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The times they are a-changin'

[cross-posted from Jeremiah Peschka's blog at]

Last week, I sent an email to the PASS Board of Directors. It said, in short, that I was stepping down from my seat on the board. In fact, here’s the email:

A few months ago I made a huge change in my career and stepped out of my role as a production DBA and into a new career working with new databases. The more time I spend with these databases, the more I realize that they need an exciting, vibrant community like we have here in PASS. I want to help these communities grow and thrive, but there are only so many hours in the day. I have enjoyed the time that I’ve served on the PASS Board of Directors and I will continue to be involved in the community, but there are new communities that need what we have at PASS.

This has not been an easy decision to make, but I am stepping down from the PASS Board of Directors.

Just so you don’t think it sounds contrived, here it is again:

I love PASS and I love the SQL Server community. Being a part of PASS has given me a phenomenal sense of community. The SQL Server community has readily welcomed new members and new technologies and continues to grow the meaning of being a SQL Server professional. The community has embraced knowledge sharing in a way that many communities should envy. I keep learning so much every day from all of your blogs, presentations, books, and white papers.

And this is where things get difficult. I love what I’m doing with PASS, but I also love what I’m doing outside of SQL Server. There is a lot of knowledge there, but it’s silo’d and stuck in people’s heads. That knowledge needs to get out into the wild. One of the easiest ways to spread knowledge is to help it spread through communities. It’s difficult building a community from the ground up. Hell, maintaining an existing community is difficult. Doing both at the same time is impossible.

I asked myself how I could help when I started with PASS several years ago. I jumped in and started a chapter, then I took over a virtual chapter, and then I ran for the Board of Directors. Along the way, I met a ton of people who were kind, helpful, thoughtful, and more than ready to help out. As I slowly came to the realization that I couldn’t build a new community and grow an existing community at the same time, I also came to the realization that there were a lot of people ready to step up and help PASS grow.

Knowing that so many of you care and want to help made it a lot easier to come to this decision. I know that no matter what, there are a lot of people who will steer PASS and help it grow.

PASS showed me a wonderful community and I want to share that community with other people. I’m not running away and I’m not leaving, I’m just spreading the love around.


Lightning Talk Moderators Needed

In case you haven't heard, we're adding Lightning Talks to the PASS Community Summit this year. The idea of Lightning Talks is pretty simple:

  • Every speaker has 5 minutes
  • Slides are optional
  • No demos
  • When the 5 minutes are up, the speaker is done.

So, in order to pull this off, we need three volunteers from the audience. All you have to do is work an egg timer. Whenever a speaker starts talking, you start the egg timer. When they're done, you cut them off, shoo them off the stage, and then introduce the next speaker. You can think of the job as being like an M.C. because that's what it is (parachute pants will not be provided by PASS). One bonus is that you'll get to hobnob with the speakers and/or embarrass when you introduce them. It's all good fun until someone falls off the stage!

If you'd like to volunteer to moderate one of these sessions, let me know. Send an email to There are only three sessions, supplies are limited. Act now!

Update: I want to thank everyone who got back in touch with me about this, and there were a lot of you. We have our moderators selected - Matt Velic, Lance Harra, and Noel McKinney will be emceeing our Lightning Talks.

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Chalk Talk Speakers Selected

 Not that long ago (only two weeks), we asked speakers to submit abstracts for the Chalk Talk Theater. We've finalized the selections and I'd like to tell you about the process that we used and introduce the speakers who will be in the Chalk Talk Theater this year.

First, how did we go about getting the abstracts? We put out a call for speakers. We collected your entries. Once the call for speakers closed, we collected your submissions in a spreadsheet, read over them independently, and then compared our lists. There wasn't any specific criteria that we used, just finding abstracts that encouraged discussion. 
Here are the abstracts that were selected:
Chuck Heinzelman Speaking at PASS - How to Write an Abstract.
Meredith Ryan-Smith Energizing the Next Generation: Encouraging and Inspiring Young Women to Choose Tech Careers
Todd Robinson AppFabric Cache and SQL Server 2008
Todd McDermid Exploring Debugging Techniques
Kendra Little Agile Operations: What's Awesome, What's Awful, What to Do
Stuart Ainsworth XML in SQL Server 2008: An Introduction to XQuery
John Sterrett SQL Server 2008 for Developers


Chalk Talk 2010 – It’s not your Senior DBA’s Chalk Talk

I don’t know if you’re familiar with the Chalk Talk sessions at the PASS Community Summit. These sessions are shorter, 40 minute sessions, and they happen in the vendor expo hall at the Summit. In the past, this has been a Microsoft sponsored event with Microsoft sponsored speakers. These were discussion focused sessions – a combination of presentation and Q&A session.

Guess what? It is a Microsoft exclusive event no longer!

