Datazen – Connecting Drill Through to Navigation Apps

I just accomplished something very cool in Datazen and I couldn’t wait to share with everyone! I was working on a POC for a client with Datazen. We were doing some review and the client had an interesting request. We were going to add a drill through to information that would contain an address. The client said “If this could be a link that a phone’s navigation would recognize that would be slick”. I thought to myself “oh that would be very cool” and got a little nerd giddy at the thought of trying to do that.

 ***

After doing a little searching I found that you can link to a map using the format: http://maps.google.com/?q=term. The “term” portion is where you would update it with your search. So in my case I can put the address. It has flexibility as well so you can do something like this if you would want: http://maps.google.com/?q=statue of liberty.  When you use that link it brings up the map below.

Lady Liberty

Lady Liberty

Back in Datazen I created a Simple DataGrid that contained the fields I wanted to display including address. I then read the documentation on the Datazen website documentation for custom url drill throughs (http://www.datazen.com/docs/?article=server/drill_throughs_to_other_dashboards_or_custom_urls). The example made me think I had to have a selection be passed to the url. I didn’t want to do that, I just wanted it to pass a field I had displayed in my DataGrid.  However when I started playing with it, it showed my fields contained in the DataGrid as well! Sweet!  So I created a drill through for my DataGrid. In the expression window I put “http://maps.google.com/?q=” then selected the field (SimpleDataGrid3.Address).

***

When testing this drill through on my iPhone it didn’t work (insert sad trombone music).  It would kick me out of DataZen app and go to my home screen but nothing more. It was like it was trying to do something but wasn’t working. I did some more research and found this link (https://developers.google.com/maps/documentation/ios/urlscheme). It refers to the url scheme to launch navigation from apps. So with information from that article I changed the beginning of my link to comgooglemapsurl://maps.google.com/?q=. I test again and it works!

The custom url drill through

The custom url drill through

When I clicked the drill through it would open Apple Maps with that address displayed. Cool egh?! It also then reminded me that I hadn’t changed my default to Google maps which is now resolved as well.

Datazen Custom Map Craziness

I often struggle coming up with ideas for blog posts. Thank you Datazen again for another idea!  After encountering the issue I posted earlier (link to post) when working with maps, I was very anxious to try to create a custom map.  I started working on one with my brewery data.  I ran into several bumps in the process so wanted to share with everyone.

 ***

I had collected several shapefiles through the years playing with spatial data.  I began trying a few of them in Datazen but had a hard time finding any that worked. When I would select them, they would just hang and sit there. Some were very large so I suspected there was a size limit though there wasn’t anything in the documentation. In my testing I couldn’t get anything over 1MB to work. Later Chris Finlan said that the actual limit is 512 KB! Rather limiting but there is a potential workaround by using mapshaper.org to minimize the size. Depending on what type of shapefile you are using it can distort your polygons potentially too much so that workaround only goes so far.

Tweet from Chris Finlan on shapefile size.

Tweet from Chris Finlan on shapefile size.

After getting the size issue nailed down, I continued on with my mission of getting my custom map working. Normally when you use shapefiles they contain a few files. Datazen uses the shp file and dbf file. The shp file contains the polygon information and details to draw the map. The dbf file contains the attributes about those shapes or the data you’ll need to tie to your own data. Below is a screenshot of my dbf file using DBF Viewer 2000 software (free trial then about $50 to purchase after 30 days at http://www.dbf2002.com/).

The original dbf file

The original dbf file

You can see it has a key field (ogr_fid) then zcta5ce10 which is actually field that contains zip code. The zcta5ce10 field is the key I needed to use to tie with my own data containing zip codes. When you use Datazen you can’t select the proper key, and as it turns out it must have the key as the first column in the dbf file! Crazy right?! Using the DBF Viewer 2000 software, I had move the column to be the first in the dbf file.

Updated dbf file to move key column to be first.

Updated dbf file to move key column to be first.

After a bit of head shaking I move on and at this point I was excited to see my custom map working! But wait, why is my data point not where I expect it to be? I was mapping zip codes of breweries in Indiana that have been rated on BeerAdvocate. There is unfortunately only one (though I’d argue that should be more) and it’s Three Floyds which is up near Chicago but the Datazen map wasn’t accurately showing it (see below).

