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What Does the #SQLPASS Board of Directors Do?

The PASS Board of Directors election is coming up, so I sat down with Allen Kinsel (Blog@AllenKinsel) to get some insight. Allen knows first-hand.

Brent: The PASS Board of Directors election is coming. What exactly do Board members do?

allen-kinselAllen: Board Members set the direction and future vision for the organization. In a more perfect world they might solely be responsible for the strategic direction of the organization much as a typical corporate board of directors is but, because of the unique nature of the organization if a particular director has a passion for how a certain area of PASS should be different they can become quite tactical and put in the actual work to accomplish their goals.

Is it a full time job? How much commitment is involved?

Since it’s an unpaid position, thankfully it is not a full time job. The commitment level is what each director makes of it. If a director has a real passion for something and wants to get it done, they can invest literally as much time as they have to give In order to further their agenda. Otherwise the commitments are typically a few hours a week on average.

How many people are on the Board, and what kinds of backgrounds do they come from?

There are 14 members of the board though only 6 are directly elected by the membership. There are 4 additional board members placed from the founding partners (CA/Microsoft) and an additional 4 on the executive that are elected by the board every other year. The backgrounds of board members change after every election cycle but, typically about the only thing they all have in common is a love of SQL Server. Otherwise board members come from all backgrounds: technical, management, DBA’s, developers, Full time employees, consultants etc…

You’ve been on the Board – what was your favorite part?

My favorite part was certainly my final year of my term where I was able to make significant changes to the way PASS supports chapters and their leaders. Laying out a vision for enabling chapters to have a toolset that rivaled the tools we currently give SQL Saturday leaders and then executing on that vision and seeing how much easier it made new chapter leaders jobs was quite rewarding. I believe that given the support and another year the tools would have fully delivered their initial promise of being everything chapter leaders needed to run a chapter efficiently.

What do you think makes a good Board member?

Many things can add up to make a good Board member but if I had to put one thing on the list, it would be passion. For a person to be truly successful and get things done on the board they need passion. Passion fuels all the other needed aspects of the job. If I could add a second thing to that list it would be experience. As with all things, experience matters. Since experience on a board level is not the easiest thing to find on a resume, the first year serving for most board members can be quite daunting while attempting to find their way.

If you’re a community member looking at a ballot, how do you pick names? Most readers aren’t lucky enough to know people on the ballot personally.

If it is feasible voters should educate themselves on which candidates share their ideals through http://sqlpass.org/elections.aspx prior to voting. If that’s not feasible I would suggest a second good option is relying on the nominations committee’s vetting process to guide how your cast votes. Prior to being put on the ballot the candidates are vetted by a community led group (the nominations committee). Based on their rankings the candidates are listed on the ballot in the order of who they believe will be best for the position.

If somebody wanted to run for the Board a few years from now, what would you recommend they do to start building experience for it?

I’d recommend that they volunteer, get involved and participate in the #sqlfamily any way that they can. In order to truly understand the needs of the community you have to have the pulse of the community and a very effective way to do that is through participation.

51 Questions About Your Conference Session Submission

Jeremiah and I presenting in Atlanta

Jeremiah and I presenting in Atlanta

This weekend, emails went out to folks who’d submitted their sessions for the PASS Summit 2013 in Charlotte.

If you’re bummed, listen up. I know what it feels like to get turned down because I got turned down the first couple of times I submitted, too. The blessing and the curse of the SQL Server community is that there’s so many people who want to help others – but of course this makes it harder to get your place up on the stage. It’s only going to get worse/better as more people continue to discover the community.

Whether you got a good email or a bad one, your work is just beginning. Either you’re prepping for this October, or you need to start prepping for the next conference. In either case, here’s 51 questions you need to ask yourself about your abstract, your material, and your delivery.

