PASS SQLSaturday – Get in the Game!

April 29, 2013 – Most PASS members are familiar with SQLSaturday events, but many of you may not have attended one yet or know exactly what they are all about. To refresh, SQLSaturday events are free, one-day SQL Server training events that bring together local speakers and attendees while providing high quality technical training sessions. In the true sense of community engagement, they are organized entirely through the efforts of volunteers.

I could go on about the value of SQLSaturday, but members of the PASS community have already done so through many social media and blog posts. Take Kathi Kellenberger, for example. She loves her SQLSaturday events and recently posted about her top 10 reasons why you should attend a SQLSaturday  – it’s worth a read. I’d also like to point out Hope Foley’s post from a wowed community member who attended their first SQLSaturday last July. Both posts underscore the magic of SQLSaturday events and how important they are to the SQL Server community at large.

Whether you're attending a SQLSaturday or thinking about hosting your own, we think you'll find it's a great way to spend a Saturday – or any day (that’s right, some SQLSaturday events are held on other days of the week!). Here are the upcoming SQLSaturday events around the world in May; hopefully there is one near you:

May 11  SQLSaturday #209 – Rochester
May 18  SQLSaturday #212 – Redmond
May 18 SQLSaturday #216 - Krasnodar, Russia
May 18 SQLSaturday #220 – Atlanta
May 18 SQLSaturday #225 – Kosovo
May 23 SQLSaturday #208 – Riyadh
May 25 SQLSaturday #219 – Kiev
May 25 SQLSaturday #224 – Sydney

New events are added all the time, so be sure to bookmark the PASS SQLSaturday website and follow @sqlsat on Twitter.
 

24 Hours of Summit Preview

What a difference a day can make. I’m talking about a literal 24-hour time frame, starting September 20, when top SQL Server speakers from around the world will deliver free, live back-to-back webcasts straight to your computer on some of the hottest topics in the industry.

Registration is now open for 24 Hours of PASS – Summit 2012 Preview edition. With less than 3 months to go, content for PASS Summit is looking excellent, and the conference is shaping up to set records as the largest SQL Server event ever. To give you an early look at what you can expect, we’ve invited some of Summit 2012’s leading presenters to show off their stuff and help you decide which conference and pre-conference sessions to add to your schedule.

We invited all the Summit pre-con presenters to speak, along with half-day session presenters, anyone giving two spotlight sessions, and a selection of Microsoft speakers. The resulting 24HOP lineup is simply amazing. The event will feature pre-con presenters from around the world – including international all-stars Klaus Aschenbrenner, Davide Mauri, Rod Colledge, and Peter Myers, as well as American masters Denny Cherry, Louis Davidson, Allan Hirt, and Allen White. Half-day deep-dive experts such as Mark Tabladillo and Stacia Misner will be joining the show, along with spotlight heroes Andy Warren, Kevin Kline, and Erin Stellato. Throw in Microsoft greats like Michael Rys, Jen Underwood, and Cindy Gross, and I dare you to miss a minute.

So here’s what you do: Head over to the 24HOP registration page and check out the full schedule. Register for the sessions that speak most to your business needs, and then arrange with your boss to watch them with some of your colleagues. (Remember to emphasize that this is free, high-quality training.)

I encourage you to catch as many of the 24HOP sessions as you can. And with your appetite thoroughly whetted for some serious SQL learning come November, don’t forget to register for PASS Summit by September 30 to get $500 off the full rate.

24 Hours of PASS – First Reflections

A few days after the end of 24HOP, I find myself reflecting on it.
 
I’m still waiting on most of the information. I want to be able to discover things like where the countries represented on each of the sessions, and things like that. So far, I have the feedback scores and the numbers of attendees. The data was provided in a PDF, so while I wait for it to appear in a more flexible format, I’ve pushed the 24 attendee numbers into Excel.


This chart shows the numbers by time. Remember that we started at midnight GMT, which was 10:30am in my part of the world and 8pm in New York. It’s probably no surprise that numbers drooped a bit at the start, stayed comparatively low, and then grew as the larger populations of the English-speaking world woke up.
 
I remember last time 24HOP ran for 24 hours straight, there were quite a few sessions with less than 100 attendees. None this time though. We got close, but even when it was 4am in New York, 8am in London and 7pm in Sydney (which would have to be the worst slot for attracting people), we still had over 100 people tuning in.
 
As expected numbers grew as the UK woke up, and even more so as the US did, with numbers peaking at 755 for the “3pm in New York” session on SQL Server Data Tools. Kendra Little almost reached those numbers too, and certainly contributed the biggest ‘spike’ on the chart with her session five hours earlier. Of all the sessions, Kendra had the highest proportion of ‘Excellent’s for the “Overall Evaluation of the session” question, and those of you who saw her probably won’t be surprised by that. Kendra had one of the best ranked sessions from the 24HOP event this time last year (narrowly missing out on being top 3), and she has produced a lot of good video content since then.
 
