SQL PASS Summit Day…Uhhh, All the Rest

Since I couldn’t keep up with writing every day (or nearly so) weeks ago at the Summit, recap post(s) weren’t going to go up until after the fact. Since my life has been pretty crazy since getting home (combined with some semi-minor problems with the web host), this isn’t getting finished until way late. I honestly don’t know where everyone found the time to write in the middle of all of this, because I flat-out need more sleep than that. I’m only grabbing the highest of the highlights here, and I’m doing this the weeks after! Normally I would say that I’ll try to do better next year, but I’m pretty sure that’s not going to happen.

Wednesday

Washington State Convention Center

Yep, those are overhead electrical lines for pantograph-equipped busses

Wednesday started out with a Keynote address, as most conferences do. This one had a few announcements, such as SQL Server v.Next getting a real name replacing its Codename. Instead of “Denali”, we now have “SQL Server 2012.” Nobody should be overly surprised by this, unless you were really hoping for 2011. The technical content of the keynote was very heavily focused on end-user flavors of BI technologies. Some of the stuff we’d seen before, but there were some new bits here and there. Generally, the “managed self-serve BI” space looks pretty similar to what it did before, being based around PowerPivot and other similar tools in Excel, like tabular data stores (VertiPaq). I thought it was an awful froofy* presentation, but most Keynote-type presos are. What was shown on screen was fine and all, and was neat to look at, but as I’ve said before, the hard part about “managed self-serve BI” is the “managed” part. There’s a lot of work that still needs to happen on the back end by people who know what they’re doing with respect to both the Business and the Data in order to get to the point where a C-level manager is poking around in Excel and making good, data-backed decisions. On that note, though, how many business users have the technical know-how to do the work that needs to be done in Excel to get there? And how many of those are C-level managers? OK, that’s a different post for a different day.

The main sessions on Wednesday for me were pretty heavy SSAS & related topics (like Data Mining). I had a big lightbulb kick on in Craig Utley’s SSAS Aggregations session confirming something that I had been suspecting, so the whole thing got off to a really good start for me. I can’t work on our aggregations situation right this second, but it’s something that will be making it onto my list for the mid-term after some current project work gets finished up.

Some of the days at PASS Summit have special wardrobe…themes. For the last couple years, there has been #sqlkilt day. This particular theme occurs on the same day as the Women in Technology lunch/panel discussion. Its purpose is to “support women in technology” by the guys wearing skirt-like apparatus. It’s cool, but a kilt guy I am not. Anyway, Wednesday this year was SQL Saturday day, where one was to wear their favorite SQL Saturday shirt. Since I’m not a speaker (yet?), all I have is my t-shirt from Nashvegas’s SQL Saturday last year. (It bothered me to wear a t-shirt on a conference day at first, but I got over it by lunch or so.) Coming out of the keynote I looked for what shirts everyone had on. Honestly, a non-zero part of this was me looking for who else just had t-shirts on, but I also wanted to see what everyone else was wearing. Turns out: There weren’t many! I wish I knew why this was. I suppose it could be due to not hearing about it…But I’m a little afraid that it’s because not that many have SQL Saturday shirts! People!! Free training by high-quality speakers (ie, not me). I’m sure there’s one near you. Website right here. Check it out.

The Couch

For my Purdue peeps, think Mathews Hall's ground-floor Men's room

Wednesday night was the vendor reception & some extra-curricular activities afterwards. We had planned to go to two things, but at one point, we were standing on the expo floor when we realized the first thing had started about a half hour ago. We started back to the hotel (which, due to when we started to schedule this trip, wasn’t close), when we realized we weren’t going to be able to get everywhere we wanted to when we wanted to. So, scrapped the first event, and got some food before heading to SQLKaraoke. I don’t know how much of that really needs to be discussed, as it’s fairly self-explanatory. Suffice to say that I fulfilled what had become a lifetime goal in recent years, tried to make friends/be nice to the cranky local guy sitting at the end of the bar, and we got home at 0300 again.

Thursday

Thursday… yeah, that keynote didn’t happen. Haven’t had a chance to go back and watch it yet, either.

