Tuesday, November 30, 2010

2010 PASS Summit Slide Decks and Scripts

How time flies - it really has been almost 2 1\2 weeks since the 2010 PASS Summit came to a close! I'd like to say thank you again if you chose to come to my session - there were so many great ones during each time slot that I'm honored you picked mine. In my sessions I mentioned that I'd made my slide decks and custom scripts available for download. So without further ado:

Download: Transactional Replication - Beyond The Basics (ZIP)

Download: Getting Started In Blogging And Technical Speaking (PDF)

Download: Lightning Talk - Volunteering (Why and How) (PDF)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

2010 PASS Summit Recap

The 2010 PASS Summit has been over for a week and a half now and I've finally recovered & processed everything that happened. Going into the week I intended to write a daily recap and live blog the keynotes but those intentions fell by the wayside shortly after I arrived in Seattle. It feels like somehow I crammed a month's worth of activity into 5 days! Here's how the week went down for me:

Sunday 
Downtown Seattle 2010Arrived in Seattle around 3 PM after the long flight from Orlando, sadly sans my friend Jack Corbett (Blog | Twitter) who had to cancel his plans at the last minute. Caught the Link Light rail with Jon Kehayias (Blog | Twitter) and following the short ride into downtown checked into my hotel. After settling in I made my way to the convention center to see what kind of buzz there was around opening night registration - looked like around 100 people waiting around for the doors to open! After mingling and meeting with people - some new, some I was seeing again for the first time since last year's Summit - I made my way over to Lowell's for the meetup arranged by my friend Andy Warren (Blog | Twitter).

I'm guessing there were at least 100 people at Lowell's, enough to fill up both the 2nd and 3rd floor. Steve Jones (Blog | Twitter) even made his way over - nice to see him since he wasn't going to be at the Summit during the week. We closed down around 9:30 PM and I stopped by the Tap House to catch up with the folks from SQL Sentry. Back to hotel around midnight and not sure what possessed me but I checked email and ended up troubleshoot a work related problem before calling it quits to get some sleep at 2 AM.

Monday
MWelcome to PASS Summit 2010onday started with a call from work about the aforementioned problem - no Top Pot breakfast for me! I wrapped up in time to make it to the SQL Saturday Roundtable from 10-12, then lunch and networking time with a few of the people at the roundtable. At 5:30 I met my group of first time attendees, spent about 30 minutes sharing tips to help them get through the week, then we all made our way to the special reception for first timers. Nice to do something for Summit rookies but it turned into a mini keynote selling them on PASS offerings; we could have done a much better job connecting people and sharing advice for the week ahead.

The welcome reception was up next. Another mini-keynote about PASS, $7 drinks, lots of noise, bouncing between one side of the room and the other to grab food. The quiz bowl was entertaining for the small percentage of people in the room paying attention to it. Don't get me wrong, the welcome reception is a great chance to meet and greet people but I'm thinking there's something we can do different\better to facilitate that (just not sure what!).

PASS was kind enough to host a bowling party for speakers and volunteers after the welcome reception so I spent a few hours catching up with people, then turned in for an early night since I didn't get much sleep the night before and I was presenting immediately after the keynote Tuesday morning.

Tuesday
Rushabh Mehta and "Mike" Souza at Day 1 KeynoteStarted the day with a quick breakfast in the expo hall and then made my way to the keynote. I was invited to sit at the official bloggers table but unlike last year where I live blogged each day I opted to stick with tweeting since the keynotes were being streamed and I don't know what greater value live blogging them would have added. Exciting stuff but I had to leave a few minutes early to prepare for my spotlight session on Transactional Replication.

I had a decent turnout for my replication session - forgot to ask the room monitor for the exact count but I think close to 100. All in all I think I did OK - I delivered the content I wanted to but had a few stumbles along the way, namely one of my demos didn't work. It figures, replication gets a bad rap for breaking but when I try to break it, it works like a champ. In any case, it didn't cause any major issues as I was able to show the corrective steps anyways. I was hard on myself for the 3 hiccups that happened during the 90 minutes but I know audiences tend to be more forgiving of that kind of stuff. Still, I'm looking forward to the reviews…and thinking about how to transition the session into a full blown precon on replication. For as much as I talked about there was twice as much I didn't cover simply for lack of time!

