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The Scary DBA

I have twenty+ years experience in IT. That time was spent in technical support, development and database administration. I work forRed Gate Software as a Product Evangelist. I write articles for publication at SQL Server Central, Simple-Talk, PASS Book Reviews and SQL Server Standard. I have published two books, ”Understanding SQL Server Execution Plans” and “SQL Server 2008 Query Performance Tuning Distilled.” I’m one of the founding officers of the Southern New England SQL Server Users Group and its current president. I also work on part-time, short-term, off-site consulting contracts. In 2009 and 2010 I was awarded as a Microsoft SQL Server MVP. In the past I’ve been called rough, intimidating and scary. To which I usually reply, “Good.” You can contact me through grant -at- scarydba dot kom (unobfuscate as necessary).

PASS Summit 2012 Evaluation Results

I say it all the time because it’s worth repeating, feedback is a gift. Good, bad or indifferent (well, not indifferent), feedback is a wonderful gift. Any time you appreciate a speaker, give them feedback. Any time you think a speaker could improve, give them feedback. Any time you hate a speaker, give them feedback. It’s really the best thing you can do.

With that in mind, I have a huge stack of gifts in front of me here, the evaluations from the PASS Summit.Thank you very much to each and every one of the 160 different evaluations I received. I presented three times at the summit, once on a pre-con with Gail Shaw called “All About Execution Plans,” one time in a spotlight session called “DMOs as a Shortcut for Performance Tuning,” and a 5 minute lightning talk called “Testing Your Backups, The Rant.”

All About Execution Plans

I worked hard prepping the pre-con. It’s my first one at the PASS Summit (and I hope not my last). Gail also worked hard. The two of us did all this work in opposite hemisphere’s on the planet. That means we didn’t really get to walk through the session until the day before. Our timing was off, and some of the advanced stuff was a little rushed late in the day. I think that might account for some of the scores. Regardless, that’s an explanation, not an excuse. Here’s how things broke down for us, 5 is good, 1 is bad:

Evaluation Question Rating
How would you rate the Speaker’s presentation skills? 4.53
How would you rate the Speaker’s knowledge of the subject? 4.80
How would you rate the accuracy of the session title, description and experience level to the actual session? 4.48
How would you rate the quality of the presentation materials? 4.25
Did you learn what you expected to learn? 4.28

Gail and I had a blast presenting this session. Maybe we were having too much fun. I’m very happy that our knowledge rating was good and high. Everything else, well, we missed the mark. I’m especially troubled by the low rating on the question of “Did you learn what you expected to learn?” I think that one shows that we didn’t deliver what we should have. If we were to do this again (and I think we should), I’d cut down the basics information quite a lot. We had almost 3 hours worth of introductory material. I suspect taking that down to about 90 minutes would help a lot. Then we’d have an additional 90 minutes on the other side to get into what the audience seemed to expect. Here are some of the comments (my responses are in parenthesis and typos outside of parenthesis are not mine):

  • I expected more from th performance solving demoes
  • Demo of what to look for in live systems with a high focus on “prevention” would have been very useful
  • Would have loved a deeper dive
  • Could have used little lower level but am happy anyway (there are only a few of these. Everything else was focused on the fact that the afternoon was rushed and the morning was basic)
  • It might have been better to spend less time on the mornig topics and get into disection of execution plans earlier. (see)
  • Explaining the properties was helpful (Yay! hit one of my keywords, everyone drink)
  • I was expected more on reding exectuion plans and tuning ex. plans
  • Way too academic. Don’t feel like I am translating anything back to work situations (that one hurts, seriously, it does. I thought I was bringing real world examples in, but must not have made enough of a point. Thank you)
  • Would have liked access to demo material before hand. Also, real life scenarios and troubleshooting techniques would have been useful (and another. Ouch)
  • Would have been nice to have screenshots of the demos (uh, no)
  • The combined knowledge of these two is amazing (The plan was, I say something Gail corrects me. That part worked)
  • You both have deep knowledge of the subject. You make a fantastic team. (lots like this)
  • Good flow, great at repeating questions out loud. Good at zooming in.
  • 1. Parse/algebraize/optimize
    2. The optimizer can lie, but usually doesn’t
    3. Look at selectt and properties in ssms, didn’t know about properties (another yay. That’s one thing I wanted to get across)
  • Go to a real trainer next time (And see, that’s not feedback. That’s snark. That’s commentary. But it’s not feedback)
  • Too much info so the speakers had to move swiftly and skip some basic concepts and made assumptions about the knowledge and skill levels of the students (see, hard to reconcile everything, but the consensus was, too many basics, not enough advanced stuff)

You get the idea. I think we’ve got some excellent and actionable material to build and improve this presentation. I’d present it again with Gail in a New York second.

