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SQLRally 2011 Update

(Cross-posted from Andy Warren's SQLAndy blog)

Can it really be less than 30 days to the first SQLRally? As I look back, it seems like a very long journey, and now that we’re close, the remaining time seems to be going by very quickly. I met with Jack Corbett on Friday to review the volunteer list and discuss plans for the sessions we have planned on Thursday after the regular day ends, the ones Jack has branded as Overdrive. Then I spent the rest of Friday afternoon reviewing options for some after-hours events. We’ll publish full details later this week, but it looks like it will be something along the lines of this:

  • Tuesday evening – very informal and inexpensive meet-up for those that want to get together.
  • Wed evening – drinks and appetizer option for those that want to attend (buy your own), followed by miniature golf. Both designed to get you out of the hotel into the Florida weather and connecting with other SQL professionals.
  • Thurs evening – a meet-up at nearby Old Town, which is hard to describe, part county fair, part amusement park, part knick-knack shops. They have, among other things, a first class go cart track and a mechanical bull. I’m envisioning some great video from that!

These are all voluntary and designed to be similar but scaled down to the kinds of activities we have at the PASS Summit. If you’re attending and want to do other things – absolutely! After hours is your time. But if you want to meet some new people and have some low key fun, we’re trying to provide an easy way to do that.

Want to host your own get together? You can always put together a group for dinner, or you can set up something and announce it on the site (after the regularly scheduled stuff of course). If you’re staying for the weekend, you might consider heading to the Kennedy Space Center, taking an airboat ride (real Florida), or for some simple geek fun, head north about 30 minutes to Skycraft to see an amazing collection of surplus, well, everything!

I’ll be on site at the hotel around 1:30 pm on the 10th helping to organize and stuff bags and whatever else, and I’ll be at all the after hours events. I hope to see you at one (or all) of them.

Don’t forget that after April 30th the price increases for the last time to the list price of $399. Save the $50 by registering this week!

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SQLSaturday Round-Up (Apr. 13-20)

(This is Round 19 of PASS's weekly round-up of SQLSaturday recaps. PASS community bloggers love their SQLSaturdays, and they love to tell everyone about their experiences, so who are we not to share that love?)

This past weekend, PASS SQLSaturday crossed the Atlantic for its first taste of Europe. It's been a bit silent in the wake of SQLSaturday #78, Portugal - we imagine they're still recovering from the sheer awesomeness of the event. But fret not, because we still have lots of blog posts from the SQL community!

(Clearly, Porto Salvo is a solemn place fit for serious SQL training.)

For those of you on Twitter, follow @sqlpass and make sure to check out the #sqlsat and #sqlsaturday hashtags to stay up to date. Besides attendance at free learning events, there are many speaking and sponsorship opportunities available.


Hope Foley presented at SQLSaturday #68, Olympia

Mark Ginnebaugh attended SQLSaturday #73, Orange County

David Levy presented at SQLSaturday #67, Chicago

Tiago Salgado attended SQLSaturday #78, Portugal

+ David Stein helped organize SQLSaturday #63, Dallas


The next SQLSaturday takes place on April 30th in Jacksonville, FL. Stay tuned for more events this spring and summer - June's already looking pretty hot and new SQLSaturdays are added all the time.


SQLSaturday founders Steve Jones (blog post) and Andy Warren (blog post) have cooked up a new project to foster training within the SQL community. It's called The Mentoring Experiment and PASS Director Thomas LaRock is one of those excited about the idea

Want to attend or speak at 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.

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Board Unanimously Accepts Amended Bylaws

Dear PASS Members,

As I recently indicated in a post on this blog, PASS has made some amendments to its Bylaws. In that post, I provided a red-lined comparison between the old and new Bylaws. PASS Executive Vice President Bill Graziano also discussed the amendments to provide a more in-depth look at the planned changes.

Having given 30 days' notice as is required by the state of Illinois (where PASS is incorporated), the Board voted today to accept the amended Bylaws. The motion passed unanimously, with 14 "yes" votes, 0 "no" votes, and 0 abstentions.

