Posted by: sqlswimmer | November 20, 2015

Scripts – A Living History

As a DBA, I have a collection of scripts that I use for anything from auto-fixing logins to seeing who has the DAC.  Since I’ve been a DBA for a while (yeah, a while, we’ll go with that) I have quite the collection of scripts and I am constantly adding to it. 

In the Prehistoric days of dinosaurs and floppy disks, I used to keep a backup copy of them on a 3 1/2" floppy.  This was convenient and portable, so if I ever changed jobs, I could take my scripts with me. 

Then we entered the Golden Age of writable CDs and I could burn them to a data CD.  Still portable but a little more durable than a 3 1/2" floppy, I didn’t have to worry about keeping my CD away from magnets.

Carrying a CD around may have been more durable, but it certainly wasn’t more convenient.  Enter the Renaissance Age of USB/Thumb drives.  Holy Cow, I could copy all my scripts to a USB drive and fit it in my pocket, I could take it with me everywhere I went, now that’s convenient!

Enter the Industrial Age and we got smarter about how we did things.  Hello Google Drive.  No more having to carry around anything but lint in my pockets.  As long as I had access to the internet, I had access to my scripts.  Even if the internet were temporarily unavailable, I could still access the scripts on my local hard drive. 

But then a funny thing happened, I modified one of my scripts to accommodate a specific version of SQL Server and accidentally overwrite the original file.  We’ve all been there, that moment when you click the Save button instead of Save As.  All the expletives rumbling around in your head because now you have to remember what it was before you overwrote it.  Enter the Space Age, the days of redundancy checks and fail safes.  We in the development community call it source control.  When Microsoft announced it’s TFS Online offering three years ago, I couldn’t put my scripts in the the cloud fast enough.  Of course the name has changed, but the idea remains the same, source control in the cloud.  The great thing is that you can actually do it for free (for up to five people).

Will you learn from history and protect your scripts or are you doomed to repeat it? 

Posted by: sqlswimmer | November 19, 2015

Aggregation Design is Back!

If you use SQL Server Data Tools (SSDT) and SQL Server Data Tools – BI (SSDT-BI) for your SQL Server 2012 development, then you have no doubt been frustrated, like me, by the fact that if you have both of these installed you no longer have the ability to create new Partitions and AggregationDesigns when working with the SSAS MOLAP model.   You can find others that have run into this issue here.

The solution I found was to install both SSDT & SSDT-BI on my laptop then have a VM with just SSDT-BI on it. That way when I needed to work on Partitions or Aggregation Designs (which is very infrequently), I just fire up the VM and I’m off and running.

Well, with SQL Server 2016 development we get to use Visual Studio 2015 and SSDT is now included in that install (although you do not get the BI project types, more on that here), no more do you have to have separate machines. I tested CTP 3 and Partitions and Aggregation Designs work once again. Hooray!

Aggregation Design

Posted by: sqlswimmer | November 18, 2015

One Tool to Rule Them All – Almost

There we so many cool announcements at the PASS Summit this year, but one of my favorites was the “One Tool to Rule Them All”. The SQL Server Data Tools (SSDT) teams and the Visual Studio (VS) team have finally teamed up together to give us one tool to do all our development work for Databases, SSIS, SSAS & SSRS. No more will we have to install Visual Studio Shell, SSDT, SSDT-BI and for those source control minded folks (which should be everyone!) that use Team Foundation Server (TFS), Team Explorer. For SQL Server 2016 development we can do one install of Visual Studio 2015 and call it a day, well, almost.

SSDT Install

I was so excited when I got back from Summit, I downloaded SSDT (CTP3) from here. I was so happy to see the install screen.

SSDT Install Screen

There they were, in all their glory, all the SQL Server project types that I needed. No more having to download multiple install files. Oh happy day!

After the install completed, I was a bit dismayed to discover that it took 3GB of disk space to do this install but I guess that’s par for the course any more.

