Category: Volunteers

This 24 Hours of PASS was "Different"

Last week, the latest iteration of "24 Hours of PASS" was held.  It was "Different" for me.  Why?  Because I was not an active participant on the days of the event other than being an attendee.  I was involved in some aspects of the planning for the event when deciding the theme and format, etc.  I was on many calls and email threads for the planning of this event.  I did the moderator/speaker training  a few weeks prior to the event.  But on the days that the event was actually held, I was not on pins and needles worrying about logistics. Tom LaRock, HQ, and the team of moderators did a great job of execution.  I attended as many sessions as I could.  The Moderators seemed to be well prepared and the speakers focused on delivering the content. In my view, this went very well.

With the theme of "Women in Technology" for this 24hop, PASS was able to showcase a positive force within the SQL Community.  The WIT luncheon at the PASS Community Summit keeps growing in popularity/attendance year after year.  The WIT Virtual Chapter continues this positive vibe throughout the year - http://wit.sqlpass.org/

I enjoyed reading the "Twitter Stream" about #24hop.  I do not have numbers yet, but every session had at least 200-300 attendees and several topped 750!  Wow!

Each session was recorded and will be available for replay shortly.  Keep checking www.sqlpass.org for replay availability.

A BIG "Thank You" goes out to the Speakers and Moderators who helped to make this latest edition of 24hop a success.  I enjoyed it immensely.

How deep can you dive?

[cross-posted from Allen Kinsel's blog at allenkinsel.com]

After last years Summit we launched a feedback site http://feedback.sqlpass.org in hopes of gathering all of the feedback about the event in one place.  The number one thing people have asked for on that site is for there to be a track of sessions in the 400-500 level range.  The problems with the community desire for higher level sessions are twofold, one we dont normally get a huge number of session submissions that are at the 400-500 level.  Two, I’ve been told by those who are qualified to present those types of sessions that an hour and fifteen minutes (spotlight) is often not enough time.

Cramped for space

In the past our conference size has dictated the floor-plans at the conference center and we’ve been  maxed out at 14 concurrent sessions.  This year however, because of anticipated attendee growth, the logistical geniuses at PASS HQ were able to add another session room (I’m looking at you Anika and Craig).  With this new room I have options on what to do with the extra session rooms!!

Changes for the Summit 2011

This year we’ll be using the space we gained from the new room addition to have longer deep dive sessions.  The current idea is to offer these longer sessions in hopes that they will attract presenters who are qualified to present these deeper dive sessions. Currently, the plan is to have a maximum of 6 deep dive (lvl 400 or 500 only) 3 hour sessions.  Because of the way the schedule is laid out, we will run 2 of these sessions concurrently every conference day.

Rules… Yeah there’s always rules

We will accept abstracts for this new session type in the same manner as a regular abstract.  That is to say anyone can submit a half day abstract.  If you submit an abstract for a 1/2 day session it will count as one of your 4 allowed abstract submissions.  The session selection for these sessions will be handled by the regular respective abstract review teams.  Even though we are going to allow anyone to submit abstracts for these sessions, it should go without saying that if you don’t have prior experience or reputation for being able to give an extended, strong 400-500 level session it may be best to focus on a regular summit session.  What I mean by this is for these particular sessions we will be instructing the review teams to weigh the speakers perceived ability to deliver the session higher than we normally would for a regular session.

Possible Hiccups i.e. Changes

Two things could change with these sessions.

  • I am considering making the sessions 4 hours long (roughly 3 regular session slots).  If we do that the maximum number of sessions would drop to four.  I’m leaning heavily away from this but, if anyone has a strong opinion on this I’ll listen
  • Depending on the quantity and quality of the abstracts we receive, we may have less than the maximum sessions shown above (4 or 6)
  • Im still considering a single DBA 101 “Accidental DBA” type session for one of these sessions but havent been swayed that there is more interest there than there is in deep dives

SQLSaturday Round-Up (Feb. 17-23)

(This is Round 13 of PASS's weekly round-up of SQLSaturday recaps. PASS community bloggers love their SQLSaturdays, and they love to tell everyone about their experiences, so who are we not to share that love?)

Last week, PASS SQLSaturday headed for the desert to bring free SQL training to the people of Phoenix.

As usual, the event's organizers did a stellar job! We're not even sure they should put the word "Phoenix" in the next event they hold there -- given the success of SQLSaturday #47, there won't be any ashes to rise from, just successes to build on.

(That is one mesmerizing night sky. Was this the after-party?)

