Finally, it’s live. I hoped to announce the birth of SQL Friday on #tsql2sday but I simply didn’t have time for it. But now the site is live and speakers are queueing up for it.
What is SQL Friday?
SQL Friday is a weekly Friday lunch session, where a community speaker joins me in a Teams-meeting to present a Microsoft Data Platform or #SQLFamily related topic. The sessions are recorded and put on Youtube (and on the site).
The schedule is announced well ahead of time, but the full session details is announced and the registration opens up for next week’s SQL Friday just as this week’s SQL Friday finishes.
This post is a contribution to this month’s T-SQL Tuesday (hashtag #tsql2sday on Twitter). Glenn Berry is this month’s host, and the topic is: “What you have been doing as a response to COVID-19”, as described in Glenn’s blog post T-SQL Tuesday #126 – Folding@Home.
I’m thinking of two contributions I’ve been working on for the community we know as SQL Family. One being planned, TGI SQL Friday, a friday lunch talk about Microsoft Data Platform, with one other member of the SQL Family as a guest. But this post is going to be about Data Community Weekender Europe, better known #DataWeekender.
I had been looking forward to 2020 as my most active year as a speaker. I have been in contact with local user groups in Europe, to whom I was going to pay a visit. I have submitted way more session abstracts to SQL Saturdays and other conferences than any previous year. Then came Covid-19. SQL Saturday Croatia was postponed. SQL Saturday Stockholm was cancelled. Trips to user groups were obviously cancelled. You get the pattern.
When looking at Twitter, I saw Kevin Chant (B | T) gathering interested parties to a virtual conference. Two tweets later, I was one of the six organisers of Data Community Weekender Europe, better known as #DataWeekender or Data Weekender. This was April 9th. The other organisers had already come up with the name of the conference and setup Call for Speakers in Sessionize. After that, it’s been hard work.
We had a number of challenges to overcome, many of them technical.
But before getting any of that up, we needed speakers. Without speakers, there wouldn’t be much of a conference. A discussion we had on an early stage was: “Should we as organisers submit sessions to the conference?” We decided we could, but wanted to wait to see how many abstracts were submitted before deciding. We had a record short Call for Speakers period, from April 8th to April 17th. That’s ten days. We felt it was a bit short, but to realistically have the conference on May 2nd, we couldn’t extend CfS-period further. Thus the decision we would all submit a session each if needed, to make it at least two tracks on the conference.
Wow. Were we wrong. There was absolutely no need to submit sessions ourselves. It turns out we had excellent channels to reach potential speakers, and our tweets and LinkedIn-posts about the conference reached out amazingly well (thank you everyone who tweeted and retweeted on an early stage!). By the end of CfS-period, we had almost 200 excellent sessions to choose from.
Next dilemma: With so many fantastic session abstracts submitted, from 76 speakers, how on earth were we to select sessions? We had discussed running two, maybe three tracks. We ended up with six parallel tracks, a total of 42 really good sessions, many of them from the most well-known speakers in the industry.
April 22nd, we made the schedule public. By then, we had roughly 150 registered attendees. We are all experienced community organisers and we know the no show-rate on any free event is 40-60%. That would leave is with roughly 75 attendees, for a six-track conference. Not impressive. The day we published the schedule, we got another 80 or so attendees registered. But we still had a long way to go and the days following April 22nd were pretty slow on registrations (50 or less per day).
Then something happened on April 27th, less than a week before the conference. We got 155 registrations on the same day. And an average of 100 registered attendees per day the following days.
This didn’t just happen. Between the six of us on the organising team, we probably tweeted 500 times with the hashtag #DataWeekender. We Posted around 100 LinkedIn-posts. We got in touch with all user groups we could find and told them about the event. We told people on the largest Facebook-groups about the event. Our Twitter account @DataWeekender started sending out tweets with dance-gifs every time we hit an even 50 or 100 registered attendees. And those tweets reached out.