Visual Studio Install

Next I wanted to see if you got all these same project types with an install of Visual Studio. They announced at Summit that “SSDT” would now be “included” with Visual Studio. So I went out and downloaded Visual Studio (CTP3, Community Edition, i.e., free) from here. And look what shows up on the install features list, there it is in black and white, Microsoft SQL Server Data Tools, almost too good to be true.

Visual Studio Features

Well, we all know that if something seems too good to be true, then it usually is. This is no exception.  Let’s see if you can pick out the reason for my disappointment in the picture below.

Visual Studio Project Types

That’s right, the only SQL Server project types that are installed with Visual Studio are database projects. No SSIS, no SSAS & no SSRS. That was very disappointing. Also note that it installed the templates for Visual C#, Visual Basic, etc., when the only feature that I requested to be installed was SQL Server Data Tools. I guess that’s why this install took 5GB of disk space as opposed to the 3GB that SSDT required.

The good thing about the new Visual Studio is that if you use TFS as your source control, you no longer have to download the separate TFS Team Explorer, it is now built in to Visual Studio. No additional installs are required.

Visual Studio Team Menu

Right “out of the box”, you get the Team menu item. However, this is NOT included in the SSDT install. I guess someone thinks we don’t really need to source control our SQL Server projects <sigh>.

Almost One Tool

Because I use TFS as my source control, I still have to do two installs, SSDT to get ALL the SQL Server project types AND Visual Studio so I can add all my SQL Server project types to source control.

This is definitely better than what we have to do now if we are doing development work prior to SQL Server 2016, but it’s not “One Tool to Rule Them All” yet. I’m hoping that since this is a CTP, the final products will contain “all the things”, but I certainly won’t hold my breath.

Now I’m off to test if they’ve overcome the issue of database projects playing nicely with SSAS projects. For those that use the multidimensional model with partitioning, you know exactly what I’m talking about. I’ll keep you posted with my results.

Posted by: sqlswimmer | November 5, 2015

My Build and Deploy Process (as Requested by Bill Fellows)

Recently I attended Reg-Gate’s SQL in the City event in Seattle, WA. I was in Seattle for the annual PASS Summit, you can read about my Summit adventures here. While at RedGate’s event, I attended a session that called on SQL Server Data Tools (SSDT) users. RedGate wanted to get a better handle on what pain points we had in SSDT with respect to source control. I use Team Foundation Server (TFS) as my source control product and it ties in very nicely with SSDT.

After this discussion, Bill Fellows (B | T), asked if I would be willing to blog or speak about my own build and deploy process for databases. Well, given that I am so NOT a speaker type, the seed for this blog post was planted.

I will not be diving into technical detail on how to do all these things (that would be a very large book), but more giving an overview of the features of TFS and why I think they are important and how I use them. Think of this as the 50,000 foot overview of my build and deploy process.

Integration with SSDT (Visual Studio)

Since I don’t want to use umpteen gazillion tools for development, I want my source control to integrate seamlessly with Visual Studio. TFS does this better than any other product I’ve used, probably because they are both Microsoft products. This way I don’t have to use multiple IDEs to work on SSIS, SSRS, SSAS and database development projects. I have one tool with the same source control experience for all.

Design your Branches Accordingly

TFS uses the Branch paradigm to split code out for different development efforts. I like this paradigm, it’s easy to visualize and makes sense to me. Designing your branches is probably the most important part of the source control process. Think of this as your data model, if you get this wrong, you will pay dearly for it in the end. Think about how your organization is structured and how your code moves through the development process. What environments do you have: Development, QA, Staging, Hotfix, etc.? How does your code move through those environments? Is it strictly one-way or can your code move in more than one direction?

Gated Check-ins

Because no matter how many times you tell your developers to do a build locally before checking in their changes, someone will inevitably forget. The last thing you want is bad code getting into your code base. Then you’re left with all your developers sitting around while changes are backed out/corrected, we all know what happens when developers sit around with idle hands. Gives me nightmares just thinking about it.