The report displaying the location incorrectly.

The report displaying the location incorrectly.

I opened up the shapefiles in other programs (QGIS/Google Earth) and it was showing correctly both before and after minimization process. After talking with Datazen support it, they sent this info:

 ***

“While I can’t say for certain where things went wrong, I suspect it was due to improper minifying – something got misaligned between the SHP and the DBF and QGIS and Google Earth all read the SHX file to properly map the shapes to the database. Datazen does not do that. We assume a 1-to-1 relation between shape and data: the Nth shape corresponds to the Nth entry in the DBF.”

 ***

I had inadvertently changed the order of the data in the dbf file when I had to edit the order of the columns. Since other programs I use to view shapefiles also use the shx file, there wasn’t an issue with them correctly mapping the shape to the attribute even after accidentally changing the order. A shx file is basically a linking/index file between the shp and dbf files. Be very careful when editing the order of your columns in the dbf file. One accidental click on a column and it can ruin the dbf/shp file from working properly. If they don’t line up, your report can be reporting your data in random polygons! I’m glad I had a very simple dataset and that I knew where Three Floyds was supposed to be located as I may have very easily missed that. Make sure you do some validation on your reports to be safe.

 ***

I’m very interested to see what Microsoft does with Datazen now. I’m intrigued to see what/when any updates to it occur. I’m also interested in others experiences with custom maps in Datazen. Please share in the comments any issues/experiences you encountered.

Datazen – Map Not Working? May Never Guess Why

I recently started learning Datazen, along with a lot of folks since Microsoft purchased them. If you do searches on Datazen, there is information out there but not an enormous amount. There is a great overview video by my friend/colleague Megan Longoria at http://www.blue-granite.com/video-datazen-overview. There is also some nice info at http://www.datazen.com/docs/. However there appears to be a HUGE void in posts that detail overcoming issues with the product. I’m sure that will change as more start digging into it. Here’s my first post to help fill the void. That and my karma can always use boosting so I wanted to get this post out asap in case it helps someone getting started as well.

 ***

Many know I love all things spatial so I was naturally drawn to doing one of the maps in Datazen. I get my data situated just right in Excel (another potential post there). There isn’t much to configure when setting up a map but I then do that. You can see what I had below.

MapBeerData

I have some simple brewery/beer data (shocking I know). I wanted to visualize the location with a bubble and the size of the bubble based on beer ratings. I tried address, city, and then even state with no luck. I had hoped to get a more finely defined location but I knew I could get state by the examples and documentation here (http://www.datazen.com/docs/?article=server/configuring_visualizations). It just wouldn’t work at all and kept returning blank map with no bubbles when I would preview. After a stern cussing, I start to look at the sample tables of other map examples. One of the table examples is below.

StateExample

I noticed they had state spelled out fully. Thinking to myself “No way that’s the problem. No way it’s that picky”. I start to give it a shot. You can see above I had used the state abbreviation. I add a column to my Excel data with the state fully spelled out and put that as the key. Lo and behold that fixed the issue!

BeerMap

Finding that Datazen is as finicky as a spoiled toddler and I’m just getting started. There’s a lot of potential there but Microsoft, you have A LOT of work to do!

Cleveland Rocks – SQLSaturday Cleveland 2015

Heading home now from SQLSaturday Cleveland. I know I say all the SQLSaturdays are good but this one really was fantastic! I am a little amazed at how many passionate people are in that area that help with that event. I think a lot of that has to do with Mr. Allen White (Twitter|blog) and his constant encouragement of others in the community. It shows and is inspiring!

***

So I head out from Indy on Friday with Warren (Twitter|blog) who graciously agreed to drive. Which thanks to that and technology, I was able to finish up work while on the way. He then drops me off at Harness Cycle spin studio. Real life Super Woman Erin Stellato (Twitter|blog) set up Joey (Twitter|blog) and I to do a spin class there that she instructed! Is there anything she can’t do!? 🙂 Thanks Erin for setting that up!  Was really nice to have a fitness activity that for a change that wasn’t running related.

 ***

From there we head to Ironwood Café to the speaker dinner. They setup a feast! When the waitresses started bringing food, they didn’t stop! Well done there organizers, I was impressed. After that I head back and chat for a good long time with the dynamic duo Data Chix, Audrey (Twitter|blog) and Julie (Twitter|blog).