We’re opening up the Chalk Talk sessions to community speakers. There’s a catch, though. You have to meet the following criteria:

  • You are currently attending the PASS Community Summit.
  • You are not speaking at the PASS Community Summit.
  • You submitted a session to the PASS Community Summit that was not accepted.

That’s pretty stringent requirements. So, what do you get in return? Unfortunately, we can’t offer comp codes for this. But we’ve got something extra in store. In addition to speaking in the Chalk Talk Theater, we're also introducing Lightning Talks!

Lightning Talks!

Yeah, that’s right: Lightning Talks. We’re doing them at the Summit this year. Just in case you don’t know, a lightning talk is a short, prepared talk. We’re going to aim for 5 minute talks. That should keep things moving quickly.

We like this idea so much that we’ve dedicated one session every day to nothing but lightning talks!

All of the details around Lightning Talks aren't finalized yet, but we’ll keep you posted.

How Does This Help You?

If you’re not going to get a comp code (BOO!), how does giving a Chalk Talk help you?

1) You get exposure – You can put on your speaker resume that you spoke at the PASS Summit in the Chalk Talk Theater.
2) You get exposure – You’ll be presenting a separate lightning talk with other speakers and it will be witnessed by a boatload of people.
3) You get exposure – see points 1 & 2

Should I Submit the Same Abstract?

I would say “probably not.” Chalk Talks are a different format than a standard 75 minute session. They’re shorter (only 40 minutes) and they involve more audience participation (a lot more). Feel free to submit similar topics, but be prepared for a different audience and delivery.

Visit the Call for Speakers to get started.


What the heck are you people talking about?

The call for speakers is closed and the selection committees are about to begin reviewing the abstracts. Before they get started, here are a few little pieces of trivia about the sessions.

Keep in mind that I have done minimal cleansing on this data so it’s going to be a bit messy and unreliable for anything apart from entertainment purposes.

Raw Numbers

There were 574 sessions submitted this year by 209 speakers working for a total of 163 separate companies.

Out of a total of 127 job titles, the most common one was “Consultant”. Or, it would be until you take into account the different variations of DBA, Database Administrator, etc. Taking that into account, 20 of you are some kind of DBA.

If you want to get a bit fuzzier about the numbers:

  • 17 of you are an engineer and are probably measuring something with calipers right now
  • 12 of you identify as a manager
  • 12 of you think you’re a developer
  • 27 of you claim to be a consultant
  • 11 of you work in B.I.
  • 32 of you claim to be architects. You draw squares and arrows to represent work.

All of you work for a total of 163 different companies. Unless some of you can’t spell your company’s name right. Then you may work for fewer companies, I’m not sure. The data, as I said, is dirty.

The Submissions

The average length of a session abstract was 617.7 characters or 99.19 words with a standard deviation of 243 characters and 39 words. Out of all the presentations, 187 have never been presented before. They may very well be 100% fresh in November when you arrive.

Here’s the distribution between the different levels:

  • 100 Level (Novice) - 109 sessions
  • 200 Level (Intermediate) - 239 sessions
  • 300 Level (Advanced) - 178 sessions
  • 400 Level (Expert) - 44 sessions
  • 500 Level (Advanced Expert) - 2 sessions

Pre/Post Conference

42 total pre/post conference sessions were submitted. That’s a lot of competition for a few slots.

  • 14 were B.I. (9 for architecture and 5 for reporting/delivery)
  • 13 relate to DBA work
  • 12 relate to application development
  • 3 relate to professional development

The only conclusion I can draw is that very few of us are prepared to talk about our careers for a single work day. Are you playing Legend of Zelda at work all day? What’s up with that, guys? People making a living talking about this kind of stuff.

Spotlight Sessions

There were 58 spotlight sessions submitted and I’m afraid to say that your day jobs fared even worse in this section. 

  • 20 were DBA related topics
  • 15 were development topics (this better not be all IronPerl … I mean PowerShell)
  • 13 were somehow related to B.I. architectural whatnot
  • 5 were related to B.I. reporting and delivery. Apparently these guys are too busy making money to talk at the PASS Summit for 8 hours.
  • 5 of you thought that you could talk about your job for 90 minutes. Good for you. That’s long enough to get to the good parts in Krull or watch any number of amazing kung fu movies.

The distribution is starting to skew a bit here. If we combined the BI tracks it would look a lot more like the pre/post conference situation.

Community Sessions

Here is where you guys clearly shine. You submitted a whopping 472 sessions. That’s an average of 2.25 per person. While not bad, you could have submitted 4. I’m just saying that maybe next year you should pick it up a little bit.

  • 137 application development topics. We’re number 1, we’re number 1
  • 135 DBA topics put this in at a close second.
  • 113 BI architecture topics
  • 48 Professional development (you can talk for 75 minutes about your job, but not 90?)
  • 39 B.I. reporting topics. I think these people really must have jobs to do, because that’s not a lot.


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