PASS conference stories
October 2nd, 20087
PASS conference stories
October 2nd, 20087

In 2005, PASS was held at the Gaylord in Grapevine, Texas. It was quite luxurious — more of a resort than a hotel — but miles and miles and miles (and miles) from civilization. The nearby town was nice enough (with a conspiracy museum, among other fun attractions) but, on the day we decided to venture out there, it was a ghost town… we had walked around the whole town in under an hour, and sat for a while waiting for a shuttle to bring us back to the hotel.

The conference itself was great, despite the surroundings. What I remember most about this specific PASS conference was how much I learned about Joe Celko. For those of you that don't know Joe, he is a pretty arrogant poster out on the newsgroups, with a knack for rubbing people the wrong way, and trying a bit too hard to educate them and/or make them feel stupid. I agree with his base ideas about half the time, but I do not have any respect for the way he treats people, especially those that are clearly in over their head. These people usually just need a quick solution to keep their business running, not a return to Software Engineering 101. One of his more famous "corrections" is making people feel like idiots for saying field instead of column, or record instead of row. That is an important one because it is going to come up again… stay tuned.

On the day that Celko was speaking, I happened upon him in the lunch room, and decided to sit with him. Throughout our conversation I was taken aback by his demeanor and attitude. Believe it or not, he is actually a very nice guy in person… quite humble, and not this abrasive old man that most of you picture (at least those of you who only know him virtually). By the time lunch was over, I *almost* felt guilty about wearing this shirt, which I had made in anticipation of attending his talk:

Like I said, *almost.* 🙂

Joe and I happened to be attending the same session right after lunch. I think it might have been one of Andrew Kelly's, but memory does not serve me greatly at the moment. Anyway, at break time, Joe was sitting straight up, but sound asleep beside me. I'm not too sure how long that had gone on. Maybe he fell asleep the moment he sat down?

So after this session, it was Celko's session. It wasn't a very technical session; more like the do's and don't's of database design and development. About halfway through, he made a reference to creating some kind of field in a table. When he finished his sentence, and I know a few of you will remember this, I stood up and called him out on this obvious "mistake." Was the professor of "they're columns, not fields!" really going to admit that he, too, sometimes called them fields instead of columns, and records instead of rows? Sure enough, he did. He wasn't too happy about it, but kind of sighed with a sheepish grin, and said, "Yup, you got me."

By: Aaron Bertrand

I am a passionate technologist with industry experience dating back to Classic ASP and SQL Server 6.5. I am a long-time Microsoft MVP, write at Simple Talk, SQLPerformance, and MSSQLTips, and have had the honor of speaking at more conferences than I can remember. In non-tech life, I am a husband, a father of two, a huge hockey and football fan, and my pronouns are he/him.

7 Responses

  1. Ronen Ariely says:

    Best blog EVER! better than any tech blog!
    There are two approaches to show that you are better then others: (1) show that you are the best. Be better, give the best answers and solutions, help others and in time (yes this is the long way) people understand that you are better. (2) Show that others are more worse. In his approach for example, a person level 1 (from 10) will try to show that all the others are at level 0, and that mean that he is the best.
    It is not hard to understand which approach CELKO use!
    I really got fed of CELKO behavior and his approach on the MSDN forums, I am a Moderator on several forums, and always prefer that he will not come to a forum that I am moderator,
    I will quote this blog for now on every time 🙂

  2. Linchi Shea says:

    I thought >the< story of that conference was that the walls between the hotel rooms were too thin (or maybe the folks in the other rooms were just too loud).

  3. RMehta says:

    I have to agree with you – he is actually a nice guy in person. I got to spend time chatting with him in Tampa when he and I were presenting at an event. He came to the bar that we all went to post the event, in a suit! He did share that his entire wardrobe looks exactly the same. He mentioned something to the effect of "Once you find perfection, you have no reason to change…" when refering to his wardrobe and the bald look! :-> I have to pleasure of seeing him again this Saturday when speaking at a SQL Saturday event in Olympia, WA.

  4. Andrew Kelly says:

    So are you trying to imply that my sessions put people to sleep:)

  5. Armando Prato says:

    I do appreciate Joe for his passionate beliefs though I don't share them.  I wish he was a little more diplomatic in addressing people who look for help in the news groups.
    However, I have to give him credit for writing a number of good general SQL books.

  6. Joe Webb says:

    You just gotta like that!
    I remember someone saying they were going to sit on the front row of Celko's session wearing a custom made tee-shirt that said:
    "I'm into records, what's your field?"

  7. KKline says:

    This is such an AWESOME story!  Thanks for sharing it!  :^D