No More SQLRally In the US

I was disappointed to see the mention in the Connector today that there would be no SQLRally  2013 in the US. Reading the minutes from the May 2012 Board meeting (and you should read it to do your own interpretation) it feels like the decision was made largely on two points – Rally was not a profit center (was never intended to be if you go back to the beginning of the concept) and it consumed too much of HQ resources. It also feels like it’s not going to return in the US, it will be an international brand only.

There seems to be some thought of doing a “Super SQLSaturday” and maybe that is better than nothing, but is it better than a real Rally? Why wouldn’t we just do Super SQLSaturday everywhere, why keep the Rally brand at all?

In the end I feel like Rally died due to the lack of Board involvement. Maybe that’s not fair, but it feels that way to me. No one took over when I wanted to hand off at the end of the Orlando Rally, and from the outside as far as I could tell no one took on the Dallas effort or planning for 2013 (which should have been going on in January). That’s not to take anything away from the efforts of Team Dallas, I thought they collectively did a great job. But that is a tactical focus, the Board could have been working through the core issues they referenced in reaching their decision earlier this month.

Deciding how much time and money to spend on various things is hard. Sometimes you make business decisions, sometimes you don’t – that’s the nature of a non profit, but I’ve always felt like PASS tilted too far towards business. Without being in the room it’s hard to know all the factors they weighed, they may well have made the right decision. It just doesn’t feel that way.

Finally, I want to repeat something I told my friend Tom LaRock a few weeks ago:

PASS has something every non-profit dreams about,a consistent and effective fund raiser (the Summit). That funding gives you the ability to do great things,to make a difference, to spend on things that won’t generate a profit. Don’t waste the chance to do good, don’t be the non-profit that has fund raisers to finance the next fund raiser.

Funding SQLRally seemed like a pretty good thing to do.

The Rules of Gibbs

It’s been interesting to watch the characters evolve on NCIS over the years, something that can only happen with time (and the luxury of surviving on the air long enough to get the time!). Whether you watch it or not, you might find value (and humor) in the “rules” that Gibbs lives by. Rule #9 seems obvious. Rule #5, don’t waste good, is simple and complex, a reminder of obligations.

Seems awfully hard to build a set of rules and remember them, much less live by them, yet we all do. They just don’t written down or given numbers

Beyond that, the Gibbs/DiNozzo and Franks/Gibbs relationships are great examples of mentoring.

Unsubscribing

One of the things I’ve been doing lately is pruning (again) the number of newsletter type emails I get. Some I’ve moved over to my feed reader, some I’ve just had to shut off for now. Often they are useful and interesting (and I still get some), I just don’t have the time and energy to read/be interested in all of them. It’s easy to get over-subscribed in a lot of ways, in this case I felt like I literally was.

It’s nice to reduce the volume and the noise, even if only for a while.

The Done Stamp

I’m fond of replying with “done” when a task is complete, no need for anything more elaborate. I’ve been experimenting with a status board using 3×5 cards and push pins just to see how I like it compared to sticky notes, one of the columns is for “done” items. Somehow that just didn’t seem satisfying, so I ordered a stamp:

 

2012-05-24_15-30-17_93

Now I can finish these tasks off with style!

Building a Presentation Map

This idea came up during a critique of a presentation. I may have re-invented (or re-labeled) something that is already out there, but wanted to throw this out as a different way to look at presentations. Presentations are stories, performances, and they need to flow, but seeing that flow isn’t easy when you’re the presenter, or easy to describe if you’re the critic discussing it afterward.

image

I haven’t tried this, so take it with a grain or two of salt. My thought is to start by filling in a rough slide name so I can see where I should be on the timeline, then think about what I want to happen during that period – do I want to demo, talk, ask the audience questions, or – more advanced – try to get them to ask the right question? It would be interesting to have this in hand in advance as a critic, do they follow their planned flow? Did they get the questions they wanted to drive?

Not sure map is the right word,but diagram didn’t seem quite right either. Flow map? Presentation flow diagram? Interested to hear what you think.

It’s OK To Eat Alone

There’s a lot to be said for the philosophy of Never Eat Alone, using meals as a great time to meet new people or reconnect with people you already now.  I try to use that approach at events, probably because it’s easier to do when there are hundreds of people around who want to (or are at least open to) networking. I don’t do it one hundred percent of the time, but close, and it’s both effective and fun.

I’ve never adopted it during a normal work week, in part due to not being willing to work that hard at lining up someone for lunch every day and in part just enjoying quiet time at a meal. Most days when I go to lunch I take a book to read (usually career related as opposed to fun), sometimes I’ll work on notes or an idea for something I want to write, and some days its nice to just sit and enjoy some fresh air. The days when I do have lunch with someone are then a delight.

