How We Got Our Free-Con in Chicago

A week ago I was privileged to attend Brent Ozar's Free-Con event. The original Free-Con was held in Seattle before the 2010 PASS Summit, and the second one took place in Chicago before last year's SQL Saturday. Since it was so awesome last year, Brent decided to do it again.

What is the Free-Con?

To paraphrase Brent's explanation, one of the awesome things about events like SQL Saturday and the PASS Summit is that you have so many great community contributors assembled in one place. Unfortunately since there's an event going on, there isn't always a chance for everyone to get together and talk. The Free-Con was created to address this issue and facilitate discussion about a wide variety of topics, none of which include SQL Server.

So what did we talk about? Brent had a slide deck prepared, but it wasn’t a traditional presentation – more like ideas and a few short videos to spark discussion amongst ourselves. Some of the topics for discussion included:

  • It’s believed to take approximately 10,000 hours of experience to master any subject.
  • Skills Timeline Resumes: a very interesting way to express your work history and see how your skillsets have evolved over time
  • Lean Methodology: minimizing waste and getting the minimum viable product to market as quickly as possible
  • Supergraphics: A picture says a thousand words, but these say way more.
  • Where do we find inspiration?
  • How can we improve SQL Saturday tomorrow?
Getting ready for Free-Con!
Enjoying some Pre-Free-Con breakfast


The Free-Con was held at the Catalyst Ranch, a space that's every bit as unique as the free-con itself! It’s the perfect location to get the creative juices flowing, with all kinds of awesome colors, toys, games, and props. They also have excellent food – their breakfast buffet is tremendous. We also had deep dish pizza from Giordano’s for lunch!


For me, the highlight of the day was being able to share a room with so many amazing, talented, passionate people and be able to bounce ideas off of them. Since SQL Server really wasn’t on the agenda, it was an excellent chance to talk about things we do outside of work, family, hobbies, and the like. When you have a group of people talking about things that really inspire them, it makes for a whole lot of awesome, and that’s what I love so much about the free-con.