PASS Summit 2014 Pre-Con Preview: Erin Stellato & Jonathan Kehayias

Oct. 6, 2014 – Go inside PASS Summit 2014's full-day pre-conference sessions in this Q&A series with our presenters. In this preview, Erin Stellato and Jonathan Kehayias give you a sneak peek at Everything You Never Wanted to Know about Extended Events.

Q: If your pre-con had a theme song, what would it be and why?
Jonathan:
“Let It Go” from Frozen, because we are all going to eventually have to let SQL Trace go. I'm surprised I even thought of that, I'm generally not someone who would think about a theme song.
Erin: Jon and I both have daughters, one year apart in age – his answer is perfect. :)

Q: Erin, what excites you most about working with Extended Events?
The flexibility of it. You have the ability to do so much more – compared to Trace/Profiler – when capturing data that it gives you better insight when you're troubleshooting a problem or just trying to understand what's going on inside SQL Server.   

 Q: Jonathan, what's the most surprising statement attendees might hear you say during the pre-con?
I still use Profiler and Trace some times. Old habits die hard, even after writing 400+ pages of content on Extended Events since 2008.
 
 Q: Back to you, Erin: What’s the biggest myth around using Extended Events that you’d like to debunk?
That Extended Events are difficult to understand and figure out how to use. Before the UI in 2012, I admit that they were not intuitive. But between the UI and the approach we take when teaching, I think people will see how easy XE is to grasp and immediately start using.

Q: Jonathan, what’s your favorite advanced XE troubleshooting method that isn’t possible with Trace?
I would say collecting a memory dump and callstack information for a specific error or event occurring one time, and one time only, to minimize impact to the system over previous methods.
 
Q: If attendees could start putting into practice just one thing after this pre-con, what would you both want that to be?
Replacing old methods of collecting data using Trace and Profiler with a new understanding of Extended Events and the UI in SSMS.

Check out our other Q&As with PASS Summit 2014 pre-con speakers.


PASS Summit 2014 Pre-Con Preview: Alberto Ferrari

Oct. 6, 2014 – Go inside PASS Summit 2014's full-day pre-conference sessions in this Q&A series with our presenters. In this interview, Alberto Ferrari gives us a preview of his pre-con, From 0 to DAX.

Q: If your pre-con had a theme song, what would it be and why?
Queen's “Don’t Stop Me Now." After you start looking at the power of DAX, you’ll have that exact feeling.

Q: What excites you most about the DAX language?
You can write amazingly fast code using DAX, once you know how it works. Right now, it is the fastest engine I have ever seen, apart – maybe – from video games.
 
Q: What's the most surprising statement attendees might hear you say during the pre-con?
You may not get a “wow effect” from any of my statements, but what normally excites people is to see DAX querying a 4-billion-rows fact table with many-to-many relationships in… well, it is fast. You have to see it to believe it. And did I just tell you that many-to-many relationships are absolutely fine with DAX? 

Q: What’s the biggest myth around DAX that you’d like to debunk?
“DAX is easy.” I don’t want to scare anybody: DAX is simple, but it is not easy. I have seen so many people following my lectures say, “Wow! NOW I understand why my formula computes that value.” Learning DAX by trial and error, as some people still do, is really hard.
 
Q: What still trips you up in the real world when working with DAX?
After 4 years working full-time with DAX, there are still some formulas that take a few minutes to understand, and they are all related to evaluation contexts and the CALCULATE function. CALCULATE is a beautiful function, but sometimes it generates such a level of complexity that it is really, really hard to understand.

Q: If attendees could start putting into practice just one thing after this pre-con, what would you want that to be?
I want them to open Power Pivot, load some data, and start having fun getting the insights that looked nearly impossible to compute before this pre-con.

Check out our other Q&As with PASS Summit 2014 pre-con speakers.

