The SQL Server community is a surprisingly close knit one. I find that people are much more willing to help each other and share knowledge. We have so many events and user groups, it’s amazing to me that on almost every weekend of the year, some event is taking place, somewhere in the world. I’ve been to dozens of SQL Saturdays, and most of them are run very well, but I’ve also seen lots of extravagance in putting on the events. There’s competition between the events and organizers, which is mostly healthy, but I do worry about the long term health of our community.
Most events depend on some sort of sponsorship to get going. Venues can cost a good bit of money, and while many events now charge for lunch, the breakfast, coffee, sodas, etc. are the burden of the organizers. Add in signs, printed guides, gas, etc., and events can get expensive. Many events get shirts for volunteers and speakers (or a small gift), as well and a Friday night dinner to thank everyone for their help. These expenses have become commonplace.
However as we continue to add new events, I can tell you that the overall cost to vendors is significant. I can’t speak for other vendors, but I know Red Gate wants to support these events, and we plan to continue providing sponsorship, as well as sending Grant and myself to speak. However we also have to make choices about which events to support and how many we can participate in. That means that as more events are run, fewer will get funding. Many existing events might see less funding from all vendors.
I really like the idea of bare bones events. Jen McCown proposed a format and I like it. As we look to grow more events in the future, we need to be lean, efficient, and most importantly, focus on the goal: teaching. Big events are fine, and if you can make them happen, great. However let’s not let the lack of a big budget get in the way of helping teach people about SQL Server, growing our skills and bond as a community.