Today was the Portland SQL Saturday and Code Camp at the University of Portland and it was a great experience. I didn't hear what the final attendee count was but many of the session rooms were full… 700-800 maybe? The caliber of the sessions and learning opportunities were top-notch. Logistics (Signs, schedules, session rooms, directions, entertainment) - all good. Food was great. Networking opportunities up the yin yang.
I presented two sessions; in the morning: "Cooking with Reporting Services", based on material from our report recipe book. The room was full and I think it went quite well. I had a lot of interest, questions and interaction with attendees. I felt pretty good about this session. In the afternoon, I presented "Reporting on MDX and SSAS". My cadence was off a little and didn't have quite the same energy as the morning. Although things worked and I presented the material I intended, some of my demos were a little bumpy. In all, not a bad session, I think. Thanks to Gang Fong and Steve Reynolds from the Portland Hitachi Consulting office for helping during my sessions. We gave away several books - mine and others - and a bunch of the coveted Hitachi Sumo Wrestler squishy dolls. Compared to last year, there seems to be significantly more traction for businesses using SQL Server BI - especially Reporting Services.
Buck Woody's session on new features in SQL Server 2008 R2 was very good. Buck's a riot. He's a Technology Specialist with Microsoft and a frequent presenter. Don't ever walk walk into his session room late unless you're ready for a boat load lot of grief. Much of the new R2 feature set included BI enhancements for Reporting Services, SharePoint and Office integration. Overall, he demonstrated that SQL Server has become a very solid platform with excellent tools for enterprise and large-scale solution administration.
I enjoyed Greg Larsen's session on T-SQL best practices. He put a lot of effort into preparing demos comparing the resource usage of various query techniques and alternatives. All really good stuff.
Kudos to Arnie Rowland of Westwood Consulting and the Oregon SQL Developers Assn. for connecting all the dots (many many dots) to make this come together. There were a lot of well-organized and dedicated volunteers. I was absolutely impressed with how smooth the logistics for this event were managed. The only real (and kinda funny) glitch I knew about (this is for levity and not at all critical) was that the 1,000-some preprinted color name badges were not in any particular order. As the volunteers rifled through every name card to find the one for each database or programming expert attendee, they were gracious to tolerate the repeated comments about using a sorting, indexing or grouping routine to fix the problem.
Portland Mayor, Sam Adams, spoke in the auditorium during lunchtime to a packed house, along with other Portland technology leaders. He talked about the economy and the local technology industry. Although IT is seeing some gradual rebound from the economic recession, the general city and state economy is still suffering. The city recently had more layoffs and budget cuts as they channelled money into business development investments, rather than staff & maintenance. He talked about how the city has worked hard to offer tax incentives to small businesses and startups despite their budget challenges. He predicted that Oregon will continue to attract smaller, innovative businesses and they expect significant growth in the small-to-mid-sized business sector over the next two years as the economy rebounds. The Portland Development Commission is focused on supporting small business and they don't expect to attract larger companies relocating or expanding to Oregon any time soon.
Several of the vendors were recruiting staff - including Smarsh, Idera and SetFocus Training. There were also staffing companies exhibiting who had positions to fill. Some of the attendees I knew from SAIF Insurance were holding up a hand-written sign that read "BI Architect / Developer Needed". This was encouraging.
My last impression was the most significant. This was a free conference held in the little town of Portland but great speakers came from all over. They weren't paid and they travelled on their own dime at the simple request of an associate or fellow MVP. Buck Woody, Greg Larsen, Bill Vaughn and several others came from Seattle. Denny Cherry flew up from L.A. As I was getting ready to leave, Tiberiu Covaci, one of the Code Camp speakers, asked if he could catch a ride to his hotel near the airport on my way home. Sure, I said… no problem. I got to know Tibi, who is a delightful young man with a Romanian accent. I asked where he was flying to. "Home", he said. "Where's that?" …"Stockholm," he said. "Arnie asked if I'd come speak and so I did." It took me 20 minutes to get home to Vancouver in congested freeway traffic. I'm not complaining.