Elections Blog Roundup

Sept 30 - If you’ve missed it, the PASS Board of Directors voted to extend the deadline for PASS members to be eligible to vote in this year’s elections. Catch up on the news and the community’s responses to the decision made by the Board of Directors:

What’s New at PASS Summit?

Sept. 30 – Every year, PASS Summit brings you an array of on-site activities and networking opportunities to make your SQL Server and BI learning experience the best one yet. This year is no exception, as we introduce new activities and refresh community favourites. Here are some of the exciting updates you can expect to see this November in Seattle:

SQL Around The World
In a new competition called “SQL Around the World”, attendees will have a chance to win prizes by meeting Chapter Leaders, Virtual Chapter Leaders and Regional Mentors from different regions. “SQL Around the World”, which will take the place of the Chapter Luncheon, is a great way to engage with fellow Summit attendees from all over the globe.

WIT Luncheon Keynote
The Women In Technology (WIT) Luncheon, sponsored by SQL Sentry, welcomes Kimberly Bryant, founder of Black Girls CODE, as its keynote speaker. Launched in 2011, Black Girls CODE promotes the under-represented female and African demographic in the tech industry. Kimberly will provide insight on the journey to helping women of color in technology, and answer questions from both the live audience & Twitter. This event will also be live-streamed for anyone unable to attend.

First-Timers Program
PASS Summit's First-Timers Program, sponsored by SolarWinds, helps first-time attendees connect with other attendees and learn about Summit and the PASS Community. This year, the First-Timers Program begins on Tuesday with an Orientation Meeting and Speed Networking event – choose between 1 of 2 sessions and get to know your fellow attendees!. Then Wednesday-Friday, join us for a selection of "Get To Know Your Community" sessions (see details in the session schedule) where long-term PASS members will share all you need to know about PASS, getting the most out of the week’s events, and the #sqlfamily.

Lightning Talks
While our three Lightning Talk sessions have traditionally been a mix of short, tidbit sessions from all different tracks, this year the Program team grouped the Lightning Talk sessions by track: DBA, BIA and AppDev/PD. Check out which Lightning Talks tracks suits your learning needs, and don’t forget to add them when you build your session schedule.

Speaker Idol
This year PASS Summit will host its first-ever Speaker Idol, with contestants vying for a session at PASS Summit 2015 by giving a 5-minute technical presentation in front of an expert panel of judges. For rules and information on how to register by Oct. 10 to be a contestant, see Denny Cherry's blog.

These are only a few of the activities and learning opportunities you can expect this year at PASS Summit. If you are attending, make sure you start building your schedules, and see how you can take PASS Summit home with you. Still need more reasons to attend PASS Summit? Check out our sneak peek webcasts of PASS Summit content!

See you at PASS Summit 2014!

PASS Summit Scheduling and Predictive Analytics

Sept. 30 – Many large technical conferences such as PASS Summit have a thorny problem: It’s hard for attendees to get into all the sessions they want to attend. The solution is to do a better job with session scheduling and room allocation, assigning sessions with larger expected attendance to  bigger rooms.

This year, Data Scientist and active PASS member Dev Nambi volunteered to help the PASS Program Team put predictive analytics to work to help predict which PASS Summit 2014 sessions would be most attended so we could schedule them in larger rooms. I encourage you to read Dev’s detailed explanation of the project, “Let Me In! The Attendance Challenge,” on his blog. 

After this year’s Summit, we will review each session’s actual attendance and other factors and continue to work with Dev on adding other possible inputs and improving the prediction model. We’re excited about leveraging predictive analytics for future Summits and other PASS events.

Dev and the Program Team will be hosting Office Hours at Summit (stay tuned for details) to review this effort with the PASS community. The Program Team will also be available during these times to talk about how the Program Committee works and other PASS Program-related topics. As always, please feel free to email me or the PASS Program team at program@sqlpass.org with any feedback.

See you at PASS Summit 2014!
– Amy Lewis
Director of PASS Programs

New #SQLPASS Virtual Chapter Webcasts

Cross-posted from Brent Ozar’s blog.

