This is the second year that the annual PASS Data Community Summit has been virtual. Last year, as a pandemic gripped the world, I thought we might never see another one. I’m glad we have one this year, and I look forward to going back to a live, in-person Summit in 2022. That being said, this year’s event has been better than I expected in many ways, mostly because of spatial.chat.
I can remember walking through the hallway of the Washington State Convention center and seeing Taiob Ali coming the other way. We stepped to the side of the hallway and had a chat among hundreds of people walking by. I thought about that in the Community Zone when he and I, with a couple others, were talking with each other in a group, away from others that were also in the room. We could see their avatars, but we were far enough away in the virtual space that our conversation didn’t upset others.
At early Summits in Washington, there were couches in the Convention Center. Andy Warren and I often planted ourselves for hours on a couch, chatting with each other and those that came by. People would walk up and spend some time, others would drift away, but we had a conversation ebbing from work, life, Microsoft, family, hobbies, and more. We’d laugh and joke among ourselves, bonding and sharing, inspiring, and encouraging each other. I had that experience a few times in the Community Zone last week, as I stopped in various rooms, sometimes gathering in a crowd, sometimes (virtually) walking away to chat with just a friend or two.
When I presented at the Summit, I often felt pressured, rushed, and excited by interacting with people. Getting questions and needing to go off script and explain something was a challenge and a joy. When the Summit opened this Wednesday, I had one of the first Q&A sessions. Most people hadn’t watched my recording, so I started to deliver the talk, but quickly realized I didn’t have time. I saw a few questions come in the chat, feeling pressure to get to them and quickly answer them. I had no idea how many I’d get, so I did my best to share my screen, show examples, talk through some of the concepts. It was scary and invigorating. It reminded me of the times I’d get a few questions, realize I wasn’t quite explaining things well enough, and then feeling pressure to deviate from what I’d rehearsed to help clarify the idea.
Most years I’d have early mornings and late nights. I’ve be buzzing from my interactions and physically exhausted. As I logged off from holding open the Community Zone Wednesday night, I felt the same way. Getting going Thursday to host the SQL Saturday room for a long time and trying to watch other sessions was tough. Friday harder. Exactly like I’d feel many years at the physical event. I needed a break. I’ve enjoyed walks around the grounds of the Gaylord, or in the park behind the Washington State Convention Center; at home I go outside and see the horses. Rather than a quiet dinner with a friend (or even solo), I could go cook something and relax with my wife and son here. Both different shades of the same experiences.
I am tired of virtual events. For me, they often lack the excitement and interest I get when I’m in a physical space. I wandered into different sessions, listened in on conversations of others, and enjoyed the interactions of being able to see and chat with others. I escaped at times to get away from the hectic environment, embraced it at others. Unlike my experience two weeks ago at Ignite, I felt like I was at an event.
That being said, I’m looking forward to more live events in the next year. I want to engage with actual people and remember the wonderful emotions of being in the same room. I’ll miss those that don’t feel comfortable, I respect your choice, and I hope we can continue to find ways to touch each others’ lives. I’m also grateful that some of you are willing to come back to physical events and enjoy the #sqlfamily.