Thoughts on the 2014 PASS Summit From A Non-Attendee

I missed the Summit this year, but tried to follow along remotely via Twitter, PASSTV, and the blog posts I could find (look for a summary of those on Monday via PASSWatch). As someone who had attended every year since 2002 it was interesting. I know the Seattle Convention Center, I know what it feels like waiting for the keynote to start, etc, etc, so it’s not the same experience as someone who has never attended.

There’s really no provision for “remote attendees” at the event. PASSTv does allow those of us not attending to view the keynotes and a couple live sessons, and I’d argue you get a sense of the people there via the interviews, but it’s mostly a passive experience (ala TV). To be fair I’ve never paid much attention to PASSTv for the event, seeing it then – and now – as a value add and not something that was expected to be as good an experience as being there. Yet, there were plenty of times this year when I wished for a little bit more, and I’ll share some of those in my notes below:

  • Monday is pre-con (seminar) day and it made me wonder why we don’t have the option to attend remotely? Seems like a potential win for everyone.
  • Tuesday were the SQLSaturday Roundtable and the Chapter Leader meeting. I typically attend both, and I really missed these. Why not broadcast these for those who couldn’t attend? Maybe not fully interactive, but just watching and listening would have been great.
  • Wed keynote. Thomas LaRock did ok on the opening. The MS keynote was pretty much the standard keynote they deliver, seemingly targeted at Gartner and CIO’s far more than the people in the audience. I was struck that the execs delivering it seemed to be new to MS and new to PASS – it feels like a DNA change. DBA’s got a glimpse of a coming feature that would allow local databases to be “stretched” to the cloud, something that is interesting in terms of burst capability, but light on details so far.
  • Thurs keynote. Adam Jorgensen delivered what I thought was the best of the PASS keynotes this year, in particular talking about doing a better job of transparency by forcing projects that aren’t active to go through a budget exception process (requiring a Board vote). He posted the amount in reserves (just over $1 million) and I just need to follow up to see if that is enough. Given the increases in PASS HQ staffing that number feels low (need enough to sustain operations for a least a year, and that’s now made more complicated by the BAC being added to the mix). Rimma Nehme delivered a decent keynote (please watch if you missed) about “the cloud” and some of the choices we have in using the cloud. I thought it helped to demystify the concepts, I wish it had gone one layer deeper and talked about the hardware, data center staffing, security, etc. She also had a slide about voices on Twitter, nice to see that they pay attention to the impact of social media (though I’d argue that they could do more!)
  • I watched quite a few of the presentations on PASSTv. The recorded ones annoyed me, seemed like a waste of an opportunity. The live ones went well. Ryan Adams did a great job, as did Adam Machanic. I watched the WIT lunch and that was the only time during the week with technical issues, the audio didn’t work for the first few minutes but it was fixed after notifying PASS via Twitter. The panel with Kimberly Bryant and Denise McInerney was very well done, something I’ll be sharing with contacts locally.
  • The Board Q&A on Friday isn’t being broadcast, definitely feels like a missed opportunity.
  • The live interviews were fun to watch. I wish for more interviewers. Where was Chris Shaw this year?
  • I was trying to think of what model it was vs what I wish it was. Sports game with commentary? Xmas parade? No great answer yet. I would like to have seen more roving camera work (saw one segment with Mark Souza in the CAT area). I’d love to have had commentary after the keynote (post game analysis). Would like to have been able to see the person asking questions in the sessions broadcast.
  • I captured the Twitter traffic and I’ll go back and look, but it felt like more could have been done by the event team. Maybe? No lack of conversations, so maybe good enough? No integration with PASSTv.
  • I let PASSTv play all day long, only hitting pause a couple times, treating it like a real-time event. That worked ok. I missed some here and there when I had to “do work”, but it was an ok experience.
  • There were what seemed like a lot of MS informercials. That’s a tough one. I really do want to hear what the execs think, but I’m not as keen on giving them an open mike. I don’t want a harsh interview, but it’s a place where someone like Brent could really do some good for the attendees and MS by asking good tough questions.
  • Online viewer count seemed to hover in the 200-250 (that’s my unscientific sample, I’d like to see real numbers).
  • Would be interesting to capture some of the after hours stuff, just to give people a feel for the culture
  • Nothing about sponsors. Miss for sponsors, maybe good not to have commercials? Commercials are ok sometimes.
  • The Board members who were in the keynotes tried hard to speak to the TV audience (and Ryan Adams did too), and I can imagine that’s something that takes deliberate effort – hard enough to just talk to the room!
  • It was a passive experience. Maybe some polls? Contests for viewers? TV bingo card?

There are lots of opportunities to do more. Whether the remote viewer count justifies it, that’s a good question.

It wasn’t as good as being there, but far better than not participating at all.

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