Not All Ideas Are Great and Not All Great Ideas Get Implemented

I try to remember that not all my ideas are great. If anything, most are not, and that applies to most people. Even great ideas don’t always get implemented, due to politics, poor marketing, poor timing, and more, but perhaps mostly due to it being really hard to tell which ideas are great until after they are implemented. That means some less than great ideas do get implemented. Some end up working out ok, some don’t, but we don’t know which it will be until after the implementation.

Not all ideas need to be great. It’s a mistake to wait until an idea is perfect before proceeding. It’s also a mistake to fail to spend a few minutes trying to make the idea better and trying to find flaws. It’s a lot more fun to just assume the idea is so great that any flaws, real or imagined, will either not materialize or are worth the cost of getting the idea accomplished.

Things I know about my ideas:

  • Most are interesting, to me at least!
  • Not all are practical. Maybe not many of them even.
  • I favor solving interesting problems over making money. Sometimes that’s good, but not always.
  • I’ve never had an idea that wasn’t made better (or thrown out) by talking it through with at least one trusted advisor
  • I like to look laterally and in depth, which means I almost always prefer the long term win over the short term. Powerful, but sometimes the short term win is what matters.
  • If I really think it’s a good idea I’m willing to make the bet if win or lose depends on me. If it depends on a team, I have to convince them, not just tell them, or invite failure
  • I’m willing to fail. Not eager, but willing.
  • I believe in having a lot of ideas, because so few are good, but also because it takes practice to have ideas and vet them, to learn to let go of them when they aren’t quite good enough
  • I’ve learned, reluctantly and painfully, to try to guess carefully at the effort required, because once I commit I’m in, and it’s really easy to wind up foregoing sleep to not let something fail

That needs some work, but I wanted to capture some notes on this while I was thinking about it. I don’t know that it’s hard to teach or learn, but it seems to be rarely taught or learned.

Changes to the SQLSaturday Numbering System

Tim Ford has a post on the PASS blog today about Feedback Requested on SQLSaturday Numbering System that is worth a quick read and comment. Basically the idea is to remove the numbers from the event title to make it easier to reuse marketing materials. My feedback on the change:

  • Joe Healy suggested the numbering back in the beginning (#2 was the first numbered event) and I think it’s been a powerful way to explain velocity and perhaps increase velocity at the same time. (Anyone know how many Code Camps have been held?).
  • I’d like to see the number maintained in the SQLSaturday.com directory of events/past events and in the event logo. From the post I’m unclear if the directory listings will change or not.
  • I’d like to see event leaders have the option to use the number or not, as they prefer, in text and or logos. Whoever lands SQLSat#1000 will probably want to use it in the name. Or mix and match. I like pulling shirts out of the closet with a “low number”, I also like the shirts that have the city/year on them
  • This change mirrors the real world, at least here in Orlando.  We do “SQLSaturday Orlando” and we use the issued tag plus “#sqlsatorlando”. I can see going to a single recurring twitter tag per event as being the smarter marketing move.
  • I question if any change to the website is needed, or if this is just a matter of setting/modifying the rule about logos. I’m not fond of too many rules when it comes to SQLSaturday, and as long as the public facing web site looks good, I’ve never worried about organizers did on shirts and the rest – it’s their event.

I like that the change is being circulated for discussion. I’d like to see a public discussion rather than in emails sent in – someone might well write something that enables me to see a point I had not seen before and like, or that I disagree with. The discussion could prove useful.

My Role at SQLSaturday Orlando This Year

Last year I took on the marketing of SQLSaturday and a good time doing it, with some nice results for the extra effort I invested. As I thought about what I wanted to do this year and what I had time for, I realized I couldn’t make the long commitment marketing requires (months of continuous effort). After some discussion with the team I’ll be leading our volunteer efforts, ranging from describing the tasks to finding the volunteers to celebrating their accomplishments. It makes sense to have a core team leading the event, but I really like seeing 10, 20, 30+ volunteers engaged in the couple weeks prior and during the event. Room proctors, check-in, photos, greeters, etc, etc, are great ways to engage volunteers and make the event run smoother. I’m still working on a real vision, but right now I have these ideas:

  • Average task should be 1 hour
  • Should be clearly described – task, location, duration
  • Should overstaff, expecting some cancellations or no-shows
  • Task should not take them away from learning (or if it does, for not more than an  hour)
  • Tasks should convey how they add value to the event/attendees/volunteer
  • Not all tasks are glamorous (picking up ice, end of day cleanup)
  • I do want to explore hiring a couple of “movers” to move heavy stuff and take on some of the sweatier tasks
  • Need to describe my goal – is it # of attendees? satisfaction? value add?
  • Listen on the planning calls for volunteer opportunities
  • Volunteers are a great place to grow/identify future leaders

Speakers are volunteers too, and we treat them well and as they get ‘managed’ separately, about the only thing I have in mind for discussion is making Friday more valuable to them. Last year we offered them a 50% discount on the Friday seminar and I think that is worth repeating, but I also wonder if we shouldn’t look at a full day/half day event just for speakers on Friday.

From a SQLSaturday Volunteer: There Was a Lot More To This Than I Ever Knew

This past weekend in Tampa I spoke with a first time volunteer who had attended the events before (in Tampa and other cities) and he said that he had been really surprised and impressed by the amount of work that the event requires. I think he was disappointed a little that he had not realized before, but in fairness we strive to make our events look easy. We show up, hopefully endure a minor wait to check in, and then off we go to learn and network, probably thinking little about who got up early to pick up the donuts and who is taping signs on the doors and all the rest. Because we make it look easy, there’s a human tendency to think setting it all up was easy. It’s easier the second time than the first time, and so on, but it’s never going to reach the point that it doesn’t require effort.