For those of you on Twitter, follow @sqlpass and make sure to check out the #sqlsat and #sqlsaturday hashtags to stay up to date. Besides attendance at free learning events, there are many speaking and sponsorship opportunities available.

LAST WEEK IN SQLSATURDAY...

+ Colin Smith presented at SQLSaturday #47, Phoenix

+ Bill Ramos presented at SQLSaturday #47, Phoenix

COMING UP IN SQLSATURDAY...

This week SQLSaturday #65 stops in beautiful British Columbia, Canada, for the Vancouver get-together - if you're heading that way, make sure to say hi to all the PASS HQ team members stopping by! On Mar. 5, the City of Brotherly Love opens its arms wide for SQLSaturday #69, Philadelphia. And on Mar. 19, the event makes a pit-stop in Columbia, SC, for SQLSaturday #70.

IN OTHER NEWS...

Things are somewhat quiet on the SQLSaturday front this week. The organizers of SQLSaturday #67, Chicago, are planning a pre-conference session. Take a look! 

A hot topic of discussion this past week has centered around the question, "What Should PASS Be?" SQLSaturday is a key part of PASS's future vision - definitely some interesting points to be found here. Make sure to have your say!

Want to attend or speak at a SQLSaturday? Check out the SQLSaturday website or "Upcoming In-Person Events" on the PASS Home page for upcoming dates near you.

Want to put on your own SQLSaturday? Click here to get started.

What Should PASS Be? I Challenge You

[cross-posted from Andy's blog at sqlandy.com]

PASS isn’t what it should be. I hear that a lot, and in many ways I agree with you. We’re finally growing and evolving, but we’re still far from what I think most of you expect from a true professional association.

But.

I’m not sure you or I have realistic expectations. So I want to challenge you. Draw an image of what you want PASS to be in 3 years and share it on your blog (or post a comment here if you don’t have a blog). Imagine we just hired you to be CEO of PASS and you were going to “fix” things, what would you do? What’s your vision for providing benefits to chapters or members, or for growing membership, or for global growth, or whatever areas you think are badly served right now?

Maybe I just don’t have the vision – I’m limited by my own biases and experiences – but I’d really like for PASS to be what you want it to be. An organization that serves you, excites you, makes you proud to be part of it, proud to support it, and willing to challenge it if it steps off track.

Maybe it’s a paragraph, maybe it’s a thousand words, but I hope you’ll write something. We’ve got several hundred bloggers in the SQL space, and a whole lot of members. What you write may not change the world, but maybe it will.

Speaker Agreements… Legal, Necessary, but awfully sticky

[cross-posted from Allen's blog at allenkinsel.com]

Every year PASS asks the speakers at the Summit to agree to some relatively simple terms and conditions. I don’t consider them to be anything overly involved or overbearing. For those who haven’t seen them they basically establish that a speaker owns the content they are going to present, that the speakers act as professional as possible, don’t market their products, or their companies products, and allow PASS to record the sessions.

This year the hangup for me is related to that last tiny bit. For regular conference speakers asking them to allow recording of their 1 hour session isn’t a big ask. However where Im reevaluating what we’ve done in the past is related to the all day preconference sessions.

Last year PASS recorded the preconference sessions and offered them for sale to PASS members. Just like the preconference sessions where the speakers get a portion of the admission fee, the contract called for the speakers to get a portion of the sales from the DVD’s. At the time this seemed like a fair way to do things and I still believe that the revenue share is fair.

Drawbacks

Ive heard from several different people that if these preconference sessions are recorded that it may become more and more difficult for PASS to attract the top tier SQL Server speakers to do precons. I can appreciate the position of some speakers on this, if they are giving their best content and we are distributing it digitally for what amounts to a few hundred dollars they run the very real risk of loosing actual sales of training material, or potential clients.

Benefits

On the other side, I need to weigh the risks of potentially shrinking the pool of available speakers with the benefits to the community of being able to offer these recordings. The other benefit is of course the money PASS makes from these DVD sales. To be perfectly clear, the amount of money PASS makes off of DVD sales in general is merely a pittance in the scheme of things. Having the DVD’s available and leveraging the content however is very valuable to our members and something that I think is important enough to at least explore what can be done to hopefully find a good balance

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

The way I’m leaning on this is to leave things the way they are and see if we see an overall drop in the quality or quantity of our preconference presenters in 2011 onward.  I have however thought a lot about possible ways we could create a workable model, where we allowed certain preconference speakers to opt out of recording. This could get really messy administratively, and cause some confusion/anger with attendees not knowing which sessions will be included in the recordings. The other alternative is to just stop recording preconference sessions totally, although I dont think this is a good option.

