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2010 PASS Summit Recap

The 2010 PASS Summit has been over for a week and a half now and I've finally recovered & processed everything that happened. Going into the week I intended to write a daily recap and live blog the keynotes but those intentions fell by the wayside shortly after I arrived in Seattle. It feels like somehow I crammed a month's worth of activity into 5 days! Here's how the week went down for me:

Downtown Seattle 2010Arrived in Seattle around 3 PM after the long flight from Orlando, sadly sans my friend Jack Corbett (Blog | Twitter) who had to cancel his plans at the last minute. Caught the Link Light rail with Jon Kehayias (Blog | Twitter) and following the short ride into downtown checked into my hotel. After settling in I made my way to the convention center to see what kind of buzz there was around opening night registration - looked like around 100 people waiting around for the doors to open! After mingling and meeting with people - some new, some I was seeing again for the first time since last year's Summit - I made my way over to Lowell's for the meetup arranged by my friend Andy Warren (Blog | Twitter).

I'm guessing there were at least 100 people at Lowell's, enough to fill up both the 2nd and 3rd floor. Steve Jones (Blog | Twitter) even made his way over - nice to see him since he wasn't going to be at the Summit during the week. We closed down around 9:30 PM and I stopped by the Tap House to catch up with the folks from SQL Sentry. Back to hotel around midnight and not sure what possessed me but I checked email and ended up troubleshoot a work related problem before calling it quits to get some sleep at 2 AM.

MWelcome to PASS Summit 2010onday started with a call from work about the aforementioned problem - no Top Pot breakfast for me! I wrapped up in time to make it to the SQL Saturday Roundtable from 10-12, then lunch and networking time with a few of the people at the roundtable. At 5:30 I met my group of first time attendees, spent about 30 minutes sharing tips to help them get through the week, then we all made our way to the special reception for first timers. Nice to do something for Summit rookies but it turned into a mini keynote selling them on PASS offerings; we could have done a much better job connecting people and sharing advice for the week ahead.

The welcome reception was up next. Another mini-keynote about PASS, $7 drinks, lots of noise, bouncing between one side of the room and the other to grab food. The quiz bowl was entertaining for the small percentage of people in the room paying attention to it. Don't get me wrong, the welcome reception is a great chance to meet and greet people but I'm thinking there's something we can do different\better to facilitate that (just not sure what!).

PASS was kind enough to host a bowling party for speakers and volunteers after the welcome reception so I spent a few hours catching up with people, then turned in for an early night since I didn't get much sleep the night before and I was presenting immediately after the keynote Tuesday morning.

Rushabh Mehta and "Mike" Souza at Day 1 KeynoteStarted the day with a quick breakfast in the expo hall and then made my way to the keynote. I was invited to sit at the official bloggers table but unlike last year where I live blogged each day I opted to stick with tweeting since the keynotes were being streamed and I don't know what greater value live blogging them would have added. Exciting stuff but I had to leave a few minutes early to prepare for my spotlight session on Transactional Replication.

I had a decent turnout for my replication session - forgot to ask the room monitor for the exact count but I think close to 100. All in all I think I did OK - I delivered the content I wanted to but had a few stumbles along the way, namely one of my demos didn't work. It figures, replication gets a bad rap for breaking but when I try to break it, it works like a champ. In any case, it didn't cause any major issues as I was able to show the corrective steps anyways. I was hard on myself for the 3 hiccups that happened during the 90 minutes but I know audiences tend to be more forgiving of that kind of stuff. Still, I'm looking forward to the reviews…and thinking about how to transition the session into a full blown precon on replication. For as much as I talked about there was twice as much I didn't cover simply for lack of time!

I was invited to be part of a "meet the Microsoft executives" social for the bloggers group that took place after lunch. Not many bloggers attended so I found myself in the strange position of trying to hold a conversation with several high ranking Microsoft business execs. What does an everyday Joe Schmo like me talk about with a guy like Ted Kummert? Of course I talked about PDW and Denali, both of which had just been announced a few hours earlier, but in trying to think of something interesting I started asking about where various technologies like Hadoop, Cassandra, MongoDB, et.al fell on Microsoft's radar screen. I must have done a good job keeping the conversation going because the Microsoft PR folks had to step in and shuffle people around to keep me from monopolizing their time! On another note, I made the mistake last year of not giving Ted Kummert my business card when I ran into him at Gameworks; I did not repeat that mistake this time.

Tuesday night must have been when almost every vendor scheduled their parties. I had invites but just couldn't make them all. I ended up with the folks from SQL Sentry for some drinks and good conversation, then back to the hotel before midnight.

Image courtesy of Brent OzarBreakfast in the expo hall again followed by the keynote. I had another session to present immediately following the keynote, this time on getting started in blogging and technical speaking (see picture on right, courtesy of Brent Ozar). I had around 80 people attend along with several bloggers and speakers, some of which could only stay for a portion of the time but I appreciated it nonetheless. I heard some comments about not being in control of the session, but that's more or less how I planned it. I had some talking points, but the session was designed to be an interactive conversation. I suspect 25% of those in attendance found no value in it, 50% still weren't convinced, and 25% found it really valuable. I'll consider the session a success if I\we managed to convince just one person who was thinking about blogging or speaking to take the next step. I'm looking forward to the feedback, even though ironically I mentioned that most feedback you get in the current format isn't as valuable as you might think.

