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A Look Back at PASS Summit 2013 and Two Weeks of Training in Australia

By on Nov 7, 2013 in Panasonic, PASS Summit, speaking | 2 comments

Hello everyone! Sorry it’s been awhile, but I’ve been quite busy. I’m writing this in my hotel winding down from two weeks of delivering my Mission Critical SQL Server class in both Melbourne and Sydney here in Australia. I fly back in just over 12 hours. The past month or so has been a whirlwind starting with PASS Summit 2013. For my trials and tribulations with what happened there, see my previous blog post. But what all of this means is I’ve basically been on the road (except for about three or four days) over the past month or so. It is just now I’m starting to reflect on everything since I’ve had a moment to breathe.

As some of you may have heard, the Summit scores were released to speakers today. No, I was not top 10 but my scores were definitely up from last year (yay), and given my trials and tribulations (see said blog post mentioned above), that’s no mean feat. Both of my talks could have been disasters – and they were not. Less than one point separated 200 or so sessions, so the margin of error between top of the pack and towards the bottom was very small. That also says with most people scoring a 4 or above, the quality of presentations and speakers has gone up immensely over the past few years. I consider that a good thing.

Looking at my pre-con (Plan and Deploy Successful Clustered Solutions for SQL Server), I felt the scores were very fair (all above 4) and the highest one was 4.72 (“How would you rate the speaker’s knowledge of the subject?”). It was a very Windows-centric talk (and I advertised it that way) but with a SQL Server slant which I think hurt me (comments like “I learned a lot but I was expecting more SQL.”). Love some of the comments (“Allan is enthusiastic and very clear in his explanations.”; “There’s a reason you’re a cluster MVP. You know your stuff…thanks for sharing the knowledge!”;”Allan is a great presenter. I hope he is asked to speak in the future. “), but I felt some of the criticisms of the content (basically, I tried to cram too much in one day which led to a few time management) were also fair. If I do another pre-con, I’m going to go more deep than wide. Some things I couldn’t control (“Improve the sound quality”), and some things I never really said I’d cover (“I wanted a deeper understanding of clusters. This season [sic] spent to much time reviewing basics and corporate politics and not enough time in the deeper aspects of clusters”) – it was never advertised as a WSFC internals class. Always interesting to read the comments and I do pay attention.

The spotlight session (Troubleshooting Clusters) was a bit of a riskier talk all around (but I did get a 4.93 for “How would you rate the speaker’s knowledge of the subject?”, so clearly I know a thing or two about clusters haha). That one I did say was also very Windows-centric and gave people an out at the beginning. I talked a bit about the non-tech stuff which helps in a troubleshooting effort and a lot about the setup stuff because things like screwing up your AD/CNO/VCO stuff is what causes, say, a lot of Setup failures. But it appears people wanted to see more broken stuff and how to fix that (and part of that is preventing it from happening in the first place!) as well as be more SQL Server – not Windows – centric (which is nearly impossible with AGs and FCIs …). Having done this for so long, I know why people step in deep doo doo with clusters. Someone got what I was going for (“Great session.  I agree that a dba really needs to know functions from windows, networking, storage, etc.  I see this everyday in my job.”). So did this person (“Cluster issues were well explained. Even for VMs”). But for  every one of those, I got one like this (“Did not get much info on troubleshooting ag groups on cluster as described. Lot of time spent on describing where log files are and less on content.”) Because log files (and explaining things like log gaps in the WSFC log) and how to generate them have zero to do with troubleshooting. <rolling eyes> This session is up on PASS TV – I don’t recall spending eons on it. My aforementioned woes bit me a tad more here (“Demos could have been better prepared for us.”), but I didn’t get up there and do a woe is me – I just got on with things. I even got a few comments like “Make room cooler” for good measure. There was plenty of great feedback on how I can tweak this for future deliveries, though.

