SQL Saturday Cleveland 2018: Feedback Stack

My congratulations to the team of SQL Saturday Cleveland, for an outstanding event in 2018. You all put on a consistently well-run event, and I’m proud to be a part of it. I’m looking forward to submitting again in 2019. :-)

I wanted to make a post regarding the feedback I received from my session. I had somewhere between 30 – 40 people in my room, and the engagement was great. Thanks to everyone who came up to talk to me after my session. 19 feedback forms were received from the attendees.  Of those, 14 of which were all positive, for which I thank you very much. It’s good to know that what I’m providing is something people will find useful.

I’m also extremely grateful for the 4 negative feedback forms I received. I want to take a moment to address those specifically. Here were the negative comments I received under the category, “What could the speaker do differently to improve?”

“Slow down a little.” – Yep. I am in complete agreement with you on this one. I have a tendency to talk quickly when I get excited about something, or simply have had too much caffeine. Valid feedback, and duly noted. I will work on this.

“Make slides + scripts available before class begins.” – This is a hard one for me, because I have a tendency to modify the slides and scripts due to feedback I receive during the session. If someone points something out during the session that would require a correction on my part. I want to do that before posting the material. Making the materials available beforehand defeats that purpose. I could always issue an update, sure, but I’m not confident most people would bother downloading it. I am open to suggestions on this.

“More focus on diagnosis, remove inclusive vs. exclusive section, typo on DMV slide “individual””.  – Thanks for all that!  You’ll be happy to know that the typo was fixed before the materials were uploaded, so the available slides are correct. I’d be interested to hear more about why you think I should remove the inclusive vs. exclusive filter section, though. Lucky for me, you were kind enough to let me know who you are, so I will reach out to you individually. :-)

Here’s a comment from the “Did you learn what you expected to learn?” question: “No. Way over my head, was expecting use of EX.Events GUI.”  I’m sorry you didn’t get what you expected out of my session. However, I did explain my reasons for avoiding the GUI. You won’t be able to use any of the automation tactics or scrips I showed with the GUI. I’m not against using the GUI, but I choose not to so that I can save my scripts and automate them. I would suggest playing around with the demo scripts a bit to see if they make sense, and if not – contact me. I’ll see if I can help you out.

Astute readers, I am sure, will note that 14 positive and 4 negative feedback forms does not add up to 19 total. I have one last comment to post, from my favorite feedback form I received, and I think you’ll agree this one defies categorization. I love it.

What could the speaker do differently to improve? “Expand the universal constant governing relative time, and do a 4-day seminar in 45 minutes.”

I’m pretty sure I have a PowerShell script for that. :-)

Thanks for reading.


Speaking at SQL Saturday Kansas City

Whew… where does the time go? Well, if you’re me it goes into helping all the people that spent money on projects earlier this year to finally implement everything over the last few months. To say that work has been busy would be a gross understatement of the recent Sisyphean nature of my job.

There. That should be enough literary references for now.

Anyway. Just a quick note that I’ve updated my speaking schedule. I’ll be in Kansas City this weekend for SQL Saturday #444. Seriously, #300, #444… KC gets the cool numbers. Wait – I wonder who had SQL Saturday 007… :-)

I hope to see you there.  More posts coming soon. Promise.


SQL Saturday Rochester Recap and Speaker Feedback

Rochester, you all are so, so kind… :-)

First things first: Big thanks to Matt Slocum, Andy Levy and their entire crew, the sponsors, the speakers, the volunteers, everyone who put together such a fun event. SQL Saturday Rochester was a great time.

I started my day off in Colleen Morrow’s session: “So You Want To Be A DBA?” It’s a question I’ve posed to quite a few people recently, as I’ve been approached by multiple people interested in the career track. I always kind of struggle to describe what I do and what makes a good DBA. Colleen doesn’t struggle with this at all. She did a great job, presenting all the main points, pains and proclivities of a DBA, and even had a fun quiz in her session. The quiz showed the background of several well known people in the community and the attendees were asked to match the person to the bio. I was a bit surprised at a couple of them, which was very cool.

Next up, I went to Adam Belebczuk’s session, “XML Without Xanax.” My knowledge of XML is sorely lacking. (Read, just enough to pass an exam.) So, I was desperate for some help and better insight into how SQL stores and actually works with XML. Adam didn’t disappoint. One of the really good takeaways I got from this session was the idea of using an XSD schema definition as a sort of column constraint, where XML is being stored. Something I’m definitely going to have to look into.