  1. What pain is bringing the attendee to this session?
  2. How are they going to relieve that pain when they get back to the office?
  3. What does the attendee know already coming in?
  4. Who should not attend this session?
  5. Reading your abstract, are the answers to the above four questions crystal clear?
  6. What did you learn from Adam Machanic’s post Capturing Attention?
  7. Did your abstract take one thing off before it left the house?
  8. If you search the web for your abstract title, what comes up?
  9. Who else do you expect will submit on a similar topic?
  10. How will you show your own personality and expertise in the abstract?
  11. Of ProBlogger’s 52 Types of Blog Posts, which one matches your planned sessions?
  12. What other types of sessions from that list could you use to surprise and delight attendees?
  13. Are you teaching why or how?
  14. How would a handout make it easier for attendees to learn your lessons?
  15. What visualization would bring your session to life?
  16. Could you contract out a local design student or company to build it for you?
  17. Are you presenting to teach or to impress?
  18. Have you gotten feedback on your abstract from a proven speaker you trust?
  19. If a teacher graded your presentation, would you get an A?
  20. On that 24-point scale, what would it take to succeed at a national conference?
  21. What topics are you going to avoid entirely in order to save time?
  22. How often have you rehearsed this presentation before giving it to a local user group?
  23. Have you given this presentation before at local user groups and SQLSaturdays?
  24. Did you record the session (either video or audio)?
  25. Did you watch the recording to see where you can improve the material and your delivery?
  26. What questions did the attendees ask at those sessions?
  27. What feedback did the attendees give at the user group or SQLSaturday?
  28. How will you use that feedback to improve your session?
  29. If you gave attendees a test at the end of your session, what questions would be on it?
  30. If your session was a movie, what genre would it be?
  31. What other movies would be sitting next to it in the store?
  32. Who would play the leading role?
  33. What are three words you want attendees to use to describe your session?
  34. How do your abstract, material, and delivery inspire those three words?
  35. Have you clearly attributed ownership to the code and pictures in your session?
  36. If nobody asks any questions at all, will you still be able to fill the time slot?
  37. If you get many questions, which slides/sections can you skip without losing meaning?
  38. Where will you post all of the resources for your session?
  39. If people have a question while reading those resources, how will they contact you?
  40. If this session was a module in an all-day training class, what would the other modules be?
  41. What’s the worst thing that could happen in your session?
  42. How will you recover if that thing happens?
  43. Can you form an instant community of your attendees using a Twitter hash tag or chat room?
  44. What would your session look like with no demos whatsoever?
  45. What would your session look like as 100% demos and no slides?
  46. If you started the session with a question, what would that question be?
  47. What’s the easiest, simplest way for the attendee to learn the lessons?
  48. Could you get the presentation’s learning lessons across with a blog post or series?
  49. When you ask people why they linked to your post, what do they say they found compelling?
  50. What questions did readers ask in the comments?
  51. What’s stopping you from writing that blog post right now to gauge reader interest?

No, really. What’s stopping you? Don’t think for one moment that attendees will skip your session because they’ve read your work. It’s the exact opposite: readers come to your session because they like your work. Whether PASS told you yes or no, start writing your blog posts right now to find out what works and what doesn’t.

#SQLPASS Summit Keynote Liveblog Day 2

Good morning ladies and gentlemen! The conference hall is filling up in Seattle, and it’s time to crank up another blow-by-blow commentary.  I’ll be updating this blog every few minutes with what’s happening here at the PASS Summit.  For a refresher, check out the liveblog of yesterday’s keynote.

PASS Summit Keynote Stage

PASS Summit Keynote Stage

8:20AM – People settled in and the room’s going dark. I’ve got a much longer zoom lens today, so I can’t really capture what’s happening in the crowd, but now I’ll be able to zoom in on the sweating faces when demos break. (No, I won’t.)

8:23AM – PASS Executive Vice President Douglas McDowell taking the stage. He’s covering financial details, and he’s excited about it.

Douglas McDowell

Douglas McDowell

8:24AM – On track to be an $8mm organization this year, up about 40% from last year, 80% from two years ago. Some of this is probably due to the economy gradually recovering, but wow, what a great quick growth.

