Category Archives: Events

The following posts are for event I attended, am attending, am presenting at and/or events I helped put on.

Pittsburgh Code Camp – SQL 2008 for Developers

This past weekend I presented SQL Server 2008 for Developers at the PGH.NET Code Camp.   You can download the slides here if you would like a copy.  You can also check out my scheduled speaking engagements.

The PGH.NET 2010.2 Code Camp was organized very well.  I want to give a big shout out to organizers as they did a great job.  My favorite session of the day was Scrum 101 with Eric Kepes (Blog | Twitter).  Personally, I knew very little about Scrum coming in to the presentation so this was a great opportunity for me to see how others have implemented it in their shops.  The presentation lead to some great debates.

If you would like to see Eric’s presentation or download a Scrum worksheet check out his blog post.

AITP October Meeting – Intro to WebMatrix

Sorry local friends for the late post on a great IT event going on in the Ohio Valley. Tonight, October 13th the Greater Wheeling Chapter of AITP is having Andrew Duthie (Blog | Twitter) a Microsoft Developer Evangalist from D.C come and give a presentation on WebMatrix.

Microsoft WebMatrix is a streamlined web development environment that supports both ASP.NET and PHP, in which web devs can create sites from rich templates, or from full open source applications such as DotNetNuke, WordPress, Joomla, or a variety of ASP.NET and PHP apps available on the Application Gallery.

Click here for more information about tonight’s event!

Recap: Mid-Atlantic Community Leadership Summit

Last weekend I attended the first annual Mid-Atlantic Community Leadership Summit (#MACLS) held for user group leaders. I would like to thank Andrew Duthie (Blog | @DevHammer)  for inviting me.  He did a great job putting the event together at the Microsoft Offices in Reston, VA. 

The following are some notes for everyone that didn’t get a chance to make it out. In general the purpose for the event was to get user group leaders together to share what’s works and what doesn’t work.  There is no order to the post just some notes with some random comments from my experience running the Greater Wheeling Chapter of AITP and hosting SQL Saturday #36.

How do you measure your user Group?

Your user group doesn’t have to be huge to be successful. I learned first hand that 20 attendees is not considered a small group from the consensus of user group leaders.  Sometimes leaders get lost in user group stats. Stats being the number of new members or attendance per meeting.  I will admit that I have been guilty. These stats really don’t hold water towards determining if a user group meeting is successful.  If you have a lot of people attend but no value provided to the attendees the meeting is not successful.

How does the user group get better?  You have to ask the members.  Its hard to meet the attendees expectations if you don’t know what they are expecting. Doing so could be a rewarding exercise for the leaders of the group and the attendees.  It helps the attendees feel like they are part of the group and it helps the leaders provide value by implementing the missing pieces. 

When should I hold that event?

BatmanWhen should I hold that event? This is a question that is asked by many user group leaders during the planning phase of an event or startup phase of a new group. Andrew Duthie created a website known as Community Megaphone to help solve this problem.  There are several user groups which means you might be competing for speakers and attendees. The Community Megaphone cannot predict when another group is going to have an event but if everyone adds their events it is a great system to see if anything else is planned.

Just like the Batman cartoon try to have your events on the same bat day, same bat time, same bat channel.  From my experience I think this works well for user groups.  Its easier for members to attend if you hold the meetings monthly on the same day (number of month or day of a week), same time and same location.

Speakers and Topics

User groups need to communicate with their members and make sure the topics are covering what the needs of the user group.

When you decide to bring a speaker in to talk have them submit multiple topics.  This allows the user group leader to follow-up with its members to decide which presentation will be a better fit for the members.  This benefits both the group and the speaker.

Instead of always having one speaker talk during the meeting or a time slot consider having several speakers talk for a short period of time.  This will light a fire and motivate some new speakers to step forward and give their first presentation because they only need to present one small topic.  The PGH.NET User Group does a good job of doing this a couple times a year.  I really enjoy them check out my thoughts on the five guys with code meeting.  The SQL Server community is also doing this at the 2010 PASS Member Summit with their lightning talks series.

The general consensus of the group is that user groups need more real-world examples during presentations and more beginner (101) sessions.  More lights go off in attendees heads when they see something they can or should implement when they go back to the office.

Liability and Coverage

First of all I am not an attorney so everything covered in here is just notes from the meeting not my opinion.    If you are in a metro area you might want to combine user groups into one non-profit organization.  I learned that the DC area is currently doing this and it seams to be working out for them.  I also believe that the Pittsburgh area does the same leveraging the Pittsburgh Technology Council (This is not verified so don’t quote me on this).  If you are in a rural area then you can look at legalzoom or try to find an attorney who might be interested in doing a little pro-bono work.