Should we remind the attendees how much work was required so they can be grateful? Of course not!

No, what we should do is encourage people to volunteer. It’s not easy, but every volunteer you find becomes a stake holder. Some will volunteer once, some one will return every year, and some will grow to take larger roles in the event. Whether they volunteer again or not, they’ll have a different view of events ever after (hopefully a good one).

To my volunteer friend I say this – thank you!

Product Based Communities Are Easiest To Build (Not Easy)

Part of a discussion from this past weekend prompted me to write down some quick thoughts on building community.

Building communities is a lot of work and a lot of magic. It starts with a shared interest though, and while it’s never as simple as always, I think that it’s easiest to build communities around products because it largely mirrors the way we work at work. It also tends to conform to the sponsor/tool ecosystem where vendors are willing to spend some money (usually in ads, but sometimes in licenses or even cash) to reach the people who use the product (and might need their supporting product/service). It’s certainly possible to build umbrella communities that are about concepts/problems that cross silos (think a ‘database’ site) and it’s possible to have a smaller community that focuses on a subset of a product, but I’d say they are less common and harder to build/maintain.

An interesting exercise is to think about which communities you value and why.

Celebrating First Time Speakers in the PASS Universe

I’ve long been an advocate of growing more speakers locally, something that turns out to be surprisingly hard to do, at least here in Orlando. This past weekend I was at SQLSaturday Tampa watching the end of day raffle and was interested to hear that one of the winners was also speaking for the first time (Dan King). We should do more to recognize those people, so that they know it matters (and perhaps will continue speaking), and so that the rest of us can see the progress happening (and perhaps connect with our latest peer). The number of first time speakers would be a really nice metric for PASS to track.

Notes From SQLSaturday#371 Tampa

Very nice event this past weekend. I attended the volunteer dinner on Friday night after an uneventful trip down I4. Speaker shirt was different this year, a nice short sleeve button up from Columbia. Saturday everything went smoothly. I did my presentation on Learning Plans first thing, attended an interesting session on master data management, another on analysis services vs tabular, enjoyed a very good lunch, and did my latest security tip/mistake talk mid afternoon. Good attendance at both presentations and good evals. I stayed for some of the after party at CDB’s just down the way from the event site. Pizza was not bad, but parking was hard to find.

Notes From the February 2015 MagicPASS Meeting

I’m really late posting this, so the quality of the notes will suffer, but still:

  • I did a very intro level presentation on how indexes work, stats, and queries. It’s fun to both demystify a topic while also making them realize it really is complicated stuff!
  • I did the presentation using only a white board. Arguably slides and some animations might help, but in the beginning when it’s only concepts, I find a whiteboard works well.
  • Good questions. I think there might be something to be said for building a 2 hour to 4 hour video that we could show to beginners, developers, etc. The basics of how and why perf happens without getting into the deep internals.
  • 13 attendees
  • Dinner was Kendal’s mac & cheese & ham, salad, Girl Scout cookies. Good!
  • Kendal talking to the members about a cert study group. He has some good ideas and there seems to be some interest, I hope (hint) he blogs about it as they go.
  • As usual I didn’t stay after for the social time, preferring to get home in time to see the kids before they go to bed, but thinking I need to make time to go soon, just to see the rest of the MagicPass formula

The Appearance of PASS Chapter Websites

Imagine you’re new to SQL Server, or new to a city, and you start looking around for networking and learning opportunities. With luck and/or experience you find your way to the local PASS Chapter web site. Once there, what do you find? Does it look professional? Is it current? Can you see what the last meeting was about and when the next meeting is? Can you identify who the leader is? Notes about upcoming events (ie Code Camp)? Does the group have a logo? Does it make you feel like this is an active and engaged group?

If you’re a sponsor, does it look like a place you want your logo? Are sponsor ads featured nicely and clearly?

The appearance of the site matters, at least a little bit. One way to solve this is to simplify (ala Meetup, EventBrite, LinkedIn). Apply a theme, set the logo, and minimize the changes that have to be done to keep the site current. It’s tempting to add more (free tools, past sponsors, past speakers) and it’s good if you can maintain it, but it’s always disheartening to see one of the links and land on a page that was last updated a year ago.

It’s an area I’m surprised that PASS doesn’t pay more attention to. The Summit web site is always first class. SQLSaturday template is very nice, most events fill in most of the blanks (please, set the hotel location!). If a Chapter doesn’t have a logo, that would be a good place to offer some help. If a site is badly out of date, that might be a worth an email and/or an offer to help. If I had a business with 200+ affiliates/franchises/whatever, I’d want them to represent my brand well (without making them all look the same).

I get that running a chapter is hard. Finding speakers, sponsors, attendees can chew up the time you have. Think of the web site appearance as a one time/once a year type investment and maybe find a volunteer that has the UI gene. And whether you get to it or not, thanks for doing what you do.

Here are some examples, good and not so good, that I found while just looking through the list at http://sqlpass.org/PASSChapters/LocalChapters.aspx.

 

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SSC Editorial: Microsoft and Minecraft and Training Kids

It’s been a few days since Microsoft and Minecraft and Training Kids was the editorial of the day and I’ve enjoyed the conversation it created. We all struggle with trying to find the balance between protecting our children and giving them time and space to grow, and it seems I’m not the only one that sees possibilities in Minecraft for kids.

A comment on Twitter led me to Youth Digital where they have a Minecraft Mod course for $249. That’s interesting, both for education and as a product in the market. I don’t think my daughter is quite ready to try it, but I’m keeping it in mind. I could stand to learn a little Java anyway! Even if I build some simple mod it might be interesting to see if she would enjoy the process of sharing (marketing) it, reading the comments, thinking about if and how to make it better.