Category: PASS Community Summit

Best of PASS Community Summit 2010

[cross-posted from Allen Kinsel's Blog at]


The results are in!!!

After tabulating over ten thousand distinct session evaluations for the 2010 PASS Summit we are pleased to release the top 10 sessions overall and the top 5 sessions per track.

Getting these session results generated and out to the speakers in a timely manner is always challenging.  After taking until the second week of January 2010 to return Speaker Evaluations for the 2009 Summit we put in sweeping changes to prevent that from happening again in 2010.

Fortunately we were very successful in getting the data, We (Community Volunteers) designed and built a database to house the eval info, and designed a system that could be used to enter the evaluations quickly during and shortly after the Summit.  This was a resounding success.  Unfortunately where we fell short was in executing on delivering the data to the speakers and the community.  When we designed these systems, the process to send out the evaluations wasnt really discussed, or possibly just wasnt finished (the perils of distributing work include less insight into exact issues).  Either way, I wound up in the 23rd hour reworking last years SSIS package to fit the new database schema.


We delivered Speaker evaluations to the speakers a full 3 weeks earlier than last year.  This included additional info about overall speaker scores that we had never provided in the past.  I realize a success to me (3 weeks sooner) is still a failure to others (4 weeks after the summit to get the data to the speakers)  We're going to be working on improving this for next years summit but for now, Ill take the wins where I can get them!


Getting the top 10 sessions posted has taken an extra 3 weeks.  I take full responsibility on this one.  I had the data on my laptop for the entire time, at first it was the holidays, then it was something shiny, after that I kept running into issues trying to make queries that werent just usable for this years summit, but would be able to generate similar results for any event we enter into this database.  In the end though, I have a set of queries for this process that will be reused.


This database/process was one of the projects a large group of OUTSTANDING Community members chipped in and worked on under the umbrella of the program committee in 2010.  I have big plans to round up another set of volunteers and put a web based front end on the db and push its use out to all SQL events that would like to use it.  The information that we're gathering will be invaluable to both the speakers and to the community in the future.

What's Your PASSion?

[Cross-posted from Wendy Pastrick's blog at]

It's a little late for a SQL PASS Summit 2010 recap, but I still wanted to share some of my experience from the event.

Each year, an award is given to a single recipient for displaying a passion in working with PASS and the SQL Server Community: The PASSion Award. This year, I was honored and humbled to be that person. Looking back at this past year, I'm dumbfounded to see all the things in which I became involved. It started with a letter sent to my current General Manager trying to justify my attendance at the Summit. What did I do? Started a new User Group in the Chicago suburbs, tried my hand at blogging, brought together Team SQL Saturday for the Chicago event, worked as co-chair for the Women In Technology Virtual Chapter, worked on the WIT Luncheon for the Summit, spoke at a few UG meetings and SQL Saturdays, and became a Regional Mentor for the Midwest. You know what, even looking at that list, I still feel that I didn't do all I wanted. Most of these things were (and still are) hard work, and yes, the ball gets dropped now and then. Looks like Michelangelo's theory is true: 

“The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.”

I started thinking 'What drives passion'? What motivates any one person to get out there and spend their spare time working on things that may or may not come to fruition? Taking a look inward, I have to say that I never intended to do any of these things with any tangible goals in mind other than "bring people together". As to the question of Why? - honestly it was more the fact that I had a an opportunity to work with really fun people who wanted to do the same things I did - so, I took it. Maybe I just got lucky that those opportunities happened somewhat simultaneously. However, looking at it more realistically, each one grew out of another.

Thank you to all the wonderful people I've met, worked with and studied from over this past year. You make it fun and worth doing!

So, go now, find your PASSion and have fun, plus meet like-minded people along the way! You really can get back out of it, sometimes even greater than, what you put into it.

Consider yourself tagged :)

[posted to PASS Blog by Hannes Bez on behalf of Wendy Pastrick]


Help make the next Summit even better

[cross-posted from Bill Graziano's blog at]

After the Summit we send out a survey to capture feedback.  We ask a consistent set of questions so we get good year over year results.  I’ve watched blog posts and email threads with ideas for a better Summit.  I got to sit with Denny and crew again on Saturday night and talk about what worked and what didn’t.  We’d like to capture those ideas in a way that you can vote on what’s important to you. 

Please take a second and visit  You can make suggestions, vote on the ideas already posted and add your own comments.  Help PASS make next year’s Summit “The Best Summit Ever!”