DMOs as a Shortcut for Performance Tuning

This is the third year I gave this spotlight session. I was less than pleased with myself, the slides and the demos during the presentation (and I received some good feedback, that day, about it), but I tried hard. Evidently, trying hard paid off. I’m ranked 28th with this session in the conference over all. Yeah, hardly something to write home about unless the highest you’d ever been ranked before was 32nd. Improvement is improvement. There were 58 evals turned in out of 120 people attending.

Evaluation Question Rating
How would you rate the Speaker’s presentation skills? 4.67
How would you rate the Speaker’s knowledge of the subject? 4.86
How would you rate the accuracy of the session title, description and experience level to the actual session? 4.69
How would you rate the quality of the presentation materials? 4.62
Did you learn what you expected to learn? 4.59

With these levels of evals, I have nothing to complain about… I really need to get better at writing my abstracts. I’m hitting low on the actual session and expectations, so I’m clearly not communicating well. Oh yeah, I can find things to critique myself over any time I want. However, hit nice and high with the knowledge score and high enough with the presentation skills (although higher would be better). Lots of room for improvement, which is great. Here are a few of the comments:

  • That I’m missing a lot of valuable information and wasting a whole lot of time hunting the whumpus when users whinge! (Win!)
  • Should be serious!!! (really? I can’t. I try, but I can’t. I’m having fun with the technology and I’m going to smile and joke while I work, just because, sorry.)
  • Would have rated this at a 300 level but the pre-req listing was useful. Only reason I rate this as 300 is the underlying need to understand the various terms and columns within the DMO’s. To rate at 200, perhaps a slide at the start stating the things tha (interesting. I still think it’s 200, but I hate the thought that I’m leaving someone. What do you rate it if it’s 232?)
  • Big brain (that’s not all that’s big, if you know what I’m saying…What? I’m talking about my belly… what did you think? See, humor, can’t help it).
  • Great presentation. Clear, very easy to understand, seeks audience input which is good as it keeps the interest levels high. (Another Win! I do go for audience input. It’s vital to me as a presenter. I’m just not a “stand in front of the hall & lecture” kind of person).
  • I can use this info tomorrow.
  • Apply the material immediately! Thanks!
  • Dude; can’t you leave the results window up (not go back to query window) and just hit execute/F5 to re-execute? (interesting. The last several presentations, prior to this year, one of the complaints was that everything went to the bottom of the screen in the results. So now I output to the tab & more stuff is visible, but I can’t leave it on the screen… something to practice, leaving the results in place a beat or three longer… thank you, thank you. See, this is what feedback is all about)
  • We pay $$$ for this!!! (very unhappy person. Same guy that didn’t like the humor. I’m sorry. I do feel back for this person. I let them down, but I’m not sure how to improve from this one. I’m not going to joke less. Maybe a warning at the beginning, “I’m going to laugh at myself, our technologies, and other things while I present”)
  • The demos (script/execution capture) were boggy; this presentation was possibly an outlier.(great point. I did have some troubles with a script I’ve been running for, literally, years during this presentation. Weird. Thanks for the feedback)

You get the idea. Except for the guy upset at my attempts at humor (again, I am truly sorry), decent ratings and a few areas where I can try to improve. This is so useful. Thank you all.

Backup Testing: The Rant

Further proof of my inability to take things completely seriously, I communicated several ways to test your backups, but at a full throated roar. I hope it was useful as well as fun. A couple of comments:

  • SOME PRESENTERS ARE A LITTLE CRAZY BUT AWESOME (That could be for anyone, but I’m claiming it)
  • A CLOCK IN FRONT OF GRANT (the guy doing the timing was off, not me)
  • next time, make sure these LTs are recorded for YouTube ! (agreed)

That’s it. To everyone who filled out a sheet, thank you. I hope I can do better by you all next year.

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