Tag Personal

Rate This!

There are a few people out there in the community who speak. You know who you are, I’ve been to your talks.

Sometimes, at a user group meeting there are forms to fill out where you circle a number and hand in the form and potentially win a prize like a license to Red Gate SQL Prompt or a copy of ReSharper. But what happens when people don’t fill them out. Or they come up with a particularly insightful comment after the fact like “ZOMG, your presentation totally saved my ass today! There was so much useful information in your presentation and I was able to use it and fix my production explosion!” Or, heaven forfend, the feedback forms are lost in someone’s car or they get recycled or whatever.

Enter speakerrate.com. I’ve known about speakerrate.com for a while now, but for some reason it’s always slipped my mind. At devLink I told Kevin Kline about it and he immediately added it to his presentation slides.

So, what’s the value? Well, it makes it a bit easier for people to rate at their convenience. Maybe I’m feeling rushed, maybe I’m in a bad mood, maybe I want to think about what the speaker said for a while before I leave a lasting mark on their speaking record. Maybe I want everyone to know that I got absolutely nothing out of this so called advanced presentation. You can do all of those things.

The point is that you’re contributing, for better or for worse, to the long term reputation of a speaker. Everyone can see what you have to say and everyone can see how the audiences respond to the speaker. All in all, everyone wins.

What does this mean for speakers?

Interestingly enough, it makes some aspects of speaking a lot easier. When you’re talking to a user group leader you can give them a link to your SpeakerRate.com page (mine is http://speakerrate.com/peschkaj). This makes it easy for user group leaders and speaker selection committees see what they’re in for. Likewise, it keeps your record public.

It’s even easier to get feedback. Rather than collecting the forms, waiting for someone to process the new email addresses and maybe go through the comments for their own purpose before typing them up and emailing them to you, you can simply put a link at the end of your presentation and ask the audience to visit the site and rate your talk. Sure, it takes a little bit more time but you can also always tell them the honest truth: your boss is going to shove you in a box and shake it up real good unless you have great ratings.

Most important to me is that it’s a constant stream of feedback on how I’m doing as a speaker. I learned that I took a lot of my knowledge for granted. Now I know what I need to do the next time I give this presentation and I’m going to make sure that I do a much better job. Why? Because one of the audience members said that they didn’t understand some concepts that I mentioned without an explanation. I can now tailor the presentation to include more background material or take out some advanced material. The point is that without the feedback, I wouldn’t have known about these comments and I might have continued to give this presentation with too little background information and too much advanced information.

Note I have not been paid for this, I just think it’s a cool idea

Oh Boy, Business Cards!

I was pretty excited to get home today, in part because I need to recharge the air conditioner in my car. Driving around in a mobile sauna isn’t anywhere near as much fun as you’d think it would be. For the record, I never thought it would be much fun in the first place. That being said, you’re not reading this to hear about my solution to Active August. Today I was stoked to get home because my new business cards arrived today.

You see, a long time ago I had a great idea that I should order personal business cards that would reflect me. Then I promptly forgot about the idea because I couldn’t think of anything to put on the business cards that would really pop out.

This is what fancy looks like

This is what fancy looks like

Now, why would I want business cards? After all, my employer has given me a HUGE box of business cards… for free!

Here’s the thing: when I give out my card, I want people to remember me. They didn’t have a conversation with my employer, they had a conversation with me. When I’m meeting people, networking, speaking, dining, whatever, I want to make a personal impression as quickly as possible. No offense to my employer, but their business cards are very corporate. And rightly so, we give them out to potential clients in the work place. My business cards reflect my personality. That’s what I want people to remember when they meet me out and about – my personality, not my corporate presence.

Additionally, I always tell people to get in touch with me if there’s anything I can do to help them. I don’t check my work email very often – maybe once a day – since I’m on site at a client. Giving out my work email address and phone number makes it difficult for people to contact me. Personal business cards make it much easier to say “Here’s how you can get a hold of me. Don’t hesitate to call.” (Or something to that effect.)

