May 10, 2010

#sqlsat38, from an attendee’s seat

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

I had a thought for a blog post while talking with Jorge Segarra (Blog | Twitter) regarding SQL Saturday, which I will get to at the end of this. I am writing this while actually in the sessions at SQL Saturday 38, and thought I would write the recap as I experience it. The disconnectedness should be brilliant! {Edit before I post this – The tenses change from present to past, and each session description was written throughout the session, so don’t expect cohesiveness in this one! ~David} 

Everybody does the “registration was quick/slow” “they need more signs!” what they did right/wrong type of post. Let me tell you that, up until this first session I’m in, so far these types of things are going really well. From my perspective, having attended now 5 SQL Saturday events in 7 months, what I really am into is the networking and the learning (see title of this blog!) 

Left to Right, me, @sqlchicken's signature rubber chicken, Tory Gallant (@gratefuldba), Eric Humphrey (@lotsahelp)


During the hour between registration opening and the first session, there was a great crowd of people milling about in the lobby of the building. During this hour, I got to run into at least half a dozen folks I had met before at various events, and then I met a few I never had before. One guy I met even told me about a job available, and even had the job description paperwork with him. Now, I know SQL Saturday is a learning adventure, but job leads aren’t a bad side effect! 

So I’m right now as I write this paragraph in Jorge’s session of SQL University 101, first session of the day. I know I don’t need the 101 session, but I like Jorge, and he often goes off on higher level tangents. In fact, while I am typing, he’s talking about internals and SAN alignment. There are a large percentage of women in this session, great for WIT (Women in Technology). He’s also covering Twitter, and #sqlhelp, and the other great resources out in the interwebz for SQL Pros. Throughout, the SQL Community was emphasized (pimped) to those folks that don’t know about it. Amazing how many in the industry don’t know about the resources available to them, much like me a year ago! 

Jorge Segarra (@sqlchicken) with his famous signature rubber chicken


Next, I stayed in the same room to listen to Brandie Tarvin (website | Twitter) present on Joining and Aliases. Again, a bit of a beginner session, but at this time pretty much all the sessions are, and I spoke to Brandie before the session, and she said that she might go more advanced depending on response, so there. The room was SRO, with more than a dozen sitting on the floor or standing around the edges. She’s very knowledgeable in the subject, covering from basics through advanced joining of tables. Tips like swapping INNER and OUTER to see where missing data might be. Good session overall. 

Brandie Tarven (@WannabeWriter06) answering questions


After this session was lunch, pizza on the piazza 🙂 During lunch were several vendor sessions, and also several mini-sessions. I actually missed most of these because I was hob-nobbing with the twitterati on the piazza (learning AND networking, remember?) but I did jump in on “Introduction to Reporting on a Cube with SSRS 2008” by Dustin Ryan. I sat way in the back because I came in late, and he had no mike so it was hard to follow, but it looked interesting. MDX is not my strong point, but it was nice to see some in action. 

Pizza on the piazza


Next up was “Demystifying SQL Deployments” a presentation given by Rodney Landrum (Twitter), a SQL MVP. Starting his talk about SOX and HIPAA, I knew I was in the right session. These things really need to be learned. As he went along, he discussed the various staging environments, Dev, QA, Staging to Production, then went on to talk about change management and workflow. I don’t deal with ANY of this where I work, so I was glad to see it covered. He ended with demos of different ways of packaging data to move it, including scripting databases and Red Gates’ SQL Packager. Very cool session. 

Rodney Landrum (@rodney_landrum) presenting


Following that was Aaron Nelson’s “Virtualize This!” session. I have seen this on the schedule for the last three SQL Saturday’s, but it was always trumped by another presentation. This time, I finally saw it. I sat in the “Heckler’s Row” with Jorge Segarra, Eric Humphrey (Blog | Twitter), Andy Warren (Blog | Twitter) and Jose Chinchilla (Blog | Twitter). Configuration looks ‘fairly’ easy, the box it’s running on needs to have some oomph for sure. During it, Jorge tweeted “The Demo Gods are not pleased!” should give you an idea how things were going at that point. A very interesting session, one that went just over my head ( a good thing) so I have stuff to look up so I  understand. 

Aaron Nelson (@sqlvariant) presenting


Heckler's Row!


The next to last session of the day was Plamen Ratchev’s (Blog) “Refactoring SQL for Performance.” This is another of those subjects I consider “good to know.” He started by debunking the myth of ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!’ One type of refactoring was normalization of data in-place (create new tables and move data, then create a view referencing the new table, named the same as the old table) then the queries can be simplified. Next was using upgraded features, when applicable, such as ROW_NUMBER / OVER ranking and the new MERGE statement. “To improve is to change, to be perfect is to change often” ~Winston Churchill. This was a very detailed session by a very knowledgeable presenter. 

