My PASS Summit 2016 Submission

This year was the first time I submitted to speak at the PASS Summit. Like many first time candidates, I was not selected to speak this year. The experience was valuable, however. I put more effort into writing this abstract than I have for any other event, User Group, SQL Saturday, etc. I had peers review it and received a lot of great feedback. Overall my abstract and session planning game was improved dramatically.

We owe thanks

Allen White and the large team of volunteers who performed abstract reviews and worked to build an amazing PASS Summit 2016 schedule did an unbelievable job. I thank all of you for your hard work, not only for making Summit great but also for working tirelessly to help us speakers learn and grow through constructive feedback.

I know that PASS is always looking for ways to improve so I’d like to talk through my session feedback and give feedback about my experience in return.

My submission

Session Name

Architecting Availability Groups

Category

General Session (75 minutes)

Track

Enterprise Database Administration & Deployment

Topic

High Availability: Availability Groups / Mirroring / Clustering / Replication

Level

300

Abstract

Are you a DBA familiar with some basic Windows clustering and database mirroring concepts, and now you’re considering AlwaysOn Availability Groups? This session is for you! I’ll cover the pros and cons of four typical configurations of AlwaysOn Availability Groups: stand-alone instances, fail-over cluster instances, multi-subnet configurations, and disaster-recovery-on-the-cheap. I’ll also discuss read-only routing, and implications and limitations of the Availability Group Listener. In addition, you’ll learn why you should be using Windows Server 2012 R2 or above for your Windows clusters. Join me to learn which configuration options you should choose for your Availability Group.

Prerequisites

Familiar with some basic Windows clustering and database mirroring concepts.

Goal #1

Discuss the pros & cons of four AG configurations and when to use them.

Goal #2

Explain the AG Listener and my lessons learned with connectivity and performance.

Goal #3

Demonstrate how important the Windows Server 2012 R2 quorum features are to your AG.

Feedback

There was two areas where I received feedback about my submission. First was in an email from PASS. In this email I received a STATUS/REASON of, “Not Accepted Popular topic, higher rated session selected.

From that one line I was already feeling pretty good. Our community is full of brilliant people. If I was rejected only because a better candidate was selected, I can still be proud of myself for doing a good job. That, however, is a high-level comment. I then sought out the abstract review comments to find the harsher truth.

Comment #1

abstract: detailed
topic: interesting
Subjective rating: compelling

Comment #2

Abstract: Well written abstract with clearly defined goals.
Topic: Great topic. With all of the HA options and options with a given HA solution, this type of session should be quite well attended.
Subjective: Sounds like a great session!

My feedback on the feedback

I became a little disappointed after reading these comments. If I had not seen my rejection already, I might think that I was a selected to speak. Both comments are very positive without a single negative piece of feedback. I was rejected but I have no idea how to improve for next year.

A, “…higher rated session [was] selected.” I do not see any ratings here except for the first comment which appears to have some sort of subjective rating. I am blind again because I do not know where I rated which makes knowing that a better session was selected useless information. If I rated 5 out of 10 then I know how much I need to step up my game. If I rated a 9 out of 10 then I know someone stellar was selected over me.

Overall, my feedback was completely useless. My only action item for next year’s submission is to also submit abstracts for topics which less speakers will submit. That might not work out either, though, because topics that speakers submit less often could also be topics that attendees don’t want to attend as much as well. For now, I just plan on playing the numbers game. Rather than submitting my best presentation where I know the most knowledge, I will submit my best one and as many others as I am allowed to increase my chances. Something about that just feels wrong to me, however.

I hope that PASS will make some improvements to the feedback process so that the comments will be more useful.

This article has 4 comments

  1. Hi Derik,
    It’s really commendable that you submitted to speak and put in all the effort that goes along with that. There are many of us who appreciate your effort and other contributions to the community.

    I think you’re spot-on with the post-analysis. I’ve only been to one Summit (2015). In my small experience, I’ve noticed some topics seem to have a small number of speakers/presentations as you noted. Maybe if you decide to play the numbers game you could submit something in that arena. Perhaps some 100-level stuff? Or something security related (logins vs users, permissions, group membership, etc.) I know those suggestions are debatable 🙂 There are always difficult choices to make.

    Regards,
    Dave

  2. Actually, I think the feedback is kinda useful. PASS picks sessions based on two things – the abstract, AND the speaker feedback. That tells you that you may wanna start digging into your speaker feedback, since that wasn’t included, or maybe look at who *was* picked for that slot and see how your speaker feedback compares.

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