Hello, New Jersey — I’ll be there on July 23! #SQLSaturday #SQLSat1027 #Networking #SQLFamily

First, I’ll start with an apology to anyone who’s been looking for more ‘blog articles from me. My life’s been pretty hectic lately (in a good way!), and I haven’t had too many opportunities to sit down at my computer to write. But nevertheless, here I am.

That said, my first article in a while is a speaking engagement announcement! Next month, I will be speaking at my first live, in-person SQL Saturday since Feb. 29, 2020 — right before the pandemic!

I will be speaking at SQL Saturday New Jersey on July 23! It will be held at the Microsoft office in Iselin, NJ. Note: because of the small size of the venue, registration is limited to around 120 people, so if you’re interested in attending, make sure you register soon!

If you’re a job seeker, I will be doing my presentation about surviving an unemployment situation titled: “I lost my job! Now what?!?

After spending a couple of years speaking at virtual conferences, it’s nice to be able to get back on the road and attend in-person again (although I did speak at another in-person event earlier this year)!

See you next month!

Your User Manual

As a technical writer, anything that mentions “manual” (or “documentation”, for that matter) tends to catch my eye. I suppose it’s an occupational hazard. But when I saw this post from my friend, Steve Jones, it made me take notice.

I’m reblogging this for my own personal reference as much as anything else. Suppose you had a set of instructions for yourself? How would it read?

I might try this exercise for myself at some point, but for the moment, read Steve’s article, and see if you can come up with your own manual for yourself.

Voice of the DBA

Many of us have spent time looking through manuals or the documentation for some software or product. I know I’m on the MS docs site regularly for work, and there is no shortage of times I’ve used various manuals to help me fix something around the house. We usually use a manual when we want to learn how something is supposed to work, or how to get it to do what we want.

I saw a post on a personal user manual that I thought was a good idea for some people, maybe many people. This isn’t a manual for how you should live your life or work, but rather, how others might interact with you. This manual describes how you work, what motivates you, stimulates you, what pleases you, and even the environment in which are most productive.

Whether or not this is something you might give to co-workers…

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I’m speaking next weekend — in person! #WELocal

Time to get back on the road for the speaker’s circuit again!

I am speaking a week from tomorrow (April 9)! I will be in Buffalo, NY for the WE Local Buffalo conference, hosted by the Society of Women Engineers!

I will be doing my original presentation that kicked off my public speaking endeavor: “Whacha just say? Talking technology to non technical people“! I’m scheduled to speak at 2:15 pm next Saturday (click here for a PDF of the conference schedule).

This will be my first in-person event since SQL Saturday Rochester in 2020, right before the pandemic started! I’m very much looking forward to this trip, as I enjoy traveling! I’ve spoken at a number of virtual events since I went to Rochester, but they’re just not the same thing. I’m looking forward to being able to shake people’s hands (or give fist/elbow bumps, if they’re still anxious about spreading germs), handing out business cards, and taking in the local culture. I’m always game for a plate of Buffalo wings! (My wife and I were in Buffalo last summer, and we made it to the Anchor Bar. I’m hoping to sample some Duff’s this time around!)

Hope to meet you in Buffalo next weekend!

Upcoming speaking engagements (as of 1/20/2022) #ProfessionalDevelopment @SWEtalk #WELocal #Networking #SQLFamily

It’s been a while since I posted a speaking schedule update, and I figured I was overdue.

Right now, I have only one confirmed speaking engagement: the WE Local Conference in Buffalo, NY on April 8-9. Last I checked, the conference schedule still hasn’t been released, so I don’t know if I’m speaking on April 8 or April 9 (all I know is that I’m speaking!). I’m still waiting for the schedule to come out before I make my travel plans!

This will be my first in-person speaking engagement since Rochester SQL Saturday back in February, 2020, just before the start of the COVID pandemic; every presentation I’ve given since then has been virtual. It’ll feel good to get back on the road again!

Hope to see you in Buffalo in April!

An introduction to the C4 model

The C4 Model for Software Architecture
(Image source: The C4 Model for Software Architecture)

This week, I was introduced to a new (to me) methodology called the C4 model. Now, in this context, C4 does not refer to the high explosive. In this case, C4 refers to a development methodology. Mostly, it refers to software development, but it has other applications as well, and that includes document development.

