SQL Saturday Minnesota (149) Recap

My customary post-SQL-Event post is a Top Ten List. I have decided that I do not wish to be bound by the limitations of the number Ten. Therefore, from here on out, my plan is to do a more free form recap.

SQL Saturday #149 just took place in Minneapolis, MN, on September 29th. There were also some Pre-cons offered on September 28th. I shall arrange my recap chronologically.

September 28th

I attend the Unlocking Insight – Be a Data Hero pre-con given by Dan English (b|t) and Brian Larson. The content was on the BI stack in SQL Server 2012, with special focus on Tabular Models and Power View. I got a lot out of it and had fun, to boot. Nice work, gents.

I had to miss the Speaker Dinner this time around. But, if you will bear with me, I will imagine some events that may or may not (likely not) have taken place:

Llama1. Jason Horner (b|t) showed up riding a llama he personally befriended while on a hiking trip through the Andes. Her name was Gertrude and her ability to juggle was astounding.

2. Jason Strate (b|t) decided to challenge Gertrude to a game of chess. Fortunately for Jason, Gertrude’s hastily constructed Sicilian Defense was no match for his knights. Well done, Jason.

3. Jes Schultz Borland (b|t) demonstrated that she can actually levitate over a stack of SQL Server books by uttering a very long, high pitched, “SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!” It was truly impressive to behold.





September 29th

I attended the POSH Eye for the BI Guy presentation given by Jason Horner (b|t). It was about using Powershell for managing objects in SSIS, SSRS, and SSAS. Jason showed great agility by doing an impromptu intro to Powershell when he learned that the vast majority of the attendees had never used it. I really enjoyed it and am looking forward to playing with Powershell to do all kinds of cool stuff with the BI tools.

I attend the Design and Implement BI Like Edison session by Bill Pearson (t). He did a great job combining fascinating facts about Thomas Edison with Business Intelligence. It was a lot of fun.

I helped Mike Donnelly (b|t) distribute lunches to the experts in the lunch breakout sessions called “Topics on a Stick,” which is a great reference to the numerous stick-bound foods one can get at the annual Minnesota State Fair. I then hung out at the PASS table with Sarah Strate (b|t) to have my lunch and do my part as a PASS Regional Mentor.

I had the honor of giving my MDX Trek: First Contact presentation. I have a blast with this one. Thanks to all who attended and for the great feedback.

I attended the session called Fast Track to Spatial Reporting by Jason Thomas (b|t). Jason did a great job explaining the use of spatial data with Reporting Services 2008 R2. As someone who has only done basic stuff with maps in SSRS, I found it really helpful.

For the final session of the day, I went to Real-Time Analytics With SSAS Tabular DirectQuery by Paul Doyle (t). It was a really interesting look at the DirectQuery option for the new Tabular models in SSAS 2012. Paul and a colleague demonstrated how to set it up, track it using Profiler, and went over some of the caveats. It was a good session on a new topic for me. Nice work, gents.

The after party was a great time. I hung out with old friends and made some new ones. There was SQLKaraoke, which is always a good time. The SQL Saturday after-parties are just awesome. Spending time with the fine folk of the SQL Community is just awesome.

That pretty much wraps it up. Huge thanks to everyone who worked so hard to make this event the great success that it was. The people who give so much of their time and energy to put on events like SQL Saturday are truly an asset to the SQL Community and deserve way more recognition than they tend to receive.

PASS Regional Mentor–Canada

I had mentioned in my most recent PD post, Professional Development Plans: Turning Your Job Into a Career, Part 2, that I wanted to jump back into SQL Community involvement and let PASS know of my desire to become a PASS Regional Mentor (RM). I was on the Executive Board for the Minnesota chapter of PASS, PASSMN, for three years and had a great time. After taking a few years off, I am ready and anxious to get back into the game. The RM program is a huge asset to both PASS local chapters and the PASS community as a whole. The roles of an RM are, as PASS Community Evangelist Karl Landrum (b|t) noted in her post on the PASS Blog, the following:


I heard from PASS Director Allen Kinsel (b|t) that PASS would like to have me on board as a Regional Mentor. Hazzah!!!! It is now official.

