Looking back to 2018

Looking back to 2018

We are approaching the end of 2018. It is December 30 as I start writing this (I’ll probably finish and publish it December 31), traditionally a time to look back at the past year. I often refrain from doing what everybody does because a certain date is on the calendar (my dad would sigh and suggest that I’m still not over puberty, and he’d probably be right). But in this case I’ll make an exception.

For me, 2018 was mainly the year I started building my own website. The site where I publish my blog posts, but more important: the site where I build the SQL Server Execution Plan Reference.

This website officially went live December 14, 2017, so actually already a bit more than 1 full year ago – but close enough to call today a good day to look back. At first, the website was used for my blog posts only. But I was then already working on my bigger project, my main reason to migrate – and exactly 7 months ago, on May 31, 2018, I officially announced and opened the Execution Plan Reference. Small and incomplete back then, but growing ever since.

Execution Plan Reference

When I went live with the Execution Plan Reference, I only had nine pages of content: four that describe an operator, four with generic information, and one background page. I had not originally planned to go live with so little content, but a T-SQL Saturday challenge made my change my mind.

As part of that same T-SQL Saturday challenge, I also committed to adding at least one page every month. I added pages on Segment in June, Assert in July, Table Spool and Index Spool in November, and Bitmap in December. I also published a long article on spools in October; this article was the primary reason why I failed to meet my objective of new content in August and September. That’s not a valid excuse – but it is the explanation.

I am currently working on the Adaptive Join page. I don’t expect to be able to finish it in December, but that obviously does mean that I will easily meet my goal of at least one new page per month in January 2019.

I am not happy with the progress of the Execution Plan Reference so far. When I set my goal of at least one new page per month, I was deliberately easy on myself; my unpublished goal was to go much faster. There currently exists over 70 operators. Not all of them warrant a separate page, but adding just one per month feels too slow – I like to get the reference at least fairly close to complete one day, and not in a five-year plan.


Since I migrated my blog to this site, I published a total of 25 new blog posts (this one included). Eight of them were inspired by T-SQL Tuesday writing assignments. Though the distinction is sometimes hard to make, I’d qualify 16 of my blog posts as “technical”.

I didn’t set myself a goal for how often to blog, However, I think that two per month, and at least one technical per month, is okay. Especially my technical posts can get very deep and very long, so it would not be realistic to expect much more than this.

I did not meet my self-imposed goal of participating in all T-SQL Tuesday assignments. Some of the selected topics simply didn’t resonate with me, and I didn’t want to write something I myself would not like to read, just to meet some self-imposed goal.

I also did not meet my self-imposed goal of publishing a Plansplaining post on the first Monday of every month. This did go well at first, until I realized that I really needed to finish my article on spools first so I could then use that as the basis for the 9th episode. That article turned out to take a lot of time and effort to get thoroughly researched and hence I had to delay episode 9.


My worry when I started this site is probably the same that every site owner has: will I get traffic? Producing the content I publish requires a lot of time investment, and my worse fear was that nobody would ever benefit from it. Luckily, it turned out that my fears were unwarranted.

I was truly amazed that I already had 1000 views in the first month, December 2017. Since then, the number started going up slowly for a few months – until I announced the Execution Plan Reference. Traffic went over the roof for a few days, with an amazing 1649 views on one single day as the top day so far. June 2018 came close to a total of 6000 views. After that traffic normalized, but now well above 2000 per month – and, even more important, the numbers just kept on growing. I broke through the 4000 views in November, and despite the expected lower traffic because of Christmas, December is already ahead of November with still one more day to go!

I must say that I am both humbled and grateful when I see these numbers. Thank you to all those who visited this site. Thank you to those who subscribed, or who bookmarked the site, or who use the RSS feed to know when I add or update content. Thanks to those who helped spread the word, by sharing a link or otherwise alerting potentially interested people to find my site.

When I started this site, I had absolutely no idea what to expect. I never really looked at traffic when I still blogged at sqlblog.com. So I obviously had not set any targets for myself, other than “oh I hope people will find my site and like it”.

But you, all you collective readers of this site, have proven that it is possible to exceed expectation even when you have no expectations! Again: THANKS!

Public speaking

About mid 2017, I realized that I’d have to cut down on, and later fully stop, my public speaking. This was for personal reasons, and though the choice was hard, it was not difficult.