SQLSaturday Round-Up (Nov. 18-Nov. 24)

(This is Round 3 of PASS's weekly round-up of SQLSaturday recaps, back after its Summit hiatus. PASS community bloggers love their SQLSaturdays, and they love to tell everyone about their experiences, so who are we not to share that love?)

PASS SQLSaturdays covered this week include SQLSaturday #59, held in New York City... and that's it! Guess the Summit might've gotten in the way a bit.


+ Robert Pearl helped organize SQLSaturday #59 in NYC

+ Roman Rehak presented at SQLSaturday #59 in NYC

+ Aaron Stanley King presented at SQLSaturday #59 in NYC

+ Matt Velic attended and kept a LIVE BLOG of SQLSaturday #59 in NYC


There will be one more SQLSaturday to round off 2010: Washington DC sees off a fantastic year for the franchise on Dec. 4 with SQLSaturday #61.


PASS Director and SQLSaturday co-founder Andy Warren blogs about taking risks, one of which was SQLSaturday itself. Check it out.

Want to attend a SQLSaturday? Check out the SQLSaturday website or "Upcoming In-Person Events" on the PASS Home page for upcoming dates near you.

Want to put on your own SQLSaturday? Click here to get started.


Twice the fun in 2011! Register early to save on PASS SQLRally and Summit

PASS is offering not one but TWO great conferences in 2011! 

PASS SQLRally (press release) will be held in Orlando, Florida, May 11-13, and will feature two full days of sessions as well as a pre-conference day. PASS Summit will run from Oct. 10-14 and will again happen in Seattle, offering attendees 5 days of unmatched SQL Server content as well as premium direct on-site access to Microsoft developers and staff.

There is no better way to Connect with, Share with, and Learn from your fellow SQL Server professionals - PASS Summit is the premium SQL Server conference in the world, and SQLRally will extend that excellence to the East Coast of the US on a smaller scale. Booking early guarantees substantial savings (compare Summit 2011 prices below to the full registration prices for Summit 2010), so get this in the budget ASAP and join us in-person in 2011. We're excited to see all of you! 

  • PASS Summit 2011, Oct. 10-14, Seattle$1295 for the full bundle, including 3 days plus 2 Pre-Cons until Dec. 15; $995 (for 3 days) until Jan. 15 -
  • PASS SQLRally 2011, May 11-13, Orlando - $449 for the full bundle, including 2 days plus the Pre-Con until Dec. 31; $299 (for 2 days) until Apr.12 -

To see what's happening at Summit 2010, check out the Summit Live site or follow #sqlpass on Twitter.


PASS Summit Community Choice Session Change

Cross posted from My blog

Thought Id take a few minutes to alert Yall about a change in the Community Choice sessions  in the PASS Summit lineup

Unfortunately, 1 of the community choice speakers had to bow out of presenting.

Joe Kuemerle couldnt make the sumit this year so, we had to swap his encryption session with the second place session in the App Dev category.  Luckily for us, the decision was easier because appdev race was the closest in the voting with only 2 votes seperating first and second place.  The replacement session,  Flush With Cache: What Really Happens Before That Query Runs by Chris Leonard, should prove to be very popular and is currently scheduled on Thursday from 4-5:15 in room 613-614.  Because of this session replacement there was a cascade of 3 additional schedule moves that had to occur because Chris was already scheduled to present another session in the existing time slot.  You can see the complete current schedule in xls here

Looking forward to seeing everyone at the Summit next week!!

Women in Tech Virtual Chapter at the Summit 2010

The Women in Tech Virtual Chapter has several activities on this year's Summit schedule. All attendees, female & male, are welcome at all of the WIT events.

The featured event is our 8th Annual WIT Luncheon and Panel Discussion on Wednesday Nov 10, 11:30-1:30. This year's topic is:

Recruiting, Retaining & Advancing Women in Technology: Why does it matter?

Increasing the role of women in technology has a direct impact on the women working in hi-tech, but the effects can go far beyond that. How do female tech workers influence innovation and product development? How do men benefit from having more women working in technology? Can the presence of women in tech affect a company’s bottom line? What does it mean for women and their families when they have access to hi-tech jobs?

