I’ve been extremely lucky to have my sessions selected for speaking at PASS Summits for 4 of the last 5 years. One year all my topics (data modeling and database design) were deemed to be “off-topic” for the Summit crowd. The good news I still got to speak because each of the two founding organizations (Microsoft and CA) let me use one of their slots or co-presented with me on the topics of database architectures and designs.
One of the outcomes of speakers using their community slots to do sales from the podium is that this event now has a rule that your slide deck can have only one mention of your name and our company. Yes, because people were being overly focused on what they could get out of the crowd instead of sharing knowledge with attendees, the rest of the speakers and attendees have to feel pain.
I’m proposing that we allow speakers to put a form of their About Me slide at both the beginning and the end of a slide deck. Yup. Just one more slide.
The first About Me slide is to establish a the speaker’s credibility on the subject, plus to disclose any potential conflicts of interest the speaker might have. Speaker works for a vendor? Check. Speaker wrote a book on this? Check. Speaker is a data architect and not a DBA? Check.
Note that having a potential conflict of interest on a topic isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s just a disclosure, not a confession. In the past, when InfoAdvisors partnered with vendors, that would be on my About Me slide for presentations about data modeling, because I had partner agreements with most of the data modeling tool vendors. We don’t have partner agreement any longer, but we do work with data modeling tool vendors.
When I speak in vendor-hosted slots, I’m careful to explain to attendees that they are in a paid speaking session and I disclose why I’m there and whether or not I was compensated to be there. In the Summit year I spoke in vendor slots, I wasn’t compensated other than to get a spot via means other than the program committee.
The second About Me slide, at the end of the deck, plays the role of "Okay, I just talked with you for an hour about something I’m passionate about. If you’d like to talk more about it, or if you have problems with my demos, or if you have a question you want to ask me, here’s how to reach me.
For me, this isn’t just the norm for all events, it’s etiquette as well.
Some speakers in the community have said “but all the attendees know who we are”. No, no they don’t. Celebrity is a bit overrated here.
Regulation is Born from Bad Behaviours
I think it’s odd our community has a rule that keeps us from doing the second slide. I know the rule came from speakers who were overly sales-y in their talks. That’s what makes me sad about the other discussions I blogged about yesterday. Bad behaviour by sales-focused speakers ruins the experience for attendees at the event and for years after.
Bad behaviour by sales-focused speakers ruins the experience for attendees at the event and for years after.
If we started collecting data from attendees about how promotional speakers were in their sessions, that would be a much better indicator of whether or not sales was happening from the podium. At EDW for the last several years, the attendee survey asks people:
“Was the speaker too "commercial?" i.e. did he/she seem to be selling their own product / services / book / etc.?”
It’s a simple Yes/No question. The measure is reported back to the speaker and the event organizers. The overall conference evaluation asks for the attendees to list the speakers who were overly sales focused during the event. I think that’s a great question to ask the community. This data is much more likely than the ban on mentioning your name more than once in an hour to indicate whether or not the speaker is there to sell you his or her stuff.
One of the reasons decks have to be submitted for review at Summit is so that dozens of volunteers can scour the slides for mentions of the speaker’s name or company. That isn’t really a value add for attendees, yet we do it because people have been overly focused on selling their products or services instead of the community. We’ve incurred a huge cost (in volunteer hours) to enforce this and some other less important things AND added months to gap between slide preparations and presentation time. This leads to pain for both the speakers and the audience.
Speakers break this rule all the time. Some get called out, some don’t. We basically have a rule that is unevenly enforced and silly. It’s time to change this rule.
It has been five years I’ve been asking for our community to change this rule. I believe I’ve followed it every time I’ve presented at Summit. There may be a time when the last slide from having given the presentation before has stayed in the deck, but I really want to follow the rules. So now after 5 years of emails and chats, I’ve blogged about my idea for win-win solution in hopes that other community folks will say “yes, I think that’s a good idea”.
