How cool was SQL Bits 8?
The simple answer: very! Thanks very much to everyone who was involved in making it happen - both organisers and speakers. For a bargain price I got a deep dive day on performance monitoring and troubleshooting and two days of a wide variety of subjects. And it's not just people regurgitating Books Online. This is practical, 'street smarts' know-how from people who really do this stuff for a living. If you're not sure how to pay for it, here's one approach. Last time I went to the free day and my boss was so impressed with all the good stuff I brought back that, when I asked if he would pay for the full monty this time, he didn't even hesitate.
You get much more than just information though: there are other, less tangible benefits. It's as good as a holiday to just geek out on SQL stuff and be exposed to aspects you haven't used much. I came back full of new ideas and raring to make a difference. You also shouldn't underestimate the boost you get from just mingling with others of our kind. I don't know what it's like where you work but at my company I am the DBA team and it gets a bit lonely sometimes.
Then there's the chance to meet the rock stars and learn from them. We're lucky to work in a largely fact-based field where just having a loud voice doesn't get you very far. These people are prominent because they're good at their thing. I've now met quite a few and, without exception, they've been very approachable and helpful. This time I got to chat with Aaron Bertrand and Kevin Kline and, apart from being great SQL guys, they were both really good company.
Half the SQL Server CAT Team were over from Redmond and available all three days to talk about anything. There are sponsor companies showing you there products. And not just sales staff. At one stand I was looking into a monitoring product and it turned out the guy showing me round it was the lead developer. You can find out more in five minutes like this than you can in an hour of reading specs and documentation on their website.
Last but not least, rest assured that there is swag. A year's subscription to SQL Server Magazine, 6 months' access to an on-line library of nearly 700 technical books, serious prize draws galore, and so on. And I won second prize in the SQL trivia bingo!
I'm sure I'm missing plenty of other stuff. SQL Bits is not a trade convention. It's SQL Server people getting together, sharing what they know, and learning from each other.