The new Bylaws have been uploaded to the Governance page on the PASS website. Below the new Bylaws there is a link to download a copy of the old Bylaws, just in case you find a need for it. 

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact me or Bill Graziano. Alternatively, you can post a comment below.


Hannes Bezuidenhout
PASS HQ - Governance



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PASS Update #55 (SQLSaturday Site Changes & SQLRally)

[cross-posted from Andy Warren's blog at]

SQLSaturday Site Changes

Earlier this week we deployed the first set of small changes to the SQLSaturday site. We fixed a long standing bug in the iCal, added a list on the front page of reserved dates (often events know the date they want but don’t have the facility nailed down), added sponsor logos to the front page of each event site (example below), updated the networking page to includes photos from gravatar (see example below), and made some minor changes to the admin tools.

We’re moving forward in micro sprints of around 7 days, the second sprint will end on next Tuesday and we’ve already planned number three. The prioritization of these changes is interesting. We’re deliberately going after tasks that are low risk/low cost initially to get our HQ developer comfortable and to make some immediate gains, as we get those out of the way we’ll move into harder stuff. Right now I’ve budgeted for 6 sprints, with an option to do an additional 6 if it makes sense.

We’re also working on engaging a designer to do an update on the look and feel. We had a lot of compliments on, so we want to make a similar investment for SQLSaturday.

Go set up an image at!




SQLRally 2011

Things are proceeding well and I’d almost say smoothly. If you’ve run a SQLSaturday you now what this phase is like – details! Getting volunteer assignments defined and filled, ordering speaker shirts (can’t order too early because speakers change), ribbons for badges, lanyards with sponsor name,etc,etc, etc. We blew through the rooms we had reserved at the site hotel, so we’ve set up contact information for a nearby hotel that has shuttle service. We’re still doing weekly calls and trying to stick to our timeline for logistics and marketing (and actually doing pretty well at that). Registrations are growing nicely and it looks like we may sell out the pre-con seminars.

Jack Corbett is working on some additions to the schedule, a set of informal panel type sessions that will run after the last presentation on Thursday. I won’t steal his thunder by listing what he’s working on, but I think it’s really good stuff, a nice change of pace from the stuff you see during the day.

A good portion of the PASS Board will be on site for the event, we’re meeting parts of Wednesday and Thursday, but we’ll be out and about to see how things are going and spend time talking with attendees.

SQLRally 2012

We’re looking at three candidate cities for the 2012 SQLRally; Denver, Nashville, and Dallas. We laid out an estimated timeline and process back in January, it’s been a struggle to stick to it. Lots of places where we just didn’t know enough about how to accomplish what we wanted, a few places where we didn’t communicate our ideas well to the chapter leaders. Frustrating, for me and for the city teams. Some of it we should have – in hindsight – seen, some of it just the pain of trying something for the first time.

But my frustration aside, we’ve got three cities that have completed applications and are working with HQ to get to the point where we can move to the community selection/vote stage. The biggest holdup so far is identifying appropriate meeting space. Because SQLRally was designed from the start to be a low cost/low risk event, we did not budget for reserving rooms at the event site. That worked in Orlando (and we have it worked out in Dallas), but in particular for Nashville we’re struggling to find space without taking on the room commitment.

Room commitments are one of the hidden risks of running larger events. For example, at the PASS Summit we typically reserve (‘block’) more than 4000 rooms, with a potential exposure to PASS of more than $800,000. We’re not required to reserve the rooms, but from long experience we know that attendees get very, very frustrated if they can’t find a room in close proximity to the event site. For SQLRally we’re looking at a much smaller cost, but our estimate is still in the $35k range.

That’s $35k of risk. In the best case it’s just a guarantee, no cost to PASS, in the worst case we’d pay for $35k of rooms that weren’t booked by attendees (think a natural disaster scenario). We didn’t budget for it in the 2011 budget, and so far it’s not in the draft of the 2012 budget. Because of that I sent a motion to the Board asking for authorization to commit to up to $40k during the negotiation process. That motion was voted down. It’s a tough call, we are typically financially conservative, and there isn’t much profit built into our current pricing model to cover the risk. That means for 2012 we’re going to proceed with basically the same budget/plan as for 2011, but we’re going to talk a lot more about 2012 and beyond. If we want to seat 500+ attendees, our options get pretty narrow if we only want to rent meeting space, to the point that I’m not sure it’s a realistic goal. Lots more work to do in this area.