 ***

Event day comes and I get myself over to Hyland Software at a reasonable time in the morning. I was lucky again and have a session right after lunch so wasn’t rushed. The Cleveland folks are lucky with that venue they have at Hyland. It’s a great facility! I am super jealous! After getting there I head to the speaker room which was setup with an amazing spread! Brewnuts (donuts with BEER in them!!), healthy options, and homemade goodies including caramels from Erin (see I told you…Super Woman!).

 ***

I was able to sit in on Joey’s lunch session and show support to one of the great SQL community sponsors, SIOS.  After that I had my session which was on spatial data again. I really enjoy that one as it shows the potential analysis with floor plans and spatial data. I had several say they enjoyed it and even two who told me it was their favorite of the day!

 ***

After my session was over I went to watch my homegirl, Julie’s session on SSIS. She was doing a decent amount of tweaking to it so was there for some morale support in addition to learning. She’s a pro and it was great. I know I have run into some of the same things she went over. SSIS can be, well let’s just say non-intuitive at times. She goes over many of these spots that can make folks bang their heads on their desk.

 ***

Last session of the day I caught Michael J. Swart’s (Twitter|blog) Drawing Conclusions talk. He is such a great artist and he used his illustrations to convey some SQL Server lessons. Good stuff and glad I was able to catch that one. That and I got to listen to him say “about” (he’s Canadian).

Michael Swart caught a join this big :)

Michael Swart caught a join this big 🙂

After the prize drawings we all went to Ambrosia to decompress and have some dinner. It was a Hungarian place. The food and company was great! And I found out I do like stuffed cabbage…who knew?! The staff seemed a bit overwhelmed but it happens. After that a few of us went over to Bar Louie for one more beverage and chatting.

The crowd at the end of the day for prize drawings.

The crowd at the end of the day for prize drawings.

Thank you Cleveland folks for having me speak again! Looking back on the weekend I really do feel blessed to be a part of this community. Good people, good times!

SQLSaturday Nashville 2015

I am just wrapping up a great start of SQLSaturdays to begin 2015. The first one was in January with SQLSaturday Nashville. I know I have mentioned it before but Nashville has a special spot in my heart. My very first SQLSaturday I ever presented at was in Nashville so I always try to make it down there. That and Nashville is full of some of my favorite SQL peeps!

 ***

So head down with my husband, Rod (Twitter) on Friday afternoon. Love it when he’s able to go with me so he can be a part of this side of my world. We love traveling together too so it’s a win win. We make it down in time to head to the speaker dinner which they had at Tamera (Twitter|blog) and Kerry’s (Twitter|blog) house. God bless the brave souls who open up their houses to host parties related to their events. I love the intimacy/coziness of those parties. I just can’t imagine putting the added stress of cleaning house/etc on top of organizing an event. Dinner was great and Tammy/Kerry/family were great hosts!

 ***

Event day we head over to the venue at Lipscomb University. It’s a really nice space for the event. Being the swell guy he is, Rod agreed again to take pictures of the event (see them here). I get situated and begin doing preparation for my session. I did my latest incarnation of spatial data presentations. I enjoy doing that one so much! It went well and got some good feedback so I think folks enjoyed it.

Talkin spatial

Talkin spatial

After the event Rod and I went to grab some dinner. I enjoy me some food and was really excited to try a local specialty called “hot chicken”. We heard a song about it from Dom Flemons and figured if it’s good enough to write a song about it, it had to be good! Thanks to Louis’s (Twitter|blog) recommendation we go to Big Shakes and it was amazing! Like I needed more reasons to get down to Nashville but I now have hot chicken to add to the list.

Good times at after party!

Good times at after party!

From there we go to the after party at Athletic Club Bar & Grill. Was nice as it was at the hotel so didn’t have to worry about driving anywhere and could relax. Such a good time! Between the tales of “Ha-va-ee” from Robert Verell (Twitter) or Gareth’s (Twitter|blog) swamp people impression, I thought I was going to pull a muscle laughing so hard. Great meeting new folks and being with old friends. Thanks to all at Nashville for having us and congrats on another excellent event!

