Browsing articles from "August, 2011"

I’m Being Replaced by a Normalization Nut …Okay, a Crazy Talking @TheSmilingDBA

Aug 31, 2011   //   by Karen Lopez   //   Data, Data Modeling, Database, Speaking  //  No Comments

Due to some last minute travel plans, I have to fly during one of the days of 24 Hours of PASS (24HOP), so I won’t be able to do my teaser presentation scheduled for the PASS Summit.  I really hate when I have to step back from doing a presentation I’ve committed to doing, but it turns out that I couldn’t get to where I needed to be.  Time, location and distance worked against me.  The good news is that 24HOP has found a perfect replacement with Thomas LeBlanc,  MCDBA & MCITP (@TheSmilingDBA | blog ).  I know Smiling DBA from Twitter and I’m looking forward to seeing this excellent presentation at some point:

Standard Operating Procedure for Normalized Database Design

Join Database Normalization nut Thomas LeBlanc for a review of a Standard Operating Procedure used among DBAs as a template for database normalization. This session will touch on conceptual design, naming conventions, check list for creating a table and lookup table structure. These points are a preview of the PASS Summit 2011 talk 3rd Normal Form: That’s Crazy Talk! This discussion is based on 21+ years of developing databases for application developers. This session will include identity columns for primary keys and the need for a unique constraint on transaction and lookup tables. The creation of a SOP for DBAs can help developers follow a standard and DBAs code review the database design.

See, he even has a bit o’ the snark that I do in my abstracts.  A perfect session to fill in for my lapse in flight scheduling.  There should be a law that says that any Normalization presentation must be done with snark, humour, and a bit of craziness, don’t you think?  You should run right over and register for his session, plus all the others.  There’s lots to offer in these free, online presentations: ETL, BI, Data, DW, PowerShell, SANs…all things data for 24 hours over two days.

Look at all this goodness:

September 7, 2011

Session 01 – Start time 12:00 GMT on Sept 7
Introduction to Data Mining in SQL Server Analysis Services
Presenter: Brian Knight

Session 02 – Start time 13:00 GMT on Sept 7
SAN Basics for DBAs
Presenter: Brent Ozar

Session 03 – Start time 14:00 GMT on Sept 7
Diving Into Extended Events
Presenter: Jonathan Kehayias

Session 04 – Start time 15:00 GMT on Sept 7
Exploring PowerPivot for Excel in SQL Server Project "Denali"
Presenter: Peter Myers

Session 05 – Start time 16:00 GMT on Sept 7
Why PowerShell?
Presenter: Aaron Nelson

Session 06 – Start time 17:00 GMT on Sept 7
SSIS in the Enterprise
Presenter: Andy Leonard

Session 07 – Start time 18:00 GMT on Sept 7
Extracting Execution Plans
Presenter: Gail Shaw

Session 08 – Start time 19:00 GMT on Sept 7
Multi-Site Failover Clustering with SQL Server 2008, 2008 R2, and Denali
Presenter: Allan Hirt

Session 09 – Start time 20:00 GMT on Sept 7
So How Does the BI Workload Impact the DB Engine?
Presenter: Denny Cherry, Stacia Misner

Session 10 – Start time 21:00 GMT on Sept 7
Hardware 301: Diving Deeper into Database Hardware
Presenter: Glenn Berry

Session 11 – Start time 22:00 GMT on Sept 7
Secrets of the SQLOS – Leveraging Microsoft SQL Server Internal Operating System for Improved Scalability and Performance
Presenter: Maciej Pilecki

Session 12 – Start time 23:00 GMT on Sept 7
All About Execution Plans: Reading Execution Plans
Presenters: Grant Fritchey

September 8, 2011

Session 13 – Start time 12:00 GMT on Sept 8
Zero to Cube – Fast Track to SSAS Development
Presenter: Adam Jorgensen

Session 14 – Start time 13:00 GMT on Sept 8
Fixing Queries with Uniqueness
Presenter: Rob Farley

Session 15 – Start time 14:00 GMT on Sept 8
Disaster Recovery Is Not Just About Technology
Presenter: Edwin Sarmiento

Session 16 – Start time 15:00 GMT on Sept 8
Reporting Services 201: From Basic to WOW!
Presenter: Jes Schultz Borland

