Saturday events, some of them having 1-2 days of pre-cons, it just didn’t make sense, to me, and evidently to much of the rest of the board, to keep going with SQL Rally when we could put on events just as large as Rally with less effort and cost to the organization. It’s these decisions that you elected everyone to make. The passion that everyone brought to the discussions on Rally, well, I think you elected the right people.

One other thing that came out of the meeting, I’m on the Nominations Committee for the upcoming Board Election. We’ve already had some meetings and we’re working on a process that was updated from last year (although we’ve already identified a couple of small changes we want to make for next year).  I won’t be able to report on what was said during these interviews with the candidates that will be coming up next. I will talk about the process around vetting the candidates and publishing our results. We’re going to publish the scores this time instead of just ordering the candidates (which means, you can order them based on the scores if you choose). I’m mixed on this. For example, I came in last in the rankings by last year’s Nomination Committee (not whining, stating a fact). I can’t say that I’d be real excited for everyone to see what the scores were. Heck, I’m not sure I want to know (and I don’t know) what everyone thought of me after the interview process. I can see how some might not be crazy about this. However, I suspect pretty strongly that everyone we interview is going to be clustered pretty tightly together, so I doubt anyone will complain too much. We’ll see.

 

 

Aug 05 2015

PASS Needs You!

kitchenerIt’s time.

No more procrastinating. No more complaining about the process from the outside. No more excuses.

You have to run for the PASS Board.

The Nominations Committee is all set, off and running. We’ve got great people involved who are going to do their best to ensure that the community gets the right people to run for the board. However, the NomComm isn’t running for the board and the NomComm can’t compel people to run. It’s up to you to step forward and take on this task. If you’ve been out there thinking that maybe you need to step up, you do. If you’ve been thinking that you might be able to give back a little more, you can. If you think you might be the right person to help lead this organization into the future, you are.

It’s you. It’s time.

Applications open today.

Click on this link to find all the information you need to make this happen.

Also, apologies to Lord Kitchener.

May 27 2015

PASS Board Update: May 2015

I’ve had a busy month on the Board.

You may have seen some tweets going by about our compliance with international laws regarding SPAM. This has been something of an education, so anything I say wrong below, it’s because I’m wrong, but not malevolent (at least in regards to this topic), so please be kind. It appears that the mechanisms we had on our emails for showing where the email came from and how to unsubscribe from it, weren’t completely in compliance… IF… we were sending emails that involved advertising. By we, I mean Chapters, not HQ. Now, that IF, could mean that we could skip out of meeting this requirement when our emails didn’t involve advertisements, but then it’d have to be in compliance when it did and we’d have to adjust our footers depending on the type of email… blah, blah, blah. I decided that we can get in compliance, now. Stay that way. Sure, many, most, of our Chapter emails don’t have to meet these regulations, but, if we set it up so that we do, then we never have to worry. I’ve worked with HQ. We’re in compliance. We’re getting the word out to the Chapters so if they use email other than ours, they too can be in compliance. We’re also making it part of the documentation so that future people will also be in compliance. We have some other work to do in IT to make an adjustment to the unsubscribe process, but that’s going to happen to. In short, this is almost completely fixed. Many thanks to Karen Lopez for all her help through this process. We couldn’t have done it with you.

I’ll bet that’s a lot more sausage making on display than most of you bargained for. This is what being on the Board looks like.

There was also a Board meeting this month. I was traveling so I only got in the last half of the meeting (on the phone in a shared van sitting in traffic at Logan Airport I might add, oh the glamorous life of a Board member). Good information was exchanged, largely setting us up for the in-person Board meeting next month.

Other than that, standard stuff, meeting with the HQ people regularly so that we keep the Chapter side of things running. A few minor decisions to move things forward. Still pushing on the goals and I hope to figure out how to get IT support for what we need to meet a couple of them.

I’ll report back after the in-person meeting next month. Please, please, please, any feedback on me, the Board, PASS, Chapters, my updates and other Board-related blog posts, the whole magilla, I want to hear it.

Apr 27 2015

Benefits for Some, All or Only a Few

As a member of the PASS Board of Directors I attended the PASS Business Analytics Conference (BAC) recently. You can read more about it here and here (as well as here).

Let me start with an important note: I am voicing my opinion here as an individual, not an official stance of the PASS organization.

There is controversy around the BAC because of a whole bunch of things, but one question in particular bothered me. It was suggested that the people attending the BAC were just consuming the worth or value that other people who paid for the Summit generated. At first, I just dismissed this concept. It stuck in the back of my mind though. Suddenly I realized why.

Yes, the BAC was partly paid for by Summit. The attendees at the BAC were not all people who would have attended Summit. There were, maybe, 1/3, who have attended Summit, are going to attend Summit, or who might attend Summit. That means, a majority will not.