WIT panel discussion

WIT panel discussion

One of the big lessons/impressions I took away from Nashville was from lunch at the event. I was asked to be a part of the panel for the WIT lunch discussion. During all WIT talks I always think of how I am with my daughter. I had a little revelation while we were talking. I want to make sure I help her understand that no matter where you go, there will always be people who know more than you do on any given topic. There are those who are just genuinely conveying knowledge and know more than you. There are also those douchebags that make themselves feel better by making others feel stupid. Whether it’s someone who is trying to make you feel like an idiot, or just someone who knows more and is trying to help, don’t EVER let your lack of knowledge dissuade you from anything! I know I have been there, I think we all have. I hope I can help both my kids to understand that as it’s not just a lesson for women but all of us. Keep learning and embrace that you don’t know it all and you never will. And when you encounter the douchebags, use those feelings to light the fire under your tail to get better!

Custom maps in Power Map

Many folks know I love playing with spatial data. In one my current presentations, Spatial Data – Looking Outside the Map, I do a demo creating a floor plan with spatial data and do analysis and reporting against some hotel data. I am actually on my way to Seattle right now and have the great honor to present this at PASS Summit. In the September update there was an exciting feature released to Power BI, custom maps in Power Map. What it essentially allows you to do is to map your data to any image file you want. Seeing some of the examples of what could be done (http://blogs.msdn.com/b/powerbi/archive/2014/10/07/5-minute-tutorial-for-creating-custom-maps-with-excel-and-power-map.aspx) I was excited to see what I could do with my demo hotel data.

 

I have the click to run version of Office so it runs updates auto-magically. When I opened Excel though I didn’t see the option for custom maps. So I go to File – Account – Update Options and choose Update Now. It runs the update and voila, custom maps.

 

So my data is really typically hotel data that is stored in SQL Server. I like to call my hotel “Plaza Del Hope”. It contains run of the mill information for Plaza Del Hope guests. One of the main things it contains is arrival dates of my hotel guests. I pulled that into Power Pivot and create all the relationships I’ll need. After I have my data in the model in order, now begins the less than super fun part. How custom maps work is that you will use an x, y axis information to detail how your data will relate to the image file. So you will need to create those coordinates. The easiest way to do that is to open your image in Paint. Then you need to make sure your Paint is set to show coordinates in pixels. Mine was not and instead was using inches. If you need to change it then select File – Properties – and then specify the units to be pixels.  Then when you hover over your picture, in the lower left it will display the X,Y coordinates for the image.

PlotPoints

You can see here I am using an image of a hotel floor plan. I want to be able to visualize the data pertaining to the guests staying in the rooms so I need to tie each room to a coordinate. Now comes the tedious portion. I have to go through and get the x,y coordinates for each room on my floor plan. You can see here I put the x axis coordinate, y axis coordinate, and the corresponding room number into the Excel spreadsheet that contained my Power Pivot model. Doing this portion is when I tried to send telepathic messages of my wish to put spatial data support into the Power Map/View/etc tools to the Microsoft folks.

PlotPointsExcel

Once I had that I then pulled that info into my model by clicking Add To Model. I then added the relationships that pertain to RoomNumber.  Now I was ready to start building my custom map. I open up Power Map (From spreadsheet click the Insert tab – click Map – launch Power Map. I select New Scene – New Custom Map. You can name your custom map scene. I set mine to Hotel. Next I select icon next to “Browse for the background picture”.  I then navigated the location for my image that plotted out before. After that I click the Select Pixel Space button and done. I now have a scene that contains the floor plan for my hotel. I wanted the first portion of my tour to contain a view of just the floor plan so I leave this scene alone and create a new scene. I can do this quickly but choosing the Copy Scene option.   This second scene is where I want to start showing some data.

CustomMap

With the second scene active, on the right I will start building my data story. First will specify Geography and Map Level. In the table selection I find the table with the x, y plots (PixelXY). I select X and Y fields and specify they are X coordinate and Y coordinates.

CustomMap2

What I want to show is when a guest is staying in the rooms so I select LastName and drag to Height(Count Not Blank). The height is a bit higher than I need it to be so I change that by on right hand pane, clicking the gear looking icon to change settings.