Automated Builds

This is so important. You most likely have more than one developer working on code. You want to make sure that all those changes they are making are not stomping all over each other and breaking things. Just because developers can get their code past the gated check-in, doesn’t mean it won’t break something else. You should actually be doing this for all your environments, not just development. In a large shop I recently worked in, we scheduled our automated builds twice per day. The first one was for 3 a.m., which allowed enough time for correction before staff came in if a build failed. The second one was at lunch time. This one allowed us a “sneak peek” at the big picture before the nightly processes kicked off. While TFS does provide some default build templates, so many of us have such custom applications and database projects that you may have to learn how to write xaml, I did.

Build Notifications

This is one of my favorite “tattle tale” features of TFS. You can set up notifications to find out when things are checked in successfully, when check-ins fail, when builds fail, all kinds of things. Use this feature. I can’t stress this enough, USE THIS FEATURE!

Power Tools

While TFS has some great features, some of them are a bit hard to navigate/use. This is where Power Tools comes in. It’s available freely for download from MSDN. It makes some great features just a click away, instead of having to write some obtrusive custom code to get what you want – like, who has what checked out in a branch or wild card searching or copying a query or cloning builds, etc.  The list is quite extensive.

Default Settings

All of these things don’t really do a lot of good unless you change the default settings for source control in SSDT. One of the biggest bang for your buck settings is to automatically get code when you open a solution. By default this is not enabled, silly I know, but it’s not. The other setting is to check out objects automatically when they are edited. These two settings will make your source code life much easier.

Wrapping it up

I’m not going to lie, getting this all set up in TFS is no small effort. This is your livelihood, treat it as such. Do your research into how your company’s processes currently work and then compare them to how you want them to work. Once you have all that you can come up with a build and deploy process that works for you.

Good luck!

Posted by: sqlswimmer | November 3, 2015

The Whirlwind That Is October – Part 3

October has been such a whirlwind of PASS activity for me. Two SQL Saturdays and the PASS Summit. This post is about the PASS Summit in Seattle, October 27 through 30. You can read about my SQL Saturdays here and here. Settle in, get a cup of <insert caffeinated beverage of choice>, this is going to be a long one.

I arrived in Seattle on Saturday, October 24th. Since I spent a lot of my formative years in the Pacific Northwest, I usually go early and have family and/or friends meet up with me for the weekend, but this year life just got in the way so I spent Saturday afternoon and Sunday wandering around Seattle alone doing touristy things and stocking up on souvenirs for those left at home.

Monday morning came bright and early and I headed over to RedGate‘s SQL in the City event. This is the fourth year that I’ve attended this event. It mostly showcases how to use RedGate products, but there are some other useful sessions as well. One that I particularly liked was the workshop that called on SSDT users. They broke us up into two groups and had a RedGater leading the conversation. I got to meet some new folks like Phil Helmer (B | T) and know that I wasn’t alone with some of my frustrations when using TFS in SSDT. Of course Bill Fellows (B | T) was there providing valuable insight as well. And yes Bill, I will blog about my build and deploy process sometime in the near future. I also got to meet Andrea Allred (B | T) in person. We had connected over Twitter via our musical interests and really hit it off in person. Andrea I can’t thank you enough for encouraging us to drive 4 hours to see The Struts (B | T), it truly was an experience I will never forget. I also got to officially meet Sheila Acker (T). She has been a familiar face for the last five years, but we officially met this year. So nice to finally meet you Sheila.

I ended my Monday by catching up with my dear South African friend Martin Phelps (B | T) at Rock Bottom Brewery. He has a lot of work ahead of him, he and his teammates are trying to make it to the World Championships of sky diving in April 2016. Good luck Martin!

I got to sleep in a bit on Tuesday before I hit my favorite hole in the wall eatery, Blue Water Taco Grill (BWTG). Let me just say that I LOVE BWTG. I live in High Point, NC, where they think that a good breakfast burrito is what you get at Chik-Fil-A during their breakfast hours – NOT! I miss my breakfast burritos from Pete’s Kitchen in Denver and while the one that I get at BWTG is not smothered in green chile, it does have chorizo in it – food fit for a king (or queen as it were). But I digress, on with the adventures of Tuesday.