After a break to make sure my laptop was charged, I stopped by David Klee’s session, which was called “My Brain Has Blue Screened.” Rather than deep technical content, this was a bunch of DBAs and the like, gathered around swapping war / horror stories. Many of which had me cringing. Excellent idea for a session, and something we may have to do at SQL Saturday Columbus this year, if he’s willing. (Hint, hint…)

After a very tasty lunch, I stopped in to see Kendal Van Dyke set up a SAN-less cluster with SIOS’ Data Keeper product. This wasn’t something I had seen before in the wild and it was certainly interesting. We’ve been kind of trying to move away from failover cluster instance at work in favor of Availability Groups. I’ll have to check this out to see if it may be a better fit for us.

I skipped the next session to re-run the demos for my own two sessions in the afternoon. Good thing I did so. I made a few final adjustments to one of my demos and was ready to rock. My first session, “The Usual SUSPECTs”, which deals with database states, went off without a hitch. “DBA 911 – Database Corruption” went pretty much as it usually does. I was able to get through both sessions without modifying too much, though I did gloss over a couple of things due to the time limit. I was trying very hard to make sure the attendees were able to get to the raffle on time at the end of the day, since you do have to be present to win.

I don’t have much in the way of speaker feedback this time, since the feedback I received was universally positive across the board. The attendees must have been very kind people. For the Usual SUSPECTs session, I did get a pair of really great comments under the heading “How will you use the information you learned here?”

“Not sure if I will, but good to know.” – Trust me, one day, you will. :-)

“Test at office on production. No, just kidding!” – If you do, let me know. I could use the consulting work…

And from the DBA 911 session:

How will you use the information you learned here? “Test Backups”.

My work here is done. See you in Philadelphia? :-)

Thanks for reading.


Quick Speaking Event Roundup

Wow… so much on the radar right now.

This Saturday, I’ll be speaking at SQL Saturday Rochester. I’ll be giving two sessions. First, The Usual SUSPECTs which covers some of the states that a database can be in other than “online”. Second, DBA 911 – Database Corruption, which covers on-disk data corruption and repair techniques. I’m really looking forward to it, and hope to see many of you there.

Next month on June 6th, I’ll be speaking at SQL Saturday Philadelphia, giving my DBA 911 – Database Corruption session. That session has certainly been popular. I think I’ve presented it about a dozen times. :-) Both Rochester and Philadelphia are new cities for me, and I’m really looking forward to enjoying my visits.

I’m also excited to say that I’ve been selected to speak for this summer’s 24 Hours of Pass. This is a great event, and the lineup of speakers is awesome. I’m grateful to be included in such a group. I’ll be presenting my latest session, Turbo-Charged Transaction Logs, on transaction log internals and performance. I encourage you to register, and look forward to ‘seeing’ you there.

Last, but most definitely not least, SQL Saturday Columbus is coming up on July 11. We just extended the speaker submission deadline through the weekend for those of you who still have to submit sessions. Please do so; we’d love to hear what you have to say.

Thanks for reading, and I hope to catch up with you at one of these events, or another.


Why you should speak or volunteer at SQL Saturday Columbus.

“Hi. My name is David, and I’m a SQL Saturday addict.”

“Hi, David…”

If you’ve been following my posts, you’ll no doubt have noticed I’ve spent a good bit of time on talking about SQL Saturdays on here recently. SQL Saturday is a big deal for me. No – scratch that – it’s an all caps BIG DEAL. Why? If for no other reason then it’s the number one thing that has contributed to my career over the last five years.

Let’s break that down, shall we?

1. People. This is the number one reason to attend a SQL Saturday, period. The people you will find at these events are amazing. Not only have I made many valuable professional contacts, I have made some life-long friends as well. At how many professional events can you say that? Also, consider this: How many times in your life can you remember being in a room with a couple dozen people, and being able to explain what you do in five words or less… and everyone *gets it*.  Rare, right? Not at SQL Saturday. Here, you are one of us.

2. Knowledge. Tons of it. Everywhere. Not just in the session rooms, either. Conversations in the hall, during breakfast or lunch, even after the event… There’s a ton of knowledge being shared on just about any aspect of SQL Server that you can think of. The learning opportunities are limitless. I’ve learned more than I thought I would just by talking to people outside of the sessions. That issue you’ve been dealing with at work and can’t seem to find a good solution to? There’s a good chance the person sitting next to you has seen that as well. Maybe you should ask them about it?

3. Community. This could easily have fallen under ‘people’ but I wanted to give it its own separate space. A community is much, much more than just a collection of people. Remember that the people who put on this event are volunteers. This includes the speakers. They don’t get paid for putting on these events, they simply do it because they love it. And when I say they love ‘it’ I don’t mean SQL Server, but the community of professionals that make it better, faster, more powerful, and more valuable to the businesses and organizations that use it. Giving back to that community is kind of like a feedback loop. The more we put into it, the more we get out of it, and the better it gets.