The biggest problem I face with sessions like these is even though I wind up putting prerequisites, you get people who are not at that level so you have to wind up explaining some basic stuff quickly to provide context or you get dinged for them not understanding. Then you get dinged the other way (“Beginning was vague and assumed a lot.”) – well no !@(& Sherlock – it’s a 300 level session! Damned if I do, damned if I don’t. And then there is the fact that what is 300 to one person is 100 to another and 500 to someone else. You can’t please everyone. I made peace with that long ago.

Thank you to everyone who provided constructive criticism. I truly plan on using it to improve and tweak these sessions should I deliver them again.

The two weeks down here in Australia were a whole different level of preparation and work. Two four-day weeks of teaching with labs. Trust me when I say that at the end of each four-day cycle, I’m spent. But the scores were fantastic and so were the comments. I even got this one (and no, not making it up) “Best SQL training course I have ever attended.” Wow. Seriously. Wow.  I am very humbled.

What’s interesting is that in Melbourne, I had four (4!) people do the advanced FCI lab which is all Server Core and scripting, and some folks in Sydney did a hybrid of a few of the levels depending at points what their comfort level was. That gave me some ideas for tweaks to the labs. What is interesting is that I’m getting a lot of comments saying I should expand it to five days (which I will take under advisement) and now that it is over a year since SQL Server 2012 RTMed, I’m getting comments for people wanting even more availability groups content and to dial back some of the FCI stuff. We’ll see. The course has settled into a nice groove and pace, and I’m happy about that. People really seem to love it, especially the hands-on component.

Based on Melbourne and Sydney, I’m really looking forward to the upcoming deliveries in Chicago (December 9 – 12, 2013) and London (February 3 – 6, 2014) even though I am exhausted at the end of the four days; it’s a good exhaustion . For the Chicago class, seats are filling up quickly. Use the promo code BLOG15 to get 15% off to grab one of the remaining seats. Hope to see some of you at one of them because it really is a fantastic course I am very proud of. I’m also going to announce other dates for the class in 2014 hopefully sometime soon as they get solidified. We’ve also got another big announcement around training coming soon …

Before I move on from Australia, I want to thank Peter Ward and the crew over at WardyIT for bringing me to Australia both last year and this year, as well as the staff over at Saxons Learning Solutions in both Melbourne and Sydney for all of their assistance in getting the rooms and PCs set up. It would have not been a smooth couple of weeks otherwise.

The book is kicking into high gear so you’ll hear even more about that soon as well. Should be content complete (or close) before the end of the year – fingers crossed.

I’m going to go get some sleep after packing, but I’m excited about what’s coming down the pike! It certainly does not hurt that I have a job I love where I get fantastic opportunities like these.

    2 Comments

  1. Speaking to the contractor who built our latest cluster, I was aware there was a lot of windows prep & much less SQL Server prep. So I wasn’t surprised at the windows content. And I thought that you did a very good PreCon at PASS 2013. I’m trying to get on your Feb course in London. Perhaps, from your comments, will there be more lab work (like in Australia)? Thanks. Mike

    Mike Button

    November 12, 2013

  2. Mike -

    Thanks for the note. Glad you enjoyed the pre-con. I’m always surprised at comments and criticisms around clustering-related classes that say “more SQL, less Windows”. Can’t have one without the other, and I find most DBAs have unsuccessful times with FCIs and AGs because they don’t understand Windows. But that’s just me. There’s plenty of SQL Server content, but you need the other stuff, too.

    The London class is the 4-day with labs, so you get the hands on. I’ve also got the US dates in Chicago coming up, others in the hopper in the US for next year. I’m even looking at ways right now of giving students access to the class labs after the class is over. Stay tuned, as I hope to have that sorted by London! It may not be free for that access, but it gives you access to play without needing to set up your own lab for awhile (it’s not going to be indefinite if online). I’m looking at a couple of options for that, actually. Exciting things are afoot …

    Allan

    November 13, 2013

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