We still had some work to do on the SQLRally website and unfortunately I had to miss the WIT luncheon to get it done. After lunch I had my final presentation - a lightning talk on volunteering for PASS based on my experience working on the SQLRally team. I really enjoyed the lightning talk format - there were some really funny moments - and was surprised that there was standing room only. Five minutes goes by fast, but I was pleased with the delivery and I hope the format finds a permanent place on the schedule.

I sat in on the Election Review Committee feedback meeting Wednesday afternoon. I don't know that most people knew or cared about this meeting as only a handful of people outside of the committee came. It was a good meeting, some good suggestions put on the table, and I have hope that the ERC will recommend changes to the PASS Board of Directors that will make next year's Board elections less controversial than the previous two years' have been.

Wednesday night was the annual appreciation event at GameWorks. The game lines were long so I opted to mingle, eat, and enjoy a few drinks courtesy of Microsoft. I ended up back at the hotel around midnight - would have stayed out longer but at that point was exhausted and needed sleep!

A Proud Moment For MeThursday morning was the final big event of the Summit for me - we officially announced SQLRally. Lots of great things here - winners of the community voting for precons announced, registration open, call for speakers open, and website pushed live. Met with mild applause, and a mix of both pride and relief at the same time for me. There's still lots of work to be done but I'm really charged up for it now that we've hit this milestone.

Day 3's keynote with Dr. David DeWitt was outstanding as expected. No marketing, no fanfare or music - just some really deep technical talk with some humorous moments thrown in. At one point I noticed an eerie silence in the room that wasn't there during days 1 or 2 and it wasn't because people were bored - almost no one had walked out of the (standing room only) room; rather it was because people were really engaged in Dr. DeWitt's material. This is just the kind of keynote people going to the Summit want and need, and I suspect that most wouldn't feel bad about missing the marketing demos that happen the first two days. I realize they're necessary, though, so maybe we can compromise - split the keynotes in half, Microsoft gets one half and the other is dedicated to something really geeky or technical. Imagine how cool would it be to get one of the Mythbusters out on stage for an hour!

I had lunch with Bill Graziano (Blog | Twitter) and Tim Mitchell (Blog | Twitter) to follow up on some of the suggestions that were made during Wednesday's ERC meeting. I managed to make one session on data compression, then finished out the day at the PASS Board of Directors meet and greet. Attendance last year was sparse, this year the room was full - good to see people taking an interest in the direction that the BoD is taking PASS. I took advantage of the opportunity to follow up on my suggestion from earlier this year and asked the Board if they would publish each member's vote on anything that requires a board vote. Initial reaction not overwhelming, but I found out Friday that my request was voted on and unanimously approved (sans voting on NDA related things, which I can understand) - call it a win for transparency and accountability!

I finished out Thursday night with dinner and drinks with friends.

Top Pot At Last!I had a noon flight home so I took it easy Friday, packing up and finally making it to Top Pot for doughnuts and coffee with Andy. I also had the chance to hang out at the airport with Ted Krueger (Blog | Twitter) for an hour and enjoyed getting to know him better. I finally got home close to midnight, tired from the week and very happy to see my family again.

Final Thoughts
Last year was my first year at the Summit and I came home excited to try new things and build on the connections I made with people I met. I thoroughly enjoyed the trip this year as well and I intentionally tried to do new things to make it a unique experience. However, this year felt very different for many other reasons:

  • Last year I found myself seeking out people and introducing myself. This year I had people finding me. I try to be humble so it felt….strange.
  • Last year I sought out people I knew to each breakfast and lunch with. This year I sat at random tables and found myself initiating conversations with people I was meeting for the first time. What a difference!
  • Somehow I had the energy to do everything last year on 3-4 hours of sleep a night. This year I managed to get at least a few hours more (most nights) and somehow still felt exhausted by 3 PM every day. Either I did a lot more this year than I realized or I'm just getting older (or both?)

The week went by in a flash and at the end I felt a sense of relief, like I had made it to the finish line. Still, I was privileged to share my experience with so many people, learn new things, and be a part of what many others agree was the best Summit ever. Now that it's over I have many things to reflect on as the year winds down: What can we do to make SQLRally a success? What technology should I learn next? Do I pursue certifications? Am I satisfied with the direction my career is going (hint: I just might be passively looking)? Do I run for the Board of Directors in 2011? …and many more. Undoubtedly the answers will come with time, some sooner than others.

In any case, this year's Summit was a wonderful experience for me both personally and professionally and you can bet I'll be doing everything I can to make it back to Seattle in 2011!

Until Next Year...


Posted by Andy Warren on 24 November 2010

Nice write up, I like reading about the week in a single post, might have to do that next year!

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