SQL Server MVP Deep Dives Vol 2 – get my chapter free

Yes, the SQL book I was involved in two years ago has a sequel.

In the first book, I wrote chapters 7 and 40, and was one of 53 MVPs that contributed. And the proceeds went to War Child. Yes, none of the MVPs who wrote, edited, etc, got any royalties – that all went to charity.

This time, I wrote just one chapter (chapter 2), but there have been at least seventy MVPs involved. Sixty chapters all by different MVPs, with more MVPs involved as section editors, technical editors and more. And the money this time goes to Operation Smile, another international children’s charity.

It’s being published in time for the PASS Summit (which is now less than two weeks away), and there will be a book signing for people who have their copies already. You can pre-order through the Manning website at http://www.manning.com/delaney/, but if you do this, you might not have it for the signing. With most of the authors present, you might prefer to try your luck at picking up a copy at the Summit if you can make it.

If you’re not going to be at the Summit, then notice that you can pre-order the book and that this gets you an Early Access Edition – an electronic copy of some of the chapters as they become available.

But my chapter is different again – you can download it for FREE. No strings attached. You’ll see a link on the page to my chapter, and can enjoy it straight away, without having to pay anything at all.

I’m sure I will have missed someone in this list, but I have to provide it because it’s just so extraordinary. The list of MVPs I know were involved includes:

Johan Ahlen, Gogula Aryalingam, Glenn Berry, Aaron Bertrand, Kevin Boles, Robert Cain, Tim Chapman, Denny Cherry, Michael Coles, Rod Colledge, John Paul Cook, Louis Davidson, Kalen Delaney, Dave Dustin, Rob Farley, Grant Fritchey, Denis Gobo, Darren Gosbell, Sergio Govoni, Allan Hirt, Victor Isakov, Satya Shyam K Jayanty, Tibor Karaszi, Jungsun Kim, Tobiasz Koprowski, Hugo Kornelis, Ted Krueger, Matija Lah, Rodney Landrum, Greg Larsen, Peter Larsson, Andy Leonard, Ami Levin, Greg Low, John Magnabosco, Jennifer McCown, Brad McGehee, Siddharth Mehta, Ben Miller, Allan Mitchell, Tim Mitchell, Luciano Moreira, Jessica Moss, Aaron Nelson, Paul Nielsen, Shahriar Nikkhah, Robert Pearl, Boyan Penev, Pedro Perfeito, Pawel Potasinski, Mladen Prajdic, Abolfazl Radgoudarzi, Paul Randal, Denis Reznik, Rafael Salas, Edwin Sarmiento, Chris Shaw, Gail Shaw, Linchi Shea, Jen Stirrup, Jason Strate, Kimberly Tripp, Paul Turley, Bill Vaughn, Mike Walsh, Peter Ward, Joe Webb, John Welch, Allen White and Thiago Zavaschi.

Most are authors, some (like Aaron Nelson and Jen Stirrup) were technical editors, and some (like Paul Randal and Kimberly Tripp) were section editors. And Kalen Delaney was the overall editor and responsible for everything.

So a big thanks to Manning to make this possible, and to Kalen Delaney for leading the effort.

To potential buyers, see it as a series of short stories, and an opportunity to see a little into the minds of many of the industry’s leading lights.

And buy a copy – it’s for charity!

Pie charts – could try harder

Another month, another T-SQL Tuesday. Next month’s will start during my pre-con at the PASS Summit, which will be interesting. It’s one thing to type during demos (and my pre-con will be demos from start to finish), but another to write a blog post. I’m sure I can have one pre-written – might give me something to do during the long flight from Australia.

This month’s T-SQL Tuesday is on data presentation, and is hosted by Robert Pearl. He waxes lyrical about the importance of presenting data in a meaningful way to clients, and I agree totally! It’s very important. In fact, I see it as such a fundamental thing that I had to think about what to write about.TSQL2sDay150x150

A few months ago I spoke at a SharePoint Saturday event in Adelaide. I was a very late fill-in, and spoke about the importance of presenting data using effective visualisation techniques, and showed the differences between bullet charts, bar charts and pie charts. Apparently it made some people think, which probably wasn’t bad considering that I’d had very little time to prepare.

It’s been said many times before, particularly by people such as Stephen Few and Jen Stirrup, but pie charts simply don’t convey enough information. They are very popular, but they just don’t say enough. When I was studying in school, this was related back to entropy – or the Shannon entropy if you like. The Shannon entropy is all about the amount of information in a particular message, and ends up being very significant when considering how much data can be compressed.

If a picture’s worth a thousand words, then why I can’t paint what I like, and have it convey the same amount of information? Well, you can – but if your picture draws a pie chart, it’s probably a massive waste of the canvas. It simply doesn’t show as much information as a bar chart, which in turn, is less effective than a bullet chart. If I wanted to compress my dashboard, I’m sure the pie chart would compress further, as it doesn’t tell me as much.

But it’s not simply about the use of the space. White space can convey meaning too, of course. But data visualisation should be about, well, visualising the data. Pie charts only do that to a certain degree, and require a little too much skill in breaking down angles to be able to convert the visual back into data. The biggest piece of information that a pie chart conveys is “Yes, we do believe that these components add up a whole”, or maybe “Yes, I have successfully answered the questions about History and Geography correctly” if you’re playing Trivial Pursuit. If you want to know whether something is more than a sixth or less than a sixth, good luck! If you’re wanting to know how what the difference is between the third largest value and the fifth largest value, good luck! You simply can’t get at this information easily.

Here’s a picture showing how useful pie charts can be, from http://flowingdata.com/2008/09/19/pie-i-have-eaten-and-pie-i-have-not-eaten/. Can you tell what percentage of the pie is left? No, neither can I. It does look good though, I’ll give it points for that.


More free training from PASS

Yeah, alright. I know PASS puts on heaps of free training all the time. There are meetings around the world all the time, as held by hundreds of chapters.

Seriously, there’s over 240 chapters in the world. If you figure that they typically have a 2 hour meeting once a month, that makes over 480 hours of training per month. That’s an average over 16 hours per day – leaving just enough time to sleep. Good thing most of these chapters provide food!

But next week, there’s a 24 hours of PASS event. This is the chance to get a huge amount of content into you, and seriously get you into the frame of mind for the PASS Summit. This is a Summit Preview event. Almost all the pre-conference seminar speakers (including me) are going to be represented, so if you haven’t decided which pre-con sessions to get to, this will help you decide (tip: mine! – actually, you could learn plenty from any of them).

Have a look through, and block out several hours next week to tune in. It’s worthwhile, even if only to evaluate how interested you are in some of the Summit material. You could even use it to persuade your boss to let you go.

My session is on in the second day. 8am in Chicago, 2pm in London, 10:30pm where I live in Adelaide. Sept 8th everywhere except New Zealand.

See you there.