The reports indicate that there were nearly 8.5 thousand attendees across the 24 sessions, averaging over 350 at each one. I’m looking forward to seeing how many different people that was, although I do know that Wil Sisney managed to attend every single one (if you did too, please let me know). Wil even moderated one of the sessions, which made his feat even greater. Thanks Wil.
 
I also want to send massive thanks to Dave Dustin. Dave probably would have attended all of the sessions, if it weren’t for a power outage that forced him to take a break. He was also a moderator, and it was during this session that he earned special praise. Part way into the session he was moderating, the speaker lost connectivity and couldn’t get back for about fifteen minutes. That’s an incredibly long time when you’re in a live presentation. There were over 200 people tuned in at the time, and I’m sure Dave was as stressed as I was to have a speaker disappear. I started chasing down a phone number for the speaker, while Dave spoke to the audience. And he did brilliantly. He started answering questions, and kept doing that until the speaker came back. Bear in mind that Dave hadn’t expected to give a presentation on that topic (or any other), and was simply drawing on his SQL expertise to get him through. Also consider that this was between midnight at 1am in Dave’s part of the world (Auckland, NZ). I would’ve been expecting just to welcome people, monitor questions, probably read some out, and in general, help make things run smoothly. He went far beyond the call of duty, and if I had a medal to give him, he’d definitely be getting one.
 
On the whole, I think this 24HOP was a success. We tried a different platform, and I think for the most part it was a popular move. We didn’t ask the question “Was this better than LiveMeeting?”, but we did get a number of people telling us that they thought the platform was very good.
 
Some people have told me I get a chance to put my feet up now that this is over. As I’m also co-ordinating a tour of SQLSaturday events across the Australia/New Zealand region, I don’t quite get to take that much of a break (plus, there’s the little thing of squeezing in seven SQL 2012 exams over the next 2.5 weeks). But I am pleased to be reflecting on this event rather than anticipating it. There were a number of factors that could have gone badly, but on the whole I’m pleased about how it went. A massive thanks to everyone involved.
 
If you’re reading this and thinking you wish you could’ve tuned in more, don’t worry – they were all recorded and you’ll be able to watch them on demand very soon. But as well as that, PASS has a stream of content produced by the Virtual Chapters, so you can keep learning from the comfort of your desk all year round. More info on them at sqlpass.org, of course.

24 hours to pass until 24 Hours of PASS

There’s a bunch of stuff going on at the moment in the SQL world, so if you’ve missed this particular piece of news, let me tell you a bit about it.
 
Twice a year, the SQL community puts on its biggest virtual event – 24 Hours of PASS. And the next one is tomorrow – March 21st, 2012. Twenty-four sessions, back-to-back, featuring a selection of some of the best presenters in the SQL world, speakers from all over the world, coming together in an online collaboration that so far has well over thirty thousand registrations across the presentations. Some people are signed up for all 24 sessions, some only one.
 
Traditionally, LiveMeeting has been used as the platform for this event, but this year we’re going with a new platform – IBTalk. It promises big, and we’re hoping it won’t let us down. LiveMeeting has been great, and we thank Microsoft for providing it as a platform for the past few years. However, as the event has grown, we’ve found that a new idea is necessary. Last year a search was done for a new platform, and IBTalk ticked the right boxes. The feedback from the presenters and moderators so far has been overwhelmingly positive, and we’re hoping that this is going to really enhance the user experience.
 
One of my favourite features of the platform is the language side. It provides a pretty good translation service. Users who join a session will see a flag on the left of the screen. If they click it, they can change the language to one of 15 on offer. Picking this changes all the labels on everything. It even translates the text in the Q&A window.



What this means is that someone from Brazil can ask their question in Portuguese, and the presenter will see it in English. Then if the answer is typed in English, the questioner will be able to see the answer, also in Portuguese. Or they can switch to English to see it as the answerer typed it. I know there’s always the risk of bad translations going on, but I’ve heard good things about this translation service.
 
But there’s more – IBTalk are providing staff to type up closed captioning live during the event. So if English isn’t your first language, don’t worry!
 
Picking your language will also let you see subtitles in your chosen language. I’m hoping that this event is the start of PASS being able to reach people from all corners of the world. Wouldn’t it be great to find that this event is successful, and that the next 24HOP (later in the year, our Summit Preview event) has just as many non-English speakers tuning in as English speakers?
 
