Memoirs of SQLSaturday #162 Part I: Pre-Cons

Days have passed since we closed the first ever SQLSaturday to hit the shores of the UK and I write with an element of sadness that it is over, relief that my time can start to be more of my own again for other projects, and optimism of what may come.

When I first set out on the path of recording what I view as very much a mixture of personal and technical journal in the pages of this blog (and hopefully at times a good resource for others), I always intended to write at least one post per month. I always viewed it as a cardinal sin to let things slip, but unfortunately I truly underestimated the enormity of the work involved in planning, implementing and executing a major IT event. Now it is almost over (there are still many small administrative issues to complete) I think it is fair to say that Team SQLSaturday #162 Cambridge are able to take a deep breath and be proud of what we did.

Buck Woody giving some sage career advice

In my last post “Change and make a difference”  I told my story of how I first had the idea of bringing SQLSaturday’s to the UK -which could so easily have been missed had I not made the effort to improve my social self and turn up to one single social evening at the PASS Summit in 2010. It demonstrates if anything ever could, that through the help and knowledge of others we can do beautiful things.

In this post I really want to start to review and celebrate the two days of this momentous event and we shall first begin by looking at the fantastic pre-cons on the Friday. I believed that if we were going to host a Friday training day as a pre cursor to the main Saturday community day, it was important to get some very talented people to present them.

We were first fortunate enough to land the services of one of the most well known and highly respected Microsoft employees -a certain Mr. Buck Woody (blog|twitter). After a lot of discussion with Buck about which pre-con to choose (yes he has several!) we decided to go with a rather fun idea and called it “Buck Woody’s Ragtime DBA Workshop”. I wanted this to be aimed not just at novice SQL Server DBAs, but wished to corner the market for Developers and Oracle DBAs who want to learn more SQL and perhaps even to help more experienced SQL DBAs. This really was a tall order to fill since we were trying to span a very wide audience skill range, but if anyone could manage it, Buck could.

My next choice for a pre-con was a very clever speaker from Denmark called Mark Rasmussen (blog|twitter) who has reverse engineered the SQL Server Storage format for a SQL Server MDF File Parser called OrcaMDF -it can read and query the data files without SQL Server! I have been privileged to get to know Mark quite well over the last 12 months or more having spent a lot of time with him at SQLBits and SQLPASS and knew from the very beginning of pre-con planning that he was someone I wanted to present. Whilst the topic is quite specialised and knew the market for the material was perhaps smaller than other more “in demand” mainstream subjects, it was really due to my desire to sit in his pre-con (having already missed at least one opportunity to do so) and interest in the subject matter, that convinced me. If I wanted to attend, there would be many others -and that proved to be the case.

My final choice for a pre-con session is someone who has rapidly gained a very high reputation for her Data Visualisation knowledge and DataViz tool expertise. I am of course talking about Jen Stirrup (blog|twitter) -a friend I have known for a good few years. Having sat in many presentations she has given before, I have always been impressed by her ability to quote both popular and less popular authors on a vast range of subjects loosely related to DataViz and am never disappointed by what I see. This selection really wasn’t a difficult choice and provided a unique alternative to the other two offerings.

The feel of SQLSaturday #162 was always aimed at being very much an inclusive community affair and I was very happy that all pre-con speakers told me from the start that being part of the event was the most important thing.

Marco was sad he missed the Pre-Cons

One the day itself, I had a few minor hiccups with the venue, which with the help of two of our team and like me, fellow pre-con registrants John Martin (blog|twitter) and Mark Pryce-Maher (blog|twitter) we resolved these problems very quickly before people started attending. I think without John and Mark we would have struggled and I was very grateful to them for getting so involved when they had also paid to attend the sessions. I was also disappointed and surprised that we had three people who did not turn up to the pre-cons having fully paid up. I did not receive any advance notification, and strangely enough have still not received any word of what happened -but it introduced a problem in that I felt someone needed to wait on the registration desk for several hours to make sure that they were not coming. That person obviously had to be me (missing a large part of Mark’s session). I also needed to oversee a few minor administrative issues during the afternoon and I had to miss the last part of his pre-con. Whilst that was personally disappointing, it was probably no big surprise.

On the whole, the day went really well and everybody that spoke to me were very pleased with the Friday pre-cons and personally thanked us for putting them on.

In the next post of this series I will talk about the successful SQLSaturday #162 speaker dinner…

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9 Responses to Memoirs of SQLSaturday #162 Part I: Pre-Cons

  1. Pavan says:

    What about the snaps from Mark and Jen’ sessions?

    • retracement says:

      I missed taking a snap from Mark’s so I was waiting for a picture to surface before publishing those (and will probably do that on the facebook page). 99% sure one was taken -if you have one, feel free to send it on.

  2. vittorio says:

    it was a great day with lots of data professioals. upload more photos pleaaaase! ciao

  3. robin says:

    I missed the Pre-Con due to work but attended on Saturday. Buck Woody’s keynote was superb as was the opportunity to meet some vendors. A great day and hopefully more UK SQLSaturdays will be organised. The demand is definitely there.

    • retracement says:

      Hi Robin, sorry to hear you missed the pre-cons but glad you made Saturday and enjoyed it! One question… are you the person that I saw punting on the Sunday whilst struggling myself with the Portuguese Speakers? I’ve seen your photo and you look like the chap I saw.

      • Robin says:

        Ah yes… um… that was me and my fiance. She managed to punt us into a tree whilst I managed to punt into others and cause general mayhem. We got as far as the first bridge and back – about a 200ft round trip in one hour!
        (@robinsasson)

      • retracement says:

        haha yeah well the Portuguese guys were totally useless too, and I wasn’t much better. Next time I will hire someone to do the donkey work!

  4. Pingback: Memoirs of SQLSaturday #162 Part II: Speaker Dinner | tenbulls.co.uk

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