 Our speakers:

  • Nora Denzel, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Employee Management Solutions, Intuit
  • Billie Jo Murray, General Manager, SQL Central Services, Microsoft
  • Michelle Ufford, Senior SQL Server DBA,
  • Denise McInerney, Staff Database Administrator, Intuit
  • Stacia Misner, Principal, Data Inspirations

The WIT chapter will again be at the Welcome Reception on Monday beginning at 6:30 p.m. Come by our information table to meet other PASS women, sign up on our mailing list and help us cheer WIT members Wendy Pastrick, Jen McCown and Kendra Little during the Quizbowl.

On Tuesday at noon WIT members Meredith Ryan-Smith, Erin Stellato, Andie Letourneau and Kim Tessereau will lead a Chalk Talk on Energizing the Next Generation: Encouraging and Inspiring Young Women to Choose Tech Careers.

On Thursday during the lunch break WIT members will be at the WIT VC table for the "Meet the Chapters" lunch. Come by to meet and  network with PASS women.

Follow the #passwit hashtag on Twitter for info on informal get-togethers with WIT members during the Summit.


2010 PASS Summit Preview

[cross-posted from Thomas LaRock's blog -

It’s time for another PASS Summit preview and that can mean only one thing: movie quotes! This time we are going with ‘Back to School’ starring Rodney Dangerfield and in a supporting role a mostly sober Robert Downey, Jr. Why that movie? Because whenever I head off to a conference such as the PASS Summit I always feel like I am heading back to school, so this movie selection just seemed to make the most sense.

As Fergie says: “Let’s get it started.“

“Please, try to understand. I don’t have the background for this. I mean, the high school I went to, they asked a kid to prove the law of gravity, he threw the teacher out the window!”

At my first Summit I was overwhelmed by the content. Everything seemed to be a 500 level talk. I was over my head and I knew it. I also knew that if I wanted to get better as a database professional then I needed to start swimming and soak up all the information that I could. As the years went by the feeling that everything was at the 500 level went away. There are only a few moments during a Summit where I feel that I am way out of my element (anything on XML, for example). The Summit has content for everyone at every level making it the perfect place for you to learn something new no matter what your background may be. Yes, even database developers are welcome, along with Sharepoint and BI folk.

“Don’t you ever read? Read. Who has time? I see the movie. I’m in and out in two hours.”

Every year at PASS there is a bookstore. And every year I would look at the books and try to pick a few that I thought would be good for me to have. At the start the trouble was knowing which one was more valuable than another. Once I started learning who-was-who in the SQL Community it got a little easier to know which books I wanted. But it was also quite interesting when I started to realize that I knew the authors. And this year marks the very first PASS Summit that will have a book written by me! I have no idea if it will be on that table or not, but I do expect it to be at the Apress booth and I do know that we will have some copies at the Confio booth as well.

“The toy division has come up with a new doll idea to go along with our children’s clothing line. We call them Melon Patch Kids. Now, the competition exploits the notion that their dolls are orphans. The Melon Patch Kids are not orphans… they’re abandoned! We think it’s a winner.”

This one is dead on perfect for all the half baked ideas that Microsoft gives us from time to time. English Query anyone? But as much as we may shake our head about such things we should all take a step back and think about what failure really means. I appreciate all the hard work that goes into SQL Server, even into the stuff that may not work as well as we would like. And I truly enjoy the fact that Microsoft is filled with people that care enough to listen to our feedback at events such as the PASS Summit.

Building a product that works for everyone is not easy. Next time you see someone that works on the SQL team you should do them a favor and thank them for some aspect of the product that you enjoy. At the very least, thank them for one thing before you complain about the ten things you don’t like.

“Bring us a pitcher of beer every seven minutes until somebody passes out. And then bring one every ten minutes.”

Two words: SQL Karaoke. And if that isn’t enough for you, there is a couch in the men’s room. You’re welcome.

“Actually, I’d like to join you, but I have class tonight. Oh, how ’bout tomorrow night? I have class then, too. I’ll tell you what, then. Why don’t you call me some time when you have no class?”

This quote is for all of the learning that goes on, day and night, at the PASS Summit. And here is a PASS Summit Pro Tip: sometimes the best learning happens outside of the actual sessions. It can happen in a hallway, or the speaker ready room, or on a couch outside of the registration area. The fact is that when geeks like us get together at some point we discuss geek stuff. And before you know it someone has a whiteboard and four or five people are standing around learning and discussing something they weren’t planning on talking about just five minutes ago. At my first Summit I was in every session I could. Last year I was in three sessions and came away thinking it was the best Summit ever.

