PASS Update #30 (Surveys)

Recently we released the results of the annual survey to determine interests for the 2010 Summit. That’s a step in the right direction, sharing the results, but what we didn’t do was share what we thought we had learned from the results, and we were taken to task some by Steve Jones and Brent Ozar (great comments on this one) for not doing that.

It’s a case of us failing by doing more. If we had not released the results, we wouldn’t get in trouble for not interpreting the results! Speaking only for me here, we missed an opportunity, but it’s a good lesson to learn. I sent the following to the Board as thoughts around this:

  • Are we asking questions that will give us answers that are useful. For example, now that we know backup compression is popular, what do we do with that info? Do we schedule multiple sessions on it? Make sure we have at least one session on it?
  • Bias check. Are we tilting the questions in the direction we want to go (entirely human, and often done without realizing)
  • Get buy-in from PASSCab. Politically it’s valuable to say we asked for input, realistically we may get some good feedback to make it better
  • Release our eval with the results, should include actions we plan to take, areas of ambiguity, lessons learned for next time, and potentially the need for a follow up to clarify areas we didn’t get right on the first try.

Note: PASSCab is our advisory group, a chance for us to get some opinions from outside the bubble of the Board – see the post by Tom for more details.

We’ve got a lot of learning to do and process to build around surveys – or do we? Part of me thinks absolutely, we need to go through the 10 step process and follow it perfectly, lest we be criticized. If we can spend a few hours to do that and still field a new survey quickly, that’s good. If every survey gets bogged down in hair splitting review, is it worth that to get perfect answers?Surveys that will get reused merit more investment, and probably all surveys benefit from a simple process, but – see how it easy it is to add overhead?

I’ve got another post coming up next week that talks about the criticism side – might surprise you with some thoughts there.

See this post by Tom LaRock on the same issue.

PASS Update #29

By the time you read this we’ll have completed the transfer of the SQLSaturday web sites and data to PASS HQ, leaving only the clean up tasks of transferring the domain and the email aliases for active events, something we plan to do by the second week of May. It definitely took longer than I had hoped, but it’s done, and now we can move into the next phase:

  • How are we going to continue to add value to the tools? Lots of interest in a way to manage volunteers and a schedule builder for users. Can we put this in a dev environment and let volunteers add some of that? How do manage it, if at all?
  • Lots of work to be done on the documentation, via the wiki at http://wiki.sqlsaturday.com. This is one of the projects I hope will work, as there is just too much good stuff to share via story telling.
  • Figure out for certain how much HQ time each event will require – and possibly do work to reduce that number
  • More effort on networking – I posted about that yesterday
  • Grow the franchise. How do we get to 50+ events in the US in 2011? Not being the king of marketing, I think we should try to have at least one in every state in 2011, which means starting to look for prospects now and probably trying to get as many as possible in a room at the Summit to plan for next year.

A smaller project I took on was coming up with a concept for a ‘regional’ event, something that would fit in between a SQLSaturday and the Summit in terms of cost, size, and value. I wanted to put in a first class effort, so the proposal took four days over the course of a 10 day period. We’re looking at two different ways of attacking it, and as I write this we’re still in the review stage, will try to share a lot more detail soon.

Another interesting problem cropped up within the Board, we don’t really have a good process for managing votes. Votes require a motion, a second, but after that voting by email requires a longer timeline because not all are instantly accessible, and we want to give everyone time to vote. To make that more complicated, sometimes we need a vote now (rarely), and for things like the minutes we really only need a majority of votes before we release them to the members. It’s a case of having a one page process will really make things go smoother, and will be nice to hand to new board members.

May will be – hopefully – a slow time for me with regard to PASS, catching up on work and life related stuff, and then in June resuming work on the much delayed speaker bureau.

Social Networking and SQLSaturday

I think we do a pretty good job of delivering technical content, but not such a great job at getting the attendees talking to each other. The speaker side of things has definitely turned into a social event, how do we do that for attendees?

I don’t have the answer yet, but we’ve made a couple changes to try to move in that direction. At registration we now ask (but not require) Twitter and LinkedIn info. We’ve put together a networking page that let’s you see everyone who registered and provided Twitter and/or LinkedIn info. It’s a way to see who will be there before you go, and a way to track down and connect with people you met at the event.

In addition, we announce registrations on Twitter for those with a Twitter handle, plus new abstracts and sponsor signups. All of that Twitter activity shows up on the front page of the event too.

I think we need more, especially photos. We’ve got some options – Gravatar, Twitter photo, and LinkedIn photo. I suspect we’ll end up trying all three in hopes of finding one for each attendee. We probably should put Twitter info on attendee badges, one more way to connect.

What else can we do with technology without going overboard? Could we try to match up people with similar interests? Turn it into a game/competition of some sort? Looking for ideas!

SQLSaturday #49 Call for Speakers is Open & Call for Our PreCon Seminar

SQLSaturday #49 will be held in Orlando on October 16th, 2010, and our call for speakers is now open. We’re looking for diversity of topics and speakers; don’t be afraid to submit a niche topic! This year we’re trying two new things:

  • We’re going to do have one set of ‘super sessions’ from 1-3 pm that run the full 2 hours. Selection for this will be based on topic and speaker experience/skill. Talking for 2 hours is definitely harder than doing 2 1 hour sessions, but if you’re up for it – submit your abstracts as part 1/part 2 and we’ll consider it!
  • Next, we’re also adding a dedicated sponsor track. Our six top sponsors will each get one hour to showcase their product. Most of our attendees don’t get the chance to go to the Summit to see the demos in the Expo, so we thought we’d give them a chance to get a deeper view of what some of these products can do. If you’re affiliated with a sponsor be sure to submit a session for this dedicated track.