Make it Right
We should be asking attendees of sessions and in the overall conference evaluation if a speaker spent too much time selling his blog, his books, his services or his products. We should allow two slides about the speaker in a slide deck. These two changes to our rules will benefit attendees and speakers. These changes are win-win.
Dear Conference Attendee:
I started out writing this as an apology. But it’s not. I’m sorry that it isn’t. Months ago, I was required to submit my slides to your conference organizers for reasons:
- there may be a review committee that reviews the content for offensive and unacceptable words, images or demos – and, yes, I’m sad that this is even needed.
- there may be a review committee that checks to see if I mentioned my own name more than once in the entire deck, even at the end of the deck where I want to tell you can reach out to ask me more if you want to. Yes, this is a real thing.
- there may be a review committee that measures font sizes and types to see if they exactly match that of the official conference template, which will be ugly, unreadable, and bullet-point driven, but required for all speakers to use. Yes, font measuring is a real thing.
- there may be a review committee that counts the number of words on a slide and deletes the “extra” words. Yes, this really happened to me.
- there may be a review committee that fixes all the trademark names.
- the organizers might have been burnt too many times by speakers who weren’t ready with a slide deck the day of the event—and yes, I am sad this is even needed.
- the organizers might need to print the handouts of the slides months in advance – so they tell me.
Some of those are great reasons, some of them awful. But they are reasons the organizers require slide decks to be submitted months in advance of the event.
But in those months between the time I submitted the deck and I show up to present, the world has changed. I say that one day in cloud time is equal to one month in boxed software time. So 2 months in cloud tech is like a 5 years delay in talking about traditional software and hardware releases.
The products, services and features I am presenting about will have changed. Their names might have changed. They may have been bought by another company. They may have had a new release. They might have new features. They might have deprecated features. They may have changed their license agreements. They might have gone bankrupt. They might have disappeared. They might have changed their architectures. Anything and everything might have happened in the months between my deck being uploaded somewhere until the time those pieces of paper are handed out to you upon registration.
I Change, Too
In the weeks between my submitting the slide deck and actually giving the presentation, I think of a great way of presenting a concept. Or I think of a new thing I want to point out. Or I experience a failure along the way that I want to share. Don’t get me started on fixing typos or other inaccuracies. Yes, I know that I shouldn’t make mistakes. But I do.
Maybe I hear about something I didn’t know about when I did the deck. Maybe I realized that something that was true when I developed the deck is no longer exactly true. The point is, I am constantly thinking abut making my presentations better.
But What About…?
I know some of you are saying “What paper handouts?” Yes, some conferences still give you printouts on dead trees, especially for half and full-day seminars. I know you are thinking “Can’t you just send them updated slide decks?” Yes, I can. Sometimes that works, most times it does not. Sometimes we speakers are penalized for doing so.
But this happens even with digital decks. I can send revised slides and sometimes someone on the other end will update the deck produced for download. Sometimes they will not. We speakers mostly have no control over that.
I’ve also heard about people who completely redo a presentation so that the slides from before aren’t even recognizable. That’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about a few new slides, some changed ones, maybe some replaced ones. I want to be able to do that in the 2-3 months between submission time and class time. I want to make it better for you, the attendee.
I’ve also been asked “Why don’t you just print out new handouts for the attendees?” and “Why don’t you email out the updated slides before the event”. I have done that for my formal training classes (of course). But for organized events, I may not have the authority to do that. At some events the distribution of all materials is forbidden. I also don’t have access to attendee email addresses to distribute them, either.
What I Do to Minimize the Impact of Changes
When I have enhanced my slide deck in those months, I do the following:
- Provide the whole current deck on my website for download
- Provide the whole new deck on a thumb drive for you to “download” at the event
- Provide the organizers with the updated deck
- Encourage everyone to learn how to leverage the mark up features of the apps they have on their tablet and laptops. These are a true timesaver for me.
- Describe, while presenting, why there is a new or different slide.
