PASS Update #38 (SQLSaturday Wiki)

For the past couple years we’ve had a few different documents that covered how to run a SQLSaturday, but as you all know building and maintaining documentation is hard, and we just didn’t have a good process for capturing new lessons and folding them in. A couple months back I set up the wiki and staged a good number of ‘todo’ topics, but we struggled to get started – the feedback I heard was that it was a bit overwhelming to start with a blank slate.

So, decided to try something new, and after some budget wrangling, worked it out so that we could bring 7 volunteers plus me to one location to spend a good day building the wiki out. I wanted a good assortment of people, made my list and thought on it some – so many good people! Ultimately it was arbitrary, and if you didn’t get invited it wasn’t that you wouldn’t have been valuable, just only had x dollars to work with.

Interestingly as I worked down the list everyone said yes. That’s yes to flying to Orlando (to use my office & Orlando is easy/cheap destination) on a Friday to work all day Saturday and then return home Saturday night or Sunday. In no particular order, I invited Greg Larsen, Jorge Segarra, Jessica Moss, Jack Corbett, Sri Sridharan, Scott Gleason, and Patrick Leblanc. Of those I had in met all except Sri before, Jack was local, and both Jorge & Scott lived within driving distance.

All but Jack met up for dinner on Friday night and we spent hours talking about PASS, SQLSaturday, career, and having some fun listening to Scott tell stories about work. A nice quiet evening, just a long dinner, and then everyone heading off to the nearby Residence Inn.

We started Saturday morning at 8:30 discussing how we might capture all the thoughts we had on a single topic; shirts. Polo, t-shirt, various vendors, personalizing, etc, etc. It turned into mild chaos for the first half an hour, then we split into 2 person teams to work on topics that seemed most important. We did that for about an hour, did a quick review, then switched teams around and went again. After the second iteration we stopped doing reviews and just focused on content.

We took a short break for lunch (sandwiches from Jason’s Deli) and then back to the grind. At about 2 pm we took a 15 minute break to stroll around the parking lot a few times, then back to it once more. At about 3:30 or so Jack and Jessica started going through what we had done, weeding out some empty pages and finding pages that they thought could be consolidated. By 5:15 we were at a good stopping point and tired too. Not 100% perfect, not 100% done, but a good bit of content added that we can now build on. Then it was Jack, Greg, Patrick,and myself heading to dinner, the rest heading home.

So we’ve got some review and clean up to do, and we’ve also got to figure out what we’re missing. Nancy from PASS HQ is going to start using LiveMeeting for event kick off calls and will include a walk through of topics in the Wiki pertinent to the start up phase. She will also be doing a call at the end of each event to try to find out lessons learned (and to say thank you for leading the event!), and we’ll take those and figure out where to put them in the wiki. Beyond that though, I think we’ll work on a blog/feed/newsletter to those that lead or volunteer at SQLSaturday, not workable to expect them to catch all the wiki changes (there is a feed for it) and some of the lessons learned might just catch them at a time when it would make sense.

So looking back, did it work? Was it worth the travel, the money? That’s a tough question!

I think it largely worked. We got more done than I feared, maybe not quite as much as I had hoped (formatting for example), but it worked much better than emailing them each a set of topics and asking them to fill in some pretty large blanks. What’s hard to share here is the enthusiasm that filled the room, the idea swapping and discussion that went on as we wrote about topics. For example Patrick had not heard of the concept of having a “greeter” like you see at Wal-Mart, and for him it was an instant ‘we will do that this year’. It’s also more than just building content, the less obvious value is the team building (thus the swapping around of team members during the day). Ultimately I thought it went well, was worth the money, and is something I would try again for ‘big push’ kind of effort.

This is one of those things that was a risk, and we should take some small risks. It’s also part of what I think PASS is and should be more of, an organization that empowers our members to do interesting things. As any first time event leader will tell you, there is a lot to learn. Just by trying to devote a little more time to keeping up with lessons learned should pay some nice dividends over time.

See it live –

Blog posts from the volunteers so far: