Ybor City Farmers Market, Dogs, Kids, and Observations

Last weekend I was in Tampa for SQLSaturday #168 and made sure to make some time for family. The most interesting thing we did this time was to go to the Ybor City Saturday Market. Ybor City is on the north side of Tampa, and the market is maybe  a mile from the event venue. It’s a smallish event, guessing 30-40 vendors, all set up with 10×10 tents. It’s part farmers market and part bazaar, not much flea market. Lots of crafty stuff there, much like the stuff you find on Etsy.

There was a greyhound rescue group there with some dogs. One of the dogs was wearing a “donation vest” which seemed like a smart way to accrue some funds so I gave my daughter a dollar to donate. That lead to a strange look when she explained to my wife that she put a dollar in the dog. Good to have at least one story from the trip!

I saw a lot of the Square devices in use and it was the first time I had used one for a transaction. Pretty easy, they enter the amount, then you sign with a finger and optionally enter your email address. I may have to order one just to see the other side of how it works. I think they’ve made credit cards approachable for the micro-business and it’s a win for the consumer too, unless you count spending more than you planned.

The most interesting strategy I saw was around hula hoops. For a dollar you could hula hoop for 10 minutes. That’s an easy spend as a parent, let them burn off some energy. I’m standing there watching – because you know they had to get all of their 10 minutes! Near the end the woman running the booth mentions that she sells them starting at $15. Nicely done. For 10 minutes I’ve watched the kids enjoy the product, kids are bonding with the new toy, and now there is potential for a decent upsale. I can see a lot of people doing it the other way,saying here,try out these hula hoops I have for sale. Kid tries it for a minute, parent gets impatient, drags the kid on. I paid them a dollar (well, $2 since it was two kids) to get marketed to!

I looked to see the cost of being a vendor, its $35-$50. That interests me too. Has to be something we can make or bake that we could sell on a Saturday. Not thinking about making a lot of money, but what an experience for a child! Kind of a grown up lemonade stand.

I spent about $30 over the course of an hour, a lot less than I spend in the same time at the mall and somehow more satisfying too.

Notes from SQLSaturday #168 in Tampa

I made a quick trip to Tampa for #168 this past weekend. It was a “BI Edition” and it felt less intense but still a great value, four tracks of content and about 150 attendees. I arrived in time to sit through most of a presentation by Mike Antonovich, and then gave my own presentation on professional development plans to about 20 attendees. I like to poll the audience during the talk and was surprised that when I asked how many were excited about their career no one raised their hand. It’s not unusual to have half or less raise their hand – it is work after allbut no hands surprised me. To some degree I think people self-select into the presentation for just that reason and are trying to find the path back to excitement. Still lots for me to learn on this topic and I need to write more about it – soon.

Thanks to Jose Chincilla and his volunteers for a great event!

PASS Summit 2012-Board Q&A

For the few past few years the Board has scheduled time to take questions from members at the Summit. This year I got to be on the question side of the fence which was a nice change.  It was scheduled for 9:45 on Friday. Not the best time because it was up against sessions, including one from Dr Dewitt, but to be fair there is no good time. There were at most 20 people in the room to ask questions or just listen. Room setup wasn’t bad, the Board members all seated on a slightly raised platform on high tv producer/director type chairs.

Now, on to some notes.