I have to mention the help we got from volunteers as well. Both with promotion before the conference, but perhaps most importantly, all the help we received on the day of the event. If it’d just been the six of us, we would have been moderating one track each all day, without any way to answer support speakers during the day. We had setup WhatsApp-groups for the speakers of all the six tracks, to quickly reach speakers and give them a direct contact with one of the organisers. But without help with session moderation, it would have been useless, nobody can multitask that much in the middle of an ongoing session. So a yuuuuuuuuuuuuge Thank You to all the volunteers! ❤❤❤❤❤❤❤
Now the event day seems long gone, though it’s just ten days ago. We have been distributing speaker feedback to all the speakers and we evaluated the event feedback we got. And we are already talking about next iteration. Should we run it in another timezone? What else do we need to change (not much tbh, we feel really comfortable with the format). When will it happen? Does that make you curious? Sign up on the MeetUp-group Data Community Weekender and you’ll be the first to know!
Until next time: Thank You everyone who participated in any way to make the inaugural a complete success!
Organising team for Data Weekender:
Magnus Ahlkvist (B | T) Kevin Chant (B | T) Gethyn Ellis (B | T) Mark Hayes (B | T) Asgeir Gunnarsson (B | T) Damir Matesic (B | T)
The past ten days, I have spent quite some time promoting the virtual conference Data Community Weekender Europe, or #DataWeekender on May 2 2020. I’m one of six organizers, all people from the Microsoft Data community, better known as #sqlfamily. We saw conferences get cancelled or postponed and wanted to do something for the members of the community, speakers as well as conference attendees. So we came up with the idea to organize a virtual conference – #DataWeekender.
We are not alone, EightKB is another new Microsoft Data Platform conference, in June. And GroupBy is happening as usual in May. (I have submitted sessions to both, and for GroupBy, you are very welcome to vote for my session, as their sessions are picked by the community, not the organizers).
But #DataWeekender is probably the conference with the shortest time from idea to conference day. We opened up Call for Speakers April 8 and the conference is May 2. Given that short timeframe, I’m completely blown away by the number and quality of submissions. Doing session selections has been extremely difficult. If we created a new conference, with only the speakers and sessions we unfortunately had to reject, it would still be a very respectable conference schedule.
We still have a lot of work to do the coming less than two weeks leading up to the conference. And during the actual conference, the whole organising team will be busy moderating sessions. And until then, we need to test out conference technology, distribute and get confirmation on tons of information to speakers. And last but absolutely not least, we need to continue marketing the conference to attendees.
A very important milestone in the conference planning is now done. We have a schedule! Six tracks. 42 sessions. 43 speakers. Check it out on www.dataweekender.com/schedule ! Also checkout the speaker wall below, click on speaker name to see their bio and session.
#DataWeekender is running on a zero budget. We haven’t accepted any sponsors and we are not charging anyone to attend. Speakers get a Thank You, and bragging rights for getting selected. But nobody is paid anything. That makes marketing a little different than commercial conferences. We also do not have the Sql Saturday platform to channel information to the community. Instead, we are relying on our contacts with User Groups all over Europe and our social media channels.
Therefore, I ask from you to help promoting the conference. The schedule will be up on www.dataweekender.com late tomorrow. Whenever you see information about #DataWeekender in your social media feeds, please help us share the information. We would be very happy if you also make a post on your own about it. The speaker line-up is truly an impressive one, with MVPs, Certified Masters, Microsoft Employees and other amazing Data Platform presenters. Please help us get that known to the Data Platform community. I’m going to be more active than usual on the blog, sharing news not suited for the Twitter limited number of characters.
The forced upon social distancing is new and – to say the least – different! For me, this means I’m exploring my local surroundings (we have really beautiful walking and running paths close to my house) a LOT more than usual. I’m spending my lunches running instead of looking for the best indian restaurants around the office.
A big part of my – and thousands of other SQL Server professionals – life is the Microsoft Data Platform Community – the SQL Family. That has obviously also seen some recent changes. I was gonna spek on SQL Saturday in Zagreb and Stockholm, I planned to go to London for SQL Bits and I had ideas for the SQL Server Usergroup which I’m co-leading. None of that happened. Speakers around the world tell the same story.