If you haven’t been planning which sessions you’re going to attend, you really should get over to sqlpass.org/24hours and have a look through what’s on offer. There’s some amazing material from some of the industry’s brightest, covering a wide range of topics, from classic SQL areas to the brand new SQL 2012 features. There really should be something for every SQL professional. Check the time zones though – if you’re in the US you might be on Summer time, and an hour closer to GMT than normal.
 
Massive thanks must go to Microsoft, SQL Sentry and Idera for sponsoring this event. Without sponsors we wouldn’t be able to put any of this on. These companies are helping 24HOP continue to grow into an event for the whole world.
 
See you tomorrow!
 
@rob_farley | #24hop | #sqlpass

24 Hours of PASS

(Crossposted from Rob Farley's blog)

Hooray – we’re ready to announce the details of the 24 Hours of PASS event that’s coming to an internet connection near you on March 21st! Read on for the day’s schedule, some of my thoughts on the 24 Hours of PASS concept, information about the platform, and an announcement which I think is really quite a big deal and worth making a fuss over.

24 Hours Straight
So – March 21st. No overlap with any other days, just 24 Hours of PASS, squeezed back into a single day. The last few events have been split over two days, running from noon to midnight (GMT), which conveniently fits in daylight hours of the Eastern United States. To help with the current push for internationalisation (and there’s more on that later in this post), we’re starting at midnight GMT (which is a perfectly reasonable 8pm in New York on March 20), and running through to the following midnight GMT (which is the next 8pm in New York, strangely enough). I’d like to be able to give prizes to people who attend all twenty-four, but I’m not quite that keen. Tell you what though – I’ll cheer on Twitter and my blog for anyone who tells me they’ve made it through all of them. I know people have done it before, and hopefully plenty will again.

VC involvement
The Virtual Chapter portfolio isn’t mine. It’s Denise McInerney’s. She’s doing a brilliant job, and we both see a strong correlation between 24HOP and the VCs. There are likely to be lots of people who tune in to 24HOP who haven’t really noticed that there are virtual chapters that meet, providing excellent online meetings, several times every month! We’ve roped in many of the VC leaders to help choose the sessions, host the sessions, and more. In fact, I suspect that many of the sessions that were submitted but not chosen could well be getting selected for the Virtual Chapters in the weeks and months to come. The Virtual Chapters are one of the best things about PASS, and it’s great that 24HOP can be showcasing them this time around. Most of the VCs are represented, including Performance, Data Architecture, PowerShell, Professional Development, and the larger ones like BI and AppDev. Even the newly forming BigData VC. The Oracle VC isn’t. Sorry, Scott.

Platform
LiveMeeting is such a great product. If you haven’t tried it out, you really should. It’s been our platform of choice here at 24HOP for ages now. Unfortunately, 24HOP seems to have outgrown it. People who have tuned in to recent events will have noticed that the video hasn’t always streamed as nicely as we’d like, and although we really do love LiveMeeting, we’re going to try a different platform – called IBTalk. This thing looks really impressive, and has some really cool features too. Most importantly, it should scale well. And record nicely. And allow eval forms nicely. And make coffee* (*feature list may not be completely accurate).

Internationalisation
I know you’ve already read about how the event is going to be 24 hours straight, ignoring the fact that numbers may well be lower while the US sleeps. But that’s not the only way in which 24HOP is becoming more international...

During the event, the IBTalk people are going to provide Live Closed Captioning. So you can get subtitles during the event! But there’s more...This captioning will be available in fifteen different languages!

English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Dutch, German, Russian, Turkish, Arabic, Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Thai. You want subtitles in Thai? No problem. Watching with a Turkish friend? Sure, no worries. Even if you’re just more comfortable in Dutch than English...

PASS is serious about trying to reach people around the world. With these languages, I think most people are covered. There are a few gaps, such as not having Swedish or Bangla – but apparently just about everyone in IT in those areas speaks English anyway (so I’m told).

The platform also has an amazing feature that translates questions, so if you're more comfortable asking a question in Russian or Portuguese, you can do that. The presenter will see the question in their own language, and the attendee will read the answer in theirs.

The Schedule!
Read the full schedule at http://www.sqlpass.org/24hours/spring2012/SessionsbySchedule.aspx and http://www.sqlpass.org/24hours/spring2012/SessionsbyTrack.aspx. And while over at the 24HOP site, register for the sessions you’re interested in. But in the meantime, check out that list! I’m sure you’ll recognise plenty of the names, but probably not all. You’ll also notice there are plenty of speakers from different parts of the world, including the UK (like Mark and Neil), Australia (like Julie), and Israel (like Ami).

It’s going to be a massive event. Get registering soon!