I attended and presented at the September 27, 2010 Atlanta BI PASS Users’ Group (the local group name is “Atlanta MDF” but it is a PASS Chapter). This group’s overall leader is Teo Lachev, also based in Atlanta and known particularly for his work with Reporting Services and Analysis Services. Teo’s website is Prologika. This meeting is the second one for this BI-focused group. I was excited when Teo announced this concept, since though I appreciate presenting at SQL Server events, I believe that my data mining presentations will meet a more focused audience when the overall structure is focused on BI. By contrast, when I have presented at SAS conferences, the focus is predominantly BI and for years I have had feelings in the other direction, namely to hear more about how the server infrastructure relates to overall system success.
Our sponsor for the evening was Dundas, who paid for sufficient pizzas and soda to feed the audience of about 30 people. This meeting started with a live video conference from the Dundas team to showcase their Dundas Dashboard product. Their team explained some of the features of this product, all in Silverlight 4, and how it leans toward not just business analysts but also developers too. We could see their demo on the projected screen, and they took interactive questions from the audience.
My presentation was Data Mining with PowerPivot (Excel 2010), and was aimed at an intermediate level. I say “intermediate” because I was not giving the basics of Microsoft technology. The audience was a combination of technical professionals, business analysts, and consultants. I appreciated the questions on describing how the technology worked.
I blogged earlier about my SQL Saturday #46 presentation in Raleigh, and my feedback from that weekend was a feeling of too much talking and not enough demos. I decided in this presentation to spend less time on the static slides (which were essentially the same) and instead talk through my points by showing motion the screen going to different areas. As I have been doing lately, I have been emphasizing Microsoft Data Mining as a service and not an application. That statement alone helps orient people who may have had experience with other technologies. This time, I decided not only to enumerate four native Microsoft interfaces, but I also had them open, and showed them briefly during the presentation:
- BIDS (Business Intelligence Development Studio)
- SSMS (SQL Server Management Studio)
- Excel (2007 or higher, with the free data mining add-in)
- PowerShell (version 2.0)
The focus of the presentation was Excel, but having BIDS available shows the nesting of models in structures, and showing SSMS allowed me to look at Contoso Retail, which is a fully worked example of an Analysis Services database (available at Codeplex). I also mentioned my friends at Predixion Software.
I had my data mining helmet and dangerous rock hammer. About half the time, someone will ask me if the light works, and it happened again last night. I never had put batteries into the light, and I will have to for this Saturday at SQL Saturday #48 (Columbia, SC — where you might still be able to go if you beg and plead with the organizers, or just show up as many people did with this year’s Atlanta SQL Saturday, and get lucky!). I’m hoping to find an LED replacement bulb because they do not burn out like the standard flashlight bulbs. The helmet is pure marketing.
I believe I succeeded in using the screen more effectively. I find it hard to think about the screen since it is behind me, and though I have the laptop somewhat in front of me, I would rather make eye contact with the audience. I believe there were many good interactive comments and questions, and Teo said about the same to me:
Our host was Matrix Resources, which has been an organizational friend to me since the late 1990s (though I have never worked with them). They are a staffing firm, and I mention them also because other cities may be wanting to have a BI group, and may find a friend with a large staffing firm which works with technology. This location was a conference room with a projector, and the parking was in their parking deck (helpful since it was raining hard last night).
Teo and the leadership team plan to have at least monthly meetings. Establishing a regular pattern is a key to long-term growth. Next month’s speaker is John Welch of Varigence, who will be talking about SSIS. I happen to have John’s card in front of me, since I met John and Varigence CEO Scott Currie and Paul Waters (who had heard me speak about data mining before) while at SQL Saturday in Raleigh, NC. We were having a group conversation at that event, and John mentioned that he was the next speaker at the Atlanta BI users’ group, and I replied well no, actually I’m the next speaker (since we had not had the September meeting yet).
For Atlanta, I believe there will be long-term interest from attendees, speakers, and vendors to support the concept. At this event, Teo gave away two chessboards and three fancy pens courtesy of Dundas. This type of partnership is similar to what also makes SQL Saturday successful too.