It seams like a lot of small user group start off without incorporating.

If you are a lawyer or are friends of a lawyer ask them to do a white paper on the legal side of starting a user group.  It seams like there isn’t a lot of information out there on this.

Vendors (Sponsors)

One of the most surprising things I learned this weekend is that vendors want relationships not just sales.  Okay I you caught me, I knew this but sometimes its great to be reminded because it can be easy to forget.  Anyways, ComponentOne and Infragistics had evangelists at the meeting.  They both wanted all the user group leaders to know they are willing to help they just need to know what you need.

Vendors can also do more than provide swag, pizza and money.  A real world example is SQL Saturday #36.  I had no idea where I should put the sponsors.  I called Andy Warren (blog | twitter) my mentor for the event and he reassured me that this was a common problem.  His advice was very helpful.  Andy said, “Ask your platinum sponsor Confio they have sponsored SQL Saturday’s in the past they will know the best spot for the sponsors.” I followed Confio’s advice and the rest was history. The moral of the story is that vendors are not evil they can be helpful if you choose to ask them for help.

Hosting an All Day Event (SQL Saturday, Code Camp, SharePoint Saturday etc..)

The following advice was given about hosting a big event like Code Camp, SQL Saturday, SQL Saturday (or any other all day multi-track event) but I believe it also is good advice for running a user group.  You need to treat the event like a business and get a core team together to make it happen. A core team doesn’t have to be a huge team but it has to be more than one individual.  Treat the event like a business means assign action items and have people be responsible for the detailed action items and assign due dates. The group needs to have a task manager who can get things running and make sure everyone is meeting deadlines.

Always put your attendees in charge of giving away their information. Allow sponsors to have raffles where they can collect business cards or information.  At SQL Saturday #36 we printed out cards with everyone’s contact information and gave them to the attendees in their welcome kit.  This sponsors could get contact information from attendees who don’t have or forgot their business cards.

Don’t do individual sponsorship as it can be too complicated. For example, you might think to have a lunch sponsor, snack sponsor, after-party sponsor and so on. This can be complicated because one group had an after-party sponsor but found out after the fact that the sponsor would only cover non-alcoholic drinks.  The group had to pay out of pocket for half of the dinner bill. So what’s an easier way to handle sponsorship?  Divide up sponsorship by using levels.  Break sponsorship levels out into Platinum, Gold, Silver and Bronze and then assign values and benefits to them so that the sponsorship will cover your total budget and still get value out of their money.  Remember that you should build your sponsorship plan like a pyramid and have only a few Platinum level sponsors.

This covers everything I have in my notes.  If you attended and I left anything out feel free to add it in the comments section.

Recap: PGH.NET August 2010 Meeting

On August 10th 2010 I attended and presented at the PGH.NET User Group meeting named “5 Guys with Code.”  According to one of the PGH.NET leaders tweet it looks like the headcount was 60+

Twitter  David Hoerster @brittrking Awesome mtg la ..

The following are some thoughts and highlights from the presentations.


    • John Sterrett (Blog | Twitter) – Table Value Parameters with SQL Server 2008 and Microsoft .NET  
  • I presented a feature that is included in SQL Server 2008 and underused by many developers.  This presentation shows developers how to pass a  DataTable, DataReaders and Lists to SQL Server database objects with only two extra lines of C# or VB.NET code. 

    As promised below are some reference links

  • David Hoerster (Blog | Twitter) – jQuery Code Snippets in Visual Studio 2010

Time is money and David’s fifteen minute tip might just save you a lot of time and money.    He covered several tools that will help you generate some awesome JavaScript. 

I  really liked the jsFiddle.NET tool.  It looks like a great tool to mockup some a user interface (more on user interfaces later).

  • Rich Dudley (Blog  | Twitter ) – A Quick Look at the New SQL CE Engine

Being addicted to databases I very happy to see that I wasn’t the only one presenting a topic based on databases.  Rich did a great job explaining what SQL CE can do and what it cannot do. 

Rich blogged about his experience (post includes photos, slides and more)

  • John Hidey (Blog | Twitter) – Layout Controls for XAML

I have to admit that XAML and I don’t get along well.  We had a fling a few years ago.  XAML cheated on me and I haven’t been the same since.

Ok seriously, I tried XAML a few times and found it very hard to understand.  John did a great job going over the common things that are hard to understand when you get started with XAML.   John started with some very basic controls and then built a final example that included all the basic controls.

