Being a More-Aware Free Technical Event Attendee

I want you to be a more-aware free technical event attendee.

When I was a boy my Mom told me , “Son, if you don’t have something good to say, say nothing at all.” Who am I kidding? My Mom still tells me that! I’m not going to take that advice in this post. (I’m sorry, Mom!)

I’m a firm believer that people need reminding more often than instructing, so please consider this a reminder.

Free Events Are Not Free

I need to pause here and state that I don’t know a single person who volunteers at free events who’s in it for the money or the fame. For one, there is no money (unless you count losses). For another, there’s very little and very limited fame. The volunteers I know are giving of their time, talent, and – yes – even their cash on hand to help their community. I think they need to hear two words and two words only: “Thank” and “you,” in that order, in a complete sentence.

Anyone who has ever organized – or helped organize – a free event will tell you that they are not free. Leading the organization of an event is a tiring and mostly-thankless job. 99% of the people who attend the event say nothing in response. The other 1% are split between those who provide positive feedback about how awesome the event was and how much it helped them in their career and how thankful they were to attend such an event for free; those who share suggestions to improve future events; those who deliver constructive feedback about their negative experiences; and jackholes.

The best advice I ever heard about providing touchy feedback was: “Write as if you’re communicating with your spouse or minister or Mom.”

It’s true events seek feedback from attendees. You should avail yourself of this opportunity – especially if you had an awesome or unfavorable experience at the free event or if you thought of a really cool thing the organizers could do next time. That kind of feedback is helpful.

All I ask is that you think about what – and, more importantly, why – you’re going to write before you write it. A little test I give myself before saying or writing something – even blog posts like this – is a two-question quiz.

Question one is: “What does a win look like?” What does it look like if I get everything I want?

Question two is: “Over what parts of the win do I have control?”

I shared this with Stevie Ray, my 14 year-old son, as we talked through a situation recently. In response to question two Steve Ray said, “Dad? I can’t really change what others decide to think and feel, can I?” It was a proud-papa moment, to be sure.

On Touchy Feedback…

The best advice I ever heard about providing touchy feedback was: “Write as if you’re communicating with your spouse or minister or Mom.” Why? You’re less likely to be a jackhole to those people. Why not? Because you have solid motivation to preserve those relationships. Or not. In which case those relationships will likely not survive your jackholiness.

Free For You != At-No-Cost To Everyone

Sponsors and speakers help make free events possible. Let’s face it, it would be a pretty boring technical event if no one showed up to share their technical knowledge. And the event would be less comfortable without a venue that included walls and a ceiling.

Walls, ceilings, and shared expertise all cost someone somewhere something.

Free For You == Some Cost To Someone

Sponsors and speakers support free technical events as part of an exchange. It may bother you to learn this, but it’s true. First-time presenters are eager to give back. Why? Because others have given to them. This is one example of an exchange, and it’s a beautiful thing.

Equally beautiful, in my opinion, is the exchange of an email address for corporate sponsorship capital to sponsor the event.

It’s not only possible, it’s likely that someone just threw up in their mouth a little reading that. We live in the age of the Participation Trophy, after all; we all win for just showing up. Financial gain is evil. I understand.

The Cost to Presenters

Several friends present regularly at free conferences. A private non-scientific poll indicates they spend on average $1,000 out of pocket each time. I know, I know – they’re all rich speakers and independent consultants with money running out of their… ears – but even then, consider that’s $1k less to run out of their ears. And they lose a day – usually 2-3 days – and some of that time could be spent billing a bajillion bucks per hour. So the total costs to these evil-rich independent consultants is probably more like $2-3k per event.

Do they get something in exchange? You bet! Provided they deliver a good presentation, their personal brand grows. Perhaps they’ve written a book – they get to advertise their book on their About Me slide. Maybe they blog and score advertising bucks as a result. They get to advertise their independent consulting practice on the same slide. Perhaps someone in the audience is in need of exactly the services offered by the individual or another person at their independent consulting company, in which case some networking may occur that leads, eventually, to the independent consultant-speaker being hired to help. Equally likely: networking occurs because an attendee is interested in the topic. This later leads to employment of the attendee!

This is a virtuous cycle and, again, I find it beautiful.

Grumpy McGrump Face

Perhaps you don’t find it beautiful at all. You showed up with an issue, believed from what you read in an email or the abstract that the presenter was going to solve your issue (for free), and are disappointed and angry that they didn’t. Or maybe you expected everything at the event to be free – including the software demonstrated by sponsors and solutions mentioned by independent consultants.