I had hoped to announce the 2012 location during the 2011 SQLRally, but at this point that is optimistic. We’re still working on locations for Denver and Nashville, and if we can find them we’ll need some time to review the proposals to make sure all the pieces work. Only then can we approve the final cities to go out for vote. There is the possibility – already communicated to the leaders – that we may not be able to find space that meets our requirements in each city, and that may remove them from the list for 2012.

It’s a work in progress for sure. It will be good to finish up the 2011 event so we can step back and decide if and where we want to tweak the formula, because we certainly will learn some lessons we want to apply to version 2.


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SQLSaturday Round-Up (Apr. 6-13)

(This is Round 18 of PASS's weekly round-up of SQLSaturday recaps. PASS community bloggers love their SQLSaturdays, and they love to tell everyone about their experiences, so who are we not to share that love?)

This past weekend featured a SQLSaturday double dose straight from the West Coast.

Some lucky attendees got their free SQL training in serene Olympia, WA at SQLSaturday #68, Olympia. Other lucky attendees got their free SQL training near the sunny surf of Huntington Beach, CA at SQLSaturday #73, Orange County. Those of you with grouping skills - wait, that's probably everyone - will agree that there is a common factor here: lucky attendees!

Of course, luck really had nothing to do with it. The success of both events can be chalked up to the dedication of the volunteers hosting them and the eagerness of the close-knit SQL community to get together whenever there's half a chance.

(Actually, Huntington Beach turned out to be a little cloudy and chilly, but that doesn't mean this SQLSaturday wasn't SQLsizzling!)

For those of you on Twitter, follow @sqlpass and make sure to check out the #sqlsat and #sqlsaturday hashtags to stay up to date. Besides attendance at free learning events, there are many speaking and sponsorship opportunities available.


Ryan Adams helped organize SQLSaturday #63, Dallas

+ Robert L. Davis presented at SQLSaturday #68, Olympia

+ Arie Jones presented at SQLSaturday #68, Olympia

+ Steve Jones presented at SQLSaturday #63, Dallas

+ Clint Kuntz presented at SQLSaturday #73, Orange County

+ Karla Landrum was part of the leadership team for SQLSaturday #72, Honolulu

+ Chuck Lathrope presented at SQLSaturday #68, Olympia

+ Meredith Ryan-Smith presented at SQLSaturday #73, Orange County

+ Colin Smith presented at SQLSaturday #73, Orange County

+ David Stein presented at SQLSaturday #67, Chicago

+ Paul Turley presented at SQLSaturday #68, Olympia

+ Andy Warren attended SQLSaturday #63, Dallas

+ Reagan Williams presented at SQLSaturday #73, Orange County


Next up is SQLSaturday's first stop in Portugal, which is happening on April 15 - apparently they do Saturdays on a Friday over there! The other SQLSaturday in April is taking place on the 30th in Jacksonville, FL. Stay tuned for more events this spring and summer, though - June's already looking pretty hot and new SQLSaturdays are added all the time.


If you're a speaker, you know that it's sometimes tough to have to hear criticism after pouring your heart and soul into a presentation. Brent Ozar's also been there - he provides some tips on how to deal with criticism.

Finally, PASS Director and SQLSaturday co-founder Andy Warren recently blogged about changes being made to the SQLSaturday web infrastructure. The plan is to make things easier and more streamlined. Check out his post here.

Want to attend or speak at 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.

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PASS 2011 Summit Abstract Submissions

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

This week we’ll be launching the call for abstracts for the 2011 PASS Summit.

I thought it would be good to go over the basics for this year especially since some things are changing from years past.  Many of the changes are minor, some are behind the scenes so to speak, and a small amount are larger and more public facing.