By Brent Ozar
Sept. 30 – Want to learn more about what it takes to run a PASS Virtual Chapter? Want to volunteer to get one up and running? Or maybe you want to up the game for your local user group and start doing webcasts of local speakers?

Jen Stirrup is running a free Wednesday webcast series to get you started. She’s the Director of PASS Virtual Chapters, and she’s on the PASS Board of Directors. Click on the titles you’d like to register for:

Oct 8 (Wed) – Virtual Chapter Padawan, covering:

    • What is the difference between an organizer, panellist and a presenter? What can they do?
    • What’s the difference between Q&A and chat?
    • What do I do if attendees say that can’t hear or see?
    • What is the value of a tech check before we hold a VC, and what’s the best way to do it?
    • How do we record sessions and post them up to youTube? what is Go to Converter, anyway?
    • What’s the difference between GoToWebinar and GoToMeeting?
    • How can I tell if attendees are bored?
    • How can we use multiple screens?
    • And an open Q&A

Oct 15 (Wed) – Virtual Chapter Jedi, covering:

    • How do we do polls?
    • How do we do surveys?
    • Plan your webinar like a pro!
    • Can you include video in your presentations?
    • What about a blended event, where you have more than one presenter?
    • How can you help a nervous, first time presenter?
    • And an open Q&A

Oct 22 (Wed) – Virtual Chapter Management, covering:

    • Chapter Management console
    • Emailing your chapter
    • Updating the site
    • How do you get your sessions to appear on the PASS home page?
    • Using Time and Date announcer so attendees can check the timezone
    • Finalizing your session
    • And an open Q&A

Oct 29 (Wed) – Virtual Chapter Soft Skills, covering:

    • Marketing your Virtual Chapter (e.g., YouTube, Twitter, reddit)
    • Recruiting and retaining speakers
    • Sponsorship
    • Blogger help
    • And an open Q&A

 

For more information, check out Jen’s blog and follow @JenStirrup on Twitter.

PASS Board Elections Update: Protecting PASS Member Information

Sept. 27, 2014 – As many of you know, to help manage this year’s Nomination Committee (NomCom) and Board of Directors elections, PASS implemented a web-based online voting system called Simply Voting, one of the largest and most respected online voting solutions.

In response to questions about the security of member passwords in the voting process, we wanted to share how member passwords were communicated and authenticated between PASS and Simply Voting in June’s NomCom elections, as well as the steps taken to add SSO integration for Simply Votes and to add SSL certificates to all PASS websites to better secure member login information for this year’s Board elections and beyond.

To the best of our knowledge, no PASS member information has ever been compromised or misused by any party. However, protecting the integrity and security of PASS members’ information is paramount. With the steps we’ve taken to tighten security, explained below, we ask that all members take the opportunity this weekend while this information is fresh in your mind to update your password. With these changes, you can make your updates with confidence that your profile information is secure. 

SSO Integration for Voting
In our initial implementation of Simply Voting for the NomCom election, we used the system’s standard security option, which prompted the voter for his/her PASS username and password. Simply Voting then passed those credentials via SSL to PASS for validation and at no time stored the voters’ login information.

Simply Voting is certified with TRUSTe, the same certification used by websites such as eBay, Apple, and those of other retail giants. And while the standard Simply Voting implementation is faster and easier for organizations to deploy and the single link to the ballot is more straightforward for voters, there is still risk – however small – associated with giving a third party access to login data.

During the NomCom elections, several community members contacted PASS about the process and expressed concerns about that risk. The PASS Board agreed with the community’s concerns and implemented the stricter single sign-on (SSO) security protocol with Simply Voting for this and future PASS elections.

In the updated SSO solution for the PASS Board elections, voters log in to sqlpass.org to access a personalized voting URL that redirects them to the ballot on Simply Voting. No external log-in is required.

