SQL Saturday, Dinner with some SQL Forum members and the Afterparty.

This weekend I had the chance to make it down to SQL Saturday #4 in Orlando.  This (mini) conference was pretty neat in that it was free and pretty much everyone who was there had a great enthusiasm for the topic.  I got the chance to meet a number of people who have heavily influenced the field that I work in, such as Brian Knight and Arnie Rowland.  I got a number of books for free including T-SQL Programming (A second copy of this great book for the house), SSIS step-by-step, A couple of sharepoint books, a book on scrum and one on enterprise architecture. 
The classes that I went to were pretty interesting.  I stuck with the B.I. track and attended the "Home Runs and DMX, Intro to Microsoft Data Mining", "Introduction to Master Data Management", "Using SSIS To Solve Common Business Problems" and "Analysis Services 2005 – Tips & Tricks" sessions.  The only negatives for the event was the fact that the food court was closed and most of the stall vendors were no good (especially since my wife and I are trying to stick to the south beach diet for the time being), the $10 parking with no re-entry and the small miscalculations and or readjustments, such as the SQL meetup and office printer smashing happening after the event instead of at lunch (I wandered around for probably half an hour trying to find a room where this was happening).
Home Runs and DMX
Although the title of this session sounded pretty interesting, apparently the organizers did not get back to Mr. Ralston in time to properly set up the presentation and he instead just used some basic data mining from the adventure works database.  There was a problem with one of his demos but aside from that the session went pretty smoothly.  I don’t know how much I learned, but, I was mainly trying to refresh myself as it has now been about a year since I have touched the data mining tools through the tutorials.  Overall I would say that Mr. Ralston was a pretty good presenter and would gladly attend another of his presentations.
Introduction to Master Data Management
This was easily the class that I learned the most from.  Not so much in the thoughts or theories sorrounding MDM but instead through the knowledge that Microsoft is putting together their own MDM product that will ship with the next Office Suite (which admittedly is still a long ways off).  The discussion centered around the methodology that MDM uses, and, in particular where microsoft sees it going.  It sounded kind of like a SOA or the like and looked like it would use a hub type of architecture.
Using SSIS
Easily the least impressive class of the day.  However, take this with a grain of salt as SSIS is one of the main tools that I know and love.  I don’t know what I would have changed with the class to present this information in an hour long sound byte.  As is, there were numerous errors throughout the presentation (I spoke up on one or two things, but kept my mouth shut on some of the others as I didn’t want to sound rude).  Overall, I am not sure of the value, but it was still a pretty good introduction to the tool.  The main value taken from this class would have to be the availability of the T-SQL programming book and the SSIS step-by-step.  I talked to a few different people in this class giving them recommendations on which were the better books to purchase and how they might begin to learn SSIS.   So, all in all, I suppose it was not really a waste of time.  I also met Mr. Doug Wimberly from Adventist (a company near orlando) in this class.  He was / is looking for SSIS developers and was surprised, as was I, that there weren’t boards for posting jobs or other questions / notifications.
Analysis Services 2005 Tips & Tricks
This session was once again intended to be just kind of a reminder about the tool as I have not really used it since going through the tutorials and just poking around a little bit in anticipation of our data warehouse release.  As is, I think that a lot of the tips and tricks escaped me as I am not familiar enough with the tool to notice anything blatently obvious as to it’s intended "ooo"’s or "aaah"’s that I would normally expect out of this sort of class.  There were a few neat tips on getting the information to and from excel to allow business users access to a lot of the information available through SSAS via an excel plug-in as well as a number of hints for how to set up your data to give the business users more flexibility on what type of filtering they could use.  There was some information on MDX queries as well.  Overall it appeared that the speaker (Robert Skoglund) was very competent and I enjoyed the discussion. 
Ending thoughts
Unfortunately, as I drove down there in the morning and back up that evening, I was not able to attend the sunday session.  Fortunately, however, I was able to meet up with some of the other members of the SQL Forum Mailing List (i.e. answerers, MVPs, Moderators and the like for the SQL portions of the microsoft forums).  Jonathan Kehayias, Kent Waldrop, Arnie Rowland and Myself all made it over to an outback steak house and were able to sit around and just discuss the ins and outs of SQL, business and life for a few hours.  It was nice and relaxing and I am very glad that I was able to meet all of them.  Afterwards I made it over to the "After Party" being held at club destiny for about an hour or so.  As I do not drink any more it was probably not as entertaining as it could be.  However, it looked like many of the others were having a good time and I was able to talk with Mr. Wimberly again for a bit, which was nice, before getting in the car to head home.  All in all, I would definately recommend the SQL Saturdays and hope to make it to the next event.
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