As part of my indoctrination into this methodology, I was provided this link. So far, it looks like an interesting read. I’m still reading about it, but here’s my understanding of the methodology thus far.

First of all, C4 stands for context, containers, components, and code. Think of it as looking at something at four different levels, from the top level (context) that shows the big picture, all the way down to the most minute detail (code).

The top level (context) refers to the big picture. Using maps as an example, here is a map of the United States — for purposes of this example, the big picture. You’ll notice that I drew a black box around New York State, which indicates the next level to which I will zoom.

If we want to drill down to the next level (container), a state would be the next logical level. So for the next map, I’m drilling down to my home state of New York. Again, I’m drawing a black box around the area to where I will drill down next.

A city or region is the next logical step (component). Let’s drill down even further, this time to my home city of Troy. Again, I’m drawing a black box around the next level to which I will zoom.

The bottom level of this methodology (code) shows the minute detail. For personal privacy reasons, I’m not using my home location, so instead, I’ll use one of my favorite establishments: Brown’s.

You’ll notice that I did not draw a black box in the last illustration; this is because we are at the lowest level in this model. I suppose if I really wanted to get granular, I could drill down into building floor plans, but for the purposes of this example, I think the point is made.

From how I understand it, the C4 methodology appears to be used for diagramming and documentation. It addresses a shortcoming in many technical diagrams in which they can be confusing and difficult to follow. C4 addresses this by showing how components relate to the big picture.

While I haven’t (yet) come across this in my reading, I want to note something that I think is important. When I captured the maps you see above, I thought it was important to highlight the context to which each level was related. If you look only at the bottom code level, you only see a building and a street (although I did make it a point to also capture the street name and route number). If you don’t know what city or state this place is located, then this macro level is likely useless information. The same is true for technical documents. Each small piece fits into a larger puzzle. If you don’t understand how the puzzle piece fits, you don’t get a sense of how the piece relates to the rest of the puzzle, and it becomes confusing and hard to follow.

As I said, I’m still reading about this, so I’m not yet sure what additional intricacies about the methodology I need to learn. Nevertheless, the concept does sound interesting, and I’m looking forward to learning more about it as I improve my skills as a technical communicator.

Some links, for your (and my) reference:

#WELocal Conference, Buffalo, NY — I’m speaking!

I received word that one of my submissions has been accepted for the WE Local Conference in Buffalo, NY on April 8-9! The WE Local Conference is sponsored by the Society of Women Engineers. This is my second conference that is not related to PASS where I’ll be speaking, and this will be my first in-person event since SQL Saturday in Rochester, just before the pandemic hit.

I will be doing my presentation about communicating to non-technical people (my original talk)!

So meet me in Buffalo next April for what looks to be another great conference! And perhaps you’ll be able to catch my presentation, along with a plate of Buffalo wings!

December Monthly CASSUG Meeting

We are doing something different for our December meeting!

We will be hosting a forum with a number of SQL speakers in a quick-thinking “Whose Line?” format! The speakers will get a topic no more than a few minutes before they are to speak, and they will speak on whatever the topic is!

To join us for the festivities, RSVP at https://www.meetup.com/Capital-Area-SQL-Server-User-Group/events/282546705/ (you MUST RSVP for the Zoom link to be visible).

Come join us for the fun!

#PASSDataCommunitySummit 2021 — the debrief

PASS Data Community Summit 2021 is in the books (the last day was Friday). It was fun, educational, and tiring (as many conferences are). And now that I’ve had the weekend to recover (I think!), I can write up my impressions of the conference.

This year, the conference was entirely virtual — and free! This enabled many people who likely could not attend previous conferences to attend this year, and I believe it was reflected this year; although I don’t know the exact attendance numbers, I believe there were thousands more attendees this year. This morning, I checked my speaker’s portal, and at last count, 124 people had viewed my session. I should note that that figure includes people who watched my session replay, as well as those who attended live, so that number could go up. Speaking of which, if you registered for the Summit, you can continue to watch most session replays for another six months. (I’m not entirely sure what happens after six months; presumably, you won’t be able to see them on the Summit page, but there’s a possibility that they might be viewable on PASS’s YouTube site. And if you happen to check it out, my own Summit intro video is even on the site!)

The committee who organized this year’s Summit did a fantastic job of putting together a successful event! Here are some of my takeaways from this year’s Summit.