I was invited to be part of a "meet the Microsoft executives" social for the bloggers group that took place after lunch. Not many bloggers attended so I found myself in the strange position of trying to hold a conversation with several high ranking Microsoft business execs. What does an everyday Joe Schmo like me talk about with a guy like Ted Kummert? Of course I talked about PDW and Denali, both of which had just been announced a few hours earlier, but in trying to think of something interesting I started asking about where various technologies like Hadoop, Cassandra, MongoDB, et.al fell on Microsoft's radar screen. I must have done a good job keeping the conversation going because the Microsoft PR folks had to step in and shuffle people around to keep me from monopolizing their time! On another note, I made the mistake last year of not giving Ted Kummert my business card when I ran into him at Gameworks; I did not repeat that mistake this time.

Tuesday night must have been when almost every vendor scheduled their parties. I had invites but just couldn't make them all. I ended up with the folks from SQL Sentry for some drinks and good conversation, then back to the hotel before midnight.

Wednesday
Image courtesy of Brent OzarBreakfast in the expo hall again followed by the keynote. I had another session to present immediately following the keynote, this time on getting started in blogging and technical speaking (see picture on right, courtesy of Brent Ozar). I had around 80 people attend along with several bloggers and speakers, some of which could only stay for a portion of the time but I appreciated it nonetheless. I heard some comments about not being in control of the session, but that's more or less how I planned it. I had some talking points, but the session was designed to be an interactive conversation. I suspect 25% of those in attendance found no value in it, 50% still weren't convinced, and 25% found it really valuable. I'll consider the session a success if I\we managed to convince just one person who was thinking about blogging or speaking to take the next step. I'm looking forward to the feedback, even though ironically I mentioned that most feedback you get in the current format isn't as valuable as you might think.

We still had some work to do on the SQLRally website and unfortunately I had to miss the WIT luncheon to get it done. After lunch I had my final presentation - a lightning talk on volunteering for PASS based on my experience working on the SQLRally team. I really enjoyed the lightning talk format - there were some really funny moments - and was surprised that there was standing room only. Five minutes goes by fast, but I was pleased with the delivery and I hope the format finds a permanent place on the schedule.

I sat in on the Election Review Committee feedback meeting Wednesday afternoon. I don't know that most people knew or cared about this meeting as only a handful of people outside of the committee came. It was a good meeting, some good suggestions put on the table, and I have hope that the ERC will recommend changes to the PASS Board of Directors that will make next year's Board elections less controversial than the previous two years' have been.

Wednesday night was the annual appreciation event at GameWorks. The game lines were long so I opted to mingle, eat, and enjoy a few drinks courtesy of Microsoft. I ended up back at the hotel around midnight - would have stayed out longer but at that point was exhausted and needed sleep!

Thursday
A Proud Moment For MeThursday morning was the final big event of the Summit for me - we officially announced SQLRally. Lots of great things here - winners of the community voting for precons announced, registration open, call for speakers open, and website pushed live. Met with mild applause, and a mix of both pride and relief at the same time for me. There's still lots of work to be done but I'm really charged up for it now that we've hit this milestone.

Day 3's keynote with Dr. David DeWitt was outstanding as expected. No marketing, no fanfare or music - just some really deep technical talk with some humorous moments thrown in. At one point I noticed an eerie silence in the room that wasn't there during days 1 or 2 and it wasn't because people were bored - almost no one had walked out of the (standing room only) room; rather it was because people were really engaged in Dr. DeWitt's material. This is just the kind of keynote people going to the Summit want and need, and I suspect that most wouldn't feel bad about missing the marketing demos that happen the first two days. I realize they're necessary, though, so maybe we can compromise - split the keynotes in half, Microsoft gets one half and the other is dedicated to something really geeky or technical. Imagine how cool would it be to get one of the Mythbusters out on stage for an hour!

I had lunch with Bill Graziano (Blog | Twitter) and Tim Mitchell (Blog | Twitter) to follow up on some of the suggestions that were made during Wednesday's ERC meeting. I managed to make one session on data compression, then finished out the day at the PASS Board of Directors meet and greet. Attendance last year was sparse, this year the room was full - good to see people taking an interest in the direction that the BoD is taking PASS. I took advantage of the opportunity to follow up on my suggestion from earlier this year and asked the Board if they would publish each member's vote on anything that requires a board vote. Initial reaction not overwhelming, but I found out Friday that my request was voted on and unanimously approved (sans voting on NDA related things, which I can understand) - call it a win for transparency and accountability!

I finished out Thursday night with dinner and drinks with friends.

Friday
Top Pot At Last!I had a noon flight home so I took it easy Friday, packing up and finally making it to Top Pot for doughnuts and coffee with Andy. I also had the chance to hang out at the airport with Ted Krueger (Blog | Twitter) for an hour and enjoyed getting to know him better. I finally got home close to midnight, tired from the week and very happy to see my family again.