CustomMap3

The layer 1 info screen inside custom map isn’t providing any value so I remove that. Next I want to add a time dimension so I will do so by going back to the field list and select ArrivalDate. It will then bring up the play capability on my scene. I am able to click play and can see the arrival of our hotel guest over time and see a visual of what rooms are occupied. Pretty cool huh?!

 

The X,Y axis plotting is a bit, well not fun but it is definitely a good start. Hopefully this is a stepping stone on the path until we can get spatial data in those tools. The potential for custom maps is exciting and very interested to see how people begin to use them. Please feel free to post in the comments if you have done anything with them.

 

Below is the full detailed list of steps. Enjoy and have fun with custom maps!

 

  1. Open Power Pivot and pull in data.
    1. Power Pivot – Manage
    2. From Database – SQL Server
    3. Create any relationships between your tables pulled in. Can do various ways including dragging and dropping in the diagram view
    4. Using a date table so marked it as such
      1. Changed back to Data View
      2. Click the Design tab – Mark as date table
      3. Select the date field
  2. Map out the plots for spaces to use in picture.
    1. Open picture in Paint
    2. My paint was showing units in inches as opposed to pixels. To change:
      1. File – properties – select pixels
    3. Hover on a point in the picture where something would be you would want to plot. In my case I’m showing the booked rooms in a hotel.
    4. Capture the x, y axis info. I put in Excel worksheet where I had pulled my data into Power Pivot. I was plotting out hotel rooms so I also put the hotel room number to correlate it to the x,y plot.
  3. Then I click Add to Data Model
  4. Created relationship with my new table with existing ones in model based on Room Number
  5. Create Custom Map
    1. Go back to Excel workbook
    2. Select Insert Tab
    3. Click Map
    4. Select Launch Power Map
    5. Select New Scene
    6. Select New Custom Map
    7. Name your custom map scene – I set mine to Hotel
    8. Select icon next to “Browse for the background picture”
    9. Navigate to and select the picture you plotted out before.
    10. Select Pixel Space button
    11. Click Done
    12. Can now delete the first default scene and our new custom map scene is only one remaining
    13. I will leave this scene containing only the blank view of the floor plan. Can adjust the scene duration.
      1. Hover over scene and click on the gear looking icon to change scene options
      2. On the right I will change the value to 4 in scene duration
    14. Select New Scene – Copy Scene
    15. With the second scene active will specify Geography and Map Level
    16. Find the table that contains the x,y plotting we did before (PixelXY)
    17. Select X and Y fields and specify they are X coordinate and Y coordinate
    18. Click Next
    19. Select LastName and drag to Height – should be Count Not Blank
    20. On right hand pane – click the gear looking icon to change settings
    21. Bring the height down a bit
    22. Remove the layer 1 info screen inside custom map by clicking the x
    23. Go back to the field list and select ArrivalDate. It will then bring up the play capability on your scene.
    24. Click play and can see the arrival of our hotel guest over time and see visual of what rooms are occupied.

SQLSaturday Indy 2014 – Return of the Jedi

My first SQLSaturday organizer experience blog was called “SQLSaturday Indy Episode 2: A New Hope“.  The next year I just couldn’t resist and did “SQLSaturday 242 – The Empire Strikes Back“.  I have to finish out the trilogy thus the reason for the blog post name.  I’m sorry if you were lured here in hopes that there were gals in metal bikinis or Ewoks at SQLSaturday Indy.  Sadly there was nothing Star Wars related at all but I did Game of Thrones geek out with the room names.  To tie the title in though, I am getting better at this SQLSaturday organizer role so if you want to call me a jedi, I won’t be mad at ya.

***

I was again at the helm leading the organization of SQLSaturday Indianapolis.  It was my second year fully leading the effort.  It definitely was a little different this year, going in with last year’s experience under my belt.  I was a little more calm knowing how the whole process worked and didn’t have that fear of what I didn’t know constantly getting to me.  I also made sure to keep really good notes including some of the various communications sent out.  That was helpful as I didn’t have to start from scratch on many of them.  Most importantly I also knew early on to pull in some help.  I have a saint of a mother in law, Pam/Mamaw, who last year helped me as well.  What I didn’t tell folks though was that I called her in a panic Friday morning before the event last year.  She offered (or I begged, I can’t remember) to help again this year.  She helped with so many of the logistics of prepping the many materials and various other things.  There are many things take a decent amount of time that I underestimated last year.  They aren’t difficult but are tedious/time consuming.