  • There was no moderator, so some questions seemed to last a long time. Valuable discussions, but with limited time a moderator is useful to keep things on track.
  • Both sides forgot at times that it’s not possible to get to a final answer or convince one side or the other of the rightness of an answer in 5 minutes or less. Moderator!
  • Lots of discussion about the global growth plans to assign Board seats to regions.
    • It was great that this was mentioned in the keynote and there has been as much communication on this as I’ve seen (good)
    • It was bad that we couldn’t get the proposed changes and read them prior to this. I’d have loved a dedicated session just for this one item.
  • We had an attendee who has asked for multiple years to volunteer at the Summit, but no one ever calls him. Supposed to get fixed this year with Sri taking on the newly rehydrated Volunteer portfolio.
  • The Board struggled to explain the target job titles for the upcoming Business Analytics conference. Some of that is not having a refined message rather than not knowing. Still, it’s concerning that a brand new event 6 months out doesn’t have that message done. [I have concerns about how successful the first event will be with such a short launch period, but we’ll see.]
  • It didn’t seem like the Board had reviewed the notes from the Q&A last year. Holy cow. This can’t be a night before review. This should be work assigned and worked on throughout the year and periodically reviewed.
  • I asked about why portfolios weren’t assigned in time for the Summit and got a so-so answer. Big reason we have pushed elections to be done before the Summit is to get those new faces integrated with the Board quickly. I know it’s hard to figure out where to put everyone, trying to figure out the matrix of skills, interests,and time left on the Board,but in my view this has to be done before the Summit. I think this will continue to be a problem until the Board formalizes a process to be applied and puts that date on the calendar as a key deliverable post-election.
  • I asked about the future of SQLRally and didn’t get a good answer at first – SQLRally alive and well internationally, but I’m asking about in the US. Board has agreed to put it on the agenda for January and make a decision. Also found out that rather than losing money the Dallas SQLRally generated a $29k profit. $30k one way or the other not the reason to continue or not in my view, but it’s nice to know (in particular for Team Dallas) that they didn’t kill the franchise by losing money. At the same time we were told the event reconciliation is still not done. So is it $29k or not? And why does it take 6 months to reconcile a 500 person event?
  • I asked the Board to announce before the 2013 Summit the criteria they would use for determining if it was a success, because that will get used to decide if the Summit ever moves out of Seattle again. I don’t think we have a definition of success for the Summit other than attendance/expo sales, maybe time to revisit that. In any case, if they do this it will be transparent – and we east coasters can engage to try to make it a success based on the criteria!
  • I asked about the state of financial reserves (also mentioned vaguely in the keynote) and didn’t get a great answer, but expecting a follow up that should fix that. Reserves are/should be money that is set aside for the long term health of the organization – basically to provide a fall back in case of disaster. Right now it seems like its on the order of $500k, which would cover perhaps one half year of HQ salary/expenses – not enough. Remember that the Summit funds everything, if one has to be cancelled due to storm or terrorism there is insurance, but it takes a really long time to get the check. Without sufficient reserves we might have to lay off key staff and with them all the experience/knowledge we rely on. I want to be able to look at the financials every year and see clearly that the reserve number going up. I’ll be following up on this because I think that number is lower than I expected. I also want to see a policy that requires the Board to vote to use funds explicitly tagged as reserves.
  • Question about 501c3 status for chapters. There is still no guidance on this, supposedly because its different in each state. I don’t care that its hard – figure this out. Figure out in one state and go from there. May I suggest Florida?
  • Question about being able to call it “SQLSaturday Connecticut” instead of “SQLSaturday New Haven”. Seems reasonable to me, was going to be worked on after the meeting.

Overall I thought it went well and that some valuable information was exchanged. I wish for more questions, more discussion. Part of that is getting done at the Tuesday Chapter and SQLSaturday meetings (grow those even more, they are powerful), but why isn’t every portfolio having one of those meetings? Why doesn’t each Board member schedule public time(s) to meet and take questions/ask questions? I wish for more attendees, but I know that there is no really good time that won’t have something more interesting competing for their time.

Hoping that we see the full minutes published and then follow up answers to supplement it.

PASS Summit 2012-Part 4

Thursday. Slept a little better but still waking up on east coast time. Not a lot to do in Seattle at 3:00 am!

Keynote was horrible. Well intentioned, not a matter of failed demos or anything, it was just…long. I try not to be hyper-critical, but they were selling us on integration and we all get that, we all want to do that stuff, but we – to generalize – are the ones that get to decide that. It was a very good idea to help us understand how it might work, it just somehow seemed ineffective.

