We've been back from Pass 2003 for over
a week and I've been meaning to write some notes, where does the time go? Steve,
Brian, and I attended again this year and had a great time. Here are some SSC-centric
notes about the trip/event.
The conference usually runs Wed through Fri, with Tues reserved for "pre
conference" sessions. The Tuesday sessions cost extra, so you have to decide on
a year by year basic if they have something worth attending. Big draw this year
were the Yukon sessions of course. Still based on Beta 1, so nothing really new.
The Beta is still under NDA, but MS is gradually lifting that on a case by case
basis to get more information out to the public. Some advice on these sessions -
consider carefully if you have the fortitude to stay focused for four days.
Conferences are intense, doesn't make sense to spend extra for Tues session if
on Fri morning you're on overload. Just my opinion.
We got started Tues night at the reception. As many of you have noticed, we
ran a promotion with Pass to try to bring in more attendees. It worked! The
conference had about 2000 attendees, 180 registered using our promotion code!
Our plan was to meet and greet at the reception, hand out the shirt (a very nice
button down with our logo embroidered) and a copy of our
book, try to
get pictures of everyone. Things got a little out of hand, everyone
wanted a shirt! I think everyone was surprised at the quality. We had people
wanting to buy a copy of the book. We wanted to have a chance to talk to
everyone individually, toward the end it was just a blur.
Wednesday started with the keynote. It also started with everyone attending
get a free copy of our new magazine,
The SQLServer Standard. Then it was off to the sessions. One big event for
us was Brian's session on clustering. He uses two VMWare sessions set up on a
laptop and builds a SQL cluster in 60 minutes. Very impressive, but beyond that
very useful - not many people have tons of extra hardware laying around, using
VMWare is a great alternative. It was also a chance for me to see clustering in
Win 2003 Server for the first time. Not a huge change, just nicer/smoother, what
you expect from a revision, but interesting all the same. The session was very
well received. Brian was worried because A, it's a live demo, and B, he had to
walk through a lot of the install before showing the slides or he
wouldn't have enough time. Turned out fine! By the end of the day we were tired.
Thursday was another keynote, more sessions. For those who haven't been, the
conference usually runs from 8am to 6pm. They serve a light breakfast plus lunch
each day. Lot's of
Starbucks coffee of course. Steve and I conducted a session on snapshot
replication. No, snapshot replication isn't as exciting as performance tuning!
We had a very good turn out and because it was a "spotlight" session (meaning we
had spoken before and gotten good reviews), we got an extra 15 minutes for a
total of 1.5 hours - and we used every bit of it. The intent was to introduce
snapshot replication at a very simple level while discussing some of the power
options, but ultimately try to get people to just try it once. We usually
measure success by the number of questions and we got a LOT of questions. We
edged into transactional, merge, log shipping vs replication, lots of stuff. I
had to stop to check several times with the audience that they didn't mind the
slightly off track questions. I think it was maybe the most fun session I've
I think it was Thursday (or maybe Fri??) that we went to a lab conducted by
PSS. Very nice guys, they had several short labs designed to help you learn how
to debug a particular problem. Steve and I worked together on one that had a
cursor that was being opened and not closed, the tell tale was that stolen pages
kept going up. Want more info on that? PSS has given us the ok to host the files
for the labs here on SSC, look for them in the next couple weeks. Across the
hall they had lots of machines configured with more labs for people wanting to
Off and on Thurs we were also talking with the PASS board of directors about
our magazine. PASS wanted to enhance the membership experience and had been
considering a magazine for a while. PASS is non-profit and staffed primarily by
volunteers, so taking ownership of a full magazine was a big step. We were
offering an alternative. We were launching a magazine anyway, why not partner?
As we talked through the issues it became clear to me that this was the first
time I'd seen a true partnership forming. At a break on Thurs we finalized a
draft agreement that would have us provide the magazine to all PASS members and
would give PASS at least four pages in the magazine for them to use.
Friday morning they announced it! We would partner and everyone was excited
about it! It was a huge step for us and we got a lot of exposure for the site.
The rest of the day....? Drawing a blank!
These were some of the more common questions, so I thought I'd share them
Who owns/runs SSC? Brian Knight, Steve Jones, and me. We are equal
partners. More info can be found
handles our sales and so is our public face.
Do you do it full time/how do you find time? No, it's still very much
a part time thing, we all have full time jobs. Finding time, well, that is
another story. We split up responsibilities and find time where we can, but I'd
guess that we spend 10-20 hours a week each.
Are you making a lot of money? No! That said, we're not losing money
either. We could probably make more money if we changed to the subscription
model, but we like providing free access. Had we started 3 years sooner we might
have been millionaires! We treat it like a business, but we do it because it's
something we know about and care about.
Can I submit an article? Yes! Most definitely. If you've got an idea
for something to write about, send me email explaining it and we'll go from
there. If it's about SQL and doesn't duplicate existing content, we'll probably
Can I buy a SSC shirt? Not yet. We gave away every one we had!
Probably January we'll have more available, watch the newsletter for more info.
What lessons did you learn? Handing out the shirts and books kept us
from spending time with the people getting them. Next year PASS will issue those
at the registration booth, we'll have an event just for SSC members so we can
sit down and talk.
We met a lot of readers and some of our authors too! We had dinner with Wes
Brown (moderates in the forums), met Greg Larson and Randy Dyess (authors), and
met readers - holy cow, too many to list! We got a lot of feedback both good and
bad, we're working on the bad stuff believe me. Brian has already switched us to
use the Google search, search was the single largest complain we had.
Well, the next issue of the magazine is due out sometime in January so we're
hard at work on that. Plus, we want to make sure that doing the magazine doesn't
detract a bit from the quality of the site. We have some other improvements in
mind, both infrastructure and code. Forums are a big one, we're still looking,
but clearly we need an upgrade there.
What about PASS 2004?
It's going to be held in Orlando next year, a great location for us (I live
in Orlando, Brian in Jacksonville). If you're going to go, you should register
early. PASS is discounting heavily through the end of this year. We're also
doing the same promotion. If you enter a source code of "SSC" you'll be on the
list to get a free copy of our Best of SQLServerCentral.com 2003 book and a very
nice polo! The URL to register is:
https://www.badgeguys.com/reg/pass2004/register.aspx.I know training money
is hard to come by, but if you're looking for a SQL conference, this is the one.
Nothing wrong with the other conferences, but they tend to focus more on
development. Should be a lot of Yukon content at this one!
I know this has been a hodge podge, hopefully you found it interesting and/or