It’s All Fundamentals

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I’m learning how to speak German. Interestingly enough, you don’t start off reading dissertations. Instead, you begin by learning the names of things, Teller for plate, Buch for book. The fundamentals. I’m a third degree black belt in Ken Ryu Kenpo. But you don’t start that, or continue it, by learning complex kata. Instead, you start with how to make a fist, how to hold your hands up in a defensive stance. The fundamentals. I’ve been doing crossfit and Olympic weightlifting for a couple of years now. I’ve been working hard on my clean, standing up tall during the lift, getting my elbows around quick. The fundamentals. Situation after situation, skill set after skill set, you have to get the fundamentals right. And, if you don’t get the fundamentals right, you’re going to find progression extremely difficult.

Which brings us to IT. Let me pick on developers for a moment. You know that ORM tool you want to use? It’s actually a pretty amazing piece of software. Too bad you glossed by all the documentation on how to use it properly, skipped the reams of best practice documentation, and simply took the “Hello World” example to deploy it to production. Because now, that great piece of software is creating serious pain for the company. You skipped the fundamentals. Data pro’s, seriously, you’re asking how to turn off transactions in SQL Server because maintaining the transaction log appropriately is too hard? You have completely skipped the fundamentals. You’re of the opinion that foreign keys are a major performance bottleneck? Fundamentals. You think you can do a scale-out ID/Value data collection scheme in a relational database? Fundamentals.

But none of that is the issue. You want to know what the issue is? PowerPoint templates. Oh my Freya’s Girdle is on fire flipping gods in Valhalla, do you have any idea what a pain in the bottom it is when you have 100+ slides, in a single presentation, that you have to convert to a new template for ConferenceX and the template was constructed wrong? Your fonts go insane, colors dance across the screen like the Bifrost Bridge on an acid trip. And then, when you attempt to fix things by reapplying the template, you find out that oh, noes, we didn’t use the background, we just pasted our graphics on the screen (which takes up 1/2 the real estate forcing your fonts to be so tiny that Buck Woody can’t hear you) so now you’ve got to carefully navigate around extra stinking graphics everywhere, oh, AND, your presentation is now 19 times the size it was before, so your machine is running out of memory to run your demos before you even get the VM started. And then you have to touch each and every slide and adjust them, one at a time. Aren’t we data pros all about set-based processing?

Fundamentals.

Please, if you’re responsible for a conference, whether you’re running a SQL Saturday event, or you’re the chair for a track at the largest of international venues, do all your speakers a favor. Please, take a set of slides from online somewhere and try to get them to work with your template. If you can’t (assuming those slides aren’t already a hack because of ConferenceY down the street who is even worse than you are), work with your artists or whoever put the templates together to get those templates to work well. Otherwise, you might as well just come out and say that you hate speakers and you’re getting a mighty giggle from the work they’re going to have to do to try to make your hag-ridden nightmare of a template work with the beautiful slides they spent weeks putting together.

Thank you!

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