Besides, I know I can watch them all on a DVD later anyway. So don’t be afraid to talk with a few friends about a particular topic or obstacle you are trying to overcome. You will be surprised at how quickly you will be able to find an answer, even without a whiteboard.

“Good teacher. He really seems to care. About what I have no idea.”

No doubt this quote applies to the one and only Buck Woody. If you have never attended one of his presentations then make this your first time. He is the Don Rickles of PASS, except not as good looking. Buck is also the most interesting DBA in the World. Don’t believe me? You can watch the video for yourself. Trust me, no matter what your skill level you can always learn something new from Buck Woody. This year Buck is presenting a session on database testing and also a post-con seminar on Sharepoint for the DBA.

“The answer is…[the answer hits him]… 4?”

So many times we hear the answer “it depends” with regards to technology and specifically with database performance. There are many variables involved and so many layers of abstractions that are only getting more complex with every passing year. If you want to keep up to date with everything then you need to be having conversations with a lot of different people. What better place to do that than the PASS Summit? If you come to the Summit with any question at all I can assure you that you can find an answer at the Summit. I used to be amazed at how much people knew about so many different things and I have come to realize that they don’t always have a deep understanding, they have simply been around long enough to have been exposed to a lot of different things. You get such exposure at places like the PASS Summit.

“When’s our first class? Uh, we got Economics tomorrow at 11 o’clock. 11 o’clock? No good. I got a massage 11 o’clock. Tell ‘em to make it 2 o’clock. No, dad. Uh, you don’t get it. They’re not gonna re-schedule the classes around your massage. All right, 11 o’clock, but I’m gonna talk to that Dean. I mean, these classes could be a REAL inconvenience.”

There is so much to do during the day (and night) that it is very hard to set your schedule. These past few years I have felt pulled in many different directions and last year I was expected to be in three places at the same time. I never look at the session schedule until the day of, I just like the idea of making a game day decision when it comes to sessions. If I tried to plan out every minute of my day at the Summit I would go crazy. At the Summit I need to just “go with the flow”. If something interesting comes my way at the last minute I want to be able to change plans quickly and without remorse.

“Hi, I’m Kurt Vonnegut. I’m looking for Thornton Melon.”

When Jason Melon opens the door to see Kurt Vonnegut he is star struck. That;s the same feeling I get whenever I go to a PASS Summit. Just check out the list of people that are coming this year. Now go to your bookshelf, grab a book about databases, look at the author’s name, and see if you find it in that list. Chances are you will. All the stars come out at the PASS Summit, it truly is like Summer Camp for database professionals. And there is no doubt in my mind that this Summit will be the best Summit ever.

“With the shape I’m in you could donate my body to science fiction.”

That is a good way to describe how I feel after being up for over 100 hours during the seven days. I typically don’t sleep very well when traveling anyway, but at the PASS Summit I don’t sleep because I am always with so many interesting people that I only get to see a few times a year at most.


PASS O.C. Update

 [cross-posted from in case you missed it - Admin]

As the PASS Summit approaches I am getting excited about our efforts to help first time Summit attendees. This year we will have two new additions to our list of Summit events. First up is the new attendee orientation session, which will take place for 30 minutes prior to the Welcome Reception. We will do our best to give all first time Summit attendees an idea on what to expect over the next few days and some tips and tricks to maximize their time. Hopefully they will get to make a few new friends while there and at the Welcome Reception as well.

The second event is the PASS O.C. itself. This is the program where we are going to have some volunteers donate their time to be a “Big Brother/Sister” to a new attendee. We have a limited number of volunteers so we will not be able to provide this service for all new attendees. But for a chosen few they will be given the opportunity to formally meet and greet other new attendees as well. The idea is simple: assign 8-10 first timers to an O.C. member, have the O.C. member initiate a dialogue with the individuals in the group as well as their group as a whole, arrange to meet with them prior to the Welcome Reception (if possible), and do their best to ensure that those 8-10 people are never, ever, ever alone during the Summit.

I want people to have the same type of Summit experience that I do: it’s like Band Camp but for professional geeks.


PASS Update #44 (Budget)

(cross-posted from

I had a question recently about how budgets work at PASS, and I think that’s something worth sharing, so I’m going to write an overview of that process today.  Note that I’m not the Finance guy, so the “official” word gets published elsewhere, and for that reason I’m not quoting numbers, just talking about process from my perspective as a participant in that process.

