I attended my first SQLSaturday a couple of days ago, SQLSaturday #43 in Redmond (at Microsoft). I got there really early, primarily because I forgot how fast I can get there from my home when nobody else is on the road. On a weekday in rush hour traffic, that would have taken two hours to get there. I gave myself 90 minutes, and actually got there in about 45. Crazy!
I made the mistake of going to the main Microsoft campus, but that’s not where the event was being held. Instead it was in a big Microsoft conference center on the other side of the highway. Fortunately, I had the address with me and quickly realized my mistake. When I got back on track, I noticed that there were bright yellow signs out on the street corner that looked like they said they were for SOL Saturday, which actually was appropriate since it was the sunniest day around here in a long time.
Since I was there so early, the registration was just getting setup, so I found Greg Larsen who was coordinating things and offered to help. He put me to work with a group of people organizing the pre-printed raffle tickets and stuffing swag bags.
I had never been to a SQLSaturday before this one, so I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect even though I have read about a few on some blogs. It makes sense that each one will be a little bit different since they are almost completely volunteer driven, and the whole concept is still in its early stages. I have been to the PASS Summit for the last several years, and was hoping for a smaller version of that. Now, it’s not really fair to compare one free day of training run entirely by volunteers with a multi-day, $1,000+ event put on under the direction of a professional event management company. But there are some parallels.
At this SQLSaturday, there was no opening general session, just coffee and pastries in the common area / expo hallway and straight into the first group of sessions. I don’t know if that was because there was no single room large enough to hold everyone, or for other reasons. This worked out okay, but the organization guy in me would have preferred to have even a 15 minute welcome message from the organizers with a little overview of the day. Even something as simple as, “Thanks to persons X, Y, and Z for helping put this together…Sessions will start in 20 minutes and are all in rooms down this hallway…the bathrooms are on the other side of the conference center…lunch today is pizza and we would like to thank sponsor Q for providing it.” It doesn’t need to be much, certainly not a full-blown Keynote like at the PASS Summit, but something to use as a rallying point to pull everyone together and get the day off to an official start would be nice. Again, there may have been logistical reasons why that was not feasible here. I’m just putting out my thoughts for other SQLSaturday coordinators to consider.
The event overall was great. I believe that there were over 300 in attendance, and everything seemed to run smoothly. At least from an attendee’s point of view where there was plenty of muffins in the morning and pizza in the afternoon, with plenty of pop to drink. And hey, if you’ve got the food and drink covered, a lot of other stuff could go wrong and people will be very forgiving. But as I said, everything appeared to run pretty smoothly, at least until Buck Woody showed up in his Oracle shirt. Other than that, the volunteers did a great job!
I was a little surprised by how few people in my own backyard that I know. It makes sense if you really think about it, given how many companies must be using SQL Server around here. I guess I just got spoiled coming into the PASS Summit with a few contacts that I already knew would be there. Perhaps I have been spending too much time with too few people at the Summits and I need to step out and meet more folks. Of course, it also is different since the Summit is the big national event and a number of the folks I know are spread out across the country, so the Summit is the only time we’re all in the same place at the same time. I did make a few new contacts at SQLSaturday, and bumped into a couple of people that I knew (and a couple others that I only knew from Twitter, and didn’t even realize that they were here in the area).
Other than the sheer entertainment value of Buck Woody’s session, the one that was probably the greatest value for me was a quick introduction to PowerShell. I have not done anything with it yet, but I think it will be a good tool to use to implement my plans for automated database recovery testing. I saw just enough at the session to take away some of the intimidation factor, and I am getting ready to jump in and see what I can put together in the next few weeks. And that right there made the investment worthwhile. So I encourage you, if you have the opportunity to go to a SQLSaturday event near you, go for it!