That brings me to the point of this post. I want you – yes YOU – to consider submitting a session for SQL Saturday Columbus. Speaker selection is open until May 15. Have you given talks at work, or maybe for a local user group? Perfect – you’d be an excellent candidate. Need help with the submission process or coming up with your abstract? No problem – contact me via my contact page and I’ll help you out!

And if you’re not interested in speaking, then maybe volunteering is for you. We’ve got all kinds of things that need to be set up, taken down, monitored, moved, and generally managed the day of the event. We need all kinds of people to do it, as well. Volunteers are what make these events run, and make the community great. If you would like to volunteer, you can sign up on the SQL Saturday site, or simply contact me.

I hope to see you there.

Thanks for reading.



SQL Saturday Madison – Recap and Speaker Feedback

First things first: THANK YOU to the organizers, volunteers, speakers and sponsors for putting on yet another amazing SQL Saturday in Madison WI. I had a fantastic time, as I expected. Well done all around.

I attended some excellent sessions that day. I particularly want to call out Andy Yun (B | T) for an excellent session on SQL Server Data Types. I got a couple of ideas from attending his session that I want to add to my own presentation. Andy did a great job illustrating the advantages of selecting the right data types for the data you have, and more importantly, what you want to do with it. I was even able to use some of his points in discussions at work already.

One of the things I really like is the feedback I get from my sessions. I’m consistently surprised how many people show up to my sessions in the first place. This time, I got some fantastic feedback this time, from some obviously experienced people. I’m going to condense and respond to some of that here.

“Work on not talking to the monitor during demos.”  Yeah, I have a problem with this. Will do!

“Explain named transactions more.” Got it. I think I mention naming a transaction in passing, but I don’t really explain what a named transaction is. I’ll add a bit about that.

“Do ‘Who Am I?’ first. Disjointed transition between goals and self.”  Good point. Thanks!

“Explain how log backups affect the tran log and the difference between simple and full recovery models.” Ok, time for me to confess something. For some reason I don’t remember, I thought this was supposed to be a 60 minute session instead of a 75 minute session. So I had cut a couple things out, and one of them happened to be an explanation of log behavior in the various recovery modes. I should have had that handy and put it back in. I will be adding it back to the session soon.

“Add some visual drawings in the slides explaining VLF reuse and the circular use of the transaction log.” Yep – this was another thing I cut for time. Also, I wasn’t happy with how my initial iteration of that came out, and planned to re-do it anyway. Plus, I thought it made more sense the way it looked in the demo. So yes, this will be back.

“Light green font was hard to read from the back.” I changed color schemes on this presentation about six times. Apparently, I didn’t pick a good one. :-)  I’ve already planned on changing that, as well.

So thanks to everyone who provided feedback to me. I really do take it seriously and consider it very valuable. Presentation materials are available on my resources page, linked at the top.

That’s that! See you in Rochester? :-)

Thanks for reading.


SQL Saturday Roundup – April 2015 Edition

This year is picking up nicely for events for me. After thoroughly enjoying SQL Saturday Nashville in January, and SQL Saturday Cleveland in February, I’m really looking forward to my next few SQL-related trips. I’ve updated my schedule page accordingly, but wanted to call out the next couple of events I’m going to be at. If anyone in those areas, or travelling to them for the events, wants to get together and chat, please let me know.

April 11 – SQL Saturday – Madison WI

I’ll be heading to SQL Saturday Madison for the second year in a row, and I’m very excited for a couple of reasons. First, I’ll be presenting my brand new session, “Turbo-Charged Transaction Logs“. In that session, we’ll dig a little bit into the transaction log internals, show how SQL logs what it does, and some ways to make the logging process faster.  Second, and more importantly, I’m looking forward to spending time learning and relaxing with the fantastic people of the Madison SQL Server community. You’ve got a good crew up there, folks. Looking forward to seeing you all.

May 4 – 8: SQL Skills IE:PTO2 – Chicago IL

OK. This isn’t a SQL Saturday event, but I will be travelling to Chicago for a week to get schooled on SQL Server performance by one of the best companies in the business, SQL Skills. At some point, my brain is going to need a break so if you’re in the Chicago area and want to catch up, or just chat about SQL Server, drop me a line. I should have an evening or two free. :-)

May 16 – SQL Saturday – Rochester NY

This will be my first time speaking for SQL Saturday Rochester, and I’m stoked. The schedule hasn’t been finalized, but the approximate schedule is up, and if it sticks, I’ll be doing two sessions on disaster recovery, back to back. A whole afternoon block of breaking and fixing. Sounds like fun!