8:25AM – “We’re a nonprofit.  We’re not trying to capture profits – we’re reinvesting them in the community.”

8:27AM – Douglas says this conference is a bargain compared to other conferences.  Well, yeah, but that’s because the speakers aren’t paid, and they have to pay their own travel, hotel, meals, etc.  Other conferences don’t do that, and we’re already starting to see senior speakers pull out of the Summit.  It’d be a shame if that continued.

Revenue & Expense Growth

Revenue & Expense Growth

8:33AM – Welcoming new Board of Directors members Wendy Pastrick, James Rowland-Jones, and Sri Sridharan.  They’ll be serving 2-year terms from January 1, 2013 to December 31, 2014. Big thanks to outgoing board members Allen Kinsel and Kendal Van Dyke.

8:34AM – “We’re volunteers. You know what volunteers are good at? Dropping the ball.” I haven’t said this til know, but this keynote isn’t going particularly well.

8:35AM – VP of Marketing Tom LaRock taking the stage to give out the PASSion award for 2012.  Two changes in the award – added an Outstanding Volunteer of the Month award, and something else.

Tom LaRock

Tom LaRock

8:40AM – The PASSion Award winner for 2012 is Jen Stirrup! Congratulations.

Jen Stirrup - PASSion Award Winner for 2012

Jen Stirrup – PASSion Award Winner for 2012

8:41AM – Tom explains that the Board members have little black books where they’re writing down attendee feedback to improve the conference.

8:42AM – Improved communications: forums, town halls, Twitter chats, social media, feedback site, new communications platform, and more.

8:43AM – PASS Summit 2013 registration open now with an early bird discount at $1,095 until January 4, 2013.  The Summit will be October 15-18, but it’s not clear what that means because they also say there’s 3 days of in-depth training.  The 15th-18th is 4 days.

8:44AM – Lots of companies have sent over 5 employees to the Summit this year, some as many as 30-40.

Companies that sent 5 or more employees to the Summit

Companies that sent 5 or more employees to the Summit

8:46AM – Karaoke with a live band, SQLRockeraoke, tonight at the EMP Museum party.  Tom will be doing a group singalong to Careless Whisper.

8:49AM – Taking the stage, Quentin Clark, Corporate Vice President of Microsoft.

Quentin Clark talking about election analysis

Quentin Clark talking about election analysis

8:54AM – Hotels putting RFID chips into the hotel keys.  It’s a better experience for guests – easier room access – but also lets hotels spy on which guests are using the restaurant, the gym, the pool, etc.

8:55AM – The discussion then goes into Facebook, and BI moments. This might just be our Contoso Frozen Yogurt Moment coming up.

8:59AM – The room is dead. No applause, some awkward coughing. Twitter’s lighting up that this stuff just isn’t interesting to DBAs and it’s not telling a good story.  Zzzz.

9:02AM – Julie onstage to do a demo of PASS Cinemas.

Quentin and Julie

Quentin and Julie

9:10AM – Showing various pieces of technology but not actually doing any work. We got Hadoop, PDW, Azure, and enterprise data warehouses in about 3 minutes.

9:13AM – Apparently big data means small fonts. Seriously, what the hell, Microsoft?!? We complain about this every year. Demos are tedious enough in a room this big, but gimme a break. If we can’t read the screen, we get really pissed off. Value our time.

9:18AM – Body language onstage says it all. Demos are failing, bad patter, even the presenters seem bored. The room is just dead.

Body language says it all here.

Body language says it all here.

9:22AM – Demo is still just absolutely crawling. I’m cashing out mentally here. If I was watching from home, I’d have bailed fifteen minutes ago.