So?

Money from Summit is used to support Chapters. Anyone ever canvassed their attendees at a local user group for who has gone or will go to Summit? I have. Most of the time, far less than 1/3. Do we cut funding for Chapters?

Money from Summit is used to support SQL Saturday. Once again, I’ve canvassed several of these for people who were going to be attending Summit. Again, way less than 1/3. No more funding for SQL Saturday?

How about the Virtual Chapters that money from Summit pays for? How many of those people are attending Summit? I don’t know, but I’d be shocked if it’s 100% or anything close to that. Are we cutting Virtual Chapters?

24 Hours of PASS is also paid for by Summit.

You know, everything that PASS does, whether you like it, and attend it, or not, is paid for by Summit. There are good arguments to be made that we should not be doing the BAC (and arguments that we should). Where the money comes from is absolutely not a part of that argument. Otherwise, we must pull funding from anything and everything that is done by PASS that doesn’t translate to 100% benefits for the people who paid for it, Summit attendees.

I believe that we, the members of PASS, should be open and accepting and willing to try new things, both from a technical perspective and from a personal one. Providing training and community is what we do. Let’s focus on that.

Apr 23 2015

PASS Board Update: April 2015

It’s been a pretty interesting month on the board.

First, we did have a little problem. I’m sure one or two of you may have noticed that the SQL Saturday web site was down for a moment. Well, three days. Joking aside, this was a serious problem, but my involvement was largely peripheral since I’m in charge of Chapters. I tried to help out a little, offering what support I could and, if nothing else, supplying an ear, willing to listen. Quite a few people took advantage of that. I communicated all their information up the chain to HQ and the other board members. Nothing has been held back.

Next, we’ve started the budgeting process. That’s fascinating. As well as a giant pain in the… well, anyway. Thankfully the people at HQ are helping shepherd me through the process.

We’ve had a number of leadership changes at different PASS Chapters. A couple of new groups have been created. We’re making some progress there.

Also this month I went to the PASS Business Analytics Conference.

Let’s talk about this.

The event was really well put together. The keynotes were amazing. You can read about them here and here.  The venue was great. The speakers I saw seemed good (for the most part). We hosted a number of focus group discussions with attendees and speakers to get feedback on the event. Overall, they were extremely happy with it. They also provided a lot of great suggestions to help improve the event if we do it again.

And there is the question. Do we do this again?

I’m not sure.

If you saw my tweets during the event, I was very supportive. I was also actively promoting the event in the weeks leading up to it. All this is part of my responsibilities as a board member. We were committed to an event and I’m going to help the organization ensure that event is successful. Period.

However, if you had asked me whether I would support doing this again next year, prior to going to the event, I would have said no. Now, I’m not sure. The fact is, there’s a split between the perfect BAC audience member and the perfect Summit audience member. That’s not saying that there’s not crossover. There very much is. But, my concern is, can we, the PASS organization, properly support a community that is business focused using the tools we have for supporting a technology focused community? Should we?

From all the feedback, we supplied an event that people liked and cared about and, most importantly, would suggest to others. So we probably can support a business focused community. Should we?

For myself, and all this is just me, reporting to you, I think that the big question is, does this help our existing membership. Prior to this event, I would have said absolutely not. I would have argued that there was not a path from DBA to analyst. After talking to lots and lots of people at the event, I found that a healthy number of our peers have moved from being a DBA or BI person to being a data analyst. It goes something like “Hey! You know that data stuff, right? Well we need someone to do this data analysis thingymabob and you just volunteered.”

In short, many data analysts are accidental data analysts and they come from our peers, our community, in fact, our #sqlfamily. Now, should we do this thing? I’m on the fence still, but I don’t mind admitting, I’m wavering towards “Hell, Yes.”

Mar 31 2015

PASS Board Update: March 2015

Hello all,

It’s been a while since my last update. Sorry. I’ve just been traveling and presenting and working on books and this slipped through the cracks a bit. I’ll try to do better in the future.

Nothing major to report. As a board member I’ve been working primarily on two things. First, I’ve been polishing my goals for the Chapters Portfolio. I’ll publish those below. Next, I’m working on the budget for Chapters for next year. In between times, a lot of what I do, is work with Regional Mentors (RM) and Chapter Leaders (CL) on an individual basis. As much as the stuff that PASS as an organization is involved with is around technology, the PASS organization, especially Chapters, is all about people. And you know how people are. I’ve already had online meetings with the RMs and CLs in which I let them know what was going on with the Board and with my goals. The one point I made that I want to share is my own focus. I told everyone, and I’m telling you, that I see my role as a means of figuring out what the PASS organization can do for the Chapters rather than telling them what they need to do for the organization. Other than that, at these meetings, I’ve listened and taken notes. I want to know what’s needed by the CLs and the RMs to do their work as volunteers, and, where possible, make that work easier.