At this summers PGH.NET Code Camp we had a speakers session where one of the presenters said, “Code is considered legacy code when TDD is not applied.”  Eric bowling for TDD example showed how anyone can start developing TDD.

Compare your websites traffic against your competitors

Once upon a time I did software development for a start-up that did very well.  is a huge success and eventually got bought by Gannett.  When I worked there we were constantly tracking unique hits.  In the back of my mind I always wondered how we did against other companies.

Today I caught up with a good friend of mine Adolph Santorine (old owner of at tonights Greater Wheeling Chapter of AITP meeting and he showed me a tool I had to throw on here.  Its a web app that allows you to compare your competitors unique hits against yours. 

Give  a try.  It’s a nice tool that just might give you what you need.

Wheeling, WV and Pittsburgh Joint AITP Meeting

Every year the Pittsburgh, PA and Wheeling, WV chapters of AITP have a joint meeting in Washington, PA.  It is usually is the most attended meeting for both chapters.   Currently at this point in time 40 people are signed up to attend. 

The meeting is scheduled for Tomorrow June 9th 2010 and it will be held Holiday Inn – Meadowlands at 340 Racetrack Rd, Washington, PA 15301.  You can register online and pay at the door. The cost is $29.  The meeting starts at 6:30pm

The topic for this joint meeting is Cyber-crime, investigations and digital forensics it will be presented by the Members of the FBI Pittsburgh Division Cyber Squad.  Members of the FBI Pittsburgh Division Cyber Squad will discuss current trends in cyber-crime, investigations and digital forensics.

24 Hours of FREE SQL Server Training

On May 19th there will be 24 live back-to-back presentations including ones highlighting new features provided in SQL Server 2008 R2 and more.  I attended parts of the 24 hours of PASS last year and was blown away by the content.  If you work with SQL Server I highly recommend you attend.   You can register online now at

The following speakers are lined up for this great event.  Adam Machanic, Andy Leonard, Brad McGehee, Brent Ozar, Brian Knight, Chuck Heinzelman, Dean Richards, Don Kiely, Don Vilen, Donald Farmer, Glenn Berry, Greg Low, Jacob Sebastian, Jessica Moss, Kevin Cox, Kevin Kline, Louis Davidson, Maciej Pilecki, Peter Myers, Peter Ward, Rushabh Mehta, Sean McCown, Simon Sabin, Thomas Grosher

Watching Paint Dry
Watching Paint Dry

“But John I have to do xyz watch the paint dry on May 19th and the 20th.”

That’s fine, it looks like these sessions will be recored and made available through PASS within two months.  If you access the event this way you can watch 24hrs of PASS and the paint at the same time 🙂

A good friend of mine Thomas LaRock(blog | twitter) is organizing this bad boy.  For more information check out his post or the 24 hrs of PASS site.  I know it will be a big hit!

PGH.NET Code Camp Review

This past weekend I had the pleasure of helping out David Hoerster (bio, twitter) with the setup of PGH.NET Code Camp.  Why, would I want to get up before the crack of dawn to help?  Well for starters David is a die hard Pittsburgh Pirates fan like myself.  Okay the real answer, is that I wanted to help with the code camp before I ran my first SQLSaturday in West Virginia.   This was a great practice before the game starts on May 1st.

In short I learned that if you have good volunteers it’s actually not too hard to have a great event.  If the event is free there will be people who just don’t show.  I guess mowing their lawn is more important than free training?  People will also leave before the event is over.  I could be wrong but I thought about half of the crowd left before the last session ended.  Finally, if a speaker doesn’t show you could replace the session with speakers panel.  This was a great move and actually was my favorite session of the day. 

SQL Server 2008 for Developers

During the day I also did a presentation on SQL Server 2008 for Developers.  I presented right after lunch and expected the majority of the crowed to have a food coma from the free burritos but this was not the case.  It actually was a nice interactive session. The following are a few quick facts from the presentation. 

About 40 people attended this session and only five of them are currently using SQL 2008.  I know this is a small sample size but it makes me believe that there are a lot of people out there still on SQL 2005 or SQL 2000.

The majority of the people awake (yes,  a few experience the food coma) were really impressed with using the real-time debugger to debug stored procedures, using merge to replace truncate table insert into table and use TVP to pass a data table in as an input parameter.

Follow-up Answers

The following are answers to some questions that were asked after the session.  Thought I would answer them here so others could find them in the future.

Can I create an index to filter based on dates?

Yes, you can.  I believe this is a new feature added in SQL Server 2008.  The following script will execute.

