We had our meeting on November 11, 2008, with 27 people attending. Our featured speaker was Jessica Moss, SQL MVP and BI consultant doing a presentation on new features in Reporting Services 2008. Jessica was very involved in the Florida technical community before moving out of state for work last year, and it was nice that we got to invite someone back that some of our attendees knew. She did a nice job showing off the new features and got the crowd to give up a few questions, but I think for many it was their first exposure to RS, not just RS 2008. All the better, plenty to keep them interested.
Part of the pre-presentation discussion was about the upcoming PASS Summit, and that led (again) to a discussion of PASS and it's mission. Out of that then developed a discussion about what benefits they thought a national organization might bring to them - with few answers. We ended up also discussing certification, and everyone agreed that for a cert to be worth pursuing it had to be perceived as valuable by HR and others outside of IT (to affect the hiring process) and that it would have to guarantee some level of competency. Definitely something I would like to see PASS do, but I think the first part is actually more challenging than the assessment - hard work to convince managers that any cert has real value.
As a user group watcher, what struck me tonight (again) was how the attendee list changes based on topic. Most of the hard core DBA's didn't attend tonight, and some of the regulars did. I agree with managing your time carefully, but I wonder if the increasing focus on a few narrow areas hurts many in their career long term. Could also be that I'm not doing enough to make it more than just technical, to engage them socially as well.