Final Thoughts
Last year was my first year at the Summit and I came home excited to try new things and build on the connections I made with people I met. I thoroughly enjoyed the trip this year as well and I intentionally tried to do new things to make it a unique experience. However, this year felt very different for many other reasons:

  • Last year I found myself seeking out people and introducing myself. This year I had people finding me. I try to be humble so it felt….strange.
  • Last year I sought out people I knew to each breakfast and lunch with. This year I sat at random tables and found myself initiating conversations with people I was meeting for the first time. What a difference!
  • Somehow I had the energy to do everything last year on 3-4 hours of sleep a night. This year I managed to get at least a few hours more (most nights) and somehow still felt exhausted by 3 PM every day. Either I did a lot more this year than I realized or I'm just getting older (or both?)

The week went by in a flash and at the end I felt a sense of relief, like I had made it to the finish line. Still, I was privileged to share my experience with so many people, learn new things, and be a part of what many others agree was the best Summit ever. Now that it's over I have many things to reflect on as the year winds down: What can we do to make SQLRally a success? What technology should I learn next? Do I pursue certifications? Am I satisfied with the direction my career is going (hint: I just might be passively looking)? Do I run for the Board of Directors in 2011? …and many more. Undoubtedly the answers will come with time, some sooner than others.

In any case, this year's Summit was a wonderful experience for me both personally and professionally and you can bet I'll be doing everything I can to make it back to Seattle in 2011!

Until Next Year...

Monday, November 15, 2010

Presenting At East Iowa SQL Server Users Group On Nov. 16

On Tuesday, November 16, I'll be presenting Paging DR Availability, You're Wanted in the Recovery Room via LiveMeeting to the I-380 Corridor (East Iowa) SQL Server Users Group. This will be my first foray into LiveMeeting and I hope you join in to watch (or heckle) me! I've done this presentation a few times before, but in case you haven't seen it here's what I'll be covering:

There are a lot of options when it comes to disaster recovery and high availability with regards to SQL Server. Some, such as log shipping, replication, clustering, and mirroring ship with SQL Server. Others, such as disk level replication and virtualization rely on third party products. Most business owners (and many DBA’s) lump disaster recovery (DR) and high availability (HA) together and while they do share some pieces, they call for different strategies. There are lots of options. Do you pick one or more than one of these options, and based on what? When does it make sense to move from SQL mirroring to SAN mirroring? Does it ever make sense to do log shipping and replication on the same database?  Even if you haven’t yet mastered all of these options, it’s incredibly important that you understand the decision tree that helps you pick the right one(s) for your business,  and that you can explain the choices clearly to the stakeholders. It’s not as complicated as it sounds, but it is complicated – and in this hour presentation we’ll give you a high level understanding of the options, the costs, complexities, and reasons for using each of them.

The meeting starts at 6 PM. Details and the LiveMeeting Link are available on the I-380 chapter website.

Friday, November 5, 2010

My PASS Summit 2010 Schedule

The 2010 PASS Summit is a few days away and my schedule has gone from wide open to booked solid! Maybe you want to meet me or maybe you're just voyeuristic and want to know what other people are up to. Either way, here's where I'm planning to be during the week.

Sunday
I'm making the trek from Orlando with Jack Corbett (Blog | Twitter) - always nice to travel with someone you know - and we arrive in Seattle at 3 PM. After taking the Link Light Rail to downtown and checking in at my hotel I'll probably head over to the conference center to see who else has arrived.

At 6 PM I'm going to the Sunday Night Meetup at Lowell's that my friend Andy Warren (Blog | Twitter) organized. You're welcome to come too - Andy's got the appetizers, you cover your own food\drink after that. Capacity is 150, plenty of open seats still, and a lot of great names on the list so far. The meetup officially goes until 8 and I'll either go somewhere else with whoever wants to keep chatting or head back to the hotel for the night and try to get used to the 3 hour time difference between Orlando and Seattle.

Monday
Easy going morning, will probably hit Top Pot for breakfast before heading over to the conference center for the SQLSaturday roundtable from 10 AM - noon. There are still seats available (free registration required, password "wyoming") if you'd like to join and help shape the future of SQLSaturday. See the agenda posted here for details.

I've got a break in the afternoon, need to find lunch, and thinking I might try to do at least some sightseeing and go to the Museum of Flight.

At 5 PM I'm going to the Speaker & Volunteer orientation. I volunteered to be a member of the Orientation Committee and am meeting my group of Summit rookies at 5:30 PM, after which we'll go as a group to the First Timers' Reception at 6 PM. That'll segue into the official Welcome Reception and Quiz Bowl from 6:30 - 8 PM.

