As the 24 Hours of PASS team prepared to announce the upcoming 24 Hours of PASS: Celebrating SQL Server 2008 R2 virtual event, we stole a few minutes with PASS Board member and 24 Hours of PASS organizer Thomas LaRock (aka SQLRockstar) to reminisce about last year’s “24 Hours with SQLRockstar” and go inside this spring’s event. Set to begin at noon GMT on May 19, the series of 24 free back-to-back webcasts by top industry experts has a special R2 focus. To make sure you can attend as many sessions as possible, you’ll want to pace yourself, LaRock advises.

Q: After being so involved in the inaugural 24 Hours of PASS last September with your “24 Hours with SQLRockstar” live Ustream video/chat activities, it’s great to see you heading up the planning for this event. What interests you most about 24 Hours of PASS as a program format?
A: Well, I’m a big fan of the television show 24, which is able to tell a story in a unique format. Our event is also unique, with nobody else offering an event that spans 24 consecutive hours. PASS is a global community, and this virtual event with speakers and Chapter hosts from around the world helps showcase that aspect.

Q: Attendees will notice a mix of R2 and non-R2 content for the event. What is PASS’s goal with the lineup?
A:  That’s easy: PASS is about educating and connecting with the SQL Server community. It is part of our core mission. We have a wonderful mix of sessions across four tracks—DBA, Development, BI, and Professional Development—and each track offers some great SQL Server 2008 R2 content. However, not every session is dedicated to a new R2 feature, which will appeal to the people who still need to get up to speed on features in SQL Server 2008 and 2005. So the mix of sessions lets PASS promote SQL Server to the widest possible audience.

Q: If I’m not moving to R2 anytime soon, why should I attend the R2-focused sessions?
A: I’ll turn that around and ask you, “Why wouldn’t you want to attend the R2 sessions?” If your only reason is that “we aren’t moving to R2 anytime soon,” then I’ll follow up with “how do you know unless you attend the sessions and find out about the new features?” If you never take the time to learn about what’s new in R2, chances are you will be slow to adopt. If you do take the time to learn, chances are you will find more than a handful of things that you would like to have, giving you a reason to get onto R2 sooner than you thought possible.

Q: Donald Farmer, Mr. BI himself, is giving a session on PowerPivot–one of the most anticipated and talked-about R2 features. Do we have “seats” in the Live Meeting room for everyone who might want to attend this or other popular sessions?
A: We’ve got a lot of great speakers at this event, and Donald Farmer is certainly one of them. Live Meeting can hold 1,250 “seats,” and we’re aiming to fill each one of them for every session.

Q: This 24 Hours of PASS is starting at a different time than last year; why is that?
A: We felt it was the right thing to do. The format is still new to everyone at this point. Because we started at midnight GMT last time, we thought we should try starting 12 hours later, at noon GMT. After the event, we will go back and evaluate to see where we can improve. If we can pinpoint the best possible starting time, we’ll shoot for that in the future. But we’re still collecting data at this point. On paper, this start time appears to be ideal. We’ll have to wait and see how it plays out, but I expect a boost in our overall attendance numbers.

Q: The first 24 Hours of PASS was considered a big success in terms of registrations, attendance, and overall feedback. What are your targets for this event?
A: Rick Heiges and his team did a fantastic job with the first 24 Hours of PASS. And although we have big hopes for the R2-focused event, my goals for it are quite simple: to promote SQL Server by allowing people to connect, share, and learn.

Q: Are you going to reprise your “24 Hours with SQLRockstar” role, or did you find an up-all-night substitute? Do you know of anyone else committing to other side activities yet?
A: Well, with the different start time, it’s going to be difficult for me to attend all 24 sessions; it would mean I would need to take two vacation days from work this time around. I am still planning on doing a live broadcast, but I may sneak away for a nap during the night in order to make it to work the next day. I’m totally open to a replacement who’ll attend and blog or chat about all 24 sessions, and I look forward to hearing about all of the fun, interactive things our community members will think up to support and extend the event.

Q: There are a lot of events this spring as part of the Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 Community Tour. What unique features does 24 Hours of PASS: Celebrating SQL Server 2008 R2 bring to the community?
A: The most unique feature is the format, which allows for a lot of interaction between people who are physically located around the world. Although there are a few other online events, none of them allow for this level of interaction for 24 consecutive hours, and none of them are backed by an association dedicated to helping SQL Server and BI pros connect, learn, and share. To me, that is what will always set PASS apart from everyone else—our tremendous community.

Q: Especially for those who didn't attend last year, how do they participate?
A: First, check out all the sessions and speakers on the 24 Hours of PASS site, then register on Live Meeting for the presentations you’re interested in. We have a link to a time zone converter to help you determine what time each session is happening in your area. And the sessions you sign up for will automatically be added to your Outlook calendar at the correct time for your time zone. We’ll be talking about the event on Twitter (use the #24hop hashtag), Facebook, and LinkedIn, and we invite everyone to join in with their comments and questions. Before joining the sessions you signed up for, make sure you’ve reviewed the Live Meeting prerequisites and tested your audio, then log in early to make sure you have a “seat.” All attendees will be on mute, but you can ask questions through Live Meeting, and each session’s moderator will field questions for the presenter. 

Q: As such an active attendee last year, do you have any tips for getting the most out of 24 Hours of PASS?
A: The best advice I can give is to set aside enough time to watch as many sessions as possible and set aside a few minutes to rest every now and then. The level of content is amazing, and you’ll find yourself thinking, “I’ll take a break in a few minutes”—and then two hours will pass you by. The energy level from other attendees will help keep you going, but you want to stay sharp when listening to the sessions, so don’t let fatigue be a factor.