Yes, I know you want the paper copy for taking notes and marking up the deck. I’m not happy, either, that these decks had to be provided from a 2-3 months ago reality. I know many of you will be unhappy. You will mark down my speaker score because I included new slides to show new functionality (this happened to me two years ago at an event). I know you will leave an evaluation rating and comment that my slides should have matched the handout. I want you to do that if that’s what is important to you.
But I’m not going to apologize for the paper handouts being out of date. It’s a physics problem. My only way to fix this is to be able to bend time so that I can see the world as it will be 60-90 days in the future. Trust me: if I could do that, I would be presenting at a much different event.
So cut speakers some slack. You really do want them to enhance their slides, fix mistakes, update for new information and maybe even make them prettier in the months before the event. If you have other ideas about how I can make the impact of change easier on you, let me know.
Good speakers want you to learn, have fun doing it AND have something to take home with you to remember what you learned. Help us help make that happen for you.
My friend Joey D’Antoni ( @jdanton | blog ) and I will be giving a workshop at NoSQLNow! about new database and datastore technologies like Hadoop, Neo4j, Cassandra, Vertica, Document DB, and others. This will be a fast-paced, demo-heavy, practical sessions for data professionals. We’ll talk about where a modern data architecture would best use these technologies and why it’s not an either/or question for relational solutions in a successful enterprise. And, as always, our goal is to make the time we spend fun and interactive. This session will be a great starting point for some other session on Monday that go into data modeling for NoSQL as well as for all the other in-depth, database-specific talks the rest of the week.
Sunday, April 17, 2016
We’ve been busy keeping relational data consistent, high quality, and available. But over the last few years, new database and datastore technologies have come to the enterprise with different data stories. Do we need all our data to be consistent everywhere? What does data quality mean for analytics? Will we need relational database?
Learn how traditional and new database technologies fit in a modern data architecture. We will talk about the underlying concepts and terminology such as CAP, ACID and BASE and how they form the basis of evaluating each of the categories of databases. Learn about graph, Hadoop, relational, key value, document, columnar, and column family databases and how and when they should be considered. We’ll show you demos of each.
Finally, we will wrap up with 7+ tips for working with new hybrid data architectures: tools, techniques and standards.
Use code “DATACHICK” to save:
$100 off for Tutorials Only + Seminar Only Registration and $200 off for Full Event, Conference+Tutorials, Conference +Seminar, and Conference Only Registration.
Super early registration ends 29 January, so take advantage of both discounts now (yes, they stack!).
…and you should join me.
On 2 February I’ll be speaking at TECHUnplugged Austin, Texas. This event, which has free registration, focuses on how technology innovation is changing business and IT.
TECHunplugged is a full day conference focused on cloud computing and IT infrastructure.
Its innovative formula combines three essential parts of the industry for an exceptional exchange of information, insights and education:
The ultimate goal of TECHUnplugged Conference is to bring quality information to IT decision makers by bringing them together with independent influencers and industry vendors, to engage, debate and be informed through open discussions on topics such as IT infrastructure, virtualization, cloud computing and storage.
I’m going to be talking about how data has changed over the years and how data quality issues can become obstacles to business innovation.
If you are in IT and would like to attend, use the registration form below. If you use my special code, you’ll be entered to win a special prize of an Amazon Echo (I SO LOVE MINE!) at the event.
My promotional code is:
Yes, all lowercase.
I hope to see you in Austin. Maybe we can have tacos.
Many Toronto User Group members will be attending the PASS Summit in November in Seattle Washington, including me. If you work with SQL Server, this is the only community-driven event for SQL Server training, presentations, workshops and networking.
Would you like to join us? Use our PASS Summit Discount code / Coupon / promo code:
You can register now at http://www.sqlpass.org/summit/2014/RegisterNow.aspx and use the code to save $150 off full registrations. If you register before 27 June, you’ll get the best discount you can get right now and the Toronto User Group gets $50 to fund our meetings which start again in September. That’s right: you save some dough and our user group gets funding for our upcoming season that starts in September 2014.
If you can’t register now, no worries. You can still use our chapter code later.