Saint Pam/Mamaw

Saint Pam/Mamaw

Here’s a list of such things for any new organizers:

1. Stuffing of bags/packets for attendees

2. Preparing the gift bags for speakers

3. Printing the schedules

4. Cutting speaker session evals

5. Cutting event session evals

6. Cutting SpeedPASSes for speakers and preparing lanyards

 

The Recap

Friday I take off work so Pam and I start bright and early.  She had the good idea to wait to get drinks that morning so we only have to unload them the one time at the venue.  We do that and then get those and all the various paraphernalia to Indiana Wesleyan.  We get done and have some lunch while I go through my many lists of to do items.  I was a little uneasy at how smooth it was going compared to last year.  I even had time to head home for a bit and get ready for the speaker dinner.  Last year I was so rushed I had to buy a shirt on the way to the speaker dinner as I sweat through the first one.  Classy egh?

 

We had the speaker dinner at a local restaurant called Oobatz.  I had been working with the owner, Kirk, who was absolutely great!  As great as he was I had only visited once and had drinks.  Having not ate there made me a little nervous, you know me…want to take good care of my sql peeps!  I had NOTHING to worry about though.  The food was great and the service was excellent.  I highly recommend that spot, especially if you have a large party.  Tell Kirk I sent ya.  Having 29 beers on tap doesn’t hurt either though I mostly pushed my favorite local brew, Triton Railsplitter, on everyone at the party.

Speaker dinner at Oobatz

Speaker dinner at Oobatz

So Saturday starts bright and early.  My husband, Rod, and daughter, Ashlyn, came with me again this year to help.  I was working out some last minute schedule changes (thank you Kathi (Twitter|blog) again for taking another session super late in the game).  Due to that I was a little later than I wanted to getting out the door.  Rod was so great and talked me off the ledge while on the way there.  I was a bit on edge when I was trapped in the car.  I really love it that SQLSaturday Indy has become a family affair.  It just means the world to me that my family can be a part of it.  They may feel like SQLSaturday hijacks our life a bit but they don’t let on at all and I love them even more for it!  Us in the community understand SQLfamily and we know why we do these crazy things.  My family jumps in and helps not seeing that side at all.  They do it without question, just because they love me and are awesome people.  That’s family, right there!  Thank you all again from the bottom of my heart!

Family.

Family.

Where was I?  Ah so I was like 5 minutes late and I arrive and my volunteers and Pam are already at work getting drinks in coolers and registration setup.  I love my people.  Ok, enough love fest.  It’s a bit crazy getting setup and going and ready for the masses.  We can’t get in the venue until 7:00 and folks are set to show up at 7:30 so it’s a total mad dash.  We move like a finely tuned machine.  Katie, Aaron, and their boys (another family affair) help with checking folks in with others.  Brandon was awesome setting up coolers and other vital logistics.  Ashlyn and Mamaw/Pam are getting the sponsors all set.  I’m at the SpeedPASS printing table of shame and doing the directing.  Things are crazy but it went about as well as it could have.  I had more help than tasks and stuff got DONE!  I can’t give enough props to the team that helped!  You are all amazing and wonderful and all things great!

My wonderful, fabulous volunteers

My wonderful, fabulous volunteers

The day winds down a bit and able catch our breath.  The next craziness to make it through is lunch.  It went well I think but just takes time to feed the masses.  We had some good sessions going and think the word got out better than last year to disperse to other rooms.  Day moves on really well from there.  The last hurdle then comes with the raffles.  We had such great prizes from sponsors.  And not to toot my own horn but I thought prizes were good from the SQLSaturday group too.  We took the printer idea a little further this year and bought more items we needed for the day and raffled them off.  So we raffled off a printer (only used for printing SpeedPASSes and other items used that day), a couple nice monitors (Twitter feed/sponsor slides that never got setup in chaos), and a Keurig we had setup in the speaker ready room.  I just love the use and raffle approach on prizes.

This is what the thought "there's no way I pronounced that right" looks like

This is what the thought “there’s no way I pronounced that right” looks like

Aww there's a happy winner!

Aww there’s a happy winner!