IT updated the API with Simply Voting and made the necessary UI changes under myPASS to set up and display the voting URL to eligible voters. The extra effort was well worth it to ensure the security of member information. While we appreciate that Simply Voting is a TRUSTe certified vendor, the security of our members’ information is our utmost concern.

SSL Certificates for PASS Websites
However, we weren’t quite finished. Community members noted this week that we still had a security vulnerability because PASS’s website didn’t have SSL certificates installed. In the case with Simply Voting, a query string containing the username and salted hash (composed of the username and a system security passphrase) is passed from the PASS website to Simply Voting, which validates the information and allows the member access to his/her ballot. Without an SSL certificate to validate our website's identity and encrypt all information sent to and from it, that string is still viewable and potentially vulnerable.

Over the past 36 hours, the PASS IT team applied SSL certificates to the main sqlpass.org site, our event sites and VC/Chapter sites, as well as SQLSaturday.com (public and admin sites). This effort resolves both the Simply Voting query string issue and the issues our members have raised about overall login security on our sites themselves. 

For the peace of mind and security of all PASS members, and especially those who voted in the NomCom elections, we ask that you please take a moment to update your password if you haven’t already. Note that all member passwords are encrypted in the database.

We apologize for the oversight in not having SSL certificates implemented earlier and for the inconvenience this has caused.

Thanks to everyone who provided feedback on better securing PASS’s environment and member information, and please let me know if you have other questions or concerns.
– Adam Jorgensen,
PASS Executive VP, Finance and Governance


Board of Directors Election Update

Sept. 26, 2014 – I would like to address the questions around voting issues for the current PASS Board of Directors election.

Before I get started I want to make something very clear: I accept full responsibility for all issues with the current election process. Together we had, and still have, the very best of intentions. On behalf of myself and the entire PASS Board, I offer the sincerest of apologies for all of the frustration caused.

A quick recap: During previous Board elections some members received multiple ballots because they had multiple PASS member profiles. Responding to community requests to fix this issue, we decided to update our voting eligibility requirements so that PASS members needed to have a completed member profile by June 1, 2014, to receive a ballot for the 2014 Board elections. By updating their profiles, members would be identifying their primary profile and email address for all PASS emails, including ballot emails. We also encouraged members to take advantage of the process to delete old profiles.

We then proceeded to communicate the voting eligibility change through every channel we had available. These efforts included:

    • Launching a registration drive in an article in the January 8 Connector newsletter and publishing details in six more Connectors until the deadline. 
    • Sending emails to our entire membership.
    • Leveraging all of our social media accounts. 
    • Including reminder slides in the monthly Chapter deck.
    • Posting our message and a banner ad on the PASS homepage as well as notices on the Governance and Elections pages. 
    • Sending direct emails to everyone who had voted in the past four years in an effort to get people to update their profile so they could continue to vote.

Unfortunately, despite these measures, we were unsuccessful at ensuring that all members received the message.

As a result, we are therefore extending the deadline to update your profile and vote in this year’s Board elections.

The impact of this change on you will depend on your specific situation:

    • If you have received a ballot previously, or if you have already voted, you don’t need to do anything. All votes currently cast will remain valid, there will be no need to recast any votes; if you received a ballot and haven’t voted yet, your access to do so will not be interrupted. All voting will end on October 14 at noon PDT.
    • All PASS members who have not yet received a ballot and who had an existing profile as of June 1, 2014, will be given the opportunity to receive a ballot by updating their profiles before October 5, 2014, at midnight PDT. On October 6, we will pull an updated list of registered voters, filter for duplicates, and then on October 7, we will send all newly registered voters a ballot.  All voting will end on October 14 at noon PDT.
    • PASS members who established their profile after June 1, 2014, do not need to take any action, but will be eligible to vote in next year’s election.

