Monday, September 17, 2007

Code Camp Sessions

My first code camp presentation was South Florida Code Camp II in Feb. 2006 in Miami. It was a couple firsts - first time to present, first time in Miami. All in all it was a great experience and the topic was "It's all about the data - building a Data Warehouse using SQL Server 2005". Much to my surprise, there were 65 attendees. Any doubt I had as to the reach of this topic was immediately put to rest as my nerves began to over-synapse standing in front of that crowd. I took the same session and modified it with different variants for the Tampa, Tallahassee, and Jacksonville code camps of 2006. Attendance at each was quite decent and strong in proportion to the total code camp attendees and other sessions. At one code camp, I had 20% of the attendees in my session.

One of the general rules of code camps is to come up with new sessions each year. Due to some time constraints, I was forced to slightly modify and present an updated verison of "It's all about the Data" at South Florida Code Camp III in February 2007. I expected to see a couple of the same people, but was thinking the topic is getting tired. Much to my surprise, there were over 85 people in the room, people lined up against the walls, sitting on the floor, and quite a few admitted to having attended the same session in 2006. Considering total attendance at the event was about 400, I pulled in close to 25% of the people for that one session. The presentation was significantly modified for Orlando Code Camp to good success. A different modified version was used for Tampa again with mixed success, about the same amount of people in 2007 as 2006.

One of the concerns I have is about satiation. The topic of data warehousing is so broad that it's impossible to cover any substantial part in the typical 60-70 minute presentation. Thus I've had to choose to cover the basics such as the definition of a data warehouse, what kind of tables are used, simple ETL jobs, combined with some kind of code demonstration, which has ranged from advanced ETL to a homegrown frequent flyer EDW I created just for this purpose. Back to satiation - I don't want to talk about the same topic so many times that people have already heard the talk, but at the same time I don't want to deprive those who are attending the events for the first time the opportunity to learn it. For Jacksonville 2007, I decided to decouple from the data warehouse topic and talk more about the SSIS Tool and what it can be used for...this is a direct modification of a presentation I gave in September 2006 to the Tampa SQL User group. Quite frankly, I was disappointed with the overall assessment of the presentation from attendees (about 7/10 in the ranking) and will be looking to tweak the presentation further for the 2008 season.

In short - if there is anything you liked in my presentations and something you didn't like, please leave a comment and let me know. My session in Tallahassee will be a hybrid of the two sessions - a deep dive into SSIS with an emphasis on Data warehousing. I hope to use the results from there and the two sessions I will give at Orlando SQL Saturday in November to develop a unified session for all code camps during next years season.

Code Camp Season Update

My oh my how time flies. I received an email today from someone who hasn't seen any blog updates from me for a while (since 22 May to be exact), so about 4 months later I'll catch you up on what I've been doing.

Had a number of speaking engagments in the past few months. In June I spoke at the Tampa SQL/BI User Group meeting, doing a deep dive presentation into architecting ETL jobs. Late in June I spoke at the inagural meeting of the Sarasota (FL) SQL Server User Group. The topic there was ETL and Data Warehousing with SQL Server 2005. Had a good turnout for both events and they were a break from the typical entry-level talks I give at the local code camps. Also in June I was provided a pass to TechEd, held in Orlando. It was very informative and I was able to suck in a lot of knowledge about SQL Server, data warehousing, and implementing best practices. The week of Tech Ed was quite enjoyable - I stayed with Keith at the Disney resort, and the parties I attended that week warrant a separate post. Let's just say that it was a great week all around, capped off by a visit to the Islands of Adventure theme park on a rainy Thursday evening.

July brought the return of Tampa Code Camp III. I was on the board this year and my responsibility was the speaker and post-event party. I was able to round up a significant chunk of change from supporters and we had a great party at the Courtside Grille. Around 50 people came to the speaker party and 120 attended the post-event party held in the same location. I may have found my calling in this group, and Jeffrey Palermo, I think you're a great guy, but I'm going to considering throwing my own party at TechEd the MVP Summit. My session at the Code Camp was Data Warehousing with SQL Server. It was a good session with about 36 attendees.

August quickly came upon us again along with my second annual Jacksonville Code Camp. In 2006, the JAX trip was a lot of fun and kind of a cap to a wonderful summer (search for Jacksonville survival report on and the story should come up from devfish). It was more of the same in 2007 except it seemed to go by quickly. The four amigos (Joe, Keith, Stan, and myself) carpooled up 301 and arrived in time to secure a nice room at the Omni. Those guys in JAX put on a great show and I debuted with a new presentation: Introduction to SQL Server Integration Services. Attendance was less than I expected, but I was up against some strong presenters at 9 AM. The good thing about going early is that I was done for the day and had time to attend some other sessions, plus for the first time, I had my entire presentation finished a good week before the code camp. The highlight of this trip was the steak dinner Keith and I enjoyed at the Ruth's Chris on St. Johns' River.

September brings a continutation of graduate school which is keeping me very busy. However, I continue to squeeze time in for code camps and will be presenting at Tallahassee Code Camp III this weekend. To give you a little background, the first code camp I traveled to attend was in Tallahassee back in 2005. I drove up on a Friday evening, the weekend that Rita decimated the Texas coast. This was right after Katrina and I was concerned about being able to secure enough gasoline for the drive up and back. I told myself that I would fill up my car as soon as I arrived in TLH so I would have enough gas to get home, and sure enough I rolled into town about midnight only to find half of the gas stations closed, and many others were already out of gas. I began to sweat until I found one open with gas and topped off the 'Stang. The Code camp itself was relaxing and uneventful and I had a great time getting to know people at the Paradise Bar and Grill that evening. Another bonus was on the drive home I stopped at the St. Marks wildlife preserve and took all the country roads back.

Which brings us to today. As I previously said, graduate school is keeping me very busy. If I don't post on here too often, just send me a gentle reminder that I have a duty to write. I'm working with Jonas right now on possibly attending the first South American' code camp in Argentina in October. Stay tuned for updates on that exciting opportunity.