Session 17 – Start time 16:00 GMT on Sept 8
Standard Operating Procedure for Normalized Database Design
Presenter: Thomas LeBlanc

Session 18 – Start time 17:00 GMT on Sept 8
Baseline Basics or: Who Broke the Database
Presenter: Adam Machanic

Session 19 – Start time 18:00 GMT on Sept 8
T-SQL Awesomeness – 3 Ways to Write Cool SQL
Presenter: Audrey Hammonds

Session 20 – Start time 19:00 GMT on Sept 8
Code-First Development with the Entity Framework
Presenter: Don Kiely

Session 21 – Start time 20:00 GMT on Sept 8
Advanced Reporting Services
Presenter: Simon Sabin

Session 22 – Start time 21:00 GMT on Sept 8
Important Trace Flags That Every DBA Should Know
Presenter: Victor Isakov

Session 23 – Start time 22:00 GMT on Sept 8
Policy-Based Management in a Nutshell
Presenter: Jorge Segarra

Session 24 – Start time 23:00 GMT on Sept 8
Visual Report Design: Bringing Sexy Back
Presenter: Paul Turley

My presentation was supposed to be 5 (NEW) Database Design Blunders.  I’ll be giving a more extended and even snarkier spotlight version of that at the PASS Summit in October, so I hope to see you there.  And if you have already registered for my session at 24HOP, go ahead and be part of the new one.  You won’t regret it.

Word Analysis – Wordle Your Text

Aug 12, 2011   //   by Karen Lopez   //   Blog  //  2 Comments

Maybe we’ve been writing too much about problems and solutions lately?  Is it me, or does this Wordle focus on negativity?  Perhaps problem solving tips are the best thing we can share. What do you think?

A wordle is a graphic generated from text where the size of the word is based on how frequently we have used that word in a post.  I used our RSS feed for the blog to generate the wordle, so only recent posts will show up in this graphic.

One of the ways we measure whether we are writing the right stuff is how many comments we get on the blog post itself.  So if you read our posts and agree, disagree, have another thought or just want to encourage continued postings, please do leave a comment.  Yes, you can include a link to your blog.  Yes, you can use your Gravatar to post.  I know that some bloggers don’t like comments/links/gravatars, but I think they they are crazy. Smile


Wordle of our blog

A Standard Definition for The Cloud

Aug 11, 2011   //   by Karen Lopez   //   Blog, Data  //  1 Comment


You probably know that I’m a huge fan of standardization in helping us speak a common language – not just the same words, but the same meaning.  When I talk about Contentious Issues, one of the key points I make is that most debates among the data professional crowd is due to the fact that we don’t do a good job of defining our terms. This is a clear case of cobbler’s children having no shoes.

One of the primary organizations for managing standards is the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).  NIST has drafted a special publication on The NIST Definition of Cloud Computing.  It’s short — only 3 pages.  This paper outlines the essential characteristics of the Cloud:

On-demand self-service.

Broad network access.

Resource pooling.

Rapid elasticity.

Measured Service.

Now when someone uses "Cloud" to mean just the web, any application, or a websites, you can point them to the proper definition of the term.

17 Women in Technology You Should be Following on Twitter

Aug 9, 2011   //   by Karen Lopez   //   Blog, Social Networking, WIT  //  No Comments

Information Management Magazine published a list of 17 females on Twitter to follow, drawn primarily from the data and information sector…and I’m one of them.  A great group to be part of.  Note that 3 of us are part of the DAMA International Board.


Normalization Myths: 2 New Blog Posts

Aug 9, 2011   //   by Karen Lopez   //   Blog, Data, Data Modeling, Database  //  No Comments

imageI have a series of blog posts going up on  The introduction went up a few weeks ago and now 2 new rants have been added. Head over there to check them out and leave comments. I love when people leave comments — even if the comments disagree.   One of the things I’ve learned over the years is that performance tuning is something we learn by sharing experiences with others.  It’s not something that one can apply a bunch of formulas and rules to.  So post away.

Normalization Myths that Really Make Me Crazy – Introduction to a Rant

Myth 1 – Normalization: Friend, Foe, or Frenemy The Survey 

Myth 1 – Normalization: Friend or Foe The Slogan




Perhaps what the data profession needs is a series of top-up courses, to be reviewed every couple of years.  Maybe what we need is an intervention to help people understand the why normalization is even a topic in design.  I think this would make for a wonderful lunchtime presentation.  Perhaps your boss could even buy lunch.  This presentation wouldn’t be the how of normalization, but the whys and why nots.  Mastering the normal forms is fairly easy.  Understanding which one to use for a specific solution is the hard part.  The more your teammates understand the whys, the more likely they are to going to support your efforts.

