SQL Saturday #77–Pensacola, FL–Wrap Up

Thoughts

First and foremost I’d like to thank the event organizers for putting on a wonderful event.  I know that it takes a lot of effort and hard work.  I appreciate it.

At first I was a little skeptical of making this SQL Saturday simply because it was going to be 5+ hours on the road, so that would necessitate essentially an entire weekend.  Usually I’ve been sticking to those events that were three or four hours away or less so that I could drive home after the after-party.  I took the plunge this time since the past few years in Pensacola have been a lot of fun and man am I glad that I did.

Speaker Party

254324_208912625811014_162552190447058_526951_6302780_nThe speaker this year was at Hemingways Island Grill which is right on the beach.  It seemed like a relatively nice restaurant.  When they started bringing out the candles and white table clothes I thought that maybe we were in for some trouble, as the usual SQL Crowd doesn’t really seem like the “fine dinning” types.  And, even though the turnout wasn’t as high as I would normally expect, the food was great, the atmosphere was relaxing, the company was awesome and the conversations were worth the five hour drive and then some.

I had a great time meeting some new folks like Tim Radney’s family, Aaron Nelson’s daughter, Audrey Hammonds and Ted Krueger  (I’d wanted to meet these last two for some time now).  It is interesting to think about the fact that sometimes you have to break out the phone / laptop / implement of destruction to show someone a twitter icon or forum handle for them to know who you are these days.  This just makes me chuckle at the way that a lot of our day to day interactions with other professionals has changed over the years.  Oh, and I’ve also found it a bit funny that wearing my XKCD apparel has a good way to mark myself as the easy to pick out nerd / geek when people won’t necessarily recognize faces.  As an added bonus, the apparel has also been a good ice breaker for conversations (same with my bowler cap and think geek shirts).

I also had the opportunity to catch up with some others whom I consider more and more to be friends like Karla, Rodney, Shawn and Aaron.  It is fun seeing regulars around all of these events that give a strong sense of community. 

Check In / Breakfast

The morning seemed like it got off to a relatively smooth start.  I was up and at the event site in plenty of time.  About the only thing to complain about at this time was the change in location from one group of buildings to the next meaning that finding this location was just a bit harder for those programmed from the last few years.  Also, there was apparently a motorcycle training class going on so they had one of the main entrances to the building blocked off.  In any event, it seemed like the volunteers were set up pretty well and that everything was in order.  Then, people started to line up…

The event organizers had decided that the speed pass had worked very well at other events and that we should use it here as well.  And, for most people, it did work well.  However, the station that had been set up for printing out passes to those who had either forgot or had not been able to do so themselves was missing one key element: a working printer.  We tried for some time to revive the printer that was there – switching it from laptop to laptop, downloading drivers, etc.  It was not to be.  So, a quick run to one of the box stores to find another during the first session was in order.  After this was accomplished things went a bit smoother as people were able to filter back down to grab their badges.

This event had a bit of the same problem that SQL Rally had in that people could pretty much stay up near where the presentations were being held without any need to venture back towards the sponsors.  I’m not sure how much of an impact this has or doesn’t, but it does seem that having a location where people congregate at between sessions is pretty nice for everyone involved. 

Empty / Using PowerShell to Rapidly Deploy SQL Server (Michael Wells)

For the majority of this timeslot I stuck around with Shawn, Karla, Rodney and Ted attempting to see what we could do with the printer and making sure that everything else was running smoothly.  Towards the end of the session, Ted was called out to go up to Mr. Wells session to heckle him some.  So, off we went; I didn’t feel like I knew him well enough to heckle him, not knowing if it would throw him off or not.  Instead, we watched the last few minutes of the presentation in silence soaking in the knowledge.

