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My PASS Summit 2011 Experience

The 2011 PASS Summit is in the rear view mirror (has it really been almost three weeks now?)...and as always what an incredible week it was! Here were some of the highlights of the week for me:

The People

The number of old friends and new people I see at the Summit every year is at the top of the experience list for me. There's simply no other time or place where so many SQL people from all walks of life are gathered together. DBAs tend to be few in number at most shops so when we all get together at the Summit it's a great opportunity to talk shop, share stories, and build valuable friendships.  I was hard pressed to go anywhere without running into someone I knew from a SQLSaturday, user group meeting, previous Summit, or who I've gotten to know on Twitter. The running joke is that it takes you 30 minutes to go 50 feet at the Summit, but it's really not a joke; with that many people there it's easy to get wrapped up in an engaging conversation with someone and lose track of time.

The Sessions

I was privileged to be selected to deliver two sessions this year and really enjoyed giving both of them. I didn't count how many people came to each (hoping that the program committee will be able to provide that when all the session evals have been tabulated) but the rooms were 3\4 full for each session so I know I had a decent turnout for both. I received positive comments from people after both so I think I did OK...but like all the other speakers I'm anxious to see the evals.

The Announcements

To me announcements  are like getting presents at Christmas - you know they're coming, don't always know what they are, and most of the time you're really excited about what you discover. There were no shortage of announcements from Microsoft at this year's Summit: the SQL 2012 name and launch date, the new features for working with Hadoop (including a Windows based Hadoop distribution), an ODBC Linux drive, a new SQL Azure CTP, and Power View (aka "Crescent").

Not to be left out, Red Gate launched one of the coolest contests I've ever seen: DBA in Space. I grew up a space geek so you'd better believe I'm excited about the chance to win a suborbital flight!

The Donations

IMG_4565_800x600Last year I left the Summit with mixed feelings - one of the reasons being that I saw a lot of homeless and needy people around downtown. I committed to doing something to try and help in some small way this year and the result was SQLGive, a campaign to collect toiletries and clothes. With help from Chris Shaw (Blog | Twitter) we were able to set up collection bins at vendors' booths in the expo hall on Wednesday & Thursday and at the bookstore on Friday. Thanks to the generosity of many attendees we had close to 50 lbs. of soap, shampoo, toothpaste, socks, gloves, and even some food that were donated to Seattle's Union Gospel Mission.

I want to thank Idera, Quest, Perpetual Technologies, SSWUG, and SQLSentry again for letting us put collection bins at their booths. I also want to thank Tom Roush for his help delivering everything to the UGM dropoff point. I think the best way to relay the appreciation that people feel from receiving even a small amount of help is the story that Tom shared with me afterwards:

When I went there to drop the things off – there was a guy standing out there who helped me to get the stuff into the place - he looked nice, clean shaven, and I asked, "do you work here?" – he laughed, said no, then helped me get the stuff in. Later, he wanted me to know how much it meant for me to have asked that question.  Seems he'd only been off the streets less than a week, and was just amazed, and obviously touched, that I'd think he was a "regular" person.

The End

OK so this wasn't a highlight, but it could be next year. I don't like how the Summit ends; There's so much excitement at the beginning but barely a whimper at the end. On any other night it's easy to find a group of people to go to dinner with, hang out with, etc...yet I had a hard time finding people to go to dinner with on Friday night. I think we need some kind of closing event as a way for people who are still there to say goodbye to everyone and end on a high note.

I'd like to see everyone get together in the dining hall for some final words from the PASS president and a champagne toast to say goodbye. Maybe next year I'll convince someone to give this a try. :-)

Final Thoughts

The Summit is one of the highlights of my year. I meet so many people and learn so much that I don't want it to end. I'm already excited about the 2012 Summit, and I hope that you are too!


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