Feel free to share this information with colleagues, even the discount code. The more the merrier. And the better you can love your SQL Server data.
I’ve been attending Enterprise Data World for more than 15 years. This event, focused on data architectures, data management, data modeling data governance and other great enterprise-class methods is part technical training and part revival for data professionals. It’s just that good.
This year the big bash is being held in Austin, TX, a thriving tech-oriented community, 27-April to 1 May. And this year’s theme is “The Transformation to Data-Driven Business Starts Here.”
And right now there’s a $200 Early Bird Discount going…plus if you use coupon code “DATACHICK” you can save $200 more on a multi-day registration or fifty bucks on a one day pass. There. I just saved you $400. And no, I get no kickbacks with this discount code. I don’t need them. I need you to be at this event, sharing your knowledge and meeting other data professionals. I need you to be part of the community of data professionals.
Top 10 Reasons You Need to Go to EDW 2014
- Data is HOT HOT HOT. I deemed 2013 The Year of Data and I see no signs that organizations are going to back to software-is-everything thinking. 2014 is still going to be a year full of data. There’s even an executive, invitation-only CDOvision even co-located.
- Not Just Bullet Points. There are over 20 hours of scheduled networking events for you to chat with other data-curious people. Chatting with other data professionals is my favourite part of this event. Bring your business cards…er… .vcs contact file.
- Lots of Expertise. Not just data celebrities, but also other data professionals with thousands of hours of hands-on experiences, sharing their use cases around data. And not just data modeling. Big Data. Analytics. Methods. Tools. Open Data. Governance. NoSQL. SQL. RDBMS. Fun.
- Certifications. You can take advantage of the Pay-Only-If-You-Pass option for the CDMP on-site certification testing.
- Workshops. I’m doing a half day tutorial on Driving Development Projects with Enterprise Data Models. I’ll be talking about how data models fit within real-life, practical, get-stuff-done development projects. No ivory towers here.
- SIGs. There are special interest groups on data modeling products, industries and methods. You can meet people just like you an share your tips and tricks for data lovin. I will be leading the ER/Studio SIG.
- Ice Cream. This conference has a tradition of the ice cream break on the exhibit floor. Nice ice cream, even.
- Austin. Austin is one of the more vibrant cities in Texas. So cool, it even has a Stevie Ray Vaughan statue. Museums, Theatres, indoor golf, clubs. There’s a reason why SxSW is held here.
- Vendors. Yes, we love them, too. Meet the product teams of the makers of the tools you use every day. Or meet new teams and ask for a demo. They are good people.
- Love Your Data. There’s no better way to show your love than to network with other data professionals and learn from industry leaders.
Come learn how to help your organization love data better. You might even see me in a lightning talk holding a martini. Or taking impromptu pics of @data_model and other data professionals. Or debating data management strategy with people from around the globe. In other words, talking data. With people who love their data. Join us.
I don’t do a lot of baking. My kitchen is mostly the place where I blend my breakfast and enable my caffeine addiction. But my family has a tradition of making dozens and dozens of cookies every holiday season. Sugar cookies, No Bake Cookies, Snickerdoodles…the list just goes on and on.
As I was looking in my pantry for ingredients this year, I started thinking about how the process of producing cookies was a lot like data architectures. I may have been drinking. I’m pretty sure of it, actually. A lot. I mean I’m a lot sure I might have been drinking. A lot.
This week I bring to you a short series about Christmas Cookies and data.
Yum! Probably the most common version of Christmas cookie is the decorated, cut out sugar cookies. Recipe books, blogs and food network shows make them look so easy. They contain just a few simple ingredients (butter, sugar, flour, salt, vanilla, eggs) that form the basis of almost all other higher forms of cookies.
What makes these special is what you do with that dough. The most exciting versions have you to roll out the dough, cut it out with cute cookie cutters, bake, cool, then decorate them. It’s just cutters and icing, right?