What If Its A ‘Wicked Problem’?

Aug 9, 2011   //   by Rob Drysdale   //   Blog, Professional Development, Project Management  //  No Comments

I’ve been doing business analysis and project management for a while now and sometimes you run into one of those project that you just can’t seem to get traction on.  Maybe it’s time to consider it a ‘Wicked Problem’.

From Wikipedia it states:

‘Wicked Problem’ is a phrase originally used in social planning to describe a problem that is difficult or impossible to solve because of incomplete, contradictory, and changing requirements that are often difficult to recognize.

I know what you’re thinking…if you’re the Project Manager or Business Analyst you should be able to get to the real requirements and the real problem.  And I would normally agree with that, but read a little further about “Wicked Problems” and you’ll see it isn’t so straightforward.  It isn’t just about the requirements, but the difficulty in defining the problem and the goal, as well as the overall social and cultural aspects at play.  And if the organization and environment are constantly changing you can’t stick a stake in the ground and say “this is what it looks like”.  By the time you finish writing it down, it will have changed.

The people in the organization also contribute to the problem here.  If you have different aspects of the business that are unable to agree on the goals and vision you will never be able to come up with a solution using traditional methods.  Normally, this type of problem doesn’t apply to an organization, but more to societal and cultural issues.  However, the odd time, you run into a company and project where it exists.

I found a great blog post about this over on Charlie’s Diary written by Karl Schroeder.  I would advise you to go read it.

Lastly, have you ever run into a ‘Wicked Problem’ in an organization or project?

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Are You Sitting at the Table: Why We Have Too Few Women Leaders

Aug 3, 2011   //   by Karen Lopez   //   Blog, Professional Development, Speaking, WIT  //  No Comments

Sheryl Sandberg is the COO of Facebook.  I first saw Sheryl talk on a Women in IT (WIT) panel that happened during the recent Facebook Townhall.  Steve Jones (blog | Twitter) sent me this link as he knows I have a passion for WIT topics and discussions. I found myself nodding with agreement to what Ms. Sandberg addresses in this 15 minute video.  In one of the points, she shares stories of women who don’t "sit at the table".  I noticed behaviour throughout my career.  You’ve all been to large meetings where there weren’t enough seats at the conference table, so some people have to sit along the wall or at the back of the room.  In most cases, women will choose to sit away from the table in one of the "wallflower" seats.  I’m not sure why this happens.  I suspect it’s how we were raised to be nice, take the burnt cookie, choose the least comfortable chair, or otherwise put someone else’s needs ahead of our own.  There’s nothing wrong with giving up your seat for someone who needs it more than you do, but we ladies need to stop deferring our power to others because we aren’t thinking like the men are. 

I’ve heard that the most powerful seat in a room is one that faces the main entrance.  I almost never see my female co-workers take that seat.  Maybe they don’t know where the power seats are.  Maybe they don’t care to play the game.  Maybe they don’t feel they are worthy of it.  I can assure you that there are people in the room playing that game and they are keeping score.  It’s not just this one small behaviour, either.  We females spend too much time as wallflowers in all kinds of situations:  not submitting to speak at events and conferences, giving others credit for our own work, letting people in meetings shut down our comments.  I’ve seen all of them. 

In the Facebook Townhall, President Obama first spoke with Mark Zuckerberg, then after all that was done, a panel of women in tech discussed diversity and gender issues. What I found odd about this set up was that it almost sent the same message that Sheryl addresses in the above TED Talk: Sitting at the table. When I first read the agenda for the townhall, I was thrilled that the President of the United States was going to discuss a topic that was near and dear to my heart. Instead, the WIT panel was held as separate event on a different set. I was thrilled that such a high profile event covered the topic of gender issues in technology, though, and I look forward to future events where this issue can be addressed with the widest possible audiences.

Watch the video.  In 15 minutes Sheryl gives 3 pieces of advice that can benefit you in your career.  Keep asking yourself, "am I sitting at the table"? 


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