Somewhere between always eating along and never eating alone you can find a balance that works for you.

Watson Plays Jeopardy

I watched the documentary on Nova about the IBM project to build Watson, a computer that could play Jeopardy. The technical bits are interesting, maybe even staggering in some ways, especially when you consider it’s all to do what a single human can do! It ran without being connected to the internet during the game, so they had to download and store a lot of stuff – Wikipedia, IMDB, more.

The human side was more interesting. They had to convince the show producers that this would be good TV, so they set up a mock set and brought in a comedian along with some real contestants that had been on the show, and started. It didn’t go well. Watson definitely got some right, sometimes it ran into things it didn’t “know” about like roman numerals, and sometimes the answers were just wrong. Not a little wrong. Way way wrong.

The Alex Trebek stand-in – being a comedian – cracks jokes each time Watson blows it. The project lead was wincing in the audience, visibly impacted by the snide/silly remarks from the host. You might think he had begun to think of Watson as a person,but he was thinking of how all the people on the team felt. Odd situation. Not sure if it was how it was edited or how it really played out,but going with a comedian was almost bound to lead to someone not being happy in that competitive situation.

They went off, made some changes, and finally gave it another try for real. Here’s a snippet of it:

Watson Plays Jeopardy

 

Watson ended up doing pretty well.

Jeopardy is a hard challenge, much more so than playing chess. They had a nice example of the complexity of Jeopardy. Imagine writing the query to figure this out:

I shot the elephant wearing my pajamas.

Who was wearing the pajamas? You, or the elephant? That’s language for you!

Marketing Ideas for Chapters & SQLSaturday

I’m part of the team putting together SQLSaturday #151 in Orlando this year, and one of the things Kendal Van Dyke asked if I could work on was marketing ideas. How do we reach more of those interested in SQL Server in or near Orlando? The task is to come up with ideas, then the team can look to see which are feasible and which look likely. Hoping that as you all read the list you’ll suggest additions, and maybe comment on any that I’ve listed that you’ve tried already.

1. Get an intern. Our local college kindly shares their campus with us, maybe they have someone working on a marketing degree that wants some practical experience.

2. Building on the college relationship, they know a lot of people in the community. How can we get them to push our message out to them in a way that everyone will find acceptable?

3. Are we trying to drive them to register for the event, or the chapter? Would it make more sense to try to get them to the LinkedIn group first?

4. Local staffing companies have killer lists, we need to find a way to use this proxy network better. How about giving them a code, give them a discount against the sponsorship fee for everyone that registers with their code (potentially reducing their cost to zero)?

5. Buy a newspaper ad.

6. Radio ad, maybe we could get a PSA?

7. Post on Craigs list. We’d have to do this repeatedly as it would roll off, and would need some work to see which section would work best.

8. Work the local .Net group to ask their members (mainly devs) to make sure their SQL people know about us. Worth doing, not sure how effective.

9. Make sure event listed in MSDN email.

10. Invest time (and money) in a solid flyer and maybe some posters,ask everyone to print/post at work.

11. Can we get bookmarks put into all the SQL books at the local bookstores?

12. Do we know the top 25 tech employers in the area? We should! Would be interesting to figure out how many of those people we’ve reached.

13. What can we pull from Census data? It would be great to know how many DBA’s were in Orlando zip codes,maybe we reach a higher percentage than we think. (Note: My guess is we reach half).

14. We know about a lot of tech companies based on registration info, how about reaching out to them directly, maybe at the CIO/director level?

15. Can we buy a list? Find a good list broker?

16. Do more with local trainers like New Horizons and DeVry.

17. Get the flyer on bulletin boards at local restaurants and coffee shops.

18. What about buying ads on LinkedIn and Amazon? Or doing a mailing to our extended LinkedIn network?

19. Make sure event listed on LinkedIn.

20. Where else would people look for events in Orlando?

21. Local government job placement/training offices.

What can you add to the list?

The Brain Dump Blog

I was chatting with a friend recently and he said he could never blog the way I do. Which way is that? His take was I just dump my thoughts, and that doing so required some amount of courage to put unpolished thoughts out for reading by others.

I haven’t ever thought of the way I write as courageous, and probably won’t. I write to think, and the way I do that doesn’t require every idea to get fully and perfectly written. I enjoy sharing some of my thoughts and ideas, but I don’t – at least right now – worry about page views or popularity. I write to think, to grow. It’s a lot like the conversation we’d have if we sat down to talk about this topic right now.

That’s my style. You get to pick your style. Be who you are. Try to be better, try new things. Or not. In the end, you can write, or not. I hope you’ll write.