Tuesday was a day for meetings, the SQL Saturday Organizer and Chapter Leader meetings. These were fabulous, got some great ideas for ways to advertise SQL Saturday and my local chapter. After my meetings I hung out with Andrea and her husband Ryan Allred (T) for a while talking music. We exchanged some of our favorite band names, which I am still going through. Then it was off to be a PASS Ambassador for the Welcome Reception. For those that don’t know me, this is my “Most favorite-est” (as my youngest niece would say) thing to do at Summit. I can’t stand up in front of a room of thirty people and present a session without almost hyperventilating, but I have absolutely no problem standing in a crowd of people and greeting them with smiles and assistance when needed.

If you couldn’t tell, I am a big music fan, so it was no contest when I found out that Florence + the Machine (B | T) was playing in Seattle on Tuesday night. After my PASS Ambassadorship ended, I skipped the volunteer party and headed straight to Key Arena. Florence did not disappoint, she performed barefoot (as usual) and was very “twirly”. After a very long day of nonstop action, I headed back to the hotel to get some much needed sleep.

Wednesday started off very early with being a PASS Ambassador once again. Did I mention that this is my favorite volunteer job at Summit? I was at the top of the escalators at 6:45 a.m. greeting attendees, speakers and sponsors. One thing that was new this year was the Ask Me! hand sign. I still haven’t found out whose brain child that was, but when I do, look out, you will be getting a serious #SQLHug from me. Most IT folks are such introverts that they seldom make eye contact with people, so the fact that I had a sign giving them permission to ask a question was AMAZING. I even had one attendee ask if he could have his picture taken with me and my sign (and if this was you, please share that pic, I didn’t get your name and would love to see how it turned out).

Since I was manning the top of the escalators until the start of the Keynote, I missed breakfast completely, so I headed over to BWTG for my morning burrito. I sat there eating my burrito and watching the Keynote – streaming live – Thank you PASS TV! After that I was able to attend the Microsoft Foundation Session on Business Intelligence. Man oh man, I can’t wait for SQL 2016, the enhancements to SSRS alone are enough to make me want to skip over Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s.

Lunch time came around and it was time to say fair well to outgoing Director Amy Lewis (B | T). Amy has been the Director with the Program Portfolio for the last two years and prior to that she was heavily involved in the Program Committee, so I have worked with Amy directly or indirectly for five years. I was sad to see her not run for the Board again, but I understand that life just gets in the way. We have a new fearless leader in Ryan Adams (B | T) and I can’t wait to work with him. I was able to make it to two more sessions in the afternoon, then it was on to the Exhibitor Reception. It was nice to get a chance to chat with some of the vendors and see their products. I also ran into more #SQLFamily than I can name here. I was also “coerced” into giving an interview for PASS TV. If you were unfortunate enough to see that take place, you now understand why I am not a speaker. If you did not witness it, be thankful and leave it at that.

The night ended with SQL Karaoke hosted by Pragmatic Works at Hard Rock Cafe. This is always a good time and this year was no exception. I only wish I could have stayed longer. I retired early as I was to be a PASS Ambassador once again at 6:45 a.m. on Thursday.

The highlight of Summit came when Lance Harra (T) was presented with the PASSion award during Thursday’s keynote. This was long overdue, Lance has been on the Program Committee in some shape or form for eleven years, being a Program Manager for the last three or four. As a member of the Program Committee for the last five years and now a Program Manager, I see how hard Lance works. Next time you see Lance, be sure to congratulate him. We are very proud of him.

Unfortunately this is the point during Summit when I come down with a nasty virus and miss Thursday afternoon and all of Friday. I ended up sleeping in my hotel room for the rest of the conference, missing out on some cool sessions and most importantly #SQLFamily time. I so wanted to catch up with Sebastian Meine (B | T) in the Community Zone to talk about tSQLt. I was also looking forward to hanging out with AZ (T) and so many others during the Community Appreciation party. But in true #SQLFamily fashion, AZ checked in on me every day until I made it home. Thank you AZ!