But fortunately, during 2018 it became apparent that my personal situation would allow me to return to attending conferences. I started submitting to lots of events scheduled for the second half of the year, expecting to be turned down by many. And then I got accepted by so many that I had to quickly remove my submissions for a whole bunch, to avoid having entire months without ever being home in the weekend.

I really had a lot of fun going to and speaking at so many events. I am happy that organizers still have the confidence to select me, that the audience still chooses to sit in my sessions, and that I have so many fantastic interactions with attendants, organizers, and other speakers at those events. Although it’s always great to return home after being away for a long time, it never takes long before I start to feel that itch again, and start looking forward to the next conference.

Conferences seem to always come in waves. Apparently some periods in the year are more popular than others. Fall is always peak season, winter and summer are low season. But I nevertheless already have a few speaking slots confirmed for the near future. Both SQL Konferenz and DataGrillen are already fully confirmed and public, at least two others are already confirmed but not yet public, and some more are in the pipeline.

New goals

As I was writing this overview, I realized that I had not set myself many specific targets. That has a very obvious benefit: without targets, I will never fail my targets. But I know that once I do set targets, especially when I share them in public, I can use them to motivate myself.

So for 2019, I will now set myself some targets, and share them here.

  • Execution Plan Reference: I absolutely want to keep up with the previously set target of at least one new page each month. But as I already indicated, that is a defensively low target. I considered doubling it, but seeing how much work a single page can be and how much other things sometimes go on in my life, that would be unrealistic.
    However, I do increase my target in another way.
    For 2019, I want to add at least 1 new pages to the Execution Plan Reference each month, and at least 15 new pages in the entire year.
  • Blogging: I no longer set myself the target of doing one “Plansplaining” post each month. I still have a few ideas for this series on my list, but not enough for 12 episodes; and so for I have not received any suggestions from readers. But I do like it to be on a schedule, so I now opt for once every two months – every even-numbered month. It will still go live on the first Monday of the month, at 17:00 Dutch time (CET or CEST).
    However, I do not want the amount of technical content to go down, so I will write other technical posts instead. I also want to continue contributing to the T-SQL Saturday events, though my participation will depend on the subject.
    For 2019, I want to write at least one technical blog post per month. In even-numbered months, this will be a “Plansplaining” post.
    I’ll try to attempt to participate in the T-SQL Tuesday challenge each month, though I allow myself to opt out if the subject doesn’t resonate with me.
  • Traffic: Since this is hard to directly influence, any target I set here is more something I will try to achieve than something I can ensure I achieve. As such, I set my targets at a moderately low level.
    In 2019, I want traffic to sqlserverfast.com to continue to increase month over month. I hope to double my total traffic over the year, so in December 2019 I hope to have a total of 8000 monthly views.
  • Public speaking: I love doing this, and at times I wish I could go to a conference every week. But I also love my wife. I love my kids, who have moved out of the house and often only visit on weekends. And I love sleeping in my own bed. Plus, most conferences I go to have no budget to compensate speakers. I often pay for travel and hotel out of my own pocket, and I lose billable hours when travelling and attending the conferences. So I have to strike a balance.
    I feel that approximately once per month should be a good balance. More than that would probably come at a too great cost for my personal life, and my business financials. But I cannot spread them out exactly like that, so my goal will be based on the year.
    I also hope to be able to present a few pre-cons this year. Though exhausting, it is also very rewarding to be able to teach about execution plans for a full day. And I cannot deny that the compensation speakers receive for teaching a pre-con make it easier to justify the cost of attending conferences.
    My aim for 2019 is to speak at 10 to 15 conferences, and to present at least 2 pre-cons.


For me, 2018 was a good year for my SQL Server community activities. Setting up my own website and moving my blog has worked out well. The Execution Plan Reference was well-received in the community. Returning to public speaking was really fun. And though not mentioned above, completing the technical review work on Grant Fritchey’s “SQL Server Execution Plans, 3rd Edition” and finally seeing the final version completed was extremely rewarding.

For 2019, I have set myself targets on the ongoing community work I do, and I have published them here. Hopefully, that will help keep me from slacking!


Dear reader, thank you for visiting my site, thank you for reading my ramblings, thank you for contributing to the little statistics that tell me my community work is not in vain.

I wish everyone reading this an excellent (but safe!) New Year’s Eve celebration, and a fantastic 2019!

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