I will be helping Chris Shaw (b|t) with the mighty Canada region. I am really excited to get this opportunity to work with Chris and serve this community I care so much about.

To my Canadian friends:

1. Having grown up in New Hampshire before moving to Minnesota, I have never lived in a US State that did not border Canada.

2. Canada happens to be the only country outside the US to which I have traveled.

3. When I was growing up, my Dad would often watch Les Habitants on the French language channel.

4. I think Mike Myers is hysterical.

5. I studied French in school for 12 years. It was mostly written, though, so my conversational French is pretty poor. But I can tell you all about pencils, pens, dogs, cats, cows, pigs, coats, boys, girls, and colors. Oh, and skirts. I don’t wear them, myself, but I remember how to say it in French. Boats, too.

6. I remember watching the Winter Olympic Games in Calgary, thinking it looked pretty cool. I was only thirteen at the time.

7. My wife and I watched a whole big lot of the Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver and it was just amazing. When I told her that being a Regional Mentor for Canada was a possibility, she immediately told me, “If you end up going to Vancouver, I AM COMING. Period.” 🙂

8. Like The Kids in the Hall, I was in a TheatreSports improvised comedy troupe for three years.

Words can’t really explain how excited I am for this new role. I am constantly telling people about the vibrant, fantastic SQL Community. It’s going to be great to be an ambassador for PASS in a more formal capacity.

SQL Saturday Madison (118) Top Ten List

I have a habit of posting Top Ten Lists after SQL events. I hereby continue said habit. As always, these are not really in any particular order. And also, as always, there were cool things that could not make this list due to limitations of the number Ten. A huge thank you to all the fine humans who worked so hard to make this happen and the sponsors for dropping some coins in the mighty fountain of learning.

Behold, my Top Ten list for the SQL Saturday (SQLSat118) this past weekend in Madison, WI.

10. Carpooling

CarpoolWhen I indicated that I was headed out to SQLSat118, a fellow member of PASSMN messaged me on Twitter to ask if I wanted to carpool. That fine fellow was Mr. Mike Donnelly ( b | t ). I didn’t know Mike much at all. We had just seen each other at PASSMN meetings, and such. It turns out that he didn’t try to sell me to any drug cartels or anything. He is a very cool guy and I had a lot of fun driving with him and hanging out with him in and around the event itself.


9. New Presenter

Mr. Donnelly was giving his first full length presentation at SQLSat118. It was the first session of the day for me, called SSIS: Figuring Out Configuring. He talked about the use of xml configuration files in SSIS 2008 R2 and also discussed some of the new configuration options in SSIS 2012. He also demonstrated how to easily convert a solution from “package deployment” to “project deployment” in SSIS 2012. Mike really did a fine job. I honestly could not tell that he was really new to presenting as he stayed relaxed and had fun with it. Bravo, Mike.

8. SSIS 2012 New Features

Ever since I attended my first SQL Saturday (in Chicago) a few years ago and met Norman Kelm ( b | t ), I have made it a point to attend his SSIS sessions. I find his knowledge of SSIS to be impressive. This time around he discussed new features in SSIS 2012. There was some great discussion in that session, for sure.

7. Minimal Processing For Large Cubes

I attended this session by Ross McNeely ( linkedin ) being a bit of a newbie to SSAS. I am really glad I did. Ross has created a very cool framework that assesses each partition in your cube to determine the what type of processing it needs. Partitions that can be processed using Process Add are done that way. Only partitions that NEED Process Update get that more intense treatment. I haven’t had to deal with any processing headaches yet, but I found his framework to be really flexible and robust. Great session.