I ended up at Urgent Care on Sunday morning after I got home.  Needless to say my poor excuse for a respiratory system was in dire need of medical attention.  Four prescriptions and one shot in the butt later, I was sent home to rest and recuperate.

While my experience at Summit ended way too early, I still had a great time. If you’ve never attended a Summit, what are you waiting for? If you’ve attended before, I am so glad you came back and I hope to see you next year.

One last reminder – you can still submit session evals online until November 6, 2015 via the Guidebook app. So do it now! The speakers and the Program Committee need your feedback so we can continue to make Summit a success.

Posted by: sqlswimmer | October 18, 2015

The Whirlwind That Is October – Part 2

October has been such a whirlwind of PASS activity for me. Two SQL Saturdays and the PASS Summit. This post is about the second SQL Saturday I attended in Charlotte, SQL Saturday #452, on October 17, 2015, where I was a member of the organizing team. You can read about my first SQL Saturday here.

I have been an attendee and volunteer for the SQL Saturday in Charlotte that is put on by CBIG for the last 3 years. This year I was approached by one of their fearless leaders, Rafael Salas (B | T), to help out as one of the organizers. How cool is that?!

Let me start by saying I love, absolutely love, helping out as an organizer.   But with that said, wow, it’s a whole lot of work! So the next time you attend a SQL Saturday, be sure to find the organizers and thank them for the event. They do this on their own time and don’t get paid for any of it.

Since I’ve volunteered for registration at several SQL Saturdays (in addition to Charlotte) over the past 4 years and I’ve been on the PASS Program Committee for six years, I decided I could be of most use helping out with speaker selection, session scheduling and registration on the day of the event.

We had a great team of organizers this year, Rafael Salas (B | T), Javier Guillen (B | T), Jason Thomas (B | T), Elizabeth Ricks (T), Don Sparks and me. In the past Melissa Coates (B | T) has been one of the organizers and even though she is not on the team this year she definitely deserves an honorable mention as she put a lot of the processes in place to help make sure things run smoothly. Thank you Melissa!

One of the reasons SQL Saturday was developed was to encourage local speakers. Well, the CBIG team believes in that mission wholeheartedly. We were able to accept sessions from all the local speakers plus some great regional/national speakers.

The event was held at Central Piedmont Community College (CPCC) again this year. It’s a great venue with lots of light and room. All the sponsors were wonderful and had great give-a-ways for the attendees. We only had one speaker cancel in the last week prior to the event and that was beyond his control – clients, what can you do?! Andy Leonard (B | T) was so gracious and stepped up to fill the empty slot without hesitation, Thank you Andy!

We changed things up for the speaker dinner on Friday night. Instead of having just speakers, we included our sponsors and some of our very dedicated volunteers and called it our Appreciation Dinner. The food was delicious and the venue was perfect. I had the opportunity to talk with some speakers and sponsors I’d never met before. Thank you to both groups for all that you do for the community, we wouldn’t be able to put on such a great event without your support.

There were 588 people registered and 328 people actually attend. That’s a 55% turn out, which isn’t great, but it is pretty good. We had some amazing volunteers there helping us out both the night before for setup and during the event on Saturday. This is the fourth year I’ve been involved with this SQL Saturday and it really does just keep getting better every year.

Needless to say the day of the event went by in the blink of an eye. One minute my alarm was going off at 5:45 a.m., the next we were headed out the doors to the after event party. Several speakers and volunteers joined us at the after event party at Grapes Bistro & Wine Bar. The food was spectacular and the setup of the venue allowed for an easy flow of conversation. Slava Murygin (B | T) was there to take lots of pictures too. BTW – You can view them here for the Appreciation Dinner and here for the Event and after event party. Thank you Slava for all the pics, you did a great job.

I’m kind of sad that it’s over, but I really do need to catch up on some sleep. I am looking forward to next year and hope that we will see you there.

Well done CBIG!

Posted by: sqlswimmer | October 16, 2015

The Whirlwind That Is October – Part 1

October has been such a whirlwind of PASS activity for me. Two SQL Saturdays and the PASS Summit. This post is about the first SQL Saturday I attended in Raleigh, SQL Saturday #445, on October 10, 2015, where I was both volunteer and attendee.

