January 30, 2010

SQL Saturday #32 Recap

Posted in SQL Server at 10:00 am by David Taylor

I presented at SQL Saturday #32 in Tampa, FL this past weekend. It was only my second SQL Saturday, and my first time ever presenting.

How Did I Get There

Well, I drove, but that part’s later.

Last Thanksgiving, I had the great good fortune to meet Jorge Segarra (@SQLChicken on Twitter, blogs at the SQL UPDATE Statement). My parents live in St. Petersburg, FL, and I went there for the holidays. On the way down there (I live in Alabama) I was tweeting and being tweeted, and I asked Jorge if he would like to get together for coffee or whatever. He was game, and we met in Tampa that Sunday at Starbuck’s. Great guy, Jorge is, we had a really good time, chatting back and forth, both SQL subjects and not, and, in among the conversation, he mentioned the upcoming SQL Saturday. I told him I would love to be there, and he mentioned that I should present.

What to present? He had read my blog (my personal blog, see link on the right side of your screen) and thought that the trends in T-SQL article had promise, so I should flesh that out into a presentation. OK, plans made, subject decided, I made my way home.

Flash forward to January, I spent the week and a half before the event finishing up my presentation, which I had been working on sporadically for the previous few weeks in between other things. I don’t own a laptop, so I borrowed the company machine, cleaned it up and installed the 180-day evaluation version of SQL Server 2008 on it, got it all set up with Reporting Services turned on and all (the presentation is about illustrating Trends in SSRS). I continued to build everything on my desktop, finally moving it to the laptop with a USB drive <– key point there folks, wait for it!

So bright and early Friday morning my son Devin (Blog | Twitter) and I started out on our journey. We normally take 82 across the wilds of Georgia over to 75, then straight down 75 to St. Pete. Somewhere east of Albany, I had a horrific thought – the laptop was still sitting on my bedroom floor, all packed up in its case and ready to go, NOT in the car with us! We had been driving for an hour and a half. Crestfallen, I started thinking fast. I called Jorge, probably bothering him at work or something, I don’t know, but I was instantly desperate. He asked me if I had uploaded my presentation to the SQL Saturday site yet. Nope. “But,” I said, remembering the key point above, “Somehow or another I had at least remembered to throw the USB drive into my pocket!” So I had my presentation *and* my database backup and report building BIDS files with me. Good.

Jorge looked up the schedule, saw my slot had moved to a time between two of his, and said I could use his laptop. Is this a cool guy or what? It’s folks like him that help to point out the absolute awesomeness of the SQL Community, but if you’re in the community at all, you know the awesomeness that is @SQLChicken already 🙂

OK, crisis averted, keep on driving. I kept up a fairly steady tweet stream on the way down (I know, driving and tweeting don’t mix – I was careful) and had some fun with fellow tweeps – even got a mention by @MidnightDBA that she was enjoying following our adventures across the southeast 🙂 We got into St. Pete to Mom and Dad’s place around 4:30 in the afternoon, time enough to recharge the Blackberry and get over to the event venue to help set up. I had previously volunteered Devin to help out, so we got to meet @PamShaw, stuff bags and see the room setup’s, stuff like that. A little later, we got to meet Jorge’s wife Jessica (Blog | Twitter)  Just one question – how does Jorge rate??  Wow! is all I can say!

By the way, KForce, provider of the event space, really stepped up for this event, going so far as to rent rooms in the next door building to ensure we had enough space. Thanks, KForce!

Are you bored yet? OK, keep on reading, where getting to the good part!

Volunteer activities complete, it was then time to head over to Spaghetti Warehouse, a very cool restaurant, for the Speaker Dinner. They have a full size trolley car inside, with tables inside it 🙂 The SQL Saturday group was mostly already there, and I got to meet for the first time so many folks I had been following on Twitter, including @SQLVariant, who is a fellow Chapter Co-Leader with me at AppDev_VC, @RonDBA, @GratefulDBA, @UncleBiguns, @brianknight, many others I can’t even remember now, but it was so cool meeting them all! At our table also sat some of the folks from expressor, one of the sponsors for the event, and we had a nice time chatting, as they, like Devin and I, are from Massachusetts. Nice to talk with someone from home occasionally. At the end, Jorge, Jessica, Devin and I hung out for a bit longer so I could get my stuff set up on Jorge’s laptop. I think we were the last ones out of the place!

Tired and stuffed, we went back to the parent’s abode, slept and got up bright and early to head to the actual event. Like the trip down, I got there and realized I had forgotten my stupid presentation script printout. No, I didn’t have it memorized. Yes, I’d forget my head if it wasn’t screwed on! So I went back to St. Pete, got my folder, back to the event. By this point, attendees had started lining up for registration. I found out later that somewhere around 250 people showed up. The registration process bogged down, so I figured I would take care of it later, and went off to the first session, Brian Knight’s Intro to SSIS. If you need to learn SSIS, learn it from this guy. Man, he makes it look simple, and I came out of that session not thinking, but *knowing* I could write an SSIS package!