9:36AM – There’s a vibrant discussion going on in Twitter about how bad this keynote sucks.  Is it as bad as the fake Tina Turner that sang Simply the Best a few years ago?  What about the year when a vendor speaker kept saying, “Yadda yadda yadda”?  Tough call, but it’s definitely in the bottom.  The material may be vaguely useful, but it’s presented in tiny fonts on a big screen, totally unusable, and no cohesive story.  There’s bugs and missteps all through the demo.  The air’s totally dead, and the audience is quiet.  It’s horrendous.

With that, I’m signing off and leaving.  I don’t do this often – it’s the first time I can remember leaving a keynote – but my time is more valuable than this. I’m heading out for coffee.

#SQLPASS Summit Keynote Liveblog – Day 1

PASS Summit Keynote Day 1

PASS Summit Keynote Day 1

Good morning, folks! Lights, camera, action – it’s time for the first keynote presentation at the Professional Association for SQL Server Summit.  It’s the annual international conference for Microsoft database folks.  This year it’s in Seattle, Washington again.

Over the next two hours, I’ll be expanding this post with minute-by-minute notes of what’s being covered by Microsoft and the PASS executives.  You can refresh this page and see the latest notes.  Enjoy!

You can watch the keynote over the web here.

8:13AM – People filing in, lots of folks surrounding the blogger table. Tough to ignore all the cool people while I’m getting set up. Ah, dear reader, the sacrifices I make for you. ;-)

8:15AM – PASS’s Kathy Blomstrom has informed us that “As of this morning, PASS Summit 2012 had 3,894 delegates – up 13% from last year’s previous record attendance – and 1,717 pre-conference registrations across 57 countries for a total of 5,611 registrations.”

8:19AM – PASS President Bill Graziano is taking the stage to talk about the numbers and what makes PASS successful – grassroots community involvement around the world.

PASS President Bill Graziano

PASS President Bill Graziano

8:22AM – Bill: “We are 12,000 – excuse me, make that 120,000 people strong.” That’s what I’m talkin’ about.

8:23AM – The PASS Board will be holding another open session this year for Q&A.  It’s important for the community to continue to be open and accept the tough questions, and I’m glad they continue to open the kimono.  Wait, maybe I don’t want to see inside that kimono, heh.

8:28AM – SQLRally Nordic will hold their third event in November 2013.  No SQLRally in the US mentioned yet – it was put on hold earlier this year.

8:29AM – Over 543,000 hours of training delivered by the community for the community this year.  (This is calculated with attendee numbers – if one person leads a one-hour sess

8:31AM – The first PASS Business Analytics Conference will be held in Chicago April 10-12, 2013.

8:31AM – Microsoft announcing their new in-memory database technology, Project Hekaton.  This didn’t come from the stage – @JamieT caught it.  Excerpt:

Furthering Microsoft’s commitment to deliver in-memory solutions as part of our data platform, today we are introducing Project codenamed “Hekaton,” available in the next major release of SQL Server. Currently in private technology preview with a small set of customers, “Hekaton” will complete Microsoft’s portfolio of in-memory capabilities across analytics and transactional scenarios. It will provide breakthrough performance gains of up to 50 times, and because it will be built into SQL Server, customers won’t need to buy specialized hardware or software and will be able to easily migrate existing applications to benefit from the dramatic gains in performance.

8:36AM – SQL Server 2012 SP1 out today.

8:39AM - Ted Kummert taking the stage. He’s Microsoft Corporate Vice President of the Data Platform Group. He usually leads the Microsoft part of the Day 1 keynote and hands demos off to individual Microsofties.

8:40AM – Ted: “I continue to be impressed by how this community invests in itself.” That’s a great way of saying it – we’re all trying to improve our skills and improve those around us to increase our overall value.

Ted Kummert onstage at SQLPASS

Ted Kummert onstage at SQLPASS

8:42AM – Officially announcing SQL Server 2012 SP1 available today. (I caught this earlier in the press release.) Interesting that there’s absolutely no applause for this.

8:43AM – Showing a video of attendees talking about the change they’ve seen in their career and what they’re excited about for the future.  Looks like it was taken at a feedback group in the last couple of days with a combination of customers, consultants, and MVPs.