Tuesday
The fun kicks into high gear with the Day 1 keynote at 8:15 AM. I'm an "official" blogger this year and will be sitting at the bloggers' table live-blogging and tweeting each day's keynotes.

At 10:15 AM I'm presenting my spotlight session, Transactional Replication: Beyond The Basics.

At 11:30 AM I'll be at the Birds of a Feather Luncheon. I don't have a specific agenda so I'll probably just pick a table that has space and learn about something new.

During some portion between 2 - 4 PM I'll be at the "Meet the Bloggers" area in the Community Learning Center (in the expo hall, right behind the Ask the Experts area). This is something new PASS is trying this year to give attendees the chance to meet with the official bloggers and talk shop. Stop on by, I'd love to meet you!

The rest of the afternoon is clear so I may hit the expo hall or drop in on a session.

At 6:30 PM I'll be at the Inappropriate PASS Meetup. The event's full, if you were able to get in I'll see you there…if not, and you don't mind some NSFW humor follow the #inapproPASS hashtag on Twitter.

Wednesday
I'll be at the bloggers table again for the Day 2 keynote from 8:15 - 10 AM.

At 10:15 AM I'm presenting Getting Started Blogging And Technical Speaking. I have no idea how many people will come to this but I hope to get a good turnout. Who knows, maybe this will influence a new generation of SQL bloggers\speakers to take that next step - at least that's what I'm hoping!

At 11:30 AM I'm going to the Women In Technology luncheon.

Rainbows, Unicorns, and Bacon!At 1:30 PM I'm giving a Lightning Talk - these are 5 minute presentations, very specific focus, and likely to be loaded with lots of humor. It's hard to convey anything technical in such a short period of time so I'm going off the beaten path and talking about volunteering with PASS. I'm following the Ignite style - slides auto advance every 15 seconds. My slides include pictures of rainbows, unicorns, bacon, a juggler on a unicycle, Lego minis, and a nuclear explosion. What's that got to do with volunteering? Come watch and find out!

I'll be back at the Meet The Bloggers area until 4 PM.

At 7 PM I'm going to the Microsoft Appreciation Night at Gameworks. I'll have business cards with me this time in case I run into Ted Kummert like last year.

Thursday
I'm really looking forward to the Day 3 keynote for two reasons…first, we're going to make some really big announcements about SQLRally. Second, Dr. David DeWitt is speaking. Last year he knocked everyone's socks off with a super geeky presentation. This year he's talking about the fundamentals of query optimization. The guy's good. If you pick one keynote to go to, make it this one!

At 12 PM I'll be at the Chapters Lunch sitting at the OPASS table.

At 5:30 PM I will be at the Board of Directors Q&A session in room 307-308. If you care about the direction of PASS I encourage you to come and talk with the BoD. You will be able to ask questions and voice your opinion about how PASS is being run directly to the board members.

Friday
I fly back to Orlando at noon so no time for sightseeing or many other activities Friday.

 

I hope to see you next week!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

An Invitation To Come To My PASS Summit Session On Blogging And Speaking

On Wednesday morning at 10:15 AM during the 2010 PASS Summit next week I'm presenting "Getting Started In Blogging And Technical Speaking" and this is your invitation to come join me.

What's this session all about?
Are you thinking of starting a blog? Or are you interested in presenting at events like SQL Saturday and the PASS Summit but not sure how to get in the game? Don’t let uncertainty keep you from contributing – the SQL Server community needs you! This interactive session will explore reasons for blogging and speaking and offer advice on topic selection, improving writing and speaking skills, seeking out places to write and speak, and things to (and not to) do to once you get started.

Experienced bloggers and speakers - I need your help
One of the things that makes the Summit so awesome is the people who are there. There's no better place to catch so many bloggers and speakers in the SQL world at the same time. Now think back to when you first considered writing a blog or submitting an abstract for a presentation. How valuable would it have been to sit in a room for 75 minutes and pick the brains of well known bloggers and speakers? Here's your chance to give back to the SQL community and provide that opportunity to someone who is in the same position as you were a few years ago.

If you've been blogging consistently for at least one year or have presented at 5 or more events you are invited to join my session as a "guest expert". I want you to sit at the front of the room and help answer questions panel-style. I've done this session at three SQLSaturdays and the response has been overwhelmingly positive. I can promise you that at least one person in the room will find what you have to say extraordinarily valuable. Maybe that one person is the next you. Wouldn't it feel great knowing that you may have opened the door to someone's success just by sharing your experience?