The voting process also highlighted some concerns around the security of member passwords. In response, we have added SSO integration for Simply Voting as well as SSL certificates. We want to assure you that the voting process and your login details and profile activity are secure. We are continuing testing and validation of the security of all PASS sites – stay tuned to the PASS blog for details and updated information as soon as that is completed in the coming days. 

Based on your initial feedback, I will be working with the Marketing team and PASS HQ to improve our communication efforts for voter registration. Going forward we will include reminder slides in every Chapter, VC, and SQLSaturday deck that is distributed, and ask that leaders for these events make a point to mention the details in these slides. I will also ask that we include details on all our key web pages, including the SQLSaturday website.

I recognize that these increased communication efforts may still not be enough. If you do not receive an email on October 7 and believe you should be eligible to vote, please email governance@sqlpass.org and help us understand all the details around your particular situation. We can’t make things better without your help. I will task our Marketing team to review our communication channels throughout the year in order to improve our effectiveness.

I will also work with the IT team to find ways to help our members verify if their profiles have been updated correctly and that they are indeed registered to vote. I want to make certain we give all our members every possible chance to verify their voting status prior to the deadline.

Our annual Summit is just over 5 weeks away. I expect elections and voter eligibility will be among the many topics of discussion. I and the entire Board of Directors will make ourselves available throughout the week for anyone who has additional questions, comments, and concerns about elections, or anything else.

Thanks for your time, your service, and your PASSion.

Best,
– Thomas LaRock
PASS President


Building a Bigger Umbrella

Sept. 24, 2014 – Hi, I’m Tom, and I’ve been busy trying to build a bigger umbrella for Mike.

Let me explain a bit.

Over the past week, I’ve seen a lot of dialogue regarding the decisions and direction the PASS Board has been providing as of late. I hope to clear the air a bit today.

I’ve been a member of PASS since 2004, on the Board of Directors since being appointed in 2009, and currently serve as your President. During that time, I’ve seen the PASS umbrella expand. We’ve grown from 39 chapters in 2004 to 279 chapters in 2014. I’ve seen the transformation of our five Special Interest Groups (SIGs) into Virtual Chapters (currently 27 VCs and growing). We now have global events such as SQLSaturday, SQLRally, and even 24 Hours of PASS. We even have events in different languages now, too! Just an amazing amount of growth, and we continue to attract new members to our events at a very high rate.

All of those events exist because a group of people came together 16 years ago to found the Professional Association for SQL Server. I know they are amazed to see the stats above and how big the PASS umbrella has become. I also know that if those same people would have had a crystal ball to glimpse 16 years into the future, they would be amazed at the depth and breadth of data technology options available today. 

But when they founded PASS, they didn’t know Mike.

See, Mike isn’t a DBA. He doesn’t have any desire to be a DBA, either. Mike is part of an audience that has been named “Business and Data Analytics.” It’s a broad group, and one that is difficult to define. We know Mike works with data daily and wants to know more about all the options available to him today. He wants to connect, share, and learn with others.

Sound familiar?

Think back to a time when you worked alone (as many data professionals often do) and needed help. For many of us, we looked around and we found PASS. We attended events, made some friends, and built up a network of trusted resources that we would go to with questions or when we just needed some career advice. 

That’s Mike, right now. He’s curious. He’s looking for help. If you recognized Mike and saw him standing in the pouring rain, needing help, and you had room under your umbrella…what would you do?

I know what I would do.

I want to help Mike. I want to build a bigger PASS umbrella. I want to bring Mike into our discussions, and I want to be a part of his discussions. Mike is exactly the type of natural partner for anyone in the business of storing and organizing data. 

I want PASS to help facilitate the conversations that bring different groups closer together. I want PASS to break down the walls of those silos we always complain about in IT. By sharing our umbrella with Mike we will ultimately improve our own skills, and so will Mike. Everyone benefits from this arrangement.