8:46AM – Starting to talk about big data.  “Approaching the tipping point.”  Talking about how we need to reason over large amounts of data every time we serve people a page.  This is where I start to get a little twitchy – the other way to think about big data is sloppy programming, but I digress.  There *is* legitimate big data, but if you reason over large datasets for each web page you serve, you’re doing it wrong.

8:49AM – Microsoft Research worked with hospitals to conquer the re-admittance problem: patients that had to come back to the hospital to get their problems solved.  They used machine learning to give patients better care to reduce return visits. Or as I like to call it, “euthanasia.”

8:50AM – “If the full dataset fits in memory, amazing transformations are possible.” Ayup. This should not be news to any database professional, let alone any database manufacturer, and it’s a little frustrating that we’d be reacting to this in the next version of SQL Server rather than, say, 2008.  I don’t envy Microsoft’s challenges in predicting the future, but this one seems a little obvious.

Project Hekaton

Project Hekaton

8:56AM – Demoing SQL Server Classic up against Hekaton.  Classic is running 2,000 transactions per second, but running into latching problems.  (Latching often means a lack of indexes.) This already sounds like a cooked demo specially created to show how fitting stuff in memory AND applying the right indexes makes things faster.  Moving it to Hekaton got a 10x improvement at around 20,000 transactions per second.

8:59AM – By modifying the stored proc, we’re up over 60,0000 transactions per second.  They didn’t cover what the modifications are, and I’ll leave that to you to think about.

9:01AM – Demoing column store indexes as a way to show performance improvements by keeping data in memory.  This works in SQL Server 2012, but coming in the next major release, they’ve added two new improvements: it’s updatable, and it can be the clustered index.  It’ll be interesting to see how they describe the differences between these to end users, and how the licensing will work.  These scream Enterprise Edition only.

9:04AM – Rick from online gaming company BWin talking about using Project Hekaton to improve their session state database. They were maxed out at around 15k transactions per second – and yes, these guys really optimize the bejeezus out of their stuff.  They’re been able to hit over 250k transactions per second with Hekaton.

9:06AM – Over 1.5mm units of the in-memory database in customers’ hands.  They’re referring to the in-memory columnar analytics stuff, which includes Excel, so that’s a little tricky – but it’s such an awesome time in technology when this kind of technology is available to end users on their laptops.

9:08AM – Ted says they’re building a lot around the Apache Hadoop infrastructure and they want you to be able to leverage everything that the Hadoop ecosystem provides.  “This may not be technology that you’re familiar with, but I’d encourage you to discover them and use the samples.”  Microsoft needs you, dear reader, to keep your skills current so Microsoft can bring you new tools and you can adopt ‘em.  No pressure – I’m just sayin’.

9:10AM – SQL Server 2012 Parallel Data Warehouse will be coming in H1 2013, and it lowers costs by using Windows 2012 Storage Spaces. Christian Kleinerman onstage to demo it.

Christian Kleinerman and Ted Kummert

Christian Kleinerman and Ted Kummert

9:16AM - Christian Kleinerman demoing a 1PB data warehouse query finishing in under two seconds. It’s tough to do justice to this kind of thing in a 5-minute demo.  Like Kummert says, it’s a heck of a tough audience, and we take a lot of this with grains of salt.  There’s no mention of the hardware performance, storage performance, number of columns in the table that we’re not selecting, etc.

9:18AM – Official SQL Server 2012 SP1 download link here.

9:20AM – Microsoft went to Dr. David DeWitt with a question – how should the query processor change?  The answer was PolyBase, a new breakthrough in data processing for queries over relational and Hadoop data, in place.

9:21AM – Demoing Microsoft HDInsight’s web-based console using JavaScript or Hive.  That’s cool, but people don’t know T-SQL – so that’s where PolyBase comes in.  Create an external table in SQL Server (kinda like a linked server) and you can query it with T-SQL.