But instead of letting Nothing replace all of that, new things are happening. I’m speaking in Ohio next week. Or at least I’m speaking to user groups whose members live in Ohio. Online obviously, I’m not travelling to Ohio for a tuesday and a wednesday session. For the swedish SQL Server Usergroup (SQLUG Sweden), we were delighted to have Mark Hayes (T) speak about Power Platform the other day (Thanks Mark!).
Another thing which is happening is that online conferences are popping up. Me and a group of SQL Community organisers decided it’s too booring to just wait for social distancing rules to pass. That’s how Data Community Weekender Europe started. It’s really a crazy idea. From when Call For Speakers page came up, to when the conference happens (May 2nd), it’s roughly three weeks. In that time, we in the organising committee need to market the event to potential speakers, get session submissions in in a timeframe which is one tenth of a normal conference, do session selection, market the event to attendees and get the technical platform in place. Plus potentially recruiting volounteers for event day. But guess what? We WILL do it. We already have some great session submissions in and we’re working out the technical platform. We in the organising committee are all seasoned SQL Community organisers. We have pulled off crazy schedules before, though perhaps not at this scale. But we WILL pull it off. Stay tuned for the attendee registration. It will be announced here and on social platforms.
If you’re a Microsoft Data Platform speaker, send in your submission! It won’t be like attending a physical conference. The speakers’ dinner will be much less crowded, you’ll have to have your post session beer on your own. But you’ll be able to provide your amazing content. So thank you in advance, for submitting to this crazy idea of a conference!!
SQL Server User Group (SQLUG) Sweden had a meeting on October 24th. This one felt a bit special to me, as it was kind of a replay of my first time public speaking, in two ways. My first time speaking in public about SQL Server was on SQLUG Sweden, a few years ago. SQLUG Sweden arranged a Local Community Edition, with local speakers. That first time, it was me and Daniel Hutmacher (Twitter , Blog) speaking. And on October 24th, it was, again, me and Daniel Hutmacher speaking.
October 9 and October 10 2019 was GroupBy days. New this time was the two-day schedule, with five European sessions, running in European office hours, and six North American sessions, running in Pacific office hours.
I sometimes train the course “20767 – Implementing a SQL Data Warehouse”. One module in the course is about Data Quality Services. Every time I prep for the course, I run into an error message when trying to connect the Data Quality Client to (LOCAL): “A .NET Framework error occured”, followed by a stack trace.
This blog post is about an error message I got the other day when using DBCC CLONEDATABASE in a T-sql-script. But first some background to DBCC CLONEDATABASE.
I was pretty excited about the DBCC CLONEDATABASE command, which was introduced in SQL Server 2014 SP2 and SQL Server 2016 SP1. It creates a schema-only (that means all the database objects, but no data) copy of a database, keeping all statistics data, so that you can troubleshoot Query plans for certain queries without having to copy all the data. Before DBCC CLONEDATABASE (and to be honest probably also afterwords, DBCC CLONEDATABASE doesn’t replace all the needs) one had to make a full copy of a database to get the statistics data along. That’s usually copied to a test box. If the test box is identical to your production box, you’re almost fine. But on your test box, you don’t have the cached execution plans from the production box. Therefore, you might end up with very different Query plans in your test box. With DBCC CLONEDATABASE, you get a readonly copy of a database, on your production box and you can use that to tweak your queries and see what new estimated execution plans they get.
Many SQL Server developers and admins found, after upgrading to SQL Server 2014, that some queries started taking much longer time than before. The reason is the new cardinality estimation formula which was introduced in SQL Server 2014. Cardinality Estimation is done all the time by the SQL Server optimizer. To produce a Query plan, the optimizer makes some assumptions about how many rows exist for each condition in the table. In most cases, the new cardinality estimation formula in SQL Server 2014 and onwards gives slightly better estimates and the optimizer therefore produces slightly better plans. In some cases however, mostly when there are predicates on more than one column in a WHERE clause or JOIN clause, the 2014 cardinality estimation is a lot worse than in previous versions of SQL Server.
If you ever studied normalisation of databases, you have probably come to the same conclusion as I have regarding NULL: It is best if NULL values in the database can be avoided but it is not always easy to achieve a NULL-free database. Let’s look at an example: