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Gambling at the 2005 PASS Summit

By Steve Jones,

This year the 2005 PASS Summit 2005 in Dallas promises to be one of the most exciting ever. And not just because of the SQLServerCentral.com casino party!!! If you want to get in, be sure that you register for the conference and use the "SSC" promotion code on the registration form!

Actually I'm talking because of the impending release of SQL Server 2005. It's still slated to RTM this year, probably after PASS, but depending on how the June CTP goes and the feedback that you send, it's possible that SQL Server 2005 could be released at PASS!!! How cool would that be? I know none of you would want to miss that.

I wrote about the PASS Summit last summer and talked a bit about what we were doing and what you could look forward to. I have to say having been to 4 Summits that the Gaylord Hotel in Orlando was the nicest of the group. Definitely better than the Seattle Convention Center. Don't get me wrong, the Seattle facility is nice, but it can't compare to the Gaylord, a luxury hotel.

This year the location is still the Gaylord, but it's the one in Grapevine, near Dallas. Actually from the maps, it appears to be about a mile from the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport, right on large Lake Grapevine. It's not Disney World, but it looks like a great destination for the family to enjoy a few days if you can bring them. Or have them come the weekend before or after to get away. Most likely the hotel will be paid for by your company. The average temperature is still in the 80s in September, so it should be a nice time to be there. I know I'm looking forward to some pool time :)

The Summit

The PASS Summit is the only official SQL Server conference that takes place each year. With a focus just on SQL Server, not just an add on to some developer conference, if your career is based on SQL Server, you should be there.

Microsoft provides great support for this event and we're really looking forward to speaking with the development team this year. Quite a few of them will give presentations, and stick around to answer your questions afterwards. The interactions with the people that actually build, support, and live SQL Server is amazing. I learn as much from talking to people in the hallways as I do in sessions.

And speaking of sessions the abstracts and descriptions are now online so you can begin planning. There are 4 time slots each day and 8 sessions during each slot. Plus there are Q&A sessions during lunch times, happy hours, social get togethers and more. As expected, there are quite a few SQL Server 2005 sessions on all aspects of the new product to get you up to speed, but still a good mix of sessions devoted to topics that you can apply in your SQL Server 2000 environments. There are quite a few slots reserved for Microsoft that are not yet detailed, probably as they're busy with the next CTP as well as unsure how close they'll be to RTM at that time. Look for those to be finalized in August.

One of the great things about PASS is that not only do you get the SQL Server development team speaking. And not only are the authors of the books you read there presenting, not only is Joe Celko, world famous SQL guru, presenting, but there are about 1/2 the sessions given by the DBAs in the real world. People like you and I that make a living working with SQL Server and struggling with it's features and bugs. We're not working in a lab creating scenarios, we're out there actually living and breathing SQL Server administration and development. We aren't always the best speakers, but we bring some real life experience to our presentations that can be very interesting and eye opening.

I don't want to pack everyone into a few sessions, but take a look at the list and see what interests you or applies to your job. There is definitely quite a few sessions for everyone and every topic. Just be sure that you take a few slots in some area that interests you, even if it has nothing to do with you job.

Lastly, while Andy, Brian, and myself love to meet you and get to know you, there are tremendous networking opportunities available there. Even if you're not looking for a job, the chance to learn what other types of career opportunities are out there, maybe find an expert that could help you out, or just find a friend, be sure to take time to talk to everyone that you can. Stop someone and introduce yourself during the exhibition, lunch, etc. and ask them what they do. It might be the start of something amazing in your life.

The Exhibition

If you've even attended a conference, you know that there is always an exhibition hall setup for vendors to tell you about their products, show how they can make your job easier, give away a few prizes, etc. It's an interesting mix of fun and business and it's a great chance to meet people. I don't have the complete list, but Red Gate Software, Imceda, Idera, Polyserve, HP, and more will be there I'm sure. With hands on exercises and demonstrations, it's a great time to learn about what's out there.

I'm sure you've seen the advertisements on SQLServerCentral.com from a variety of vendors and products. I know lots of you have contacted vendors and purchased products that help you get better at your job. Let's face it, SQL Server is a fantastic product, but it has shortcomings in some areas. Every major product does and this is why we always see third party software add-ons.

These products can help you! Without a doubt, there is some product that can make your job easier, you more productive, or your SQL Server run better. The conference is a great time to see these products working on a real computer, not a demo, with the people there that can provide hands on instruction as to how they work. Most of the vendors will bring a technical person along to help answer questions, so ask everything that comes to mind.

The other great thing about the exhibition is that you can find people that really use the product. Ask people about those that you're considering and see what their experience has been. There's nothing better than a live recommendation from someone, so take advantage of your networking for that.

The SQLServerCentral.com Party

Now to the good stuff.

Just as we've done that last two years, SQLServerCentral.com is hosting an opening night party after the main PASS reception. We've had a great relationship with PASS and this is an event that we really believe in for SQL Server professionals. That's why we've worked out a deal with PASS and the reason that we promote the event. The three of us have attended dozens of different conferences, TechEd, the PDC, Comdex, ComNet, and other events and PASS is one of our favorites.

Now we get a referral fee from PASS for everyone that we convince to attend. That's part of the reason that I'm writing this and trying to get you motivated enough to ask your boss for the funds. But we don't look at this event as a way to make money. Our intention is to spend everything we get from PASS on our party and the event. That doesn't include the travel and expenses from the three of us. We did that last year at our XBOX Giveaway, losing a few dollars, but it was well worth it.

In fact, the more people we get to attend, the better the prizes we'll give out :)

This year we've contracted with Aaron's Casino parties to put on a casino party. No you won't be playing for cash, just for fun, but we'll have some prizes for the top "chip" winners as well as some random ones for those that come to the party. We're not sure what we'll be giving away, that mostly depends on how many people sign up and what our budget looks like, but some suggestions have been iPod Shuffles, iPod Minis, portable DVD players, Sony PSPs, etc. I'd love to give away an XBOX 360, but somehow I don't think Microsoft will let me have one just yet. Look for those in Seattle in 2006!!

My wife and a few friends have attended casino parties and they've all been very pleased with the results. Gamble for fun, compete for chips, and no one loses, it's a fun way to spend an evening. So you might want to review the rules for poker and blackjack, and even craps for the wilder crowd and come prepared to have some fun.

As we've done the last two years, we'll also be giving out an SQLServerCentral.com shirt and a copy of The Best of SQLServerCentral.com - Vol. 3 to everyone that registers for the conference with the following promotion code:

SSC

So spread the word to your friends, start working on your argument for the boss man or woman and we hope to see you there. If you need some arguments for going, check out what Brian Kelley and James Travis had to say about last year.

If you come, feel free to stop one of the three of us and say hi. Looking forward to meeting quite a few of you for the first time as well as seeing many of you again.

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