We get cleaned up and out of the venue pretty quickly and then some of us head over to Scotty’s Brewhouse for some food and de-stressing.  Next is the after party.  I had setup for karaoke to start early for us at Tilly’s Pub and Grill.  Oh those crazy kids, how they love the #sqlkaraoke.  A really nice end to a great event, full of great family, great sqlfamily, great speakers, great volunteers, great sponsors.  It was all just…great!  I am really proud to be a part of bringing SQLSaturday to Indianapolis.

David and Wendy doing up some karaoke.

David and Wendy doing up some karaoke.

Frank doing his interpretation of Janet Jackson's "Nasty". Yes it IS as good as you're thinking!

Frank doing his interpretation of Janet Jackson’s “Nasty”. Yes it IS as good as you’re thinking!

Lessons learned this year:

1.  Don’t print the schedule until you are done messing with it.  I try to send in at least one my attendee communications to registered attendees to have them use schedule builder on the site.  It helps to get an indication of how popular sessions could be and can adjust those to have larger rooms.  Every year I think I know what folks want to see, but normally I have several sessions that surprise me and I’m WAY off.  I let my knowledge of the speakers cloud my judgment time and time again.  It works better getting some indication from outside parties.  I wish there was a way to get info from Guidebook but until then Schedule Builder works.  So the problem was that I printed the schedule before doing this check/room switch.  Wasn’t major issue but had to print them again and the tree hugging hippie in me cried a bit at the wasted paper/trees.

2.  A new thing I learned this year was that a SpeedPASS for a vendor will print even if they didn’t pay.  We had a sponsor sign up for 2 levels of sponsorship.  They paid one of them naturally.  I didn’t remove the unused sponsor entry assuming that it was harmless.  It wasn’t until very late that noticed they had 2 SpeedPASS raffle tickets.  I left them with 2 as didn’t want to have some folks with 2 chances at a prize, and some with one.  Figured more fair that all had 2 chances.  Not a very common scenario no doubt, but a tidbit for my fellow organizers.

3.  Make sure in the communications to attendees to have them print AND cut out their tickets.  We had many well intentioned folks who listened to my many emails pleading to print their SpeedPASSes but did not cut the raffle tickets.  So these folks were hung up cutting out tickets.  Also make sure to let them know the process for raffle tickets at the events.  We had some at the end of the day not knowing what to do with the tickets.

Kathi looks to be having fun in her session

Kathi looks to be having fun in her session

4.  I was trying to do a New Speaker buddy system that Nic Cain (Twitter|blog) referenced here.  I had good intentions but didn’t have the best organization with that portion.  Next year I will make sure to try to formalize that a bit more.  Speakers also make sure that you READ the communications organizers send.  I had many new speakers that I didn’t find out about that were first time speakers until the speaker dinner or even later.

5.  I knew in past and from experiences at other SQLSaturdays to try to have food set out to allow for at least 2 lines.  I would always hate to see tables lined up against the wall with food as it forces only one line.  We had the table where you could do that.  If you can set food to allow more (i.e. same food 2 tables, allowing 4 lines).  We didn’t have major issues but the faster you can feed that many people, the better. Looking back now I think we could have managed to setup more lines.

6.  Make sure to put in communications that the schedule has changed or is subject to.  It is just bound to happen, it’s just part of it.

I'll let you guys caption this one of Steve.

I’ll let you guys caption this one of Steve.

7.  Make sure to touch base with your sponsors at the event on how they want to handle raffle tickets.  Some sponsors will take tickets with them and scan them.  Others may want them mailed to them.  Others accidentally leave them.  And some just don’t care to keep them at all.  I plan to put some info on that to sponsors in communications next year.

8.  Never rely only on email communications alone.  Folks don’t read email.  Sure many do, but many also don’t.

Good times getting learn on at SQLSaturday Indy

Good times getting learn on at SQLSaturday Indy

9.  Get someone else to do opening/closing remarks.  I have just come to terms that I am not good at it.  I can chat folks up informally or in a session but when it comes to remarks stuff, I am just damn terrible.  I am frazzled and just worried about getting ‘er done.  I need like a host of the Grammy’s type person to do it up right next year.

10.  Check for duplicate speakers before making any orders.  There are some in the system as similar but different names.  I know I had some with multiple sessions and seems they were in twice.