The Big Lie
I’m here to tell you that it’s all a lie. First, unless you have a lot of practice, the dough never rolls out cleanly because a whole lot of things have to go right first. Then you cut them out and they fall apart or tear. You’ll end up burning the first few batches until you know how your oven heats and how your baking pans work. Maybe you need at Silpat liner. Or parchment paper. Or an actual baker.
But no amount of equipment prepares you for the disaster of decorating them. They NEVER come out like the pictures. Those cookies on blogs and in recipe books are probably made by specialist magical cookie elves who spent their 10,000 hours learning to make cookies from Betty Crocker herself. With Photoshop. I’m pretty sure every decorated cookie recipe is shopped worse than a Ralph Lauren model.
There are all kinds of warnings in the recipes: let the cookies cool on a rack. But who has time for that? Be agile and decorate them while the cookies are still in the cooling sprint. Oh. Crap. What the heck happened? If you haven’t spent a lot of time doing some test and training baking, your first set of cookies are going to be an embarrassment.
Silver Balls, Silver Balls…
And did you know that those little silver and gold balls that are the key part of the most beautiful cookies ARE NOT SUPPOSED TO BE EATEN? It says so right there on the label, “To be used as a decoration, not as a confection”. I bet you didn’t even RTF
ML. You’ve been unintentionally poisoning your kids and grandpa for decades. Or maybe intentionally. I won’t ask.
What does this teach us about data?
- Recipes make everything look easy. A lot of people see the recipe books and assume that making these cookies is very easy. And yet it’s difficult to get them right. The dough needs to be the right temperature and have the right ratio of ingredients to make the dough the right consistency. This requires not just a recipe, but a lot of practice. It also requires good technique, the right tools and the right environmental factors.
The same thing applies to data architecture. Sure, one can watch a 45 minute presentation on what all those boxes and lines are, but until they have applied the principles then lived with the results of their practice designs, they won’t really understand why one cannot just use melted butter or leave out the baking soda because it’s easier. It takes a lot of experience to be a good architect. Just like it takes a lot of experience to make beautiful decorated cookies.
- Demos of data modeling and design tools make everything look a lot easier than they are in real life. Part of this is because demos take time to give and they have to deal with the easy case. Sure you can migrate a database from Oracle to SQL Server by running a wizard. But you might not like the database or the data that comes out the other end. In fact, I can guarantee it you won’t. Migrating from one infrastructure to another always requires analysis, design, and implementation expertise. Decisions, even. Tools are never a substitute for design.
- If you are an amateur, you’re going to make a lot of mistakes. Heck, even professionals will make mistakes. But amateurs are going to make more. It’s how it works. You make mistakes, learn from them, get better. You’re going to burn a lot of data, and therefore users and ultimately customers. You can read all the recipes in the world and watch all the episodes of Iron Chef, but living with the results of your design decisions is what helps you learn. It’s okay to make a lot of mistakes if you are learning in a class. Or are working on a development project iteration.
Production, though, is like learning to cook your first meal for Christmas dinner for a close family of 20-30 people. It doesn’t scale well and you’ll just end up disappointing everyone in a big way. Heck, you might even kill some people with your bad design. You might have some letters after your name, but until you get to the professional level, don’t call yourself a chef. Well, you can, but your customers aren’t going to trust you after the second batch.
- You need to read and learn. Warning labels are a good start. The great think about most data principles is that they haven’t changed a lot. The technologies have, but not the foundations. If you don’t read and learn, you won’t be in a position to deal with change that is coming whether you want it or not.
- Some ingredients for data actually don’t really help the data. Comma delimited data in a column is fast. It allows people to go around the whole data governance process. Stuffing internal-only customer data in to AddressLineFour is fine, right? Until someone prints that on the envelope and mails it to the customer. Sure, these cute workarounds are shiny and happy. You need to be able to see when people are proposing the equivalent of shiny silver balls. They are pretty, but not for use in real life. You can quote me on that.
There are probably a lot more lessons to be learned from Sugar Cookies, but I just wanted to cover the basics. Just like the ingredients for Sugar Cookies.
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