I guess what I’m trying to do here is expose an internal debate that Ive been having with myself. Ive found that often if I spend the time to write something out it helps me organize my thoughts. As a bonus occasionally, I get great comments/ideas from the 2 of you who read this.

The Changing Face of PASS

[cross-posted from Bill Graziano's blog at sqlteam.com]

I’m starting my sixth year on the PASS Board.  I served two years as the Program Director, two years as the Vice-President of Marketing and I’m starting my second year as the Executive Vice-President of Finance.  There’s a pretty good chance that if PASS has done something you don’t like or is doing something you don’t like, that I’m involved in one way or another.

Andy Leonard asked in a comment on his blog if the Board had ever reversed itself based on community input.  He asserted that it hadn’t.  I disagree.  I’m not going to try and list all the changes we make inside portfolios based on feedback from and meetings with the community.  I’m going to focus on major governance issues since I was elected to the Board.

Management Company

The first big change was our management company.  Our old management company had a standard approach to running a non-profit.  It worked well when PASS was launched.  Having a ready-made structure and process to run the organization enabled the organization to grow quickly.  As time went on we were limited in some of the things we wanted to do.  The more involved you were with PASS, the more you saw these limitations.  Key volunteers were regularly providing feedback that they wanted certain changes that were difficult for us to accomplish.  The Board at that time wanted changes that were difficult or impossible to accomplish under that structure.

This was not a simple change.  Imagine a $2.5 million dollar company letting all its employees go on a Friday and starting with a new staff on Monday.  We also had a very narrow window to accomplish that so that we wouldn’t affect the Summit – our only source of revenue.  We spent the year after the change rebuilding processes and putting on the Summit in Denver. 

That’s a concrete example of a huge change that PASS made to better serve its members.  And it was a change that many in the community were telling us we needed to make.

Financials

We heard regularly from our members that they wanted our financials posted.  Today on our web site you can find audited financials going back to 2004.  We publish our budget at the start of each year.  If you ask a question about the financials on the PASS site I do my best to answer it.  I’m also trying to do a better job answering financial questions posted in other locations.  (And yes, I know I owe a few of you some blog posts.)

That’s another concrete example of a change that our members asked for that the Board agreed was a good decision.

Minutes

When I started on the Board the meeting minutes were very limited.  The minutes from a two day Board meeting might fit on one page.  I think we did the bare minimum we were legally required to do.  Today Board meeting minutes run from 5 to 12 pages and go into incredible detail on what we talk about.  There are certain topics that are NDA but where possible we try to list the topic we discussed but that the actual discussion was under NDA.  We also publish the agenda of Board meetings ahead of time.

This is another specific example where input from the community influenced the decision.  It was certainly easier to have limited minutes but I think the extra effort helps our members understand what’s going on.

Board Q&A

At the 2009 Summit the Board held its first public Q&A with our members.  We’d always been available individually to answer questions.  There’s a benefit to getting us all in one room and asking the really hard questions to watch us squirm.  We learn what questions we don’t have good answers for.  We get to see how many people in the crowd look interested in the various questions and answers.

I don’t recall the genesis of how this came about.  I’m fairly certain there was some community pressure though.

Board Votes

Until last November, the Board only reported the vote totals and not how individual Board members voted.  That was one of the topics at a great lunch I had with Tim Mitchell and Kendal van Dyke at the Summit.  That was also the topic of the first question asked at the Board Q&A by Kendal.  Kendal expressed his opposition to to anonymous votes clearly and passionately and without trying to paint anyone into a corner.  Less than 24 hours later the PASS Board voted to make individual votes public unless the topic was under NDA.  That’s another area where the Board decided to change based on feedback from our members.

Summit Location

While this isn’t actually a governance issue it is one of the more public decisions we make that has taken some public criticism.  There is a significant portion of our members that want the Summit near them.  There is a significant portion of our members that like the Summit in Seattle.  There is a significant portion of our members that think it should move around the country.  I was one that felt strongly that there were significant, tangible benefits to our attendees to being in Seattle every year.  I’m also one that has been swayed by some very compelling arguments that we need to have at least one outside Seattle and then revisit the decision.  I can’t tell you how the Board will vote but I know the opinion of our members weighs heavily on the decision.

Elections

And that brings us to the grand-daddy of all governance issues.  My thesis for this blog post is that the PASS Board has implemented policy changes in response to member feedback.  It isn’t to defend or criticize our election process.  It’s just to say that is has been under going continuous change since I’ve been on the Board. 