Next, as we’ve done in previous years we’re going to run at least one full day seminar on October 15 priced at $99. Seminar runs 9am to noon, then 1-4 pm. So, if you’ve got a 6 hour seminar ready to go and are interested, send a note to sqlsaturday49@sqlsaturday.com. Here’s how we work it:

  • We’ll guarantee your travel and hotel expenses
  • We handle collecting the money
  • We provide attendees with lunch as part of the $99 fee
  • We take all expenses out of the gross, split the profit (if any) 50/50 between oPASS and the speaker
  • You also commit to doing at least one session on Saturday

We’re going to take all the submissions and send them out to our user group and ask them to vote on which one(s) they would be interested in attending and if they would be willing to pay for it. From that we’ll do our final selection. It’s a good way to add some value to SQLSaturday, with luck we raise a few each dollars for the user group, and it’s way for one lucky speaker to get their expense paid for the trip!

Latest Issue of The SQL Server Standard – Volume 7 Issue 3

Available for download by all PASS members (membership is free), this issue has Techies Talking to Non-Techies by Don Gabor. Don talks about the various conversation styles and how sometimes you have to adjust your style to have a worthwhile (reasonable) conversation.

I totally agree on this, it took me a while to understand that when a stake holder says “100%” that they usually mean 95% between 8 am and 5 pm. IT people tend to take and say things literally, most of the rest of the world doesn’t!

It’s short but good read, and is a nice way to improve your networking skills too.

Want to write for the Standard? Drop a note to me, or Grant Fritchey, editor supreme!

Book Review: Knives at Dawn: America's Quest for Culinary Glory at the Legendary Bocuse d'Or Competition

Another find from the new book shelf at the local library, Knives at Dawn: America’s Quest for Culinary Glory at the Legendary Bocuse d’Or Competition by Andrew Friedman ($18 @ Amazon), the Bocuse d’Or (named for French chef Paul Bocuse) is a real world Iron Chef competition. Teams from all over the world compete in a five hour competition that focuses on flavor and presentation.

The book covers the refocusing of Team USA in 2009 to try to win, starting with the competition between US chefs, then the selection process, and finally the months of thinking and preparation leading to the final event. It’s interesting how much thought/work goes into what to cook, then more time on learning to cook it the right way, and then doing it over and over again to make sure that every step is choreographed.

It’s a play by play account, and I found it reasonably interesting.The US team placed 6th, not bad – but not a win either. Little things matter in this competition. For example, the shrimp at the final event were much smaller than they had practiced with, only afterward did they realize the information was available in advance – they just didn’t see it.

It also felt like a look into a world beyond the Food Network. Shows on the Food Network are fun, and meant to be entertaining. This was more of a look at people really serious about their craft, and that’s interesting to me regardless of the topic, understanding just how big the gap is between me making from scratch brownies and these guys.

It’s also a lesson in preparation. From the book you get the impression that we lagged behind a bit all the way, with one more month of prep could have done better (maybe). It’s got to be hard, doing a five hour practice session over and over, and having to clean up each time, making little notes to help things go better the next time. Yet, it’s the repetition and attention to detail that make the difference, not a contest where you can just show up and throw something together.

Here’s a link to the US site: http://www.bocusedorusa.org/

Rules to Live By: Do the Hard Things First

I can’t say I stick to this one 100 percent of the time, but it’s definitely a deeply held belief. Given two tasks, I prefer to do the one that sucks first. It’s easy to do the fun one, spend time on stuff that is fun but doesn’t really matter, and then wind up way behind on doing the thing that did matter.

A rule of thumb I attach to this one is that you shouldn’t bother to try to stay clean when tackling a dirty job. Stick your hands in the engine oil, roll around on the grass if you need to, but just commit to getting dirty and sweaty, and then get into the job.

Another piece of this is to never accept money before you do work. Getting paid after the work is done feels good. Earned. Get paid first, and the enthusiasm for the work seems to fade fast.

Finally, I’d say that my favorite people to work with are the ones that not only subscribe to this philosophy, but once started do the work aggressively – they want to do it and get done, not wallow in complaining about how miserable the job is (though minor whining is allowed!).

Results of PASS Summit 2010 Content Survey Released

A few weeks back PASS sent out a survey to get input on how to shape the 2010 Summit agenda, and now you can see the results. We had 189 people respond, not nearly as many as I would have hoped. It’s a long survey which I’m sure doesn’t help, but I’d like to see if we can’t find a way to get more members involved in these to make sure we get an accurate result.

Worth taking a couple minute look just to see – we value content more than networking, and we aren’t hugely excited about certification – at least that’s my take!

SQLSaturday #49 in Orlando!

We just put the site up, starting a little earlier than last year, and over the course of this week we’ll be finalizing the sponsor plan and the call for speakers. It will be Oct 16, 2010, here in Orlando (Lake Mary – north side of Orlando), and we’re going to try for a solid 300 attendees on site. Registration is open, www.sqlsaturday.com/49/register.aspx.

Wondering about #48? It’s going to be Oct 2nd, but the true identity will remain a secret for just a bit longer!