I got my cards printed through 4by6.com and they did a phenomenal job. The entire ordering and approval process was a piece of cake. The fine people at 4by6 even got in touch with me when it turned out that I was an idiot and didn’t crop my image properly. They fixed the problem and put my order right back in the printing process. I ordered my cards on Friday and I had them by the next Wednesday (they were supposed to be here next Tuesday, I think).

I ended up choosing 4by6 for a number of reasons. First, they’ve been around for several years. I remember the stir they made when they first launched because of the high quality of both their website and the incredibly high quality of some paper samples I ordered several years ago. I was finally prompted to order because they introduced a new, lower cost, digital printing option (which makes more sense for low volumes). If you’re interested, check them out at www.4by6.com. They’re helpful and they produce an very high quality product.

It’s Always About You

I’m in the process of finishing up a presentation for the Central Ohio .NET Developers Group, and this got me to thinking about how I structure my presentations. Luckily, right around the time I was musing on this subject I ran across Jeff Atwood’s article Who Needs Talent When You Have Intensity? (which lead to Users shouldn’t think about YOU).

I’ve long held the opinion that a good presentation is one that is immediately useful in your day to day work. After reading Jeff’s post, and Kathy Sierra’s post that Jeff linked to, I’m revising my opinion.

A great presentation helps the audience do their job better.

Thinking back over the presentations that I’ve given in the past, the ones that I’ve felt were the most successful, and the ones where people have given me the best reviews, have been the ones where I’ve gotten out of the way and talked about how to do a better job rather than how I did my job well.

One thing that I have long held is that it’s okay to say “I don’t know” but only when you follow it with “talk to me afterward and we’ll figure out how.” Ultimately, when presenting, it’s the presenter’s job to help the audience learn the subject matter. If the presenter doesn’t know, that’s okay. But, it’s important to make sure that the audience is given an avenue to find the answer – either through an email follow up, a follow up later that day, or follow up by the next day of class.

My final thought is that Kathy Sierra hits it right on the head: “Too many learning experiences and books leave the learner feeling impressed as hell with the instructor/author, but… stupid.” The learning process is about the student, not about the teacher. When I think back to the past few presentations that I’ve attended, the presenters haven’t included themselves more than a few times. On the rare occasions when a presenter has said “I”, it has been in the context of “I made this mistake a lot until I got the hang of this. Here’s how you can avoid this and why”. When they include themselves, presenters aren’t talking about how great they are: they’re exposing when they made mistakes and how everyone else can learn without having to repeat that mistake.

In the end, the only thing that matters is that the audience is learning.

Columbus Give Camp

The Columbus Give Camp site has gone live.

What’s a give camp? Basically, to paraphrase the about page, a give camp is an opportunity for developers to give back to the local community by contributing time and effort to create custom software for non-profits.

How can you help?

Why am I plugging this?

  1. It’s a cool idea
  2. I designed and built the database
  3. I plan on being there

What are you waiting for? Head on over to Columbus Give Camp and volunteer!

Links for 2009.02.12

SQL Server

Update Statistics Before or After an Index Rebuild? Colin Stasiuk talks about when you should update stats in relation to rebuilding/reorganizing indexes. I’m not just linking to this because I was the catalyst for his blog post, but because there are some great things in here and I learned a lot from it.

Best Practices for installing SQL Server service packs, hotfixes, cumulative updates Beatrice Nicolini put together a great list of best practices for keeping your SQL Server installations up to date. Some of this just came intuitively, some of it I didn’t know until I read this.

Index Fragmentation Findings: Part 2, Size Matters Part two of Brent Ozar’s enlightening series on Index Fragmentation. Brent does a great job of explaining index fragmentation, what it means, and why it matters in ways that even the thickest developer turned DBA can understand.


Build a Silverlight game, win $5,000 I don’t think this needs any more description – make a game, ???, win cash. Thanks to Brian H. Prince for bringing this to everyone’s attention!

Things you now know I tagged Rick Kierner in our latest goofy meme and he reciprocated by providing some great advice for developers/DBAs/whatevers on how to enhance their career. Working on a project with Rick really changed the way I looked at a lot of the things I do on a daily basis and I owe him more than he realizes.

