Year 15 for Jacksonville! SQLSaturday Jax was held on May 6 this year, back at the usual location on the campus of the University of North Florida. At the end of the the thought I had most was it just felt….normal. Back to pre-Covid in terms of energy and attendance and implementation.
They had three precons this year. I didn’t go as I drove up Friday afternoon, arriving early enough that I had time to try a new coffee place before going to the Friday night speaker party at a non-chain sub shop. I had a pretty good cheesesteak and after a couple of hours of good conversation called it a night. Earlier than I would have pre-Covid and perhaps also due in part to working fully remote and spending most of my work days on calls, I had less energy for extended conversation.
On Saturday morning I stopped for coffee, then headed to UNF and followed the usual signs to the garage. It’s a decent sized campus and there is more than one route to the event building from the garage, I think this is one place where a few more signs would be good.
We were supposed to meet at 8:45 for a speaker photo and that sort of happened, not full attendance but some. Not my favorite time as my session was at 9 am and I like to be in the room well ahead, both to get in presenter mindset and to greet earlier arrivals. That said, it’s hard to find a time that’s good for all the speakers. Lunch is busy and often not all the speakers have arrived, at the end of the day some will have left early. Maybe multiple options and show up for one might be a better plan.
A few more morning thoughts. The building was pretty warm when I arrived. That’s not uncommon, a lot of facilities turn the temperature up or the AC entirely off at night, the key is to make sure it’s turned on early enough for a special weekend event (or turned on at all). It warm enough that the chocolate on the donuts was melting down the sides. I’m going to skip the temptation to google the melting point for Dunkin chocolate covered donuts.
I had about 15 people attend my session on installing and configuring SQL. It’s meant to be a good primer for a total beginner that has never installed it and an inspiration/road map for those that manage SQL and haven’t really dug into the value of automating or looked at all the options for doing the automation. That went well and it was a good start to the day.
I went for more coffee, but alas, there was none. Luckily my family was with me on the trip so I could get delivery on another large coffee. Running out of coffee isn’t necessarily a fail. I’s entirely fair to say we have coffee (or donuts, or whatever) until it’s gone. It’s all about setting expectations and unless you set them, the attendees will expect whatever they think is normal or was at the last event or whatever.
From there I went to Architecting Zero Downtime Database Deployments by this guy I know. It’s an interesting topic and one that is still bleeding edge as far as I can tell. It’s interesting to listen to the questions as they start to realize that a lot is possible in this space. Not easy, but not impossible either. It’s also another place where perfect (always deploy zero down time) is hard, but doing it most of the time and still taking an outage when it’s easier/faster/safer is a much more achievable approach.
The rest of the day was smooth. Lunch was boxes from Panera, ice cream (Kilwins I think?), and lots of time to chat with old friends and attendees with follow up questions. I didn’t tour the sponsors this year which is unusual for me, but I wanted this to be mostly fun and not much work (finding sponsors for Orlando) or obligation. That said, there seemed to be having plenty of people stopping to see the sponsors.
The end of day wrap and raffle was in a building just across from the main event building in a large classroom. It felt like more people were present than last year. Lots of raffle prizes, Red Bull, and tshirts via the cannon. Easily 250 plus attended the event, which had an incredible 66 sessions across 11 rooms. No major complaints and even the coffee is a minor one. Jeff Taylor and the volunteers ran a solid and fun event. Jeff is putting a lot into SQL Jax as well as the Florida SQL community and is willing and eager to share both ideas and enthusiasm – if you run into him it’s worth spending some time to chat. As far as I know he’s the only one in Florida (or anywhere) that has figured out how to get his events on highway billboards.
I skipped the after party, ready for some quiet time by then, and had a nice dinner at The Bearded Pig. Events are always a mini vacation for me and while I hate to miss out on any part of the experience, I’ve grown to be ok with taking some time to do other stuff.