More BI-related sessions for me, as that’s what I do now. I did go to one Engine session the whole time, and it was Aaron Bertrand’s (blog | @AaronBertrand) “T-SQL: Bad Habits to Kick” on Thursday. I was looking to see what kinds of things I do that are bad, because, honestly, T-SQL is not my strongest suit. Unfortunately, there wasn’t anything major that I didn’t already know, but I did get some background as to the “why”s on a few things. Plus, the only reason “what happens when you don’t declare a length on a varchar() variable” wasn’t news is because we ran into that in an old store

d proc at the end of September. I did learn about TRY_CONVERT() in SQL 2012, though. Although at first blush, it sounds pretty good, it also looks like it could be a big crutch. OH, and also I’m glad that I’m not the only one who finds non-ANSI 92-style joins hard to read at this point. Alright, so obviously I got more out of that session than I initially thought.

Thursday night had an interesting occurrence or two. I mean, there was this thing (someday maybe we’ll tell my parents, haha). I’m pretty happy about that. Yeah, it was an over-the-top nerdy thing to do, and more than a little weird, but that fits us pretty well, so I’m OK with it. Some people did make the chilly trek out to Puget Sound with us, and I/we are very, very grateful to everyone that did. We <3 our SQL Family.

We went to the official second-to-last night Gameworks party for a little bit, but were pretty worn out. We tried to hang on, but once again turned in early. Tammy was passed out on the couch within about three minutes of walking in the door, and I didn’t last a whole lot longer. I think I did try to write something that night, but realized quickly that if I wanted to keep drool off my work laptop, sleep was in order. Plus, I knew we had to get up early on Friday, because it’s Friday, and…

Friday…Dewitt Keynote!

See, for at least the last couple years (that’s as far back as I know, because I didn’t pay close attention to the conference in 2009, as I was bitter about not going), the last day of the conference’s Keynote has been a presentation by Dr. David DeWitt. This has yet to disappoint. This year, the topic was Big Data, including discussions about Relational DBs vs NoSQL DBs. I learned a lot from this, and think I understand why Microsoft is going in the direction that they are when it comes to NoSQL & related technologies. It will be fun to see where this goes. Dr. DeWitt’s keynote is available on-demand here (along with the others), but they do require minor registration. His slide deck is available here.

I would be remiss if I didn’t bring your attention to this little thing that happened at the beginning of the Friday Keynote. The song was hilarious, but I’m still pretty sure that Buck Woody with a 12-string is > *

More BI sessions on Friday, of course, along with a Professional Development one. The PD session was a panel discussion entitled, “Are you a Linchpin? Career management lessons to help you become indispensible.” The discussion was led by Andy Leonard (blog | @AndyLeonard). Panel members were: Andy Warren (blog | @SQLAndy), Stacia Misner (blog | @StaciaMisner), Louis Davidson (blog | @drsql), Brent Ozar (blog | @BrentO), Thomas LaRock (blog | @SQLRockstar), Kevin Kline (blog | @kekline), and Jeremiah Peschka (blog | @peschkaj). While writing this post, I listed everyone out, then almost deleted this whole paragraph to start over, because I felt like this was the biggest name drop bomb in the history of blogging. I then decided to leave it, because I can use that blob of names to make a point: Every single one of them has a blog and Twitter account. One could argue about an incorrect causation/correlation conclusion, but I think it’s telling that some of the most successful people in SQL Server Land use these communication methods heavily. I sometimes goof around on Twitter more than I use it constructively, and only like four people read my blog regularly, but if you’re a SQL Server DBA/Dev/etc and enjoy helping people and rubbing elbows with others that do, there’s no time like the present to start using these mediums if you don’t already. There are plenty of people here already who will support you and help you grow and learn.

Conference centers always start the tear-down ASAP at the end of the last day. I understand this—there’s a hard number of hours between when one event ends and the next one begins. It always makes me sad, though. Nothing says an event is over like the registration desk getting torn down in front of you. The good news for us on Friday afternoon while this was happening is that we had spent a lot of time with the awesome community that we’re a part of, and there were still good times ahead, both Friday night and at future events. More on that later, though.

To be continued…

I will cover some of the weekend happenings in another post soon, but more importantly, I have a few lessons learned and/or overall comments to make about the PASS Summit. I’m not going to get that written right now and this post is already too long and has taken me too many days to finally get together, so I’m going to split that up and get to it very soon. Thanks for reading so far…

* As usual, I reserve the right to make up my own words, as this is my blog.

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