Why should you attend?
There are a lot of great sessions in the same time slot. How can I blame you if you choose to go see Andy Leonard (Blog | Twitter) talk SSIS, Grant Fritchey (Blog | Twitter) explain DMVs, or Conor Cunningham (Blog) explain how the query optimizer builds plans? But here's why my session is different: You can watch all those other sessions on the DVDs (you are buying the DVDs right?) and the experience won't be much different than if you were there in person. While you can ask questions most of the content is prepared well in advance. My session is fluid and dynamic. It's an interactive discussion. I have a few talking points but who knows where we'll go in that 75 minutes? You won't be able to get the same caliber of people together in a room again. This is a one time opportunity to learn from the best, and I hope that you take advantage of it.

You could win one of these booksI can haz swag!
Still not convinced that you should come to this session? I have things to give away! Two books, specifically:

Big deal, you can just order them for yourself right? Sure, except there's something special about these - I am asking all of the bloggers and speakers that I run into at the Summit to sign both of them, making them one of a kind giveaways you can't get anywhere else.

 

If you are thinking about starting a blog or submitting your first abstract, or if you've just gotten into the game, I hope that you decide to come to my session. If you are an experienced blogger\speaker and can commit to being on my panel please contact me and let me know that you're coming by leaving a comment, emailing me (kendal dot vandyke at gmail dot com), or getting in touch with me on Twitter (@SQLDBA).

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

How To Participate In The PASS Summit When You Can't Be There

Bummed that you can't go to the PASS Summit in Seattle this year? Turn that frown upside down because there are still ways that you can participate from afar!

Live Streams
This year the keynotes are going to be streamed live courtesy of Dell. Dell caught a bunch of flak last year for mailing it in on the day 3 keynote so I give them credit for stepping up to the plate and doing the SQL community right this year. The keynotes are scheduled for Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, Nov. 9-11, at 8:00 - 10:00 AM Pacific.

But that's not all…Wednesday's (that's Nov 10) Women In Technology  panel discussionRecruiting, Retaining and Advancing Women in Technology: Why Does it Matter?, is also being streamed live from noon - 1:30 PM Pacific.

I've previously mentioned that if there's one keynote that you want to be sure not to miss it's Dr. David DeWitt on Day 3. Deeply technical and devoid of marketing fluff, Dr. DeWitt's keynotes have been a highlight of the Summit for the last two years. I expect this year to be no different.

Register for the live streams here

Follow Along On Twitter
If you're not on Twitter now might be a good time to join because the SQL Server community will be buzzing all week long. You'll be able to tap into the stream of consciousness and see what people are thinking and doing each day. Last year was especially entertaining during the keynotes!

Hashtags to follow:

  • #sqlpass - The principal hashtag for all PASS\Summit related tweets. If you follow one and only one this would be it.
  • #passwit - For following tweets related to PASS Women In Technology
  • #PASSAwesomeness - Read about all the things that make the Summit and PASS so awesome. Lots of good stuff here from Summit veterans and a few inside jokes that will go over the heads rookies and newcomers.
  • #sqlkaraoke - Follow along with the after hours shenanigans at Bush Garden. The later it gets, the sillier the tweets are likely to be.
  • #sqlkilt - For all things related to Kilt Wednesday.
  • #inapproPASS - This started as a meme and grew into a Meetup that's happening Tuesday night. Imagine all the politically incorrect sessions that you won't see at the Summit. Hilarity guaranteed, and most definitely NSFW (Not Safe For Work)
  • #sqlmonitor - SQL Server tips being submitted for a contest that Red Gate is running. Submit one of your own and you might win licenses to SQL Monitor 2.0 or maybe even an iPad! Even if you don't submit a tip this might be worth following to pick up some good nuggets of information about SQL.
  • #sqlcss - Tweets from\about Microsoft's Customer Support and Services team at the Summit.
  • #sqlcat - Tweets from\about the SQL Customer Advisory Team at the Summit.

For a crash course in how to "do" Twitter check out Brent Ozar's blog posts and free e-book.

Blogs
I expect a lot of people will be blogging recaps throughout the week. I'm going to try to, and my friend Andy Warren (Blog | Twitter) usually does as well. Other places to keep an eye out:

 

So now even if you can't be at the Summit, you can "be" at the Summit. "See" you next week!

More PASS Summit Tips For First Timers

Yesterday I posted my tips for PASS Summit First Timers, and of course as soon as I did I remembered more things I thought would be worth sharing. So here goes round 2!

Attire
Dress code for almost all activities is casual or business casual. I don't remember seeing anyone in a tie last year except for the Microsoft execs on stage for the keynotes. For guys I'd say jeans\slacks  w\ a polo or oxford. For gals…I'm going to avoid recommending women's attire since I'm not a woman and anything I suggest will probably be wrong.