9:28AM – A few very awkward “BI moment” phrases which bombed.  Now showing a Great Western Bank customer video talking about how quickly they were able to recoup their BI investment in a 30TB data warehouse.  “BI makes heroes, and there’s not a lot of tools that can do that.”  I think that’s a great quote for executives, but not in a room full of developers.  Visual Studio makes heroes too.

9:30AM – Ted: “Excel is now the complete end user BI tool.”  Die, Access.  Die in a fire.

9:32AM – Amir Netz onstage! He’s the wild card of the demo crew.

Amir Netz preparing to demo Excel 2013

Amir Netz preparing to demo Excel 2013

9:33AM – Demoing data visualization with Bing maps inside Excel.  Looks absolutely gorgeous – except for the freakin’ CAPS LOCK MENUS. Jeebus, these things bother me.  But yeah, this is a great visualization tool, and if I was an SSRS person, I’d be worried.  The same guys who love handling data in Access will love bypassing the BI crew by building their own tools in Excel.

9:37AM – Visualizing data by combining the movie award data with 11mm tweets to see when people were tweeting about movies.  Counts terms extraction by actors and actresses – Brad Pitt versus George Clooney, etc.  “Imagine that you’re a brand manager – actor names are brand names.”

9:42AM – Not much going on here. Just showing Excel moving charts. While Amir Netz is upbeat and fun, he isn’t really communicating anything technical here.

9:49AM – Audience clapping wildly, biggest applause so far, for transparent images of Angelina Jolie and Jennifer Aniston. This is a little…awkward?  The PASS folks unveiled a new code of conduct aimed at avoiding harassment, and I wouldn’t be surprised if someone complained about the appropriateness of these.

9:51AM – And we’re done! Off to a day of learnin’.

Want More? Check Out Day 2′s Liveblog.

Conference Speakers – Check Your Room Size

When you’re speaking at a conference, try to get the room schedules long before the event day.  Right now, the PASS Summit conference schedule is available, and each speaker’s room is listed.

Then, check out the building’s floorplan – in this case, the Washington State Convention Center’s floorplans page.  Check out the seating capacity for your room.

My audience (right before they walked out)

My audience (right before they walked out)

You don’t have to think about filling the room or imagining the audience in their underwear, but knowing the size of the room can help you mentally prepare yourself for what you’ll be facing.  I take different approaches in different room sizes.

In small rooms (for under 30 people), I look every single person in the eye and make sure they’re following along.  When I’m losing somebody, I’ll prompt them for questions and change my presentation pace.  I can make faces to illustrate my disbelief or happiness with a particular point, and I know everyone will see it.

In mid-size rooms (for 30-100 people), I’ll try to take the pulse of the audience by looking around.  I’m less able to change the presentation pace based on facial expressions – and I’m less able to use my own facial expressions as a presentation tool.  Repeating audience questions becomes critical here because people on one side of the room can’t hear questions from the other side.

In rooms designed for over a hundred people, I have to be more animated.  People farther back can’t see my facial expressions at all, and I need to convey more things via audible cues.  My visual cues have to consist of giant hand waving and pointing.

When I know the room size ahead of time, I can even adapt the presentation to work better.  For example, in large rooms, I’ll use visual punch lines on the slides rather than trying to tell a story with my facial expressions.  In addition, the bigger the room, the bigger the font – I can’t rely on projectors to convey small bullet points in a 500-person room.

Note that the room size – not the number of attendees – dictates your approach.  If you’re in a giant room, it doesn’t matter if less than 30 people show up – you still have to use the big-room delivery style.  And don’t judge your success based on the percentage of empty seats – that’s the success of the meeting planner, not you.  It’s their job to pick the right room size for each presentation.  Jeremiah and I are both in the monster 6E ballroom that holds over a thousand people.  They’re betting that a whole lot of people want to hear me talk about AlwaysOn Availability Groups and him talk about A Developer’s Guide to Dangerous Queries!

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