Vendors Crossing the Line

Is it possible for vendors to cross the line and show up just to sell? Yep. It happens. When it happens, the event organizers should be made aware – unless, of course, a sponsor paid for the privilege of expounding the benefits of their product or service.

Please be aware, though, it’s a fuzzy line. What one considers crossing said line, others may welcome. So when communicating your displeasure, please keep in mind that any organizer worth their salt is going to follow up with others who attended the same session. If those people speak highly of the presentation, or merely speak without spitting froth when they do so, you may look like a jackhole.

My advice is share your opinion. Please. But don’t overplay your hand. And for goodness’ sake keep your spittle in your own mouth.

“Why’d You Write This, Andy?”

That’s a fair question. I’ve read other posts like this throughout the years, written by other presenters, sponsors, volunteers, and event organizers. I have to admit – I found them harsh.

Perhaps you find this harsh. I understand. I felt the same way.

It could be that you’re just a convenient target for them to launch a venting…

I was recently at an event where a speaker (and friend) received some negative feedback. No comments, just 1’s and 2’s on a scale of 1-5 (with 5 being “great”). He was disappointed. “How can I act on this?” he asked. “What do I do to improve?” Without comments, he was at a loss. All the other feedback he received was positive – 4’s and 5’s – and comments about what attendees liked and loved.

To help my friend feel better, I shared a game I play after receiving feedback forms from attendees. The name of the game is “There’s Always One.” I pulled out 30 or 40 evaluation forms that – I promise – I had not yet looked at and said, “You watch, there will be a bunch of happy evals here, but at least one unhappy person.” Sure enough, we found one in less than a minute.

Since I’m older and a more-experienced presenter than my friend, seeing “the one” made him feel better. It helped him realize that it’s not always something about him or his presentation; sometimes the attendee is having a bad day or their expectations were not met (they may been unrealistic) or they may have had a fight with their significant other or their pet may have died or… you get the picture. Like Steve Ray said: We can’t really change what others decide to think and feel, and they may have good and valid reasons for thinking and feeling the way they do. It could be that you’re just a convenient target for them to launch a venting…

Wrapping Up

If I hit you in the heart with this post, good. Tough love is tough, after all.

I meant what I wrote first: I want you to be a more-aware free technical event attendee. That’s my goal. If I can’t achieve that, perhaps I can nudge you to be less of a jackhole – at least in your communication.

If this post offends you, I apologize. My intent was to remind you of all the hard work, blood, sweat, and tears that go into that technical event that costs you some time but no money.

If that doesn’t suffice I’ll see if I can scare up a Blog Reader Participation Trophy for you…

Peace.

Data Driven – ICYMI 24 Jul 2017

ICYMI (In Case You Missed It) at Data Driven this week…

It was a busy week at Data Driven! Here’s a recap:

Our podcast guest last week was Reza Rad and it was a great show talking about Training, Power BI, and the Physics of Data.

Links:
Reza‘s website
Reza‘s free e-book: Power BI from Rookie to Rock Star

Notable Quotes:
The future is chilly… in the southern hemisphere. (5:15)
The State of Training. (7:20)
“The physics of data still apply.” (10:00)
How do developers react to the data side of things? (15:35)
The epic Power BI update cycle (18:00)
What’s the future of Data Science? (20:35)
Did Reza find data (or did data find Reza)? (24:15)
On dogs… (27:30)

Frank cranked out some Data Science Daily‘s:

*DataScienceDaily* 4 Ways AI is Driving Innovation, Deep Learning Demystified, and Fencing Drones

*DataScienceDaily* AI Explained, Neural Networks, and Learn Data Science in R from Scratch

Frank and I dropped a couple Data Points:

*DataPoint* Data Leakage, Health Care, and Hold My Sippy Cup

*DataPoint* Sunday Data

Remember, new shows debut every Tuesday. Data Drivers already know who tomorrow’s guest will be. Want to know before everyone else? Become a Data Driver today!

Biml Precon by Shannon Lowder 11 Aug

BIML Bootcamp with Shannon Lowder

I was disappointed to cancel my SQL Saturday – Louisville precon scheduled for 4 Aug. To the SQL Saturday – Louisville organizers who were kind enough to select my precon and the good people who registered, I apologize.

There’s another good Biml precon only a couple hours up the road one week later, 11 Aug. It’s being delivered by my friend and (I think) fellow BimlHero (or soon-to-be BimlHero) Shannon LowderBIML Bootcamp.