November is mildly cold - in the 50-60 degree (F) range. You spend most of the time indoors so leave the parka at home; you're probably OK with a medium jacket to stay warm. There's a coat check near the registration desk at the convention center so you don't have to lug a jacket around to every session. You've also probably heard that it rains in Seattle. Last year it didn't rain until Friday. Still, it pays to be prepared and it won't hurt to pack a travel umbrella or pocket poncho in your suitcase.

if you're into themes there are two going this year: Tuesday is "Wear Your SQL Saturday Shirt Day" and the goal is to celebrate the success of SQLSaturday and get more people interested in it. If you happen to have a few extra shirts that you don't know what to do with consider bringing them to share with others. Wednesday is "Kilt Wednesday!" and you're invited to don your favorite kilt for the day. Not just for men, everyone is invited to participate. Just don't go around being a smart a$$ asking what's underneath everyone's kilt. (We already know the answer - boots. Duh!). Follow the #sqlkilt hashtag on Twitter for more kilt talk.

Food
Breakfast and lunch are available Tuesday through Thursday as part of your Summit registration and take place in the expo hall (vendors on one side, food on the other). Breakfast is usually something like pastries\bagels, fruit, and yogurt. Lunch last year was pasta one day, chicken another, and maybe hamburgers were in there somewhere too. That I can't remember exactly what was offered should tell you that it wasn't fine dining, but it kept me fed. Onsite breakfast and lunch are offered on Monday and Friday for precon and postcon attendees only.

Every day during the 2:00 hour there's a refreshment break on the 6th floor east lobby. We're talking cookies, coffee, and soda - enough to get a sugar & caffeine fix to get you through the remainder of the day.

There are other free options that don't require leaving the conference center: On Wednesday and Thursday there are sponsor breakfasts at 6:45 AM. I mentioned that the Quest breakfast last year was insanely packed and impossible to get into. Looks like this year you have to visit the vendor booths "for more information and invitation". Good luck if you make it into them - maybe they'll serve bacon as a reward for being an early riser!

Also on Wednesday is the Women In Technology luncheon. Last year they served Mexican. That I remember it should tell you that it was good! Of course, you're coming to support Women In Technology and listen to some awesome speakers. The good food is a bonus.

Dinners are a different story. There's usually appetizers\finger food at the opening reception Monday night - not a full course but enough to make a meal of it if you need to. There was also food at last year's Microsoft Appreciation event on Wednesday night at GameWorks. Same story as the opening reception on offerings. Beyond that you're going to be on your own.

There are plenty of dining options inside the convention center. There are even more options - all within walking distance - outside, including:

A personal favorite of mine for breakfast is Top Pot Doughnuts on 5th Ave. They make great doughnuts and even better coffee (roasted onsite). Speaking of coffee, you can probably guess that you can find a Starbucks on almost every corner in downtown Seattle.

If you're in town Sunday night consider joining me for dinner at Lowell's (walking distance from convention center) for the Meetup arranged by Andy Warren (Blog | Twitter). Andy's covering appetizers and the rest of dinner is up to you. Space is limited to 60 people so if you want to join us make sure you RSVP soon!

if you're looking for even more options check out Tim Ford's blog post on fine dining options around town.

Finally, I was hoping to check out a place called Tilthe during my visit this year. I watched the owner\chef dominate Iron Chef America in August and it looks like a great place to eat for a reasonable price.

Transportation
There are plenty of options for getting to\from the airport and downtown:

  • Link Light Rail - 40 minute ride for $2.50. The downtown stop is only a few blocks from most of the hotels and the convention center. Check the hours of operation to be sure they're running when you arrive\depart.
  • Shuttle Express - A shared ride service. You have to enter your dropoff\pickup location to get a quote. Don't forget gratuity.
  • Gray Line - Another shared ride service. $15.00 one way, $18.00 round trip. Don't forget gratuity.
  • Town Car\Cab - Will take you right to your hotel. I think these are more in the $40 range but I didn't take one last year so I could be wrong.

Regardless of how you decide to travel chances are other Summit-goers are arriving at the airport at the same time as you (maybe even on your flight). If you're on Twitter send a tweet with the #sqlpass hashtag and see if anyone else is up for sharing a ride. You may be able to save money while meeting someone new (good chance to practice your networking skills) at the same time.

Unless you're planning on driving away from the downtown area you will not need to rent a car.