One session I’ll be presenting is: “The Usual SUSPECTs: When Good Databases Go Bad“.  This session is all about database states. The good, the bad, and the ugly, as it were. In addition to talking about things like moving OFFLINE database files and rolling a database forward through its transactions using a STANDBY restore, we’ll look at what happens when a SAN failure puts a database in to RECOVERY_PENDING, or when a disk crash lands you into SUSPECT mode. I’ll show you how to recover from those states in a safe way.

The other session I’ll be doing is “DBA 911 – Database Corruption“. In that session, we’ll look at the basic definitions and terms of database corruption and repair. We’ll talk about some of the different kinds of corruption, how to look for and troubleshoot corruption issues, and when it’s best to repair vs. restore. As in all things Disaster Recovery – preparation is key, so we’ll also cover steps you can take to ready yourself for a corruption problem. (Hint: have you hugged your backups today?)

Thanks for reading, and I hope to see you at one of these events.


Speaking at SQL Saturday Cleveland (#SQLSat241)

I am delighted to be speaking at SQL Saturday Cleveland on Saturday, February 8th 2014.  My ever-popular (read: the one that keeps getting picked) presentation on database corruption, DBA 911, will be the topic, and I’m really looking forward to the lively discussion it usually sparks. Turns out people really do care a lot about being able to handle corruption issues. Who knew?

I hope to see you there.  If you haven’t registered yet, please do so at: http://www.sqlsaturday.com/241/eventhome.aspx.



SQL Saturday Nashville Recap and Session Feedback

Event Recap

First things first. Thank you so much to all the organizers, volunteers, speakers and sponsors that made SQL Saturday Nashville such an amazing and fun event. I will definitely be attending, if not volunteering and speaking again, next year. Special thanks to Tamera Clark (b|t) for all her hard work and dedication to the #sqlfamily.  Love ya, lady. :-)

Friday night’s dinner at Saffire was really cool. I went ahead and ordered from the menu and the fish tacos were excellent. The appetizers were also good. The building is an old gas stove factory.  When that company went out of business it was refitted to be a mattress factory, then finally fell into disrepair and has recently been revived as a shopping center. There was a rug store in there with some amazingly beautiful area rugs. I wished it had been open so I could get a closer look at some of the very intricate designs, but even if it had, I was kind of late for dinner anyway. :-)

Saturday morning, I showed up bright and early to check things out and see if I could help out anywhere. Lipscomb University was a little different than what I was used to, but a little glancing around (and some helpful students) got me pointed in the right direction. I got to do a little work setting up one of the sponsor tables, then headed upstairs to the speaker room to make sure my laptop was fully charged. Unfortunately I mis-heard the room number and went to the wrong room. I must admit that the university certainly puts out a tasty spread for their weekend classes. Oops. After finding the right room, I double checked a couple of things, and headed out.

The first session I attended was Wendy Pastrick’s (b|t) on SQL Server isolation levels. While I admit I was working on my presentation most of the time, I did get a little inspiration for a couple of blog posts on locking that should be coming up in the next few weeks. The only negative in that presentation was that the projector screen in that room was quite literally on the floor. Sadly, there was no-one in the facility that could hang it back up for us, so Wendy simply soldiered on. Considering she was presenting on a dim blackboard, I think she handled it well.  If you get a chance, I suggest that you attend this presentation, especially for the demos. Audience participation is a fun thing.

Next, it was my turn to present. I’m happy to report that the room was full to the point of people standing and sitting on the floor in the back of the room. I love it when the room is full. I also love it when I get some really good questions and feedback and I got plenty of both this time. Thanks to everyone who attended. I’ll address some of the feedback at the end of this post.

I did my usual decompression back in the speaker room after my session, and then it was time for the Women In Technology panel. I was dealing with food coma, so I didn’t take notes as well as I would have liked to. There was a lot of good discussion, as usual, and it always pleases me how helpful people are in those sessions. There was one lady who was actively seeking a new job, and one who had positions to fill. I’m sure there was additional discussion between them, after the session had ended.  The main focus of the session was on inspiring the next generation of IT workers, and there was plenty of inspiration to go around. Thanks to Hope Foley (b|t), Arlene Grey (b|t), Wendy Pastrick (b|t), Rie Irish (t) and Julie Smith (b|t) for their guidance and participation on the panel.

