Month: October 2011

PASS Summit 2011 Top Ten List

After I come back from an event, whether I presented or not, I like to write up a Top Ten List of my experience. These are not necessarily ranked in order of importance; they were all cool. And there were awesome experiences that could not make the list due to limitations of the number Ten.



10. Guidebook App

Mobile phone users (aka anyone with a pulse) were able to use an app called a Guidebook to track the schedule, speakers, exhibitors, etc. This meant that I was able to easily build my own schedule of the sessions I wanted to attend as well as fill out my evaluations online. There were configurable reminders to make sure I didn’t forget something I had put on my schedule. It was also easy to keep track of any updates to the schedule during the event. Especially for a noob like me, this app was awesome.

9. SQLKaraoke

SQLKaraoke is just fun. When you’re not singing, you get to hang out with really cool people. I have a background in Theater and Improvised Comedy, so SQLKaraoke is a total blast for me. Since I’m well…a little different, I actually use SQLKaraoke as a networking tool. I like to make up SQL-related spoofs and even do an impression or two. This time around, I ended up performing The Bangles Eternal Flame as Gilbert Gottfried. Yeah. It was pretty silly. But it ended up being a huge boon in terms of networking. People who I have long followed and respect were introducing themselves to me instead of the other way around. I was “the karaoke guy.” Bottom line: be creative in your networking. Creative use of your strengths can pay off really well for meeting new people.

8. Women In Technology Luncheon – Make Yourself HeardLadiesRoomSign

This was totally a great way to meet girls. <pause>

Seriously though, this is an event really designed to help women continue to gain more traction in the workplace. Things are certainly a lot better than they used to be (my wife just started watching Mad Men), but I think we can all agree that true equality isn’t there yet. I was excited to see there were a LOT of men in there (and not just to meet girls). The wisdom shared by the panel is applicable to everyone. It was just a great experience.


7. Exhibitor Hall

I’m a nerd. I like hardware and software. I like stuff. There was all of that in here. You know the old saying, “run around like a kid in a candy store?” Well, this was more like a mall full of candy stores. Mmmmmmmm.

6. Peoples

A huge part of the Summit is networking. Meeting other people. I met so many awesome SQL professionals from around the world. It was just unreal how friendly people were. First Timers, like myself, were made to feel so welcome. I spent meals, walks (there was a LOT of walking), evenings, some events, just meeting and chatting with great folks. There were too many fantastic people to list.

5. “Preventing the Oh, Poop! Reporting Situation.”

SQL Server MVP Jessica Moss (Blog | Twitter) delivered this session. She demonstrated the out-of-the-box methods that Reporting Services provides for tracking the performance of your reports. This included how to determine that a report returned no rows (CEO’s LOVE that, right?). She also demonstrated a cool meta-report solution (reports about reports) you can use to keep an eye on things. It was cool to see a presentation about Report management to complement the ones about building them.

4. A Little Help From My Friends

My friend, Jes Schultz Borland (Blog | Twitter), gave a session called “Reporting Services 201: From Basic To WOW!” She gave some great tips on report authoring and really explained the Tablix well for anyone that was new to it. She discussed features such as the Tooltip and the NoRows message. These are things that are easily overlooked but can really enhance the user experience when implemented well. Squeeeeee! (translation of “Squee”: Hi, my name is Jes and I presented at the Summit!)

My friend, Doug Lane (Blog | Twitter), gave a session called “Developers Are From Mars, Report Servers Are From Venus.” Mr. Lane gave some valuable tips and tricks on Reporting Services through the lens of a marriage. He included the “mother-in-law always comes along” feature of the extra pages you sometimes get in SSRS and how you can often solve that with the ConsumeContainerWhiteSpace property.


NOTE: This image has nothing to do with this post. But, it’s cool so I put it in anyway.

3. Dr. David DeWitt: “Big Data – What is the Big Deal?”

On Friday, Dr. DeWitt gave his keynote, this time on Big Data. As stated earlier, my background is in Theater and Improvised Comedy. I cannot remember any of my acting classes in involving huge quantities of data. And, never having dealt with VLDBs at all in my career, the concepts related to Big Data were pretty new to me. But here is the thing: I understood this keynote. That surprised me. I expected to get lost pretty quickly. Rather, I was able to follow along due to the excellent way in which Dr. DeWitt explained it. This was not merely a presentation on Big Data, it was also a master class in how to be a great presenter.

2. BISM (BI Semantic Model)

I have done a lot of work with Report Models and enjoy dealing with tools that can enable end users. I am excited to deal with BISM and help people get their own data. Why give people a fish when you can plant a potato? Wait… Yeah. You certainly don’t plant the fish…

1. Power View (Project Crescent)

Along the lines of letting users get their own data is the fabulous Power View (formerly known as Crescent). This thing is friggin cool. That’s totally industry speak, by the way. The idea of Two Clicks To ROI is just a great way to make things easy. Essentially, no feature in Power View is more than two clicks away. It is just so easy to use and gorgeous to behold. I can’t wait to really get in and play with this fabulous tool. Keep in mind that it complements the existing tools; it does not replace any of them.


The PASS Summit was an amazing experience. If you ever get the chance to go, grab onto it with both hands.

Announcing the #SSRSHelp Twitter Hashtag

I think it’s clear to anyone with half an eye open that the #SQLHelp hastag has been, and continues to be, a huge boon to the SQL community. It is a fantastic way to get assistance with SQL Server. If I were a DBA, it would be perfect for me.

I just returned from the PASS Summit in Seattle (my customary Top Ten List post is in the works). While there, I had the great pleasure to have lunch with MVP Stacia Misner (Blog | Twitter) and Erika Bakse (Blog | Twitter) at the Birds of a Feather lunch, an event designed to bring folks with similar SQL Server interests together for food, folks, and fun. We discussed how the #sqlhelp requests related to Reporting Services get lost in the volume of the more DBA related topics.

Well, let’s make this better. Let’s all start using the #SSRSHelp hashtag to mark requests for help on Reporting Services related topics. This will make it easier those of us seeking ways to help the community find people to help. It will also make it a much better experience for those seeking help.

We have several bastions of SSRS awesomeness on board who have already started monitoring #SSRSHelp:

MVP Stacia Misner (Blog | Twitter)
MVP Jessica Moss (Blog | Twitter)
Erika Bakse (Blog | Twitter)
Jes Schultz Borland (Blog | Twitter)
Doug Lane (who perhaps had the idea in the first place) (Blog | Twitter)
Angel Abundez (Blog | Twitter)
Chris Randall (Blog | Twitter)
Mark Vaillancourt (my very own self, whose blog you now read with rapt joy | Twitter)

Please feel free to join in and help spread the word. Also, even if you think you will not be able to help, I encourage you to follow anyway and learn from the questions and answers that will flow through the stream. I learn a lot myself that way.

Please keep in mind that the guidelines for #SSRSHelp usage should match that of #SQLHelp. Most important: it is for asking and answering questions about SQL Server Reporting Services. It is not for trying to sell products or trying to funnel folks to your blog or for trying to get others to pool their money with you in the hopes of helping that Nigerian prince who emailed you the other day.

Before I wrap up, I would like to give a quick preview of my PASS Summit Top Ten List:



This just in: Our first #SSRSHelp win is in the books. Smile