Category Archives: SQL PASS Summit

Holy Blocking Chains, Batman – I’m Speaking at PASS Summit!

For the first time ever I will doing a general session at PASS Summit this year.

Waiting for an email with news one way or the other last week was angst ridden, to say the least. After receiving no notification with the first wave on Tuesday, I got even more anxious and tried to occupy myself with work and other things. I didn’t want to get excited over something that wasn’t even a thing yet.

Then late Friday – acceptance.

Yeah, that’s right. ME!

It didn’t sink in right away. I had myself so convinced I wasn’t going to get selected. Maybe my head and heart were still bracing for the disappointment that was not to happen. Why would I be thinking this way? This is the third time I have submitted and the first time I have had a general session accepted. I did have the opportunity of doing a lightning talk last year. I also got to compete in Speaker Idol, which was an amazing and valuable experience that is only available to those that have not done a general session before. More on this later.

The first year I submitted I had been writing abstracts the same way I normally did for SQL Saturday events, not knowing there was more involved for a PASS Summit abstract. I logged in and was about to fill out everything for each of my sessions when I saw all these fields to fill out that I didn’t know about. I quickly got things written for them, along with my main abstracts, and submitted.

But I didn’t get selected.

The next year PASS offered a program for feedback on Summit abstracts. I thought “Yes, this is great! I will write my abstracts, get feedback, and I will be speaking at Summit this year!”

But I didn’t get selected for a general session.

Both times I was disappointed. Both times I did a fair amount of sulking and grumbling, but I am only human. In these cases, my best was beat out by others that were better. Kind of a hard pill to swallow, but I think these challenges are what make us who we are – IT professionals that are constantly striving to improve our own skills while creating content that will convey knowledge and better the SQL Server community.

Last year however, I was selected for a lightning talk and I finally got to participate in Speaker Idol. Doing my lightning talk on How to Keep Your DBA from KILLING YOU was fun and a great experience.

Speaker Idol? Wow…how do I put this? If you are a new speaker, and have not spoken at PASS Summit before (general session or better), throw your name in the hat for this! If selected, you will have the opportunity to get up and present something in five minutes, and get immediate feedback from a panel of judges, who also happen to be well known and experienced speakers in the SQL community. When this was first done in 2014, I heard about the brutality of the first round, so I made sure I was there for the subsequent rounds. Your audience for this? Mostly speakers or aspiring speakers. Don’t be surprised if the final round is standing room only. Or if there are acrobatics (lookin’ at you, Rob).

Moving on to 2017…

Earlier this year it was announced that the Summit selection process was changing yet again. There would be no feedback to speakers and you were also limited to submitting three sessions. There was also a list of topics, with some marked as “hot topics” or topics that PASS really wanted content on. It was also stated that they wanted new content. That session you had been peddling to every SQL Saturday that would have you? Not new content.

I took all this info and combined it with a ramped-up abstract writing and review process. What is ramped-up? Reading the sessions that were selected last year, and having a reviewer that is a seasoned PASS Summit speaker. It also helped that my reviewer was super critical. Once it was announced that submissions were being accepted I logged in and grabbed all the sections that I would need to fill out and got started on my abstracts, outlining details before writing anything. There was even one session I outlined while on a plane, that I looked at later to write up and decided it was COMPLETE GARBAGE…AND WHAT WAS I THINKING???

What did I learn from the PASS Summit submission and selection process this year?

  • Review, review, review. Write them early, review, come back later and review again. Have other experienced PASS Summit speakers review your abstracts. Don’t like their feedback or think they are being mean? Ummmm….they are trying to help you get your abstract to a level that is worthy of PASS Summit. LISTEN TO THEM!!! And buy them a beer.
  • Nothing is guaranteed. In a previous blog post I told y’all how to pull all the submitted session into a table and even gave you some PowerShell code to do it. I was able to compare that to the list of speakers selected and there were some amazing people that have spoken and PASS Summit before that didn’t make the cut this year. Sessions are reviewed and selected by human beings. This is a gamble, and regardless of how good of an abstract you have, you are at the mercy of the session review committee and what they feel is good enough for Summit. This is a monumental task, but they hunker down and get it done so that all of us can have an amazing selection of sessions to pick from.

I hope I get to see everyone at PASS Summit this year, whether or not they are speaking. Out of the conferences that I have been to over the years, I have found PASS Summit to not only be the best of them, but it was where I discovered that the #SQLFamily thing is real. If you are open to it, you can get hooked into groups that will welcome you and include you all because you are there for the same reason they are – to expand your knowledge and career in the area of SQL Server.

See y’all in October!

(UPDATED) PASS Summit 2017 Session Data (You know you want it…so go get it!)

UPDATE #1 –
The following changes were made to the PowerShell script for the PASS Summit 2017 session scrape:

  • Abstract field is now varchar(max). ‘Cause precons get all the chars.
  • Added SubmittedSession column.
  • Upper bound increased to include precons.

UPDATE #2 –
Before I could get update #1 posted, it appeared all the general sessions and lightning talks were removed from the submissions page and replaced with submitted precons. Don’t fret – the PowerShell script will still grab all the submitted sessions (for now). There were also some more precons added so the upper bound has been changed yet again.