  • I have a new favorite online meeting app! Check out Spatial Chat! The PASS Community Zone made use of this technology (and I was told that Redgate uses this application in their office environment as well). Many of us have gotten fatigued by the same-old, same-old Zoom, Google Meet, and other similar applications. Spatial Chat, however, is a game-changer. It simulates the experience of actually being in a room — for example, the closer you are to someone’s avatar, the better you can hear that person — just like standing adjacent (or at a distance) from an actual person. It allows creating separate virtual rooms and customized backgrounds (many people “sat” in “chairs” that made up the background; it also provided a guide for areas within a room where people could congregate).

    I was amazed at the tool’s ability to host a large number of people within simulated virtual rooms without any noticeable degradation in video or audio.

    I even set up my own Spatial Chat using the free version of the app (the free version allows you to create up to three rooms and up to 50 meeting participants). I intend to use this application whenever I have a need to hold an online meeting, or even if I want to hold a “virtual party.” If you’re interested in checking this tool out, go to Spatial Chat’s website, use the free version, invite a few people to join you in a meeting, and take it for a spin!

    Of course, I would much prefer an in-person conference, but this tool made me miss the experience of an in-person event a little less!
  • There were many chances to network! Networking is a big part of any conference. Spatial Chat, along with my presentation, allowed me opportunities to do so (and Spatial Chat made it even easier). My LinkedIn contact list definitely got bigger over the course of this conference!
  • Missed a presentation you wanted to see? Not to worry! You can probably watch it later! I didn’t make it to as many presentations I would’ve liked. That said, it wasn’t too much of an issue. Registered participants can go back to watch whatever sessions they want for up to six months. (I’m not sure what happens after six months; I’m hoping to be able to continue watching them on PASS’s YouTube site, but we’ll see what happens.) There are a number of sessions that interested me, and I intend to go back to check them out later.

    That said, I couldn’t go back to rewatch all the sessions (more on that below).
  • I had a great audience for my presentation! My job hunt presentation is, in my opinion, one of my better presentations, and I feel like it went well — definitely much better than my first two times speaking at Summit. (I guess the third time’s a charm.) I had a number of good (and even interesting) questions, which told me that my audience was engaged and interested.

Of course, like any event, the Summit wasn’t perfect (no event ever is). Here are a few things that I think would’ve made Summit 2021 even better.

  • Spatial Chat should’ve had a room (or two) for the Exhibitor Hall. This was one thing that I found disappointing. As is the case for other large conferences, PASS Data Community Summit had pages for exhibitors and vendors. But in order to get to them, you had to go back to the attendee dashboard and click the links for the Expo Hall. To me, that took away from the experience; it made for additional links to open, and it was another step you had to take.

    In an actual in-person conference, you have to physically walk to the exhibitor hall. Spatial Chat has the ability to simulate that experience, and I was very surprised that a room wasn’t set aside for the vendor exhibition, where people could’ve easily attended and walked in from the Community Zone. I thought this would’ve been a natural setup for exhibitors, and I was very surprised that it was not set up this way.
  • The Community Zone wasn’t “open all night” (or even “open late”). I will confess that I became somewhat addicted to Spatial Chat; it gave me the opportunity to reconnect with #SQLFamily friends whom I don’t often have the opportunity to see. The trouble was that it shut down every night at 6:30 pm EST. In their defense, PASS organizers said they had to do so for legal reasons, ostensibly to ensure that the conference code-of-conduct was enforced. But there were attendees from all over the world and in different time zones, and I’m sure they could’ve gotten more volunteers to stay online so the code-of-conduct rule could be satisfied.

    Speaking of time zones…
  • PASS Data Community Summit was a great event to attend — if you were on the East Coast of the US. In this respect, I was lucky, because I am on the East Coast of the US. The Summit schedule was very conducive for anyone in the Eastern time zone. But if you were in other time zones — especially in other geographic regions such as Europe or Asia, it wasn’t as convenient. I remember talking to at least one person located in Australia, and he mentioned that it was 5 am where he was located. It was nearly impossible for those people to attend many sessions, many of which took place while they were asleep. It also prevented people from interacting with other attendees. Networking, after all, is a major part of conferences.
  • Most sessions are replayable — but not all. I mentioned above that I can go back and rewatch most of the conference sessions that I missed. Most, but not all. There were several Q&A sessions that I found interesting, but unlike other presentations, the Q&A sessions can not be replayed. I realize that you can’t interact with a recorded Q&A session, but in many cases, the discussions that did take place were good dialogue, and I would’ve liked to go back to them, or even check out sessions that I missed.
  • I would’ve liked a better way to engage with my audience. Anyone who’s seen my presentations know that I like to get my audience involved. I like doing interactive presentations. I feel that they keep my audience engaged and interested. When my session was scheduled, it was scheduled as a pre-recorded session (i.e. I recorded my session in advance, my presentation was uploaded, and people would see my recorded session).

