It really was! By the reaction I received from most of the people that I had been talking to for some time now, you wouldn’t have guessed this to be my first PASS but I had the first timer ribbon proudly shown. I can say with great confidence that I was missing out badly over the years.

Monday

I’m going to take Monday as a shout out to Expressor. I arrived in Seattle fairly late. Blythe and Expressor invited me to a gathering that had started around 6:00PM. Since my flight landed at 6:05PM, I was already in a rush to hit the light rail and head downtown. With all intentions of dropping my bag off and checking into the hotel first, I started walking to the Westin from the Westlake stop. Well, remember that this was my first trip to PASS and Seattle. Needless to say my choice of direction was the opposite to that of my hotel. The good news is, I realized quickly I was heading the wrong way (only about a Seattle city block) I looked up to see the sign of the meeting place for the Expressor crew a few steps in front of me when I realized the mistake. I’m glad it happened that so I wasn’t delayed any longer from getting there. I may have missed the main dinner course but I found myself sitting in a round table manner with the likes of Andy Leonard (Twitter | Blog), Jessica Moss (Twitter | Blog), Todd McDermid (Twitter | Blog), Aaron Nelson (Twitter | Blog), Rob Farley (Twitter | Blog), Michelle Ufford (Twitter | Blog), Adam Machanic (Twitter | Blog), Jason Strate (Twitter | Blog), Tim Mitchell (Twitter | Blog) and many more. A fairly breath taking representation of the SQL Community and SQL Server knowledge that would scare any Oracle team out of the house.

Expressor is taking the path that I think is right with the community. I’m convinced to dig deeper into the product and will be beating Expressor 3.0 up a bit soon. Andy is, as we all know, the top of the SSIS execution tree when it comes to respect and knowledge and having him onboard is enough to grab my attention to the product. However, they went to the next step with having all of us in the room with them and directly asking feedback not only on the products but the community. That impressed me and I know others were as well. Once the dinner was done, it was off to my first PASS SQL Karaoke night. Late night of Karaoke can start any SQL conference off on the right step. I hope at some point everyone gets the chance to see my good friend Jason Strate (Twitter | Blog) sing and dance. The man is a blast to hang out with! Wendy Pastrick (Twitter | Blog) and Kathi Kellenberger (Twitter | Blog) follow up with an unbelievable ability to sing along perfectly with some of the songs played. Rose Waters (Twitter) even joined us.

Tuesday

I had to register still for the summit so I got up and headed off to registration quickly. Grabbed my badge and slapped the yellow, “First Timer” ribbon on it. I then found Kendal Van Dyke (Twitter | Blog). I have wanted to meet Kendal for some time now and was very excited to get the chance. We headed into Breakfast and although we didn’t have much time to catch up, it was a great time talking and it is always inspiring to be in the presence of such a highly respected community member.
I then found Erin Stellato (Twitter | Blog). Erin was the leader of a bunch of us “first timers” at PASS. She did a great job helping us out in knowing where and what to do at all hours of the day. She is also a brilliant database professional and important part of the SQL Community. (I really dig the battery time on her SQL Cruise netbook). For future reference: don’t ever pull the battery out of one of those without checking to see if it is just asleep. Sorry, Erin!!! Erin and I attended Grant Fritchey’s (Twitter | Blog) session, Identifying and Fixing Performance Problems using Execution Plans. Grant and this topic are about the same as saying, Jonathan Kehayias (Twitter | Blog) and SQL Server Internals. The session was very good and I learned a few new things.

Lunch came quickly and I headed to my first contributing part in PASS 2010 as a member in the Birds of a Feather Luncheon. My table topic was, Cheapest DR/HA Options on SQL Server. I dropped my bag off and went for food. By the time I got back to the table, it was full of people ready to chat in a casual manner about the topic. Several attendees asked about Mirroring for HA and also using the feature in a DR manner with centers located in completely different geographical locations. Log shipping was a heavy topic and also some replication. I won’t go into details (scope and all) but can say that we all had a great time. I hope the luncheon is repeated next year. I think this was not only a lot of fun, but I had the chance to help many other people get some good starting points when they returned to work.
Tuesday night: SQL Karaoke. Need I say more?

Wednesday

Wednesday was just a little harder to wake up. PASS never sleeps! Well, Karaoke never sleeps. When you come to PASS and if you have great intentions on networking; put SQL Karaoke on the schedule. I had the pleasure of meeting several people that I probably would not have been able to find otherwise. All of which exchanged business cards and I look forward to keeping in touch with until the next SQL event gets us back together.

