The Sun isn’t shining for the Solstice

So today I was surprised (slightly) to pick up a tweet by the excellent Grant Fritchey (blog|twitter) regarding the fact that SQL Solstice had been cancelled due to a lack of interest. I say that I was only slightly surprised for a few reasons. The first is that the event was a new initiative and just by that very fact, was never going to be a certainty. Secondly, the United States is no stranger to SQL events. Not only do they host the largest SQL Server convention in the world (SQL PASS Summit), but have also a new initiative called SQLRally, in which I was lucky enough to speak at the inaugural event in Orlando this May just past. I believe the intention for SQLRally is for it to rotate bi-yearly between the States and Europe and the success of SQLRally Nordic will (I believe) be the making or death of that initiative. I personally believe SQLRally is work in progress and will become a great success over time.

Lets also not forget the SQL Server Connections event in Las Vegas, which could give you some of the “feel” of the SQL PASS Summit, but also allows you to enjoy a holiday in the process. Sounds great in practice, and at some point I shall see for myself whether it really is worth attending. I have had mixed opinions so far from a bunch of people.

I am (of course) also missing out one of the most popular type of events in the States, and if you are an American DBA then you will be no stranger to the SQL Saturday events, which are as I understand it free to attend. I first heard about the success of these SQL Saturday events prior to the SQL 2010 PASS Summit and whilst listening to Pam Shaw (blog|twitter) talk about them, I sat there with great interest. The SQL Saturday events are popular due to their cost and “user group” feel and it is pretty obvious that they are filling a gap in the market.

Welcome to …

I therefore believe that a third reason for the failure of SQL Solstice is that their literature failed to explain its position in the market very well (in my humble opinion). They promoted themselves as using the “SQLBits style model”, but as I saw it, it failed to *really* explain exactly what they believe that model is and why that model is good for the American market place. Let me just say that one of the biggest reasons that SQLBits is a roaring success is the fact there is nothing quite like it anywhere in the U.K (or even Europe). It has evolved over time from a smallish event to a now more mature and larger event to meet the market demand and requirements; additionally the SQLBits committee are not afraid to try new things. So to market something as a “SQLBits style model” is and was a little odd to me and I wanted to know what they thought this was. Had the organisers even attended any of the recent SQLBits events?

The location of an event is also very important, especially for any overseas attendees, and I wonder about the reasons for hosting the event in Raleigh. I don’t personally know anything about Raleigh and had not heard anything about it, however I was able to do a web search and have a look at the street level via Google Maps. I remember thinking at the time that the street level pictures reminded me of all those episodes of ‘The Wire’ that I had wasted far too much time watching. This view might be grossly unfair to Raleigh, but it was a first impression and those are what usually count. I also failed to dig up any information that made me *want* to go to Raleigh. Comparing this to Seattle, Orlando, Las Vegas or even the new home of the SQL Pass Summit in a few years (Charlotte), these Cities instantly have a lot to offer for the first time visitor.

A final reason that I believe that this event has failed (this time at least) is that I was never really convinced of the reasons why it was being held in the first place and I needed to know. Pure opportunism and profiteering or somebody trying to fill a demand and is passionate about what they are doing? I am sure the organisers will definitely argue the latter, but I certainly did not see any evidence of this and was not convinced.
When I first heard about it I tweeted the following to one of the organisers (Jimmy Dixon)

and the reply?….

I was at very least expecting a response promoting the event in some way shape or form, but I got a big fat zero. If they couldn’t be bothered then neither could I, and when a response for more information of this nature failed to materialise on their website I decided to not only forget submitting potential sessions but also to avoid wasting any time or money attending as a trainee either. Was this an oversight or a lack of passion? I can only judge on the literature in front of me, and to be frank …I didn’t have much available.

I really hope that SQL Solstice or any of the possible contenders do actually succeed and wish the organisers well since competition is a good thing, but hope that next time around more thought goes into the reasons why the event is happening in the first place.

Coincidently (and ironically) SQL Server Magazine published the following article a few days ago:- What Is the Future of the Paid SQL Server Conference Model?

Can SQL Solstice succeed sometime in the future? Only time will tell, but this is not a good start.

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3 Responses to The Sun isn’t shining for the Solstice

  1. Wes Brown says:

    Yeah, I was wondering if this was a “SQLBits” event in the U.S. I’m guessing not šŸ™‚

  2. I don’t think it was the location. If we can draw 200 folks and run 6 tracks of content for a SQL Saturday in Columbia, SC, they can draw the numbers to Raleigh. I think the key is the advertising, positioning, and communicating clearly what they were. A lot of our attendees were really unfamiliar with PASS, and had heard about SQL Saturday Columbia via word of mouth. So when you say, “SQL Bits,” that’s meaningless to them. I’ll try and catch up with those guys shortly.

    • retracement says:

      Whilst location was probably not the biggest issue for its failure, I certainly believe that it might have contributed. One of the reasons in the UK for the growing popularity of SQLBits is the fact that locations are chosen that people would like to visit. For instance SQLBits 7 was in York (a lovely historic City), SQLBits 8 was in Brighton (sunny seaside resort) and SQLBits 9 is in Liverpool (needs no introduction). So for any event purporting to be “SQLBits Style” they have missed one of it’s novelties. It is also important to note that SQLBits draws lots of technical experts and novices from all over Europe and the location to them is most definately impportant (as it would be for me flying over to a less glamourous part of the States).

      You are right though; advertising, positioning and communicating were the main reasons for the lack of interest and hopefully SQL Solstice Mk II can re-dress these problems. Hopefully we can pull together to make it happen.

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