Other Things To See And Do
If you've got some time before or after the Summit and want to do some sightseeing here are a few easy things to go check out:

  • Pike Place Market: Home of the famous fish throwers. Walking distance from the convention center. Lots of shops to find unique gifts to bring back home. Go early in the morning if you want to see the fish fly. While you're there stop off at the original Starbucks for a cup of coffee.
  • Seattle Underground Tour: $15.00 per adult, this 90 minute walking tour will take you through the tunnels that run underneath downtown with stops to buy food, drinks, and gifts along the way.
  • Space Needle: Ride the Seattle Center Monorail ($4.00 round trip) to the Space Needle and go up to the O-deck ($18.00 admission) to get a 360 degree view of the Seattle area from 520 feet above ground. Hit the gift shop at the bottom for gifts to bring back home. (My favorite: the Lego Space Needle)
  • Experience Music Project & Science Fiction Museum: Next door to the Space Needle. $15.00 per adult.
  • Museum of Flight: A 10 minute cab ride from downtown, this is a great museum if you're into airplanes\space. They're currently in a campaign to secure one of the space shuttles after they're retired from service. $15.00 per adult, $13.00 if you're a AAA member, or free admission if you're a member of a museum that's part of the Association of Science Technology Centers (e.g. the Orlando Science Center).

Have you been to Seattle and the Summit before and see something I missed that's worth mentioning? Please leave a comment and let me know!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Tips For PASS Summit First Timers

In less than one week the 2010 PASS Summit begins in Seattle and with each day the excitement and anticipation builds (at least for me it does!). Last year was my first time at the Summit and although I had a good idea going into it what to expect there was no way I could have imagined how awesome of an experience it actually ended up being. No hard numbers here, but I've heard that almost 1\3 of Summit registrations this year are for first time attendees. With that in mind I'm going to share some things that I learned last year.

Stay Healthy
Conferences are notorious for people getting sick from the spread of germs. It doesn't take a germaphobe to realize that when you get close to 3,000 people from all over the globe together in the same place for a week that you're going to be exposed to all kinds of fun stuff! There are a few simple things that you can do to protect your health while you're at the Summit:

  • Build your immune system ahead of time. Load up on Vitamin C, Airborne, or whatever natural supplement you use to help ward off sickness.
  • Wash your hands often and keep your hands away from your eyes and mouth. Don't even give germs a chance to get into your body.
  • Carry hand sanitizer with you for the times a bathroom isn't nearby or otherwise convenient.
  • Eat well. Don't load up on sugar and junk every day!
  • Bring a mini first-aid kit. Include aspirin\ibuprofen in case you get a headache.

Don't believe this stuff works? Go watch the Mybusters episode "Flu Fiction" and see for yourself how easy it is for germs to spread at a party.

Learn
There's a TON of great technical content for all levels of expertise. The only downside? There's so many great sessions that you just can't make them all. I suggest picking the two a day that you must see and two more that you'd like to see if you can. Then go buy the DVDs. Last year they were $125 for Summit attendees. Think about it - that's less than $1 per session to be able to watch them all whenever you want. You can't beat that value!

Want to really dive deep into a subject? For a minimal cost you can attend a pre or post-conference session. Precons are on Monday, postcons on Friday. These are presented by the best of the best in the SQL community.

Let me also make the pitch to go to the keynotes every morning. I know some people think keynotes are marketing fluff and skip them but rumor has it that there are going to be some pretty big product announcements this year. If nothing else make it a point to put the Day 3 Keynote from David DeWitt on your schedule. Dr. DeWitt gave a fantastic presentation last year; the guy knows his stuff and promises no marketing during his talk. You will not be disappointed.

Network
Sure there's lots of great learning at the Summit, but the real secret of why it's so awesome is the people who are there. Where else can you meet authors, bloggers, MVPs, and so many other database professionals just like all at the same time? The Summit is like a big family reunion, only everyone actually gets along with each other! Make sure you bring business cards with you to exchange with the people you meet. If you don't have business cards there's a FedEx Kinko's downstairs in the conference center that you can visit and have some printed onsite.

Don't stop at meeting people in person, either. If you're not on Twitter already you should be! The SQL Community on Twitter will be buzzing all week long - make sure to follow the #sqlpass hashtag to see what everyone is talking about throughout the week (hint: especially entertaining during the keynotes!). New to Twitter? Check out Brent Ozar's info-fest on how to make the most of Twitter.