I’ve seen this in action already at the Business Analytics Conference and the Microsoft MVP Summit. Roughly 50% of all Microsoft SQL Server MVPs are not traditional DBAs. They don’t spend their days with backups, restores, or racking servers. They are in the BA and BI space. We can learn a lot from them, and from each other. We have before, and we will again.
 
We can do this. It won’t be easy, and it won’t be quick, but we can make it happen if we work together.

That’s the direction the Board has been taking for the past 3 years. 

I cannot stress this next point enough. We are not stopping our efforts with regards to SQL Server. We updated our branding to reflect the wider audience we want to help. Many people already call us “PASS” anyway, so changing the branding to reflect that made sense as the right thing to do. We are still legally known as the Professional Association for SQL Server, and that will not change. 

I can see that there have been a lot of changes over the past few years. And when I look at the sum total of those changes, I can understand it might seem scary. But it doesn’t have to be scary if we think of the changes in a different way.

We are building a bigger umbrella, so Mike and his friends can get out of the rain.

I’m hopeful you will let him stand next to us.

Connect.
Share.
Learn. 

That’s what we do here.
– Thomas LaRock
PASS President

 


 

PASS Summit 2014 Pre-Con Preview: Chris Shaw & John Morehouse

Sept. 18, 2014 – Go inside PASS Summit 2014's full-day pre-conference sessions in this Q&A series with our presenters. In this preview, Chris Shaw and John Morehouse share a few tidbits about their pre-con, Real World End-to-End Performance Solutions.

Q: If your pre-con had a theme song, what would it be and why?
Chris:
“Battle Born” by Five Finger Death Punch – I know it sounds strange, but the meat of our session comes from being there and doing it. We have read the best practices, but until you see how different settings impact the servers and the performance, the understanding just isn’t complete.
John: “Thunderstruck” by AC/DC – This too probably sounds strange, but that song just seems to always gets folks pumped up and moving. It usually reminds me of one of many movies where the good guys are about to beat the snot out of the bad guys. And given that Chris and I will be beating the snot out of some performance issues, I think it’s very fitting. Plus, what better way to get the energy flowing than with an awesome classic song like “Thunderstruck”!

Q: Chris, what excites you most about solving performance problems?
I think the best part is when I make a client’s day all that much better. When I’ve been a full-time employee and there have been performance problems and stress that surrounds that situation, being part of the solution has a lot of satisfaction associated with it.

Q: John, what's the most surprising statement attendees might hear you say during the pre-con?
That's a good question. I'm a firm believer that there is a time and place for any solution in SQL Server, so the attendees might hear me say that it's alright to shrink a database or that cursors are acceptable or that scalar user-defined functions serve a purpose. All of these (as well as others) can play a part in just about any solution. The trick is to know and understand the ramifications of using them, which in turn allows you to make an informed decision about your solution.

Q: Back to you Chris: What’s the biggest designing-for-performance myth that you’d like to debunk?
Not all performance issues can be resolved by throwing more hardware at them. Granted, there are times when you can fix performance issues with hardware. However, eventually bad design is just that – bad design, and adjusting the design may get you a much better performance gain than going out and buying new hardware.

Q: John, what still trips you up in the real world when trying to implement the fastest solutions?
Simple, sometimes everything. SQL Server is such a huge platform that it's very easy to forget one thing or another. This is why I'm always reading articles, blogs, whatever. I'm always trying to learn.

Q: And for both of you: If attendees could start putting into practice just one thing after this pre-con, what would you want that to be?
Chris:
I was going to answer something very tangible such as taking a baseline or setting up index maintenance, but really what I would want attendees to come away with is the ability and the skill to work through an issue with confidence. Each environment has differences that make it unique; the answer of “it depends” fits because of all these differences. When attendees walk out the door, I want them to know how other SQL Server DBAs make decisions.
John: I would agree with Chris in that I would want attendees to be able to tackle any solution with confidence and realize that there is definitely more than one way to accomplish a solution within SQL Server.

Check out our other Q&As with PASS Summit 2014 pre-con speakers.