This event is put on by the Triangle Area SQL Server User (TriPASS). Brett Tomson (L | T) has long been the leader of this group but recently handed the reigns over to Kevin Feasel (L | T). Kevin and Brett did a great job. They had awesome speakers, great sponsors and wonderful volunteers (yes, I am including myself in that).

This year’s event was at a new venue, William Peace University. It was a smaller venue than last year, but it worked. It’s a beautiful campus with very friendly staff who were willing to help out in any manner they could.

Being the morning person that I am, I got up at 4:30 a.m. on Saturday to make the 90+ mile drive to Raleigh. I helped out with registration in the morning, which is always one of my favorite volunteer activities. You get to see EVERYONE that’s attending; speaker, sponsor and attendee alike. It gives me a chance to give #sqlhugs to my #sqlfamily to start the day off.   What could be better than that?!

I was able to attend two sessions, which were fabulous. Then I finished off my volunteer duties by taking lunch tickets at the Dining Hall. That’s right, I said Dining Hall. Because we were at WPU, the organizers were able to take advantage of the campus Dining Hall and the people that staff it. There was quite the selection from the salad bar, sandwich bar and dessert bar. The only bar missing was the bar with alcohol, but we still had afternoon sessions, so I guess that was for the best. This is the first SQL Saturday that I’ve attended where lunch was not brought in. I’m sure it was nice for the organizers because they didn’t have to worry about getting volunteers to help with lunch setup, wrangling coolers for soda/water or clean up and attendees had a very wide selection to choose from.

After lunch I was able to go visit the vendors and chat with them while attendees were in session. I even snagged one of the coveted bacon scented T-shirts from Micron (be forewarned, even after three washings it still smells like bacon).

After getting up so early, I was spent, and since I had to make the 90+ mile trip home, I decided to head home early. I missed the end of the day raffle and after event party, but I hear they were both entertaining, to say the least.

Huge thank you and congratulations goes out to the organizers of SQL Saturday #445, job well done.

Posted by: sqlswimmer | September 11, 2015

Fall Means Election Season

While it’s not officially Fall yet, it is definitely Election Season. Elections for the PASS Board of Directors opens up on September 17, 2015. Campaigning starts today with the announcement of the Official Slate of Candidates.

It’s a great slate and it will be hard to choose. I appreciate all the hard work the NomCom has done to provide us with such a great list of candidates. Please take the time to read each candidate’s application. This is the first year the NomCom scores have been made public. Members of the NomCom spend countless hours researching, interviewing and agonizing over how the scores are reached, so pay attention to them.

PASS has also come up with some community events for you to get to know your candidates. Take advantage of them to help you make your decision.

This is your community. Do your research then cast your vote. This is your opportunity to make a difference.

Posted by: sqlswimmer | July 14, 2015

TSQL2sday #68 – Defaults

A big thank you goes out to Andy Yun (b|t) for hosting this month’s TSQL2sday party. This month’s topic is Just Say No to Defaults.


TSQL2sday #68

I have a Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics with a minor in Computer Science. So when I say I’m a fairly smart person, it’s not bragging, it’s simply the truth. So when people say, “Any monkey can be a SQL Server DBA”, I find it offensive. While that statement may be close to true, it’s not the whole truth. Yes, Microsoft made SQL Server easy to use right out of the box, but if you want SQL Server to run well, you better have one of those really smart monkeys.

I can’t tell you how many times I have been approached by my friends that are developers, DBAs for other RDBMs or SysAdmins and asked to “fix” their SQL Server environment. They are really smart people, but they made the mistake of thinking that they could simply install SQL Server, accepting all the defaults, be off and running and never look back. The biggest complaint I hear from these same people is that “SQL Server is slow”. My response is usually something like, “Hmm, I can’t imagine why that would be”, in my most snicker-y voice.