After that, it was time to learn a little bit more about Master Data Management. There’s a big data governance push going on at work right now, so this is something I’ve been doing a lot of research and playing with. David Mattingly’s (t) session was a good overview from the business side of things and gave me more perspective on where things should probably be going here. We’ve been approaching it as a technical problem when it really is more of a business problem, and it should be directed as such, with IT’s support. I’ll probably get more into that in future posts, as well.

My last full session of the day was Janis Griffin’s (t) on the SQL 2012 system_health extended events monitor. I have relatively little experience with extended events, but I understand the basics, and it was good to get a view into what the system_health session is capturing, and how the information can be used.  Monitoring is a little… different in my current environment, and until we can get things a bit more standardized, all the information I can get is helpful, to say the least. :-)

The last session of the day was the panel discussion on leveling up your career with Allen White (b|t), Denny Cherry (b|t), Joey D’Antoni (b|t), and Kevin Kline (b|t). I say last session, but not last full session, since I had to leave early due to a slightly upset stomach. I’ve been sick for a couple of weeks now, and made very good friends with some very good OTC medication. Between that and the caffeine, I needed to stand up and walk around for a bit. Too bad, since the discussion was going really well. I will have to follow up with the participants at another time. Sorry, gentlemen. :-)

I really don’t know why more people don’t go to the after events. It’s such a wonderful opportunity for meeting other SQL professionals, and having some fun conversation, as well as some excellent food and drink. Not to mention the SQLKaraoke, without which, I probably wouldn’t have met many of the people I now call SQLFamily. This event was no exception.  If you have never gone to the after event, I encourage you to do so. You don’t have to sing and you don’t have to dance, but you should come and hang out with us. It’s fun.

Quick Session Feedback

I had just a couple of pieces of feedback I felt I should go ahead and respond to in this post. There was one other question raised that I intend to devote an entire post to, later.

“Slow down.” – Yes, this is totally valid criticism. When I made a joke about pulling the pin on a grenade, as I downed a Starbucks Frappuccino at the beginning of the session, I wasn’t really kidding. That was a mistake, and I apologize. I also have been struggling a bit with how much of what type of content to include in the presentation. Right now, there’s too much, which leads to me rushing things a bit. I’m going to trim it down a bit for my next session in Cleveland, and hopefully that will make for a better presentation. Most people seem to enjoy the demos better than the slides anyway, so I’ll probably cut at least one of the slides, and spend a lot more time in detail on the demos.

“You should enlarge the font to begin with so you don’t have to zoom in and out.” – The font is already enlarged. Believe me, you don’t want to try to read that at default size, at that resolution. However, there’s a very specific reason I zoom in and out, and this is most critical to this session when we’re talking about error messages. What I do with ZoomIt is not just show you a specific piece of information, but by zooming in, I’m also showing you *where* that specific piece of information is within a larger context. It’s like looking at a whole map, then zooming in to a particular spot. Now you not only get the detail on that particular spot, but you have a sense of where that spot is on the map, so it’s easier for you to find it again. I hope that makes sense.

Thanks for reading.


“Train” Wreck

So MS has announced the end of the MCM, MCSM, and MCA programs for SQL Server. I haz a disappoint. Not because I had been studying fast and furious for certification exams, but because I had finally started to see some recognition for those particular certifications as being worthwhile and meaningful. Those weren’t exams you could cram for. Your study program for those was a boatload of research, experimentation, and years of experience. I think it’s not just a poor decision, but poorly executed on MS’ part. I won’t go into what many others have said, suffice to say I do have my own spin on it.

I wish I could say I was surprised, but I’m not. I’m not too sure about the MCA certification, but from what I understand, the MCM and MCSM were solely Database Engine focused. That means there was no BI component to those particular levels. In the MCSM track, there were lower level certification exams that involved BI components, but at the Master level, it was all Database Engine. I suspect *very* strongly that this is signaling a continued change in MS’ focus from the engine to the BI components. I expect we will continue to see the engine de-emphasized over time, and a heavy, heavy effort placed on marketing and building up the BI portfolio.

Anyway – Enough of that. While we still have a data engine, we still have learning to do. And while people want to learn, I will continue to teach.

So… I will be speaking at my home PASS chapter in Columbus OH on September 12, 2013 at 6PM. Come early for social time, and stick around to hear my thoughts on Database Corruption.

If you miss that, or are a little bit East of here, I’ll be giving the presentation again, a couple days later, at SQL Saturday #250 in Pittsburgh PA. There’s an excellent lineup of speakers planned, and I would encourage everyone in range to attend. Did I mention it’s free? Register here.

Thanks for reading.