First, we start with funding, how do we raise money to pay the bills? A big, big chunk of our revenue comes from the annual PASS Summit, and you can think of this as not just a community event but an “annual fund raiser”. Some of that is from paid attendees and some from sponsors. We also generate some funds from selling Summit DVD’s as well as sponsorships for things like 24 Hours of PASS. PASS does not take any portion of sponsorship funds from SQLSaturday events or Chapter meetings. [Note: That isn’t to suggest that we might, just to explain that we don’t.]

Also, we should have the budget for 2011 published shortly and I’ll post a note when you can review the full document.

Early each year we start estimating (aka guessing) what our revenue will be for the next year. So in Jan/Feb and up through May we’re looking at how much money we will have for the fiscal year that begins July first, with the added challenge that we won’t know how we did until mid to late December after we’ve finalized all the items related to the Summit. If we guess too low we hurt the organization by spending less in often critical areas, and if we guess too high, then that leads to painful discussions about what areas to cut. This is something that most businesses go through and certainly isn’t unique to PASS.

Then we switch to spending. It starts with the President assigning ‘portfolios’ to Board members, which you can think of a being about the same as a large department in most companies. Directors then submit a budget request to the VP of Finance outlining how much and the major areas where it will be spent. At this point it’s a wish list, but scoped based on anticipated changes up or down in revenue as well as the previous year budget. The VP of Finance (currently Bill Graziano) and our accountant then combine all that into a monster spreadsheet for the first round of review.

Next we typically look at that first cut and start talking about where we can make adjustments. Most requests are reasonable to start with, but sometimes there just isn’t enough to do everything, so we each review our list and find places to reduce our request. This has been for one of the best experiences on the Board for me, everyone working together and jointly trying to find ways to get to a budget that will let us accomplish our most important goals.

Then, finally, we vote to approve the budget. At that point we’re able to authorize spend against that budget as long as it generally fits within the plan. If it’s a minor change we’ll send a note to Bill asking for his ok. An example was the project to populate the SQLSaturday wiki. I requested to re-align some of the funds allocated for the project and as it was inline with the goals of the portfolio it was approved. A deeper change might be sent out to the Board for discussion. Once the budget is approved, getting ‘more money’ requires a budget exception, which in turn requires Board discussion and vote. That process is, by design, painful. It takes time to have the discussion, we have to find that ‘more money’, and in general we don’t like mid course changes. They do happen though, and perhaps once a year we’ll have one.

So, where does the money go? We maintain an office and staff, to do things like plan and handle Summit logistics, do SQLSaturday coaching, maintain an auditable set of financial records, and a whole lot more. A lot of it goes to costs at the Summit. I won’t go into numbers here, but the costs are significant. To give you a taste of the costs, at the upcoming SQLRally it costs $12,000 per day for the space, and anything we spend on food and beverage reduces that cost, hopefully to zero. We have to use the hotel for food and beverage, and a boxed lunch costs, wait for it, $35 per box! Our team does a lot to control, reduce, and negotiate these costs, but if you need a big venue, you’re largely stuck playing their game. We devote some money to all the other stuff; SQLSaturday sponsorships, IT projects, etc, etc, etc.

Board members are not paid. When we travel on behalf of PASS (usually just 3-4 meetings a year) we get per diem and reimbursed for airfare, PASS pays for the hotel directly. We do get “free” admission to the Summit. Individual Board members don’t have any personal discretionary spending authority or budget, if we buy drinks or appetizers or coffee when we sit to talk informally with members it’s all out of pocket.

Each year we grant free admission (a “comp”) to the Summit to our speakers and a small number of volunteers. Comps are built into the budget because they have a real cost. It’s not “free” to just let someone extra attend – they get a bag, require registration services, eat meals, drink water, and in general cost real money. It’s somewhat less than the cost of a full registration, but it is substantial. We’d love to do more comps, but ultimately it comes back to the budget. Faced with sponsoring a couple more events or buying SWAG or any of the other places where spending would help, we try to do the things that help most members.

All in all, it’s the standard process that any business goes through, making estimates and judgments and tradeoffs to try to do the most good. Hope that helps some. When Bill publishes the budget I encourage you to read it carefully, though I’ll tell you it’s not exciting reading! He’ll also be publishing an annual statement about our finances and you should read that as well. I think the thing I’d tell you is to look at it portfolio by portfolio and if you have suggestions, send them in.