6. Performance Monitoring and Tuning in SSAS

I attended this session by mighty Steve Hughes ( b | t ) directly after my own session (which I will get to later). This was a bit of an advanced session, particular with my being pretty new to SSAS. Steve’s relaxed and fun delivery style is always a good time, though. And I didn’t come away empty handed. I learned how to monitor when MDX queries are hitting the cache and when they’re not, letting me know what queries need a little help. But the biggest thing I learned in that session was that I have a lot to learn before I can even begin approach the level of experienced SSAS folks like Steve. But don’t tell him I said that; I’ll never hear the end of it…

5. Data Visualizations in Reporting Services

I spent the last session of the day with MVP Stacia Misner ( b | t ) and Reporting Services. Indicators, Data Bars, and Sparklines, Oh My. Stacia demonstrated the configuration of each of these as well as maps. She also covered some visualization design practices, including what NOT to do. Can you say 3D? I agree totally that 3D visualizations defy the basic tenet of a report: Above All, Show The Data. It’s great to learn from experts like Stacia that I don’t get to see very often.

4. Life is Like a Box Of Chocolates

While hanging out a bit before the speaker dinner on Friday night, the great Erin Stellato ( b | t ) opened up a box of chocolates and offered me one. I immediately popped it into my mouth all in one piece. Apparently, that was a breach of protocol. I learned that you MUST bite the chocolate in half and share info about what kind of chocolate it is. I had never encountered this law of the universe. From now on, whenever I have myself a chocolate, I shall think of Erin (and furtively pop the whole dang thing into my mouth, probably).

3. Coffee

We don’t have Dunkin Donuts here in Minnesota. Having grown up in New England where they are EVERYWHERE, I miss their coffee big-time. On the drive back, Mike and I hit a DD just outside of Madison. So good. (sigh)Dunkin Donuts Coffee

2. SQL People

I have said this before and I will say it again. The people of the SQL community are JUST AWESOME. I spent a lot of time hanging out with really excellent folks. Just sitting around chatting with people I respect and like was just such a great part of the experience. If you find yourself attending a SQL Saturday or other similar event, I IMPLORE you to go introduce yourself to people. You won’t regret it.

1. MDX Trek: First Contact

I have to mention my own session here. I have been overwhelmed with how well-received my MDX Trek: First Contact session was. The comments I received on the evaluations, on Twitter, and face to face, have all been amazingly positive. I worked very hard on preparing that presentation, so the fact that it has had such an impact is just really uplifting. Thanks to everyone who attended.

Upcoming Presentation: PASS DW/BI Virtual Chapter May 9th

I am elated to announce that I will be delivering my MDX Trek: First Contact presentation on May 9th (at 4PM Central Time) to the PASS Data Warehouse and Business Intelligence Virtual Chapter. I have presented to local groups and at SQL Saturdays before (with a few more coming in the next two months) but never for such a geographically diverse audience. I am really excited for this opportunity and hope it will be a great step in establishing myself as a quality presenter in the SQL community.

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

PASSMN July Meeting: Ask The Experts Panel

The annual Ask The Experts panel has arrived for the Minnesota chapter of PASS. I am especially excited for this one since I will have the honor of serving on the panel for the first time. This is really a great milestone for me and fits so well with my goals to have an impact in the community.

Thanks to Superior Consulting for sponsoring this month’s meeting.


8300 Norman Center Drive, 9th Floor, Bloomington, MN  55437


July 19th, 2011


3:00 – 5:00


Please click here for meeting details and to RSVP

Ask the Experts

After the popularity of the past "Ask the Experts" discussions, we decided to bring back the forum for a third straight year. PASS members will have the opportunity to pose any burning questions they might have about SQL Server to our expert panel. We will round things out with a couple tips or tricks about SQL Server from each of our panel experts.  This year’s discussion will be moderated by Jason Strate.

The Panel:

  • Lara Rubbelke, Microsoft
  • Dan English, Superior Consulting Services
  • Mark Vaillancourt, Digineer
  • Bill Preachuk, Emergent Networks
  • Zach Mattson, Patterson Companies