Next up was my session, so I had to leave the SSIS session a bit early to find Jorge to borrow his computer, and get myself registered along the way. When I walked into my session room, I about dropped. There was like a million people in there! There were actually 38, but still. I didn’t realize just how nervous I was until I had gotten my stuff up on screen and looked out at all those expectant faces. I nearly froze! I’m usually good in front of strangers, and wasn’t expecting this amount of nervousness at all. They were some nice folks, though, I started with a simple hello, and got some back, a few smiles, and I went into it. My presentation really just boiled down to how to calculate trend for data over time, but I had fleshed it out with the business reasons for doing it, where the data came from, how the math worked, finally how to set up a SSRS chart background color to change based on trend. The presentation itself is on the SQL Saturday site, if you’re interested (link)

After I was done, I had some nice talks with a few of the attendees, got some great feedback. Jorge came and got his laptop, and I then went into the Iron Chef Competition, in which Brian Knight and Adam Jorgenson went head to head loading a data warehouse with SSIS in real-time. Patrick LeBlanc (Blog | Twitter) MC’ed, and he was a howl. The room was absolutely packed for this. If you ever get a chance to see it, you need to – this is the definition of #sqlpassawesomness!

From there I joined up again with the expressor guys in their lunch time presentation on their SSIS enhancing product. That’s a complex piece of software that takes SSIS to a whole new level using multi-threading streams and packets – it’s all way over my head but very impressive 🙂

Another aside, here, I heard the lunch served was good enough to be setting a new standard for SQL Saturday lunches, but when I went to get mine, there were like ten left and ninety people lined up for them. I had promised expressor at the previous night’s dinner to be in their session, so rather than go next door to where more food was being served, I grabbed a bag of chips and went to see my new-found friends. I think it was worth it to learn about this software, and to support SQL Saturday vendors – that’s important for these events, they’re the ones that make them free for attendees.

I then attended Jeffrey Garbus’ session, Bad, less Bad, not Bad; rewriting bad SQL Code, in which he showed a piece of complex code he had written at two in the morning and showed us what was wrong with it. Really wrong 🙂 Then he showed us how he rewrote it to make it better, pointing out the new code’s flaws, and finally showing us how to write it correctly. It was a good session; one doesn’t often see someone blatantly pointing out their own flaws, and what they did to fix them, in a public way like he did.

Following this fun, and packed session, I then joined up with Jorge again, this time to learn from him in his (even more fun than Jeff’s) Policy Based Management 101 talk. He is co-authoring a book on Policy Based Management, so who better to learn from! PBM is a very cool tool to have in the arsenal, and Jorge’s easy going presentation style made it a pleasure to learn about it, while also learning about how he came to be known as @SQLChicken (he had a rubber squawking chicken on the podium with him 🙂 The best quote from the whole day was when he asked who in the room was on Twitter, and when almost no one raised there hand, he said, “Drink the Kool-Aid, it’s delicious!”

Finally, I attended Jason Strate’s (Blog | Twitter) ABC’s of CTE’s, a very informative presentation. I have always been mystified by CTE’s; not anymore! Jason’s slide deck was actually the most professional looking deck I had seen all day, I was really impressed by the quality of it, and of his knowledge.

Finally, the SWAG!

Everybody gathered in the cafeteria for the after session swag party. There were three tables end to end covered in books, shirts and miscellaneous stuff. An iPod was given away, a netbook, an X-Box 360, a DVD of the PASS Summit sessions (!) even licenses to various pieces of software from RedGate, Quest and Pragmatic Works! I got one of the latter, along with a PASS polo shirt, and, of course, my way cool Speaker shirt. My son even got in on the action, getting himself a Quest software shirt and some SQL Stickers.

Speaker/volunteer shirts by SQLSaturday Tampa.

All in all, I wouldn’t have traded the experience for anything. The newly met friends, the networking with vendors, the learning, and all of this for free, you just can’t beat the value of a SQL Saturday, and I can’t wait for the next one! Oh, and while I was writing this, I got registered for SQL Saturday #41 in Atlanta in April, and by the time this goes out (scheduling it for release tomorrow) SQL Saturday #34 will be in full swing up in Boston. If you’ve never been to one of these, you really owe it to yourself to go. If you have, you know what I’m talking about!

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2 Comments »

  1. Jorge Segarra said,

    Great recap and thanks for the generous shout outs lol. As I sit here in the blackout I’m writing up my own recap. I’m really glad you came down and presented and it was great having you and Devin here again. Do yall think you’ll be making the trip to Jacksonville one?

    • David Taylor said,

      Jorge,

      Thanks for the nice comment! You earned the shoutouts, nothing but truth there! We’re glad to have come donw, too, the more I get to know you, the more I like you, you are good people 🙂 I am thinking of going to Jacksonville, will depend on the situation at the time.


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