Even though it’s been almost 2 weeks since PASS ended, I feel like I’m just now getting my bearings.  Of course some of that may be due to the fact that after I returned home from PASS, I turned around and got on another plane to kickstart a new project…but the week in Seattle was a whirlwind of good times!

One thing that was clear from the very first session: this year’s summit was PACKED.  In fact, I literally could not get through the door of the first session I was planning on going to (What’s New in SSRS).  Luckily, due to all the awesome content on the schedule, I had a backup session.  I hustled over to Craig Utley’s (fantastic) session on Aggregations – and was barely able to get a seat there.  This session, too, was standing room only, and it was not in a small room!  This quickly became a theme as almost every session I attended that week was filled to capacity.  Clearly a lot more BI people were in attendance and to them I say, welcome! I hope you enjoyed summit as much as I did.

One great new change for this year’s summit, is that all the presentations will be available streaming on the website.  I’d like to blog more about the sessions I saw, and I did see a bunch I swear!  But there was so much information, and so much I didn’t get to see, that I’m very excited to be able to simply go to the website and rewatch the ones I did see and watch the ones I didn’t see.  We always get the DVDs, but then I have to remember to go find them!  Having vids available via streaming is fantastic.

Another great change was the utilization of the Guidebook app.  And I had a bright and shiny new Android table to use it on!  Furthermore, the session information all included links to fill out evals online (and had the speaker/topic information auto-filled in) which was incredibly useful and really made it easier to fill out those evals.  Which we all know we need to do and should do, right?

On a more personal note, this is my 4th PASS Summit.  My first summit, I had graduated from college that June, so I only had a few months of job experience under my belt.  I was a total fish out of water.  Making everything even more intimidating was the fact that the vast majority of attendees are DBAs or in the DBA world, not BI, so I really felt like I didn’t understand anything.  Being so much younger than everyone, with so little experience, in a much smaller field made it hard to really get into the PASS experience.  The difference between my involvement that first year to this year is like night and day.  And kudos to PASS to really focusing on first timers and the community really banding together to make everyone feel included.

Tips to get involved:

Join Twitter!  I held off on joining twitter a long time – in fact I didn’t join until the 2010 PASS Summit.  I was worried I wouldn’t have anything to say, but what I found was – that didn’t matter!  You’ll be surprised how quickly you get assimilated – the community drags you in and won’t let go!  So take the plunge, you’ll be glad you did.

Go to parties!  And SQL Saturdays (which are pretty much the same thing).  I’ve only been to one SQL Saturday so far (in Tampa which was fantastic).  Meeting people outside of sessions is invaluable.  One of the most fun nights this year at PASS was #sqlkaraoke.  And performing there is a great way to break the ice.

In fact, I ended up recognizing a great performer from #sqlkaraoke the next day at the Birds of a Feather table on Mobile BI.  Mark Vaillancourt (Blog|@markvsql), who does an amazing impression of Gilbert Godfried, also does BI!  During our discussion at the table (which ranged from being theater students to report building frustrations), it came up how the #sqlhelp hashtag is not so helpful for us BI folk.  Given the aforementioned majority of DBAs in the SQL community, questions on SSRS, SSAS, and SSIS tend to get lost.  And while he didn’t create the idea, he should get the majority of the credit for popularizing the new hashtag #SSRShelp.  Furthermore, spurred on by this creation, we now also have #SSAShelp.  Both these hashtags are being monitored by some of the top people in the field in these technologies and I know they will be an amazing resource.

On a lighter note, Mark and I also think there should be a Birds of a Feather table next year for theater folk – or more inclusively, Stage and Screen.  There seem to be a shocking number of people in this community with a theater background and let’s face it, they make great presenters and are a lot of fun!  Let’s get this ball rolling!

And finally, if you didn’t notice, one of the pieces of swag in the PASS backpack this year was a deck of cards.  Yet there was nary a game of #sqlpoker to be found.  Perhaps a Birds of  a Feather table needs to be created for poker!  Or even better, perhaps a vendor would be willing to sponsor a #sqlpoker tournament!  Oh the possibilities!

tl:dr PASS 2011 was awesome and I can’t wait for next year.