There are so many things that can be tweaked in SQL Server to improve performance, but there are two things you can change right off the bat that will make a world of difference. They are the defaults for database file location and max memory. In fact, if you don’t change the default location for your database files and the max memory setting, a lot of the other performance tweaks won’t make that big of a difference.

Database File Location

When the SQL Server install runs, it asks where you want to put your database files. The default location is on the same drive where SQL Server is installed, which is typically the same drive as the OS installation. Do NOT accept this default, just say NO! If you have a high volume transactional system, this will cause competition with the OS and guess who loses? You do. You should take this a step further and separate out your data files from your log files. And your tempdb should have a drive all to itself. (Note: When I say drive, I am referring to physically separate disks, not a single disk that has been partitioned into multiple drives. If you’re using a SAN, make sure you coordinate with your SAN administrator to get your drives created from the correct “LUN pools”.)

Max Memory

After SQL Server has been installed, the default max memory setting is to basically allow SQL Server use as much memory as it wants. Sounds like a good idea on the surface, but just say NO! SQL Server is very greedy when it comes to memory, it will take every byte your server has to offer, leaving your OS starved. My general rule of thumb is to allocate ¾ of the total memory to SQL Server, never leaving less than 2GB, but not more than 4GB, for the OS.

These are not the only defaults you should change, but these are two that will get you the most bang for your buck. They are easy to change and the implications/consequences of these changes are easy to understand. If you are a beginner with SQL Server, start with these two things, they will make you look like a very smart monkey.

Posted by: sqlswimmer | June 26, 2015

The Whole Pie

Today should be such an exciting day, the day the speakers are announced for the 2015 PASS Summit. But as someone who has been involved with the process for the last 6 Summits, it’s a day that I usually turn my Twitter feed off because there’s always those one or two people who don’t get selected or who don’t like the selections that were made and throw a very public tantrum. Then the insults and accusations start flying.

There has been a long history of criticism of the abstract review process for the PASS Summit. Speakers complain that they don’t get feedback or the feedback they get is not helpful and that the process takes too long. Community members complain that certain topics weren’t included, that the process is a black box or there is a “white” and/or “black” list of who gets to present and who doesn’t.

When I started working on the Program Committee six years ago as an abstract review team member, it was a lot of work but very rewarding. When I was asked to step up my game two years ago and become a team lead, it was more work, but even more rewarding. Being part of the process that builds the program for the Summit is a great honor and a tremendous responsibility. So when I was asked to be a Program Manager this year, I had to consider what it would mean. It would mean even more work but I wasn’t sure if it would be more rewarding. But I decided I was up for the challenge and accepted the role.

In years past I was only responsible for a very small piece of the pie. I had my track that I had to think about and that was it. As a review team member, you read the abstracts for the track that you are assigned, you rate them and then you provided the team lead with your rankings. That was it. The rest of the process was really a black box to me.

As a team lead there are a few more pieces of the pie that you get to sample. Not only do you get to read all the abstracts in your track, but you also get to wrangle reviewers (someone akin to herding cats) and make tough decisions based on input from your team members. You have to take into account things like topic distribution, session level and speaker distribution (speakers are limited to only two general sessions). Being a team lead is a very time consuming role. Last year in an effort to provide better feedback to submitters a report was introduced that allowed team leads to see the comments reviewers had made. This gave us the opportunity to have a bit more of an insight into what the team members were thinking when they scored an abstract. The flow of the data wasn’t perfect, but it was tremendously helpful to me as a team lead.

As a Program Manager you have to look at the whole pie. You have to do all the things that a team lead does, but now you have to do it for ALL the tracks, not just the one that you were assigned to review. Then you have to set out to “build the program”. Building the program is like a super-mega-charged game of Jenga. You move one piece and it can cause such a ripple effect, you might spend thirty minutes trying to “fill the gap” you just created. I have a whole new appreciation for the process after being a Program Manager.

Whether you are a speaker getting an email, or you are a community member looking over the sessions that were selected, remember that feedback is a GIFT. Everyone loves gifts, so think twice before you speak/blog/tweet about the process. That was a giant pie we just made and we are very proud of it.

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