    ON Production.BillOfMaterials (ComponentID, StartDate, EndDate)
WHERE StartDate > '20000801' AND StartDate < '20010801';

Checkout this MSDN link for more on Filtering Indexes. 

How can I make my database run faster? 

This is always a fun question and a hard one to answer without looking at the database and the server it resides on.   I recommended that this individual start with the free performance boosts.  This is also known as managing your indexes.   To do this checkout the following great links with video from SQLServerPedia.

Can I find the last time database objects were modified?

Yes, check out this link for a script that does the following task

Its on like Donkey Kong!

I am glad to announce that SQLSaturday is coming to Wheeling, WV.  This will actually be the first SQLSaturday in West Virginia. The goal is simple, provide a free day of training on  Saturday, May 1st 2010 for SQL Server DBA’s and developers.  This event focuses on speakers, providing a good variety of topics, and making it all happen through the efforts of volunteers.


Below is the following list of submitted topics as of February 3rd.  If you would like to speak the call for speakers is still open until March 15th. We are firm believers in SQLSaturday’s goal to find, grow, and feature speakers that include the next generation of talent.  If you are an MVP or first time presenter we will try to fit you in.


Registration is now open so you can sign-up to attend SQLSaturday #36.  This event will include a free lunch, door prizes and a post training party.  Did we mention that its free?  Below is photo of West Virginia Northern Community College the venue for our event.


We look forward to seeing you in May.  In the meantime you can follow our SQLSaturday blog posts here.

Goals for 2010!

Yes, I know it is already 2010.  I am a little behind but still wanted to officially write down some goals for the new year.   Actually I should get partial credit as I started on the whiteboard in December.  Anyways, this will help hold me accountable for my goals, give me something to review quarterly through the year and also keep my friends on the internet aware of what I am trying to accomplish this year.


  • Be a better Husband

    I have to admit there has been several times in my life where I put work, groups and other things ahead of family time.  My most important goal for the year is to change this.  I plan to have at least one night per week where I put the computer down and spend time with the family.  I also plan to make this the year I take Nina to Spain.  Yes, those who know me well know I didn’t complete Spanish a couple times in high school.  Hopefully, we will be able to learn the language of the land together in the next few months.

  • Make an impact to improve my community

    I am a young (28 year old)  Database Administrator, Programmer, Information Technology Professional who lives in Wheeling, WV (50 miles down this Ohio River from Pittsburgh, PA). This year I will serve my local community by becoming the President of the Greater Wheeling Chapter of the Association of  Information Technology Professionals and the Region 18 Vice President.  Our biggest initiative of the year will be implementing the first SQLSaturday in West Virginia.  We will provide free conference event that will bring Information Technology professionals to Wheeling to obtain free training on SQL Server,  .NET and professional development.  I am also highly involved with OVConnect the Ohio Valley’s Young Professionals group.  Through this group we will provided several events that connect young minded people together.

  • Continue to improve my communication skills

    I admit it I am guilty as charged.  While I read several blogs and technical books I don’t dive into non-technical books often.  This year I plan to read six non-technical books during the year and write reviews of them on this blog.

    Speaking of blogging if you are following this blog you know my blogging last year was not consistent.  Therefore, I am going to try to make sure I have at least one new post every two weeks.  I will also try to blog about different things going on locally, personally and with technology.

    Finally, I also plan to do more technical presentations this year.  I hope to do four presentations.  You will be able to catch me presenting at Pittsburgh .NET Code Camp and SQLSaturday in Wheeling.

  • Continue the certification path for MCITP SQL Server 2005

    In 2009 I completed the 70-431 exam which makes me a Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist on SQL Server 2005.  This year I plan to take the next step and become a Microsoft Certified Technology Professional in SQL Server 2005.  You might be  wondering why would I or you want to do this?  There are a few reasons I will share.  First, a great friend of mine once told me its a great way to polish your skills.  Second, I believe that the certification process forces you to learn topics you wouldn’t learn unless you complete the process.  Third, the objectives of the exams line up with some project goals at work so I can kill two birds with one stone.

  • Improve my networking and social networking

  • In 2009 I  dove into social networking via blogging, twitter (johnsterrett) LinkedIn, and Facebook.  While I have lots of great connections through these networking portals its hard to keep track.  Therefore, I have a simple networking goal for 2010.  I want to build lasting relationships with 7 to 10 new individuals.

    Attend PASS 2010 Member Summit

    This goal is actually very straight forward.  In fact, I am actually cheating.  I just signed up for the conference and look forward to meeting other DBA’s and SQL Developers at this event.  If you work with SQL Server I highly recommend you do the same.