Building SMO Apps for the Non-Programmer DBA (Shawn McGehee)

251613_208918332477110_162552190447058_527096_4458986_nI went into this session with the intention of heckling Shawn to no end and finding out any tips or tricks on SMO that he could offer.  After a few minutes I started to get worried and stopped heckling him and started to run through my demos while listening to the presentation.  The session was a full of good information for those who don’t often deal with object oriented languages particularly in how these languages interact with the SMO library to gather information from and alter databases.  Amazingly, even though Shawn was typing through the whole presentation the demos didn’t fail miserably.

SSIS: The DBA Multiplier (Ted Krueger)

Even though I had just met Ted for the first time in person the night before, I felt like I had enough rapport with him to commence some good natured taunting during his session.  So much so that after about five minutes he jokingly told me that I couldn’t raise my hand; and after another five or ten minutes that I couldn’t talk anymore. 

The session was a great primer for a DBA who is looking at methods for using SSIS to help streamline their day to day activities.  Ted is a great presenter and I would highly recommend attending one of his sessions if you have the chance.

Lunch

This was a box lunch affair with sandwich, cookie and chips similar to the lunches that we have had in Pensacola the last few years.  Lunch lasted for some time as the organizers wanted people to have enough time to eat and then still be able to attend one of the vendor lunch sessions.  I wandered around a bit talking with some of the guys from Pragmatic Works, some of the attendees whom I have seen at a few of the other events and recognized, and some new people.  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: One of the best reasons for going to these events is the networking!

T-SQL Alphabet Soup (Rodney Landrum)

Rodney’s session on T-SQL Alphabet soup goes through the language A – Z with audience participation asking for a T-SQL keyword which starts with that letter.  It was quite entertaining, especially if you’re in the mood for something lite hearted.

Quickly Gather Performance Data with PowerShell (Aaron Nelson)

This is a session that I probably learned the most from a “would be useful to implement” standpoint.  PowerShell is still up on my priority list of things I really need to learn.  And, if you are wanting to learn PowerShell, or at least keep it fresh in your mind, Aaron’s presentations are the ones you want.  Lots of very useful information on some very quick and easy to implement scripts that you can use to start pulling performance metrics from your machines, push them to a central location and create baselines and look for aberrations.

Performance Tuning with Execution Plans (Me)

254206_208918512477092_162552190447058_527101_3853073_nI was a bit nervous about this session as this was the first time I had given this presentation and I didn’t really feel like I had practiced it enough in the weeks leading up to the event.  We veered way off topic with discussions on transaction isolation levels, how indexes are stored and other assorted items.  In the end, I think I only got about two thirds of the way through my slides and had to skip one of my three sets of demos entirely.  I’m not sure that I really did it justice, but I think that most of the people who were in the room were happy with the results.  For the first time, all of the evaluations I got were high (all 5’s with 1 met expectation and the rest exceeded).  And, to the person who wrote that the topic was a bit too large and that I ought to pick a portion of it and concentrate on it – I agree completely.  I hope that the format wasn’t annoying and that the off-topic ranting / commentary didn’t provide any false information.

Also, I had originally planned on a themed slide and story as I went with the demo but I dropped that after a slide or two.  So, if the pictures on the slides didn’t really make sense I apologize.

Prizes / Closing Ceremony

The audience gathered in the vendor for the closing ceremony and prizes where the vendors were once again giving away lots of great stuff.  Although it might not have been as entertaining as watching people dodge heavy books which Andy was throwing off of the second floor, it was a good way to end the day on a positive note with information about the vendors, PASS and upcoming events.

After Party

248342_208919559143654_162552190447058_527149_4595559_nWe went back to same location that the after party has been at for the last two years – Rosie O’Grady’s (the dueling piano bar).  The food was great with a strange combination of bbq and Étouffée.  I had a great time hanging out with Shawn, Karla, Rodney, Robbie, Steve, Wayne, Aaron and everyone else that took the time to come up and talk for a few minutes.  You guys are awesome!

If you make it to the event during the day but skip out on the after party you are doing yourself a disservice.  I can’t recommend these events enough. 

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