Plamen Ratchev Presenting


The final session of the day for me was the SSIS Iron Chef competition. 

Iron Chef SSIS


This was done in Tampa, at SQL Saturday #32, but I mostly missed it there. When I walked into the room, epic music was playing on the sound system, Brian Knight (Blog | Twitter) and Adam Jorgenson (Blog | Twitter) were preparing their tools, anticipation was in the air! Once it started, these people put on a show! A mix of Iron Chef America and some comedy troupe show. Devin Knight (Blog | Twitter), the challenger, chose from among four “chefs” (including Troy Gallant in the role of Donald Dot Farmer!) to compete with his own blood, Brian Knight. The jokes about each other’s SSIS packages (Swollen, red packages, etc.) were rampant. Brian had his ETL written in about 20 minutes, Devin about five minutes later. Brian built his data warehouse, and Devin, falling behind, jumped right to the new powerpivot, using that as a data warehouse. And he finished it in a matter of seconds, with charts, while Brian was building reports. Brian then broke out the maps, spatial data visualization aids available in R2. With one minute to go, charts were popping up on both screens, and the crowd counted down the last five seconds. Brian and Devin explained how they did what they did, and the judges deliberated. They gave their comments, and chose the Iron Chef Jacksonville, one of the chefs that wasn’t chosen, Mike someone or other. I didn’t get it, but hey, the rest was fun. 

The Iron Chefs line up


Once the competition was over, the attendees that had been in the other sessions were brought into this room for the closing ceremonies. Scott Gleason recognized speakers, volunteers and attendees, with a special shout out to all the women who showed up, pointing out the Women in Technology section of PASS at Then the loot was given out. There was a Woz signature iPod, a Flip video camera, a $100 gift certificate to Best Buy, books, shirts, licenses for software, great stuff. Once all was awarded, they announced the after-party at a place called Seven Bridges, with free billiards and appetizers, but by this time I felt I had to bow out. I had a five hour trip in front of me, and had been up since early in the morning, so I just went to see the beach, then got on the road home. 

Happy attendees leaving the event


Oh, and the thought I had last night that actually prompted this post is this; the SQL Saturday website is a terrific learning resource! One negative thing about every SQL Saturday is that you can’t attend every session. And, for most people, one can’t attend every SQL Saturday. But at the SQL Saturday website, (if presenters are diligent) there are the session slide decks, and often scripts that illustrate those decks. If you miss a session, you can usually get the jist of it from the download, and there are often resources in those decks that point out further information. As a knowledge repository, the SQL Saturday website is hard to beat! 

One final thought, added just before scheduling this post – Jacksonville is a really nice city. I’d never been, but I took a little time before getting on the road to see a bit of it, and I really like it. Except for the heat, it reminds me a lot of home (I’m from Boston and environs). I’d like to go back sometime, if I get the opportunity. 

Jacksonville Beach, the afternoon of #sqlsat38



  1. David Taylor said,

    Aaron – Yes, you did! We at teh Heckler’s Row reserve the right to heckle! You did a great job, and I’m glad I finally caught this presentation.

    Dustin – Thanks so much! That’s the trouble with such big rooms, mics should be provided! I could see it was a good presentation, and I am awaiting the confirmation email from as I write this, thanks again!


    Was glad to come, really enjoyed myself, thanks for setting up such a great event! And, I have beaten you to the punch, I have presented twice now, once at #sqlsat32 in Tampa, and once at the Columbus, GA PASS Chapter. I am very new, and I would like to continue. Thanks for the kind words!

  2. Scott Gleason said,

    Thanks so much for comming to Jax! I’m glad you had a great time and wanted to thank you for your blog. I’d suggest that you start presenting your self soon. Pick a topic you know.

    🙂 Scott

  3. Dustin Ryan said,

    Sorry you couldn’t hear me. I didn’t see any mic to use. If you want to read the gist up my little presentation, here is the link to an article I wrote that pretty much covers what I spoke on: . You need a login and pw to read it, but its free and takes like 2 seconds. Take care.

  4. […] the original post: #sqlsat38, from an attendee's seat « MERGE Learning AS Target … IT jobs and vacancies – C# .NET Developer – C# .NET, SQL, SQL …Week 7 | Learning […]

  5. Aaron Nelson said,

    Hey I got all of my demos to work by the end!

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