Notes From the 2018 PASS Summit (v20)

This was the 20th PASS Summit, a decent milestone! Interesting to pause and think, what will the Summit look like in another 20 years?

Notes from this year:

  • Flew out on Monday, uneventful. Arrived in Seattle around 1130 and was able to get my room right away at the Motif. Good start to the week. 
  • Monday was catching up with people. Part of that is you never know when you’ll hear a good idea or the inspiration for one. Best thought of the week I heard was “for SQLSaturday sponsors the attendees are influencers, we should try to find sponsors for whom our attendees are decision makers. Best discussion was around how to make sponsorship effective for consultants/companies – not easy. My thought; focus on building LinkedIn connections over just emailing.
  • Attended the networking dinner (thanks Lisa for organizing!) and the Friends of Redgate dinner. More talking in a day than I do most weeks!
  • Woke up miserable on Tuesday. I’ve been trying to get an achilles tendon to heal for weeks and the hills on Monday were not a good idea. Ice, advil, on with the day, with a plan to look for the flatter routes! 
  • Tuesday was the SQLSaturday and Chapter/Group meetings. Both were well organized and well attended, lots of time for networking (good) and some sharing of ideas (we need more of this, but we’re still not very good at it). Went back to the hotel to watch the early election news and then back to the Convention Center for the opening night reception. Seemed a little less attended than usual, but still a good crowd. After an hour of loud music and sore ankle I was ready for quiet and not much walking, so went to Cheesecake for a quiet dinner in the bar. Ended up talking quite a bit to a first time attendee who was trying to figure out next career steps. Good to pay it forward.
  • Wed and Thurs I watched both keynotes remote. The keynotes are an awesome event with the crowd, music, media and everyone should go once or twice or whatever, but for me it’s a better experience to watch remotely with coffee and a muffin, the ability to take a few notes and look stuff up if something seems interesting. I would rate the keynotes as better than average this year. Also worth noting that Brent did live blog coverage of them as well as I’ve seen it done, has timestamps so if you want to skip stuff you don’t care about you can watch the stuff you do care about.
  • Related to the keynotes and a little bit on sessions/messaging in general, it’s a lot of Azure this and that, which is really interesting if you’re in Azure or will be. Not so much if you’re in AWS. I’m not suggesting that Azure shouldn’t be a topic, but it reminds me of picking Java vs .Net and how it drove a whole set of choices. Worth a longer post maybe one of these days.
  • I skipped the Wed night sponsor expo in favor of resting the ankle and dinner with friends. I also missed gaming night this year both nights, just not enough time, but glad to see it continuing! 
  • One of the keynotes messages this year was “we balanced the budget”. That is good news. I dug in a little more during the week and as far as I can tell the budget was fixed by killing the hot breakfast ($500k) and that offset the increased admin spend added years ago to bolster sales and marketing. Not great, but ok. I look forward to seeing the next budget and hope to see money flowing back in to the “do good” side of the org.
  • I attended parts of the Board Q&A. I’m glad to see this still happens, still wish it was better attended. One suggestion in response to a question from the Board was to have it at lunch one day. I think that is worth trying. Aside from attendance it’s a tough forum for both sides, hard to frame a good question, hard to give good replies that often require time and nuance. As has become my habit I didn’t ask any questions there, preferring to have deeper/longer conversations (such as the budget) in a place that allows it.
  • Lunches were just ok this year. Heard that quite a bit.
  • Event logistics were good, as expected (which doesn’t at all reduce the importance!).
  • I question the value of attendee bags. Very little in the bag, maybe some use them for sponsor swag, don’t know. 
  • Expo seemed to be a little smaller than last year in floor space, but same or better number of sponsors (guessing on both counts)
  • Got to spend some with time Joseph Peace from HQ talking about challenges we see in Orlando. I think it’s important to do that, we’re not all one view or the same challenge. I also think it doesn’t mean you have to have the answers (on either side)
  • Chatted with a few current/soon to be members of the Board, all seemed positive about the direction of things (I know, that’s expected, but it’s not always the case).
  • Went to a Cosmos presentation and I struggled (again) to think about when I would use that instead of a “real” database or something like Redis. Trapped by the mental model I have no doubt and the kind of work I prefer which isn’t global/Google scale. It feels like something worth 40 hours exploring just to expand my worldview.
  • Flew home Friday night as usual. Temp on the plane was warmer than usual, one passenger fainted in the aisle and another was close. Warm plane, perhaps dressing for an expected cooler environment, failing to drink quite enough water, can all add up.

Thinking back on all of this on Sunday morning, it was a good week. Saw some good sessions, caught up with a lot of friends, excited to hear more about the changes in SQL 2019, all good. Worth the trip for sure. Next year? Undecided. Ignite in Orlando is tempting. I also think about attending something on devops or reliability engineering or negotiating (one of my ancillary interests) or even AWS. None of that is a complaint about the Summit, just thinking that maybe I need to stretch a little.

3 thoughts on “Notes From the 2018 PASS Summit (v20)

  1. Thanks, glad you liked the live blogs.

    About the SQLSaturday attendees – they are decision-makers when it comes to inexpensive training (like the $100-$300 pre-cons,) but that’s often coming out of their own pockets, not the company’s pockets. I’ve struggled with that one as a trainer – when I’m doing a pre-con, it doesn’t really pay off to sponsor the SQLSaturday because by the time the attendees get the sponsorship message, they’ve already made the attendance decision. I’ve sponsored to help give back to the organizers, but with the low pre-con prices, sponsoring takes my income right back down to zero.

    These days, I think of SQLSaturdays as an opportunity to give back while visiting a city I’m interested in. It’s a financial loss, but that’s what giving back is, and I’m at peace with that. It just limits the number of ones I can attend each year.


  2. Brent, all that makes sense and is fair. Had two thoughts related. One is that with ConstantCare maybe you now have a product that makes more sense to showcase as a sponsor. The other is that we’ve never tried (in Orlando) an after-con, I wonder if having one on Monday would work, giving attendees a chance to see the speaker on Sat?


    1. About ConstantCare – it’s definitely possible, but it’s tough to justify the cost on a per-lead basis. SQLSaturdays are fairly expensive per-lead as opposed to sponsoring, say, an online user group, GroupBy, someone’s blog, Google ads, etc.

      About the post-con – I’ve thought a lot about that in terms of user group meetings. Do a user group meeting on Wednesday, then a paid training day on Friday, giving users enough time to tell management and pull the trigger.


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