SQLPeople the First

This past weekend I had the honor and pleasure of speaking at the firstSQLPeople event in Richmond, Virginia.

The Back Story

Back in February, Andy Leonard asked me to speak at a new event. The idea behind his new event was inspiration. Instead of focusing on educating others, Andy asked us to share our own inspiration. Instead of presenting a seminar or training course, the idea was to talk about my work, my vision, and my passion for database technology (to steal Andy’s own words). It didn’t take me long to say “Yes!” It’s not every day that I get asked to talk about myself for more than 30 seconds, much less be openly invited to talk about myself with a group of people, slides, a projector, and a microphone. Can you imagine that? 40 minutes of nothing but me? Already, I could see that Andy was a man of vision.

My Original Idea

My original idea was to talk about federated databases, SQL/MED, andhybrid data. I’m really glad that Andy asked me for my abstract a second time; once he did, I couldn’t work those ideas together into anything vaguely resembling a coherent narrative. The funny thing about inspiration is that it’s different from interest. I think federated databases are interesting; I’ve written about them enough. I think that SQL/MED is really cool; that’s how I dug into federated databases. I certainly think that hybrid data/polyglot persistence/buzzword du jour is an interesting idea; I’m talking about it at Stir Trek. Ultimately none of these things get me excited at a base level: they’re interesting but not intriguing.

The Evolution

I sat down in front of the computer and brain stormed. I don’t think the idea really gelled until I was furiously re-typing my abstract over and over again. As I wrote, the core idea changed a number of times. Free-writing is a wonderful tool, but it’s incredibly painful when you’re trying to write something that you promised to a dear friend. Especially when you realize how late you are. As I kept iterating over my original ideas I realized that I wasn’t excited and moved by them. I just kept typing, though. I know from experience that I can iterate through ideas over and over again and eventually get to something great. Turns out that’s exactly what happened. After slapping at the keyboard for a while, I cranked out this beauty:

If you asked Jeremiah Peschka to pick three things he’s interested in about computers, he’d say “data” and then look at you funny. If you asked him again, he’d saying “data design, database design, and designing around the limits of the first two.” This is a rapid tour of the building blocks of databases, how those choices affect what we do with data, and why we have to break the rules from time to time to get things done.

The Talk

I had a lot of fun talking about how different aspects of software design, database design, and hardware design influence the design of databases. The talk covered some of the theoretical underpinnings of databases at a very high level, it only scratched the surface of some of the things that I wanted to discuss. Computer science is such a broad field and even a small piece of it like database design can contain a huge amount of information that it’s difficult to pick and choose the relevant parts. The twenty minute format was a welcome limitation; it forced me to focus on what was most important in my topic. I had to focus on what inspires me to keep learning and what inspires me to share part of my journey with the other people. Thank you to everyone who put on the event and everyone who attended. It was a great opportunity to share the things I enjoy about this field.

The Future

You’d think things would end here, after all I gave a talk about my inspiration once, right? I had so much fun putting the talk together and got so much great feedback from the attendees that I thought I would refine the short talk into a longer version. There’s a lot of stuff that I left out of the presentation. It’s not that it wasn’t relevant, but I had to trim material so I could finish the talk in 20 minutes. I want to revisit the talk an add more material; there’s so much interesting information out there that it seems a shame to not share it.