Guide for new Report Builder users

"They'll probably still just ask me for their reports…" I hear students say when I teach them about Report Builder in SQL Server 2005 Reporting Services (SSRS).

It's a reasonable fear. Their managers have always asked them for reports. Sometimes they just ask for data and then manipulate it in Excel to make it look the way they want – but on the whole, the way it's done is to send a request to the developers, asking for a new report.

And Report Builder should change that. After all, you've just spend time putting together the perfect model for it to use, so that your users see the right things to query.  But still there's a fear.

So – if you're trying to get people to use Report Builder, what can you do?

Well, for starters, use it in front of them – preferably on their own machine. Show them just how easy it is to get at the data.

And secondly, create a favourite for the Report Builder How-To Topics page in Books Online (on the web). And show it to them. If they want to align the values within a cell or text box, they can follow the link. If they want to format a date field, they can follow the link. After all, they don't really want to have to wait for you to come and tweak their reports – they do want to do it themselves.

My trip to Perth

I was in Perth last week, teaching a private course. The course went well, but best of all, I got to meet a good Perth-based friend of mine for the first time. I've known Mitch Wheat for ages online, but he's always just been on the other end of the wire. Now I know what he looks like!

It was great getting to see Perth. The students I had were a great bunch of people, and I got to meet members of the SQL Server User Group when I spoke there on Tuesday night. I presented about ranking functions and windowing – but also spoke about the MERGE statement from SQL 2008. Both talks I'd done before, but this time squeezed in to a single talk. It was lots of fun.

I really encourage everyone to get into public speaking. It's terrifying, of course. But it's also terrifically rewarding. There's nothing quite like standing in front of a crowd of strangers and explaining something to them. With any luck they've come to learn, so they're not actually critiquing you as a presenter – they're just hoping to pick up some of what you know.

If you're reading this and don't even attend a user-group, please get involved. You meet other people who do what you do. You learn stuff you didn't know before. Next time you need to hire someone, you might find that the interviewee is someone you've come across before. But as soon as you stand up and demonstrate that you know your stuff, the quality of candidates who want to work with you goes up, because the smart people in the crowd will feel a certain affinity towards you.

And who knows – perhaps you'll decide that you want to try being a presenter at a Speaker Idol, like my friend Jeff Wharton who runs the Canberra SQL Server User Group. Jeff presented today at my user group in Adelaide, and it was great to be able to advertise him as an Idol Winner. Congratulations again, Jeff, and thanks for today.

Welcome, Charlotte

In the early hours of Monday morning (Dec 10th), I was in Melbourne, ready to teach a course in the morning. I made it back in time to help my new daughter Charlotte into the world, but this is what I wrote from the airport:Charlotte

"Welcome to the world, my daughter. I'm writing this from Melbourne Airport. Your mum called me a little while ago to tell me her waters had broken, but this is nine days early, and I was expecting to teach a course today. Ironically, the course was going to be on SSIS – about moving information from one system to another – and instead we're both in transition. You from the womb to the world, me rushing from one airport to another.

"Except that I'm not rushing right now. I'm on the first flight out, at 6:15am. That's over three hours away, during which time you'll probably be born. I don't even have internet access from here, so by the time anyone reads this, I'm sure you'll have arrived.

"I'm looking at pictures of you now, from your scan a couple of months ago. You're very beautiful. I hope and pray for the best for you. I'm tired now – it feels like I'll be waiting here forever for this flight. I can't sleep – couldn't even if I dared. I just want to get to you.

See you soon."

She waited for me, arrived on Monday morning, weighing 7lb 12oz. Everyone's well, and the boys and I took them home from the hospital that evening.