I also had the opportunity to have a meeting with the user groups of the UK (whether they were PASS chapters or not). This was an opportunity to listen to what their needs are and to understand whether or not PASS is meeting them. One of the most interesting things I learned revolved around Chapter Leaders and the Summit. There are a number of requirements for a Chapter to be in good standing with the PASS organization. And, if the Chapter meets all those requirements, then they can receive one free registration for Summit. Cool beans… unless you’re overseas where the cost of getting to Summit is much higher than here in the States. Suddenly, this seemingly HUGE benefit just isn’t that big. I’ll see what I can do about this one. Not sure what yet, but I’m thinking about it.

Here is a rough draft of the goals I’ve been working on:

PASS Growth

  • Create a pilot program that allows a regional email to be sent to PASS membership that highlights user group events within that region
    • Purpose is to measure the work involved in order to understand the needs for expanding this to all regions
    • Success is arriving at a measure of work that allows for creating plan for next steps
    • Run for three months to arrive at measure
  • Increase communication between Director for Chapters, HQ and Chapter Leaders by hosting quarterly meetings

Global Growth

  • Create interface to connect Speakers with Chapters
    • Purpose is to provide for Chapters to get in touch with Speakers using our existing local speaker list in SQL Saturday
    • Success is mechanism for Chapter Leaders to find Speakers within their region
    • 3 months to arrive at minimal functionality
  • Complete definition of Regional Mentor Annual Rating process
    • Purpose is to provide Chapters with mechanism for reviewing RMs
    • Success is a completed document that has been reviewed by CL and RM represenatives
    • Time frame requires completion by EOY 2015
  • Continue efforts to establish chapters in countries with no or few existing chapters
    • Targeting Baltics, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Argentina

That’s about it for now.

Coming up I’ll be going to the PASS Business Analytics Conference (use the code BFFGF, that’s my Friends & Family discount, to get some money off the registration). I’ll write something up about that right after it’s over.

Mar 16 2015

How To Speak At SQL Saturday Events

The PASS SQL Saturday events are meant to be a place to grow the pool of speakers, provide a mechanism for the speakers to learn, and fulfill the PASS goals of Connect, Share and Learn. So, you’ve decided you want to start speaking at a SQL Saturday event. Cool. You went to the <Insert Large, Popular, SQL Saturday> event last year, so you submitted this year… and didn’t get accepted. Now what?

First, submit. You won’t get accepted if you don’t try.

SQL Saturday, especially the big, popular ones, may not be the best place to present for your very first time. In fact, with the large ones, you may not get accepted because people who already have a reputation are submitting to those (we all want to talk to big audiences and go to the good venues). So, start smaller. Find your local user group and speak there to get started. Better still, contact the person running the SQL Saturday event. Most of them are also running their local user group, or are associated with it, and most user groups are desperate for speakers. Go and speak at the organizers user group. That’s going to do two things for you. You’ll get some practice in a friendly space, and you’ll get your face and name in front of the SQL Saturday organizer. PASS maintains a list of local user groups that are associated with PASS as Chapters.

Next, go to the SQL Saturday web site. Find the one that you’re thinking of submitting to. Go to the Schedule page. You’ll see a list of people and topics they submitted. At the bottom, there is a place for suggested topics. Sometimes, but not always, you’ll see the stuff there that the organizer wants to see. They’re looking for a session on the VARIANT data type and you’ve written 33 blog posts on VARIANT in the last six months? GOLDEN! Submit under that topic. You can also try contacting the organizer to see what they’re looking for. Ask them, what topics they’re interested in presenting? Now, be sure you actually can present on that topic, but, here’s your in, giving them what they want.

Go to a smaller event. Yeah, presenting at the big event so you can hang out in the speaker room with <Insert Popular Speaker> would be cool. But, it really is hard to get into some of those events because everyone wants to do the same thing. So, start smaller. Some of the events just aren’t drawing lots of big name speakers. Personally, I don’t think that matters at all (people disagree on this topic), but, it’s an opportunity for you. These events need speakers. I know some where they’ve accepted every single session submitted, turning down no one (and I even presented a couple of extra sessions while I was there to help out). So, if you want to speak and, if you drove an extra hour or three you could speak, done.

Finally, your title and abstract do matter. The abstract needs to define a clear problem and solution that you’re going to present. The title… my opinion, let’s have a clear, descriptive title. I intensely dislike the cute and clever titles. Further, I don’t think they help people, especially new people, get accepted. I think they work well for the name speakers because it shows off their personality, and sometimes that’s what people are going for. You’re just getting started, tell us what you’re presenting.

None of this guarantees you get in, but it should all collectively help to get you in front of an audience at SQL Saturday.