 

The deadline for PASS Summit submissions came and went. Either you got yours in or you didn’t. What does this mean? Time to gather the data.

Go get it! You know you want to!

Never having done a web scrape before, this was the perfect subject for my first time – grabbing all the sessions submitted to PASS Summit 2017…and doing it with PowerShell! Here is the script I used for this. I have accounted for the following:

  • Apostrophes (aka single quote). They will break your insert unless you have two of them, and for some reason, people seem to use them all over the place.
  • Formatting the string data for insert. No, your data will not magically come out right in your insert with single quotes so you need to add them.
  • Additional ID and deleted fields.
  • Speaker URL and ID. Will be using this to scrape speaker details later.
  • Accurate lower and upper bounds. These were arrived at by trial and error (you’re welcome), as well as the clean up of the data I scraped. More on this later.

Now for the code –

 

There will also be some webids that error out – this means the session doesn’t exist for that specified webid. You will see an error in the output to the PowerShell window, but the script will keep running.

Once you run the script and it completes, you will have your table of session data. You will notice that there are more sessions there than have been submitted, according to the website. If you do a count of the sessions by speaker you will also find that there are more than three sessions (the maximum allowed) for quite a few speakers. Why is this? You are pulling from a data source that contains sessions other than the ones that were submitted to Summit (apparently). This means you will have to clean up the data РI included the deleted field for this purpose. Look at the duration and filter for the 75 minute and 10 minute sessions and update your deleted field accordingly.

After this, you will have sessions that meet the duration, but you will find the speaker is not listed on the submission site when doing an advanced search. Clean the data some more.

Are you done cleansing your data yet? You might think so, but you aren’t. You see sessions that look like they were submitted for Summit but are not on the site. These appear to be sessions that were created and saved, but not officially submitted. You can rule out quite a few of these if you look for speakers that have more than three sessions. Get those counts, check the website for those speakers, and clean your data.

“Good lord, am I done yet?”

No. No you’re not.

There will be speakers that have three sessions in your table but only submitted one or two. This sounds worse than it is, but it is a little painful. How do you do this? You’re going to search the speakers with the advanced search on the website. Do these in groups based on the number of sessions a speaker has, ordering by speaker name. You can exclude the the speakers you have already reviewed in the previous clean-up steps, deleting their names from your list as you go. When you find a speaker with three sessions in your list and fewer sessions submitted, mark the session that was not submitted as deleted. Next, do the speakers with two sessions as they may have only submitted one. Finally, look at the speakers with one session as there may be ones that didn’t officially submit anything.

“But what about the code for the clean-up?”

No. You know how to do this, and may write it differently (and better) than me. My code was ugly and I don’t feel like cleaning it up and posting it here. I gave you the script to grab it all. Stop complaining or I will send you to time-out.

The speaker info grab will be a separate blog post. With the script in this post you might be able to use the syntax and craft your own PowerShell script for this. Or you could wait for my blog on it.

Yeah…I haz the datas!

My First Time Submitting to SQL PASS Summit – Part 1

I have now officially submitted to SQL PASS Summit 2015. Five sessions. All me (well, and a few others on the panel I submitted). The hard part is over…but how did this all happen?

My story starts back in the year 2013. My first time to attend a SQL PASS Summit. It was in Charlotte, NC. I didn’t know these were normally in Seattle. It didn’t really seem to matter too much either. I was a first timer. And they labeled me as such.

first_timer_2013

I didn’t mind. I knew I was a newb. I embraced it. I signed up for and watched the webinar for first timers put on by Denny Cherry. I also got a first timer buddy (aka Someone I can follow around like a puppy until I am comfortable enough and have found other suitable, like minded, people that will welcome me and allow me to accompany them to places that sell beer).

I met so many new people while at Summit that year and out of all the conferences I had been to in the past, this was by far the best experience I had ever had. One this that happened numerous times when talking to people was hearing the words “Have you thought about presenting?” I’m all “Wow…these people are nice…and encouraging…wait…presenting? Say what?”

Did they need fresh meat? A new crop of willing yet unsuspecting folks to throw their hat in the ring, to hopefully be selected, and dive head first off that cliff into something that might become an obsession that would challenge them in ways they had never thought of before? Maybe. Maybe they did. Maybe it was a little cultish. Well, pass the kool-aid.

I came home and gave it some thought. I really wanted to do this but did not know where to start. I felt like I had stuff to say. Stories to tell. Experiences to share. But where to start? I decided I would do a panel. I rounded up some experienced speakers for a particular SQL Saturday, created my session and submitted it. That was the easy part. I then decided we would have weekly internet video chats so that everyone could get acquainted, and I could get their take on how they saw the panel going. They were also able to provide me much needed guidance with my slide deck (something else I had never done before) and how the session needed structure. I took all this in and did my slides accordingly.

The time finally came for the SQL Saturday event and my panel session. I made the trip out there and met up with everyone. I attended my very first speaker dinner. I could not believe I was there and in the same room with some of the brightest and well known minds in the SQL community. This was it – my first taste of what would consume that entire year.

The panel went well. My fellow panelists and other patted me on the back for a job well done. Feedback was good. I was elated. I was hooked. I thought I was ready to handle what was up next – my first solo session. Just me and my slides. Another SQL Saturday. Another city.

To be continued…