A New Site

PASS HQ and the Program Committee team has been diligently working to bring the summit speaker/education management programming inhouse.  With this effort comes a new site for abstract submissions.  We hope this new site will make the abstract submission process easier and more relevant to collecting the info PASS needs in order to facilitate session selections.

A New Process

One of the largest changes on the backend process this year is going to be seperating the speaker review from the abstract review piece of the selection process.  Essentially, this year we have two seperate teams to do each task.  This came about from the comments of previous review team members as well as the need to offload some of the work the call generates for the larger teams.  Im hopeful that this change will help bring a little more stability to the scores each team gives an abstract as well as cut some of the subjectiveness (likely only a tiny bit)

A New Session Type

I wrote previously about having 1/2 sessions at the Summit and they are still planned.  Now you know where to bring your best and brightest content!  In case your thinking what it would be like to have your 1/2 day session recorded, Ive got great news.   Ive got a tentative compromise devised.  This year we will be distributing two seperate DVD sets, 1 for attendees of the Summit which will have every session.  Another for non attendees that will have all of the regular sessions excluding the deep dive 1/2 day sessions. 

Spotlight Sessions & Invitations

Thanks to some great feedback last year The formula that we used for spotlight selections was adjusted and looks like this: We will invite all speakers who recieved an overall evaluation of 4.5 or greater and had at least 15 attendees and 15 completed evaluations.  We will be excluding Lightning talks, Chalk Talks, and Microsoft speakers.  This year that leaves us with a whopping total of 27 people getting spotlight invites.  These speakers are truly spectacular, and they deserve the extra recognition/time for their sessions.  All abstracts submitted as spotlight will be considered not only for a spotlight slot but, will also be considered for a regular session if they dont get picked for a spotlight session.

Preconference Changes

I would be remiss to not mention this here but, some different things (changes!!) are planned for this year, as soon as I get a chance to finalize them a bit more I will write about it, hopefully in the next few days to a week. 

Abstract Limits

We have decided to change the limits on abstract submissions a bit for this year.  We will be encouraging you to submit up to 4 total : Regular, 1/2 day and Spotlight (if invited) Sessions.  In addition if you meet he qualifications you can submit up to 2 Preconference sessions.  On top of this each person can submit 1 panel (discussion type) session for consideration.  In order to do this each speaker in your panel will need to have speaker details entered so we can rate the session properly.  This in itself is a pretty good sized change so get creative and see what the selection teams think!

But when

I can hear you asking from here… “All of thats great but, when will the call for abstracts for the 2011 PASS Summit open?”  I have great news. 

The call will open this Wednesday! 4/13/2011 

look for more info coming officially from PASS



PASS SQLRally–Thoughts from an Organizer

[cross-posted from Jack Corbett's blog at]

There have been lots of blog posts about PASS SQLRally (Bing Search), but there haven’t been a lot recently from the organizers.  As today (April 12th) is the last day for the discounted $299 price I thought it would be good to talk about why I think it is a good model for an event, what I’ve done for SQLRally, and why you should attend.

Why is the SQLRally model good?

Because it is a partnership between local user groups and PASS.  This is a plus because you have the large event experience of those at PASS HQ, but also fresh ideas and new perspectives from the local people.  Just like in any endeavor, you can get stuck in a rut on how you do things and bringing in some new people brings in new ideas that haven’t been considered.  This means that each SQLRally will have a unique identity provided by the local organizers, but you get the experience of those who have put on multiple events.

Because it is regional.  The PASS Summit is a great international conference, but it is large, expensive, and a long way to travel for many people.  This means that you can’t necessarily make it every year.  Because SQLRally is regional, it is less expensive, more intimate, and accessible.  It also means that you the networking available to you is with more people from your region, which means the contacts you make may be more useful to you than national or international contacts you make at a larger conference.  Both have value, but local contacts can help you on-site or, if you are looking, provide you with local opportunities.

It is about the community.  This is YOUR event.  You selected the sessions from pre-con’s to regular sessions, you go to evaluate the abstracts and select the sessions that would be most valuable to YOU.

