#SQLSat41 <–That’s how you refer to it on TWITTER.

This past Saturday I attended SQL Saturday 41 in Atlanta, GA.  I began the day grumpy, tired and ashamed.  Ashamed because I was supposed to present and had to withdraw my presentation, tired because I’ve switched jobs 3 times in the last 8 months and that can be mentally draining as you might guess, and grumpy because of the former two adjectives.  But by the end of the day, I am happy to report I was inspired to go back out there into that great big bowl of stupid we all call life and FIX IT “Datachix Style” ( queue—“To Dream the Impossible Dream”). The day was just what I needed to recharge the battery on my metaphorical propeller hat.

I loved seeing familiar faces of those I’ve met in the last year and a half and further build on those relationships and also of course I got to meet some new folks.  Jen McCown of MidnightDBA was a hoot and she simply must come back to Atlanta so we can drink some 420’s together and annoy the general public with poorly executed, overly loud Monty Python quotes.  By the way Jen, I’m TOTALLY stealing your “I throw candy to people who pay attention” bit: GENIUS!  In all seriousness, I was very impressed with Jen’s presentation and floored that it was not her 100th.  She had the demeanor of an old pro at speaking.

I enjoyed David Rodriguez’ second presentation (he did three that day I believe, all on a laptop he had built the night before– HERCULES!).  David did an engaging presentation on what’s new in SQL Server 2008 R2.  This session focused on Reporting Services.  I really appreciated the content of this session, as I find that having a person show me with his computer what the new features are, what they look like, how you might use them, all the while fielding questions and ideas from a group of 30 people builds my trust of a product faster than 20 printed articles ever could.

Here is an EXTREMELY abbreviated list of what’s new with Reporting Services from my notes and recollections of that day.

  • Report Builder 3.0 – the next in the series, has more robust visual features.  Mapping from MS’s purchase of Dundas which beautifully materialize the new spatial datatype, and “spark lines”, which are adorable little “mini” bar charts which fit inside an individual cell in Excel.
  • Ability to publish Report Parts –You can now individually publish each piece of any report including, and this is the cool part—Datasets themselves. Report parts are published with their dataset as one entity.  So a map could be used by another report, with its data intact. 
  • A more modern look and feel to Report Manager.  Now it looks more like it came from the 21st century.

The session was lighthearted and one participant asked about the role (or lack thereof) of BIDS in Reporting Services R2, given all the attention that is being placed on Report Builder, Excel and SharePoint in the new release.  David explained that the directive Microsoft was working under was to make BI more accessible to end users, not just C levels, and this was the answer to that demand. (Then everyone in the room shared an “mmmmmkay” moment and we all moved on.)

And last, but most assuredly not least I want to speak to you all for just a minute about my co-blogger.  Audrey Hammonds presented The Art and Science of Data Modeling.  I greedily squirreled away a copy of this presentation and will keep it with me for the rest of my career.  Audrey took the crowd through a miniature data model from conversation with boss to conceptual model, logical model, physical model and briefly, even dimensional model.  She focused on practical, sound advice, imparting easy to remember rules and guidelines.  The room was packed and the folks attending were really engaged.  She did a great job. 

Ps—the most culturally relevant result of the event was that Audrey and I received quite a bit of flack for our lack of Twittering.  In response I am happy to report we are now both on Twitter (@Datachix1 Julie, @Datachix2 Audrey) and checking our Tweets/Tweeps/Twits regularly.

SQL Saturday #41

SQL Saturday #41 is in the bag, and once again, I’m grateful that I had a chance to present.  I promise to post my presentation within the next couple of days.  Big, giant shoutout to Stu Ainsworth and the whole Atlanta team for putting together an amazing day.  Met some really cool people, including, but not limited to:  Jen McCown of MidnightDBA.com, Louis Davidson of DrSQL.org, Mark Tabladillo of MarkTab.net.  And of course, I have to mention Geoff Hiten’s daughters… they cracked me up and made me think that maybe I should bring my teenager to the next event.  Enjoyed some hilarious conversations in the speakers room, and got to listen in on a disturbing/interesting conversation on plagarism.  Seriously, you plagarizers out there… Quit stealing people’s stuff!  Events like these remind me why I love data and what wonderful company I have in this industry. 

The presentation went pretty well… It was a bit disconcerting to be handed a stack of speaker evaluations afterwards.  Swear to whatever diety is paying attention, I couldn’t look at them until after I got home.  But, all things being said, I was happy with it.  To the woman who had the comment, “Was expecting more on data warehousing”, well, so was I.  That’s what I get for putting together the abstract before I fully think through the presentation.  I think I’ve decided that Dimensional Modeling needs a presentation all its own.  So, whoever you are, if you read this, I promise to give the dimensional side of the house the time it deserves. 

I learned a few things about speaking: 

1) Less is more.  I totally ran out of time, and knew I would going in.  Next time, I’m taking on less and giving myself time to have more interaction with the audience.

2) I need to go with my gut.  I KNEW that my oh-so-clever self-referencing relationship was a stretch, but I went with it anyway.  However, I loved the fact that the audience was engaged enough to question my design.  Means they’re awake!

3) I need to be a less frantic presenter.  I watched Jen McCown present, and she was as cool as the other side of the pillow.  I’m going for that laid back, “I totally belong here” vibe next time.

4) I’m recording my presentation from now on.  When Mark Tabladillo’s laptop decided to go belly-up on him 2 minutes before the beginning of the presentation, he had a flash drive ready with recorded demos. 

5) I say this with a shrug and a sigh… I totally need to be on Twitter.  Damn it.

Hi, I’m Audrey. I’m a Datachix.

My goal with my portion of this blog is not to do long-winded case studies. I’m not going to go make up some artificial scenario so I can demonstrate something I’m not using. I’ve been in this business for a long time, and I’m always running into things that I probably should have known before now. That’s what I’ll share. All the dirty little secrets and things we’re ashamed to admit that we had to Google. You all know what I’m talking about.

Things you ought to know about me:

Given the choice, I like CAST over CONVERT. CONVERT sounds so, well, permanent. And if pressed, I’ll admit that CAST just sounds cooler. Like I’m performing some sort of datatype magic. I pronounce varchar so that it rhymes with “hair care”. But I always hesitate before saying varchar out loud, because there are so many variations on pronunciation that I worry about sounding weird. I use LEFT joins. RIGHT joins are for pretentious people. So is the word tuple. Quit showing off. And by the way, I don’t say “datum”. It’s “data” all the time. I know it’s not grammatically correct, but I don’t care. I hate COALESCE. I’ll use it, but tentatively. I like simplicity. I want people to look at my work and find themselves nodding. If you have to explain it, then it ain’t art, sugar. I indent. I capitalize. I document. I can’t remember what I had for breakfast yesterday; I sure as hell can’t remember why I did that weird thing with the data last year. I believe in table aliases that mean something. If the table name is ProductOrder, then my alias will be “po” damn it. Entities are singular. Underscores are evil. Back to aliases… I’m so anal that I’ll catch myself aliasing a table when I’m not even joining to anything else. If someone put a gun to my head, I don’t think I could write a cursor correctly. They don’t make sense to me. I think in sets, and if forced, I loop. I love Common Table Expressions. They’re just pretty on the page. WITH is a great keyword. I assume that the requirements are going to suck or not exist. That way, I’m never disappointed. I still search Books Online for most syntax. PIVOT intimidates me. Normalization is beautiful. Selective denormalization can be beautiful too. I want to know enough about my subject matter/industry/business to qualify as a junior business analyst. And I believe in long, slow, deep, soft, wet kisses that last three days. (I couldn’t resist)