General Stuff

How To Drag Your Butt Through That (Fill In The Blank) Book Aaron Alton gives some motivational hints on how to make it through that tedious [subject goes here] book that you’re currently struggling to get through. Now you can get fit AND get nerdy at the same time!

Found Emoticons of the First Two Decades of the 21st Century William Gibson came across this list of electrical plugs somewhere and flipped it around to make some crazy emoticons. My favorite quote from the text is “Sixth row, sixth square from right, is a very bad romantic feeling that nobody will experience until 2012.”

Classy Games (Part 2 of 2) For those of you not familiar with it, Something Awful is normally a humor web site that can best be described as “mildly not safe for work”. Normally I wouldn’t link to them (even though I’m pretty sure I have before). Every Friday they run a Photoshop contest. This week it’s a re-imagining of classic video game covers. There are some artistic gems in here.

Things You Now Know…

Things You Know Now…

Colin Stasiuk (@BenchmarkIT) has tagged me in his recent blog post Things You Know Now…

Here are some of mine, in no particular order of importance or relevance:

Accept Failure

Failing is a part of live. Well, I prefer to think of it as not succeeded, but that’s a story for a different blog post that I’m never going to write. Anyway, the key is to accept the fact that you’re going to make mistakes. They happen to the best of us. Hell, I get called out on spelling errors in my blog posts sometimes and I have a degree in English.

Early on in my career, I thought that since I had a job in IT, I was supposed to act like I knew what I was doing and that I wasn’t supposed to make mistakes. As a result, I heaped a ton of pressure on myself to succeed and when I did, eventually, fail, it took a lot out of me and I didn’t like to own up to my failures because I felt like I shouldn’t have been making them.

These days, I have a different attitude about failing. Instead of trying to hide it, or at least not own up to my failures, I openly admit to them. Heck, I’ve openly admitted to some pretty stupid things on twitter and in this blog. Instead of hanging my head in shame and hiding under my desk, I go out on the internet and find the answer to the problem, fix whatever I broke, and then openly and publicly admit to it. I’ve often said that the key to learning is time, failure, and semi-public humiliation. I chose to circumvent the semi-public humiliation by openly sharing my failures and the solution in the hope that someone will learn from what I’ve done and won’t have to repeat my mistake.

Don’t be a Know-It-All

By this I mean you don’t have to know everything. Another rookie mistake on my part was to assume that I had to know everything. Every time a new technology hit the streets, or even was released in alpha, I tried to learn it. I would run out and find a book or read articles. I spent so much time chasing the new hotness that I didn’t take the time to focus on a lot of core skills and build depth of knowledge. Admittedly, as a result I can talk conversantly about a lot of technical topics that I would have no knowledge of otherwise (Smalltalk, anyone?).

Others have hit on this in the past, but I cannot express the value of being a T-shaped professional. There’s nothing wrong with having a broad, shallow knowledge base to draw from, but it’s important to pick something you love and drill down into it. Master a technology or platform. Don’t take this to mean that I think everyone needs to be a one dimensional professional. Keep learning. Even when you’re mastering analysis services or WPF or whatever, take the time to learn about Flash Remoting or Processing or Ruby on Rails or whatever strikes your fancy. You never know where you’re going to find an idea that helps you solve your current work problem.

Get Involved

Involving yourself in the developer community is such a wonderful feeling. You get to share knowledge and converse with other smart, talented, passionate people. Whether you’re going to a local user group, answering forum questions, or having an informal meet up with local developers you’re giving back your knowledge and learning from others.

I was terrified the first time that I went to a developer group. I thought that I would get noticed as some kind of fraud or n00b who didn’t know anything. Instead I met some great developers and reconnected with old friends and former co-workers. It’s been a blast and, as a result of my tentative involvement, I’ve restarted the local PASS chapter.

Whatever you do (blog, newsgroup, StackOverflow, MSDN, user group), involve yourself and do it with passion. There’s nothing like giving back to the community that you’ve learned so much from.

Tag, suckers!

I’m calling out these folks to play along with our fun game:

Links for the Week of 2009-01-06

SQL Server

Tomorrow’s Microsoft BI Platform Derek Comingore (SQL Server MVP) gives a great overview of the Kilimanjaro release of SQL Server. This is a solid overview of the pieces and parts that will make up the 2010 feature pack release before the release of SQL 11 (in 2011).