What I’ve Done?

My main areas of contribution have been in sponsor plan development, event programming, and speaker communication. 

For the sponsor plan development, I got to work with Al Schuler and Craig Ellis and I think we did a great job since we sold out the sponsorships.  It was a great learning experience for me because I got some insight into how to market an event to sponsors and how to break out some thins apart from general sponsorship. 

Andy Warren and I developed the speaker selection process which consisted of breaking the submissions into categories within each track for voting purposes.  We spent a lot of time discussing how that should work and putting sessions into each category.  Our goal in categorizing the submissions within each track was to ensure variety in the sessions.  It’s really easy to pick all the performance tuning sessions as you know those will be popular, but that wouldn’t make a well-rounded event.  Once the sessions were voted on, I communicated the results to the presenters, selected the wild card & deep-dive sessions, and then put together the event schedule.

I’ve also been working on what I’m calling SQLRally Overdrive, which is 3 more laid-back sessions on Thursday evening from 5:45-7:00 pm.  These sessions will be designed to have more interaction between attendees and facilitate networking.

Why Should You Attend?

SQLRally brings much of the Summit experience to you.  We have a great mix of seasoned Summit presenters along with up and coming speakers who have a lot to offer.  With the more intimate setting it should be easier to make new connections and develop those relationships.  You’ll learn from people who are DOING the same job you are, and be able to take home practical solutions that you implement the Monday after the event.  Check out the ROI page for what you can take to your boss to convince him/her to allow you to go to SQLRally.

I hope to see you there!

- Jack Corbett


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PASS Virtualization Chapter Seeking Speakers

[cross-posted from Andy Warren's blog at]

The virtual Virtualization Chapter is seeking speakers for their monthly meetings. If you’re working with HyperV, VMWare, or other virtualization technologies and SQL Server, or know someone that is, drop a note to David Smithey (dsmithey at

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SQLRally 2011–The Sessions I Plan to Attend

[cross-posted from Andy Warren's blog at]

One of the ways to make the most of a conference (and to help justify the spend) is to go through the schedule and think about what sessions you want to attend. It’s never easy, there are always lots of good choices and it’s hard to settle on just one per time slot. I try to always pick a topic or two that is outside my general interest area just to keep up on what’s going in the rest of the world.

I always pick two per hour, you never know when a session will be filled to capacity or you’ll decide that it’s not quite what you expected. To keep the schedule simple though, I’ve just selected my “A” choices. It’s not simple for to me pick either. For example, at 8:30 am on Thursday I know Aaron will do a great job on PowerShell, and I’d love to hear what my friend Mike Walsh has to say on disasters, but I think I can get the most from the presentation on the Parallel Data Warehouse by Brian Mitchell.

Go print the schedule and start circling, it’s time well spent.





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Register for SQLRally by April 12th!

[cross-posted from Andy Warren's blog at]

We’re less than 45 days from the first SQLRally in Orlando on May 11-13 and I bet you haven’t registered yet (though a lot of you have!). Maybe you’re waiting to see if the boss is going to pay, or trying to decide if it’s worth spending your own money (it is!), or waiting for the price of flights to drop.  All good reasons, but – we really want you to attend What you need is more ammunition, a good reason to get the decision made now!

If you register by April 12th you can attend the two day event for $299. Imagine, first class training for $299. But if you wait until April 13th, the price goes up to $349, and then on May 1st it goes to the final list price of $399. I think it’s a good deal at $399, but if you’re going to go, wouldn’t you rather take the $100 and do something fun with it? Go to Disney, Sea World, or Universal? Take the spouse to dinner at Emeril’s or Shula’s? Put it toward one of the great $199 pre-conference seminars?

We’re in the final push and we’re hoping to max out our seating. The longer you wait the more you pay,the more you risk not getting a seat at the conference or at that pre-con you’ve been drooling over. Absolutely it’s marketing too,it’s our job to make sure that you know about the event, think about the reasons to go, and try to make it as compelling as those pizza commercials that play during prime time tv. Well, maybe not quite that good!

Hope to see you in Orlando!

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