Shannon is the mind behind Biml Interrogator, a Biml Framework for extracting metadata from flat files and Excel files. It’s pretty awesome. While delivering From Zero To Biml last month in London, one of my students asked if there was a way to use Biml to automate flat file metadata extraction. Biml Interrogator was my answer!

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Catalog Reports Updates


A new free and open-source Catalog Reports project has been added to the Data Integration Lifecycle Management Suite (DILM Suite): Catalog Reports SP is deigned to surface SSIS Catalog reports data for enterprises deploying SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) reports to SharePoint.

The Catalog Reports solutions allow access to SSIS Catalog report data – execution list, execution overview, logged messages, and performance – without installing SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS).

See the updated SSIS Framework Community Edition in action in the free webinar Enterprise SSIS, Biml, and DILM today, July 18 at 01:00 PM EDT.

Enterprise Data & Analytics (EDNA) supports the Data Integration Lifecycle Management Suite (DILM Suite) to support our three-part mission:

1. Build data integration faster.
2. Make data integration execution more manageable.
3. Build faster data integration.

EDNA supports the SQL Server Community by delivering free webinars, presenting at (and sponsoring) SQL Saturday events, and delivering (and sponsoring) the Data Driven podcast. Learn more at entdna.com.

Upcoming Events Featuring the Latest Biml Products!

BimlThe latest versions of BimlExpress and BimlStudio have been released less than 24 hours – along with the debut of BimlFlex – and already there are free online events showcasing some of the products. They still have that new build smell!

Enterprise SSIS, Biml, and DILM – join Kent Bradshaw and me for this fun-filled hour of SSIS, Biml, and Data Integration Lifecycle Management (DILM). Tuesday 18 Jul at 1:00 PM EDT.

What’s new in BimlExpress 2017? – Cathrine Wilhelmsen, BimlHero, delivers this presentation to look at all the Biml goodness in the new releases Wednesday 19 Jul at 12:00 PM EDT.

Create and Load a Staging Environment from Scratch in an Hour with Biml – Scott Currie, inventor of Biml, delivers this awesome session as part of the 24 Hours of PASS – PASS Summit Preview Edition! You don’t want to miss any of these sessions, especially this one.

Enjoy!

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It’s Biml Release Day!

The months of anticipation and waiting are over, the new and updated Biml products are here! Woo hoo!

BimlExpress

BimlExpress

BimlExpress is still a free SQL Server Data Tools (SSDT) plugin. As BimlHero Cathrine Wilhelmsen points out in her post titled New Release: BimlExpress 2017!:

“The new installer is a lightweight VSIX (Visual Studio Extension) Installer.”

The coolest feature of BimlExpress 2017 has to be the Preview Pane. BimlHero Ben Weissman broke the news about the BimlExpress Preview Pane in his post titled Preview Pane in BimlExpress 2017. Ben writes:

“Another awesome new feature in BimlExpress 2017 is the preview pane! This means, you can now see the Biml code without going through detours like writing the RootNode to a Textfile!”

And he’s right – this is an awesome feature!

BimlStudio 2017

BimlStudio

BimlStudio 2017 is the re-branded Biml professional integrated development environment (or, the artist formerly known as Mist). There are too many cool new features to enumerate here, go read the 10-page Change Log!

BimlFlex

BimlFlex is a Biml Framework that enables rapid development of fully-functional data warehouse solutions. From the site:

“BimlFlex is a collection of templates, metadata definitions, and tooling that enables you to build an end-to-end data solution without ever writing a single line of code. “

That, friends, is awesome.

Happy Biml Release Day!

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SSIS Framework Community Edition Updates

SSIS Framework Community Edition – the free and open-source SSIS Catalog-integrated execution framework – has been updated!

The code now includes:

  • A script to set a Catalog Literal override configuring the Parent package’s SSISDB connection manager with the connection string for your target SSISDB database.
  • A stored procedure called custom.execute_catalog_parent_package that will simplify Framework Application executions to a single stored procedure – with a single parameter (Application name) – execution!

See the updated SSIS Framework Community Edition in action in the free webinar Enterprise SSIS, Biml, and DILM Tuesday, July 18 at 01:00 PM EDT.

Enterprise Data & Analytics (EDNA) supports the Data Integration Lifecycle Management Suite (DILM Suite) to support our three-part mission:

1. Build data integration faster.
2. Make data integration execution more manageable.
3. Build faster data integration.

EDNA supports the SQL Server Community by delivering free webinars, presenting at (and sponsoring) SQL Saturday events, and delivering (and sponsoring) the Data Driven podcast. Learn more at entdna.com.