PASS Board, I’ll say it again, for the nth year. Keynotes are incredibly valuable time, for the attendees and the presenter. Use that time well! The PASS portion was ok to good, deliver a message, move on to the show. I could suggest tweaks,but it as fine. Day 1 keynote was good,even better than good in places. Day 2, just not there. Keynotes are hard. It’s not enough to understand your topic, to be a good speaker, you have to understand your audience and their expectations. Don’t let anyone up there that won’t wow the audience, and there are many paths to doing that. I watched a LOT of people reading email on their phones because they were bored but polite.

Lunch was not as good as day 1. Green beans two days in a row? Someone got a good deal on the green beans?!

I did some more networking of the refresh kind. Looking at this trip so far its been more about reconnecting than making new connections. In part maybe because I’m just in low key mode, in part because I just needed time with people I trust to talk through where I’m at and thinking about going.

Dinner was at Farestarter with the Friends of Red Gate (thank you for inviting me!) and a very very nice dinner and good conversation. These events vary by vendor, this one has always been pleasant and comfortable. No sales pitch. Perhaps the most interesting was hearing that they’ve found it far – easier?- to build tools in the SQL Server space compared to Oracle because of the large community. They can get feedback, understand the various use cases. Isn’t that interesting how the ecology shapes and reshapes itself?

Then I joined the crowd walking down to the official after hours event by the Space Needle, then left there to hit one more late party before heading for the hotel sometime after 11pm. Long day, but good!

PASS Summit 2012-Part 3

Wednesday was a blur. I had breakfast at the Convention Center, mostly to see how it was – ok, muffins, cereal, bagels. Good enough to be fair.

After the keynote it was networking time, quite a few of the long slow conversations that deliver the most value combined with a lot of hand shaking as I ran into friends. At 2pm I sat down with Steve Jones to talk through our presentation scheduled for 3pm on The Mentoring Experiment.

From 3pm to 430pm we did the presentation. About 10 slides, just enough for talking points, and it was reasonably successful (its hard to know sometimes going in if you have the right vision for the presentation). It felt like the audience was fully engaged, that we got them to see the world a bit differently on a couple things, and they got us to see the world a bit differently too. It’s an amazing experience to have people come spend time, interact, listen deeply and share ideas. Thank you to all that attended!

More conversations after that,then dinner with Jessica,Colin, and Josh (and then quite a few more) at Von’s, and that was it for me, time to call it a day.

PASS Summit 2012-Part 2

Late posting this, has been a busy week!

Started the day at Top Pot, meeting up with Jack Corbett and some other friends. Good way to start the day.

Next stop is the SQLSaturday RoundTable meeting, the once a year chance to get most of the event leaders and key volunteers in a room to look back and look forward. I’m sitting at a table with leaders from Russia and the Ukraine! The look back, seeing if the overall goals are hit, is very valuable. As I look at the 2012 goals I wish we had done a better job of setting more measurable goals. Here’s an example; we had a goal of fixing signs at events, the number one complain from attendees is that they struggle to find the event. Did we do that? PASS bought signs, but between that and pushing events to do more signs, but did we fix it? Don’t quite know.

  • Nashua NH event bought a cheap laser printer to print raffle tickets the event, then raffled the printer!
  • One ask is for a SpeedPASS with raffle tickets that don’t have the name printed so events can copy and have attendees fill in on site (who didn’t print ahead of time)
  • Orlando had the “scissors of shame” for people that didn’t print and cut out raffle tickets ahead of time.
  • Speakers have option to say “I don’t want a shirt”
  • Look for suggestions about how to use (or if) QR codes on name badges and raffle tickets
  • Sending hand written thank you cards to speakers and sponsors, Orlando had post cards made
  • Lots of interest in having speaker dinners at organizers house – informal, low cost
  • One event is having Girl Scouts be the room monitors (and presumably selling cookies too!)
  • Idea to work at teaching attendees what effective feedback looks like

Overall I thought it was an effective meeting,except we don’t know who will taking over the SQLSaturday portfolio on the Board. This would have been not just a good time to do that hand off,it’s a critical time – time to build relationships, share and set vision. Much much harder to do via email later on.