    After my experience with last year’s Summit, I found that I had an aversion to pre-recorded sessions. Since my last in-person SQL Saturday, I’ve spoken at many virtual conferences, and have never had a problem with any of them. I know that there’s a concern with problems during a live session, but personally, it’s never happened to me. This is not to say that I’ll never have a problem (hey, it happens!), but I feel comfortable enough with my session that I would much prefer to do it live. I think every session slot should’ve had an option of live or pre-recorded, not just a select few (in fact, I thought at first that that was how it was done, but that turned out to not be the case).

    Additionally, when I did my presentation, I had no direct interaction with my audience. I presented via Zoom while the audience viewed it on another platform, and while my audience could see (and hear) my presentation, there was no direct way for us to interact. People would post questions to a chat, and the session moderator would relay those questions to me. As I said, I prefer interactive sessions. Fortunately, this particular presentation didn’t require a lot of audience interaction, but if I did do one, it likely would’ve been problematic.

Looking at what I just wrote, I realize that I wrote more about issues than what I liked. This is not to take away from this year’s Summit experience. Overall, I thought Summit was very well done, and I’m very glad that I had a chance to participate. A lot of hard work went into putting together the 2021 PASS Data Community Summit. Many kudos to the people who organized Summit this year!

PASS Data Community Summit 2021 exceeded my expectations! I hope that I am able to attend next year’s Summit, which will be a hybrid event. If the 2022 Summit goes as well as the 2021 virtual Summit, it will be a great event!

#PASSDataCommunitySummit, day 1 #SQLFamily

PASS Data Community Summit is here!

I spent my morning getting my online profile and schedules set up, and trying to figure out how this online portal thing works! I’m also working on building my schedule. There are several sessions that interest me, but I need to pick and choose, since some of them conflict.

I also need to make sure that my own session is on the schedule! I don’t want to miss my own presentation!

I’m multitasking as I go through this. I did not take time off from work for the virtual conference (I did block out time to do my own presentation), and I will likely have the Summit sessions on in the background as I work.

I will be floating around the various online community rooms, so if you see me online, feel free to chat me up! I’ve already spoken with Andy Levy and Grant Fritchey this morning, and Steve Jones posted that he would be in the SQL Saturday room, so I will make it a point to visit him as well!

It’s not too late to register, if you want to attend! Just use the above link!

See you around the Summit!

#PASSDataCommunitySummit is here! (And I’m speaking!)

It’s here! PASS Data Community Summit starts today!

This is my third straight year speaking at PASS Data Community Summit (or its equivalent), and I look forward to this event each year! This is an event that has become near and dear to my heart, and I try to attend whenever I have the opportunity.

Today and tomorrow (Nov. 8-9) are the pre-con sessions. Unlike the Wed-Fri conference sessions, there is a fee for attending pre-cons. And while I, personally, am not attending the pre-con sessions, I can tell you that they are led by many world-class speakers. Check out their schedule, and if you see any sessions that interest you, they are well worth your time (and your money) to attend!

The rest of the conference (Nov. 10-12) is free to attend this year! There are a number of great sessions presented by many wonderful speakers! Again, if you see any sessions that interest you, I encourage you to check them out!

And, of course, I need to include a plug for myself! As I mentioned, this is the third straight year that I am speaking for this event. My session is titled: “I lost my job! Now what?!? A survival guide for the unemployed.” If you are out of work (or even if you’re looking for employment), this session offers tips on how to survive a jobless situation. I am scheduled to speak on Thursday at 9:30 am EST. Hope to see you there!

There are also opportunities for networking as well! You can speak with vendors, speakers, and other attendees. I encourage you to check out things like the Community Zone and the Expo Lounge.

It isn’t too late to register for this year’s free online PASS Data Community Summit! Just use the link to register and attend this great conference!

See you at Summit!