SQLSaturday Chicago 2014

Last weekend was SQLSaturday Chicago which was good timing  I was getting antsy to get to another SQLSaturday since it has been quite awhile since the one in Cleveland.  Chicago is one of my staple events.  It’s a fantastic one, ran by some wonderful folks and very much in drivable range.  I just looked back and I’ve been going every year since SQLSaturday #67 in 2011!  Just amazing that we’re now in the 300s for SQLSaturdays.

 

I head up Friday after getting some work in the morning.  I get there in time to get a run through of my presentation.  I learned a speaking lesson in Cleveland that even though I’ve given a session several times, never get too comfortable.  I didn’t do a run through prior in Cleveland and my timing was off somewhere and I lost 10 minutes.  It wasn’t a huge deal to attendees I don’t think but it drove me nuts.  I will always do a run through just before an event.  It helps the nerves too.  After giving a presentation to the walls of the hotel, head over to the speaker dinner.  This was definitely a favorite as far as speaker dinners go.  It was at a place called Schnitzel Platz and of course a German restaurant.  They brought out a feast of sausages and schnitzel.  It was wonderful!

Speaker dinner at Schnitzel Platz

Speaker dinner at Schnitzel Platz

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Grant seems to have enjoyed the German food too!

Morning starts with breakfast with the lovely Strates, Jason (twitter|blog) & Sarah(twitter|blog) and Warner Chaves (twitter).  Then headed over to the DeVry campus where the event was being held.  My session wasn’t until noon so I had time to get situated and prepare.  They were doing an interesting new schedule where they spread lunch over a couple sessions and let those get food as they wish.  It seemed to work out for them.  The logistics of feeding that many folks are always tricky.

 ***

My session was over spatial data again and it went really well.  I had done some tweaking and with an engaged audience, it may have been my favorite with flow and timing. It also gave me a good story too.  I had a…well an interesting fellow in my session that gave the following creepy feedback.

 

Definitely the first time anyone ever mentioned Holocaust in session feedback.

Definitely the first time anyone ever mentioned Holocaust in my session feedback. *insert creepy music here*

After my session I went to see my friend, Mark Vaillancourt’s (twitter|blog) “Danger: The Art and Science of Presenting”.  I had wanted to see it for quite some time but never had the opportunity for one reason or the other.  It was very good and not what I expected.  I had been expecting a rah rah, you should all present and here’s why session.  There was only a tiny bit of that and instead gave a lot of interesting points about speaking as compared to Emotional Intelligence.  One thing that struck me was the notion that everyone attending your session is on your side or they wouldn’t be there.  It’s often thought of in the reverse and that everyone is out to get you, or “eat you” as he says.  Mark has the best sense of humor so his sessions are always entertaining.

 

Mark and his daughter, Paige. Love it when folks bring their kids.

Mark and his daughter, Paige. Love it when folks bring their kids.

Then I had to go see Meagan Longoria’s (twitter|blog) session “Choose Your Geospatial Adventure.  I was shocked to see two sessions relating to spatial on the schedule.  And even more so that it was by two ladies!  Her session was a nice one coupled with mine.  I delve into the spatial data type where she covered more the methods to visualize it.  It was a good session and showed some examples that I hadn’t seen.  It gave me some ideas for some things to try out later.

 

Meagan presenting how to visualize spatial.

Meagan presenting how to visualize spatial.

After the raffle we head back to the hotel for the after party.  Chicago has a somewhat traditional after party at the hotel with karaoke.  It’s nice to not have to worry about driving around.  One of the most memorable was Frank Gill’s (twitter|blog) version of “Unbelievable”.  He put a surprising death metal spin on it that was shocking/hilarious.  Thanks again for another wonderful time Chicago!  Organizers you did a fantastic job and really appreciate you allowing me to be a part of it again this year and for the past 3 years!

 

The masses gathering for the end of day raffle.

The masses gathering for the end of day raffle.

 

Frank Gill doing best "Unbelievable" rendition ever! And an odd setting on my phone so you see my eye. Who needs to take a pic like that??!!

Frank Gill doing best “Unbelievable” rendition ever! And an odd setting on my phone so you see my eye. Who needs to take a pic like that??!!