During the keynote, I was watching my twitter feed and saw this tweet come through from Jessica Moss (Twitter | Blog)

I took this to heart (even with my own first timer ribbon) and walked out of the main doors to the area just outside the keynote. I found five people sitting alone and with the first timer ribbon and sparked a conversation up with them. All had very different areas of SQL Server they were interested in and attending PASS for. One first timer was more interested in the developer and BI side of things. After talking at some length, we started talking about LessThanDot, MVP award and then into blogging and speaking. I took that conversation further in knowing Kendal Van Dyke (Twitter | Blog) was giving a presentation just following the keynote titled, “Getting started with blogging and speaking”. I invited the first timer into the room and was happy to see that he (and two others I told) did show up. I found myself up in the front of the room with Rob Farley (Twitter | Blog), Aaron Bertrand (Twitter | Blog), Buck Woody (Twitter | Blog), Todd McDermid (Twitter | Blog), Mike Walsh (Twitter | Blog), Tom LaRock (Twitter | Blog), Stacia Misner (Twitter | Blog), Patrick (Twitter | Blog), Andy Warren (Twitter | Blog) and Brent Ozar (Twitter | Blog). All of us were representing experienced bloggers and speakers while Kendal went through his presentation. This presentation was extremely good and the interaction it sparked with the attendees was excellent. Every question that was asked is the same question everyone up on the panel had asked themselves early on. I think with Kendal leading the presentation and our feedback, there will be many more bloggers and speakers coming to the SQL Community. Great job, Kendal!

Later in the day I attended the lightening talk’s session. I’ll be completely honest that I think these sessions were the most enjoyable for me. It is amazing to see what people like Adam Machanic and Rob Farley can do with five minutes and a slide deck. I have to also say that Adam hands down wins the prize of the best five minute session. I have never seen such harmony between a rapid speaking while being perfectly in sync with what seemed to be, well over twenty or so slides. In five minutes! I’d say it was easily a 90 minute session packed into 5 and still taught everyone something.

Wednesday early evening, Jason Strate and I met up with Jonathan Kehayias and Arnie Rowland (Blog). We ended up at the SQL Sentry after party and again, I had the chance to meet some exceptional people in the community. I had more time to chat with Aaron Bertrand and Denny Cherry among many others. I met Zach WIDBA, who I had been trying to catch all week so far. SQL Sentry puts on one hell of a after party (and has some pretty fantastic and brilliant products like the new Plan Explorer Tool)

Wednesday night: SQL Karaoke. Need I say more? I was lucky enough to meet Meredith Ryan-Smith (Twitter) and Gill Rowley (Twitter | Blog)

Thursday

Thursday meant PASS was coming to an end for me and far too quickly. The day started with a keynote that I probably will never forget and one that I will be reviewing the slide deck and the video more than once over. Dr. Dewitt himself gave a comprehensive and very in-depth look at the optimizer. I don’t think I was alone in saying this was the best keynote hands down that PASS has had. We need more like this! Marketing is important but we can only take so much.

Thursday wasn’t only the third day of PASS but was also Veterans Day in the United States. One of my good friends Jonathan Kehayias is a Drill Sergeant in the Army and I needed to first, show my appreciation for this devotion to protecting all of us and second, do something so everyone else attending knew he was. I found a shirt making store in the convention center and made Jonathan a shirt to show that appreciation. Once I had the shirt in hand, I quickly went to his last session on performance tuning (which was top notch as always). After Jason Strate and I gave Jonathan his gift, he immediately said he was going to wear it in the session.

The man really is superman, both with SQL and his abilities to serve for all of us.

Thursday ended and that concluded the three days of normal sessions. I have to say that PASS knows how to make a person come back. Knowledge, networking and vendor interactions alone make this the most valuable conference there is for SQL Server.

Thursday night I attended the Friends of Red Gate Dinner. Red Gate has always been strong in the community. They know exactly how to get us (the community) involved and part of their product and company. They have a name that is widely known and widely known product line that is solid and most of all, useful. I feel absolutely fortunate to be a member of this group. I had a chance to further talk with Tim Mitchell and also Tony Davis at the dinner. Tony Davis is a great guy and I’m glad I had this chance to talk with him. It will greatly help my future working with simply-talk publishing.

Annabel Bradford is our leader and is a great person that really knows how to pull people together in order to communicate and bring the community upfront with Red Gate. She holds us all together and ensures we know what is going on both with Red Gate and the product line. I have several blog posts coming on the new SQL Monitor and I think everyone that reads my blog will be very impressed with the portability, ease of installation and monitoring abilities this release has in it.
Thursday night: SQL Karaoke. Need I say more?

Friday

That was it. I had to fly out Friday early afternoon. Flying out Friday was a hardship as I missed a great deal both on post-con and the MVP materials. Next year this will not happen and I will plan much farther in advance to stay the extra days. Knowing PASS 2011 is October already, I can do that now. I highly recommend you do as well.

I’d like to thank everyone that had all of the really great feedback about my blogs and other work I’ve done in the community. I had the chance to chat with so many people and get what is good and bad about some of my writing. Feedback is so important to us and when we can get it, we truly appreciate it.

Everything has to end

Friday morning I headed back to the airport. PASS was really as great as everyone always told me it was. I won’t be missing another one from here out. The value in this week was far too great to skip out on. So in closing, you have my full recommendation to start the process now in getting your employer to pay your way. If they still won’t, the value in saving your pennies until next October is still worth it.

I know I missed many that I met this week. Don’t worry, all of you made the week great and I have everyone’s business cards and will keep in touch.