Top 10 SQL Server 2008 Features for the Database Administrator Mike Weiner and Burzin Patel put together a great list of features for DBAs in SQL Server 2008. A lot of enhancements were made in the BI space and in T-SQL itself and it’s always good to get a refresher on what’s out there to help us all with maintaining and administering our databases.

Back To Basics: Clustered vs NonClustered Indexes; what’s the difference? Denny Cherry put together a great refresher on the differences between the two types of index available in SQL Server. This is a solid overview that you should keep around for anyone who asks you that question.


Arguments against using an ORM layer – an ammunition stockpile Corey Trager tackles a very touchy argument: to ORM or not ORM. I’ve been on both sides of the fence during my career, and it’s a very difficult argument to make from either side. Luckily, Corey’s own argument is both bolstered and refuted by the comments on his blog. It’s a great read no matter what your opinion is.


Technical Presentations: Be Prepared for Absolute Chaos When you’re giving a presentation, you need to be prepared for whatever can go wrong. Scott Hanselman relates a recent experience of his presenting at TeachReady8 (an internal Microsoft conference), and talks about the problems he ran into giving a presentation.

Learning from failure is overrated Jason Fried at 37signals goes off a little bit about the value placed on failure these days. His thoughts are some great things to keep in mind when you’re reviewing past failures and successes.

Online Credibility, How to build it and how to lose it in an instant We all value our online presence. Well, I hope you do. Johnathan Kehayias provides some solid advice on how to monitor your own behavior in forums, both for the sake of your own credibility, but also so that we’re all able to contribute and help each other while providing solid, valuable, advice.

My Firsts

I stole this from TJay Belt. It seemed like a nice change of pace from the SQL shenanigans to

1. Who was your FIRST prom date?
Didn’t go to prom (they don’t have them in Scotland), but I went to my high school dance with a girl named Ashley.

2. Do you still talk to your FIRST love?
Sometimes, but it’s only via the internet.

3. What was your FIRST alcoholic drink?
Something horrendous, Cactus Juice, I think.

4. What was your FIRST job?
I mowed lawns when I was a kid.

5. What was your FIRST car?
1980 Ford Tempo All Wheel Drive

6. Who was the FIRST person to text you today?

7. Who is the FIRST person you thought of this morning?
Apart from me, I think I wondered if my friend Dave was feeling better, he was sick yesterday.

8. Who was your FIRST grade teacher?
I can’t remember.

9. Where did you go on your FIRST ride on an airplane ride?
It was probably to Texas, but I don’t remember that either. I’ve been on a lot of airplanes.

10. Who was your FIRST best friend and are you still friends with him/her?
Matt Bartmes is the earliest best friend I can remember. Sadly we’ve lost touch.

11. What will be your FIRST thought when you wake up tomorrow morning?
Is it Friday? Seriously? That’s amazing.

12. Where was your FIRST sleep over?
I think it was at my house.

13. Who was the FIRST person you talked to today?
My co-worker Dave, not the Dave that was sick, but a different Dave.

14. Whose wedding were you in the FIRST time?
That would be my wedding.

15. What was the FIRST thing you did this morning?
At 3AM I stared at the ceiling for about 20 minutes. A few hours later I hit snooze a lot.

16. What was the FIRST concert you ever went to?
I can remember going to a Dire Straits show when I was pretty young.

17. FIRST tattoo or piercing?
I have a tattoo of a koi fish on my right leg.

18. Who was your FIRST kiss from?
Wow, umm… I don’t remember, that was a REALLY long time ago.

19. Who was your FIRST boss?
My first actual boss? Her name was Priscilla. That was when I worked at Subway.

20. When was your FIRST detention?
Probably in the fourth grade.

21. What was the FIRST state you lived in?

22. Who was the FIRST person to really break your heart?
I can’t remember (I’m sensing a lack of a good memory as a theme). The earliest one I can remember is Lauren Hayes.

23. Who was your FIRST roommate?
Matt Fron at Ohio Wesleyan University

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