PASS Summit Keynote-Part 1

Starting off with Douglas McDowell talking about the opening video that highlighted people from a lot of different countries, lots of diversity. Talking about how much PASS has changed in the past 5 years – I agree with that – and the revenue growth.

  • Summit is primary revenue (just about the only one!) source
  • Says financial reserves have grown, but not how much
  • Hired 2nd community evangelist this year (go Niko!)
  • Congratulating new board members (Wendy, James, Sri)

Now shifting to Tom LaRock, VP of Marketing.

  • Discussing volunteers, PASS does depend on and exist because of them
  • Amy Lewis and Jesus Gil are 2012 PASSion Award Honorable Mentions
  • Jen Stirrup wins the PASSion award
  • All board members now have a little black book to capture feedback
  • Registration open for 2013 Summit, Oct 15-18 in Charlotte
  • Charlotte tourism board has a booth at the Expo, that’s a nice touch
  • Party tonight at Music Experience
  • Dr Dewitt doing a spotlight session today that will be streamed as well

PASS Summit 2012-Wednesday Keynote Part 2

Ted Kummert speaking.

  • Talking about SQLFamily and the way this event feels like a family reunion (it does)
  • Showing a picture of release date at MS for SQL 2012, wishes we were there (maybe some video next time? Some community people? Shipping software is hard, had to be a good moment)
  • SP1 for SQL 2012 available today
  • Long prelude about change and big data
  • In memory transactional capability: Hekaton, will ship in next release
  • Shawn Bice to do the demo
  • High perf in memory db, good for times when you need more performance. about 2000 transaction per second in the demo and 33% cpu, change to Hekaton, tool helps find bottlenecks, now migrating table to run in memory – no application change needed, about 9x better performance
  • Now looking at a proc that does inserts, compile proc to run in memory, 29x better perf
  • Now doing a clustered columnstore index demo, not bad
  • Bwin overview,using SQL for session state,about 15k transactions per second, got the point of not scaling (that doesn’t seem right – maybe just not fun to scale anymore?), up over 200k with Hekaton
  • Talking about Insight & Hadoop on Windows a little
  • PDW 2012 coming in H1 2013
  • Christian Kleinerman doing demo
  • Logging in as SA – wow
  • Explaining in a big system something will always be in a fail state. Moderately true.
  • Mentions we’re a critical audience when a copy/paste fails – we are sometimes!
  • Counted a PB of data fast! 1 second. I don’t care how you do it, that’s good.
  • Not sure why Ted stays on stage, seems like a good time for a drink of water during the demo
  • Polybase new feature, unifies queries between relational and Hadoop, makes sense, will be
  • Can tell they sweating mistakes. That’s good. It’s a big deal to get to speak to this audience, make the time count. That said, we’re geeks, we know things go wrong. We’ll forgive a typo or other goof, just don’t be boring! So far so good.
  • Whoever wrote “bi moment” into the script….
  • Now Amir Netz, usually good for a great demo
  • Ted takes a break. Thinking that is plausible deniability in case Amir goes wild!
  • Some people like pie charts. Some just like pie.
  • Blogger wireless failing.
  • Doing some movie analysis. Clearly Excel is still gaining ground as the analysis tool of choice. Not dumb, users get the mental model, just extend it.
  • Built in zoom gets applause (long standing complaint from us attendees, we want to be able to see what you’re so excited about)
  • Amir is super entertaining, in a good way – watch his part, the lesson is not technical, its that if you can hide all the plumbing (that we love so much) you can do interesting things in what feels like obvious common sense ways
  • Ted is back
  • Calm summary now, not sure I like it, feels like it should have ended with Amir – everyone wound up

Overall this was a good keynote, worth time to watch.