Don't Forget About All The Other Stuff
As if the learning and networking weren't enough, there's a bunch of other great stuff that you should make time to go do at the Summit:

  • Expo Hall…Can you say swag?! All of the vendors that we know and love will be there to talk to you about their products and, if you ask nicely, give you something cool to take home to your kids, office buddies, user groups, etc.. And don't worry, they're not going to try and sell you a used car (at least not the ones I know!). In fact, if you talk with them for a few minutes you might actually find out they make something that could make your life easier. Ever heard of Red Gate SQL Prompt? Want to learn about solid state drives? Go check out the expo hall and you will. NOTE: The expo hall is only open Tuesday and Wednesday. Go early in the week; if you wait you'll miss out!
  • Lunches…a different experience every day.
    • Tuesday is Birds of a Feather, where you can sit at a table with an MVP and talk shop about a specific feature of SQL Server.
    • Wednesday is the Women In Tech lunch. You don't have to be a woman to attend. This is all about supporting Women in a field that's traditionally dominated by men. As a father of two girls and a brother to a female rocket scientist at NASA I'll be there. Plus they have better food than the normal lunch (it's not held in the regular lunch hall).
    • Thursday is the chapter lunch. Come sit with your local chapter. Or heck, find some other chapter and mingle with them to find out how they do things. Maybe you'll get a few ideas to try at your own meetings.
  • Ask The Experts & Chalk Talks…also located in the expo hall. "Ask the experts" is hosted by MVPs and Microsoft employees who will talk shop about one of ten topics. Chalk Talks are 40 minute interactive discussion sessions hosted by members of the SQL community.
  • SQL Server Clinic…remember the last time you had a problem with SQL Server and paid $250 to open a support ticket? Wouldn't it be cool if you could just walk into a room and get hooked up with someone from Customer Service and Support (CSS) or the SQL Customer Advisory Team (SQLCAT, but I call them the SQL ninjas)? The SQL Server Clinic is one of the true hidden gems of the Summit. Visit room 611 with any SQL server problem big or small and these two teams will be on hand to help you out for FREE.

Party Like It's 1999
What would a good conference be without parties? You may have heard that a lot of vendors throw private parties (which they do) but if you're not on the invite list don't worry - there are plenty of options to go have a good time!

  • Opening reception…Monday night at 6:30 in the expo hall. Food. The quiz bowl (a live SQL Server game show on stage). Good times. Open to all Summit attendees at no additional cost.
  • SQLServerCentral Party…Immediately following the opening reception. You need a ticket to get in and they're $30 if you don't have one already. It's casino style - you get chips to gamble with for a few hours while you meet some of the folks behind sqlservercentral.com. You usually walk away with a shirt and a book at the end. You also take whatever "money" you've won and exchange it for raffle tickets at the end of the night (hint: don't go for broke at the end like I did last year - you'll end up with no raffle tickets!). Up for grabs - DVDs, books, and electronics. Read more about the party here.
  • Microsoft Appreciation Party…Wednesday night at GameWorks (across the street from the convention center). Food, drinks (beer & soda), and all the video games you can play for 3 hours. Open to all Summit attendees at no additional cost.
  • SQLKaraoke…An after hours event at Bush Garden, a local bar in the International District (short cab ride but also walking distance from the convention center). You don't have to get up and sing, but it's fun if you do.  I don't know the exact details, but follow the #sqlkaraoke hashtag on Twitter for the lowdown. You buy your own drinks for this one.

All The Other Stuff I Couldn't Squeeze In
But wait, there's more! Here's some other random stuff I wish I would have known last year:

  • Bring a real camera. I used my iPhone last year. Wish I hadn't. There's a photowalk on Monday morning if you want to get out for a nice walk around the city with other folks who are in town for the Summit.
  • If you want transportation in from the airport on the cheap check out the Link Light Rail. It's $2.50 to go from the airport to downtown in roughly 40 minutes and the station (Westlake) is about 3 blocks away from the convention center.
  • Have you figured out that the Summit is all about the people yet? Do not be afraid to walk up to people and introduce yourself.
  • Fancy a great donut and a good cup of coffee? Try hitting Top Pot on 5th Ave for breakfast one morning. Speaking of breakfast, be careful if you decide to eat in the hotels - I hear they're expensive!
  • Quest is sponsoring a breakfast at 6:30 AM on Thursday morning. Last year it was PACKED - the line out the door must have been at least 100 people long. Go early to get a seat, otherwise you may want to bail for the breakfast downstairs in the expo area.
  • Alcohol at the convention center is expensive - last year $7 for a bottle of domestic  beer. I saved my money and went across the street to the Tap House - 160 beers on tap. Some will set you back more than $7 but I can promise it'll taste much better on tap than out of a bottle.
  • Get out of your hotel! There's no sense in paying a lot of money to go to such an awesome event like the Summit and then spend your evenings in the hotel. Seattle is a great city, lots of things to do within walking distance of downtown, and you'll have 3,000 people just like you who are looking for things to do.

I think that's enough for one blog post. I'm looking forward to seeing YOU at the Summit next week!