I ran for the Board in the fall of 2005.  I don’t know much about what happened before then.  I was actively volunteering for PASS for four years prior to that as a chapter leader and on the program committee.  I don’t recall any complaints about elections but that doesn’t mean they didn’t occur.  The questions from the Nominating Committee (NomCom) were trivial and the selection process rudimentary (For example, “Tell us about your accomplishments”).  I don’t even remember who I ran against or how many other people ran. 

I ran for the VP of Marketing in the fall of 2007.  I don’t recall any significant changes the Board made in the election process for that election.  I think a lot of the changes in 2007 came from us asking the management company to work on the election process.  I was expecting a similar set of puff ball questions from my previous election.  Boy, was I in for a shock.  The NomCom had found a much better set of questions and really made the interview portion difficult.  The questions were much more behavioral in nature.  I’d already written about my vision for PASS and my goals.  They wanted to know how I handled adversity, how I handled criticism, how I handled conflict, how I handled troublesome volunteers, how I motivated people and how I responded to motivation. And many, many other things.

They grilled me for over an hour.  I’ve done a fair bit of technical sales in my time.  I feel I speak well under pressure addressing pointed questions.  This interview intentionally put me under pressure.  In addition to wanting to know about my interpersonal skills, my work experience, my volunteer experience and my supervisory experience they wanted to see how I’d do under pressure.  They wanted to see who would respond under pressure and who wouldn’t.  It was a bit of a shock.

That was the first big change I remember in the election process.  I know there were other improvements around the process but none of them stick in my mind quite like the unexpected hour-long grilling.

The next big change I remember was after the 2009 elections.  Andy Warren was unhappy with the election process and wanted to make some changes.  He worked with Hannes at HQ and they came up with a better set of processes.  I think Andy moved PASS in the right direction.  Nonetheless, after the 2010 election even more people were very publicly clamoring for changes to our election process. 

In August of 2010 we had a choice to make.  There were numerous bloggers criticizing the Board and our upcoming election.  The easy change would be to announce that we were changing the process in a way that would satisfy our critics.  I believe that a knee-jerk response to criticism is seldom correct.

Instead the Board spent August and September and October and November listening to the community.  I visited two SQLSaturdays and asked questions of everyone I could.  I attended chapter meetings and asked questions of as many people as they’d let me.  At Summit I made it a point to introduce myself to strangers and ask them about the election.  At every breakfast I’d sit down at a table full of strangers and ask about the election.  I’m happy to say that I left most tables arguing about the election.  Most days I managed to get 2 or 3 breakfasts in.

I spent less time talking to people that had already written about the election.  They were already expressing their opinion.  I wanted to talk to people that hadn’t spoken up.  I wanted to know what the silent majority thought.  The Board all attended the Q&A session where our members expressed their concerns about a variety of issues including the election.

The PASS Board also chose to create the Election Review Committee.  We wanted people from the community that had been involved with PASS to look at our election process with fresh eyes while listening to what the community had to say and give us some advice on how we could improve the process.  I’m a part of this as is Andy Warren.  None of the other members are on the Board.  I’ve sat in numerous calls and interviews with this group and attended an open meeting at the Summit.  We asked anyone that wanted to discuss the election to come speak with us.  The ERC held an open meeting at the Summit and invited anyone to attend.  There are forums on the ERC web site where we’ve invited people to participate.  The ERC has reached to key people involved in recent elections. 

The years that I haven’t mentioned also saw minor improvements in the election process.  Off the top of my head I don’t recall what exact changes were made each year.  Specifically since the 2010 election we’ve gone out of our way to seek input from the community about the process.  I’m not sure what more we could have done to invite feedback from the community.

I think to say that we haven’t “fixed” the election process isn’t a fair criticism at this time.  We haven’t rushed any changes through the process.  If you don’t see any changes in our election process in July or August then I think it’s fair to criticize us for ignoring the community or ask for an explanation for what we’ve done.

In Summary

Andy’s main point was that the PASS Board hasn’t changed in response to our members wishes.  I think I’ve shown that time and time again the PASS Board has changed in response to what our members want.  There are only two outstanding issues: Summit location and elections.  The 2013 Summit location hasn’t been decided yet.  Our work on the elections is also in progress.  And at every step in the election review we’ve gone out of our way to listen to the community and incorporate their feedback on the process.

I also hope I’m not encouraging everyone that wants some change in the organization to organize a “blog rush” against the Board.  We take public suggestions very seriously but we also take the time to evaluate those suggestions and learn what the rest of our members think and make a measured decision.

PASS Program Committee Management Transparency

[cross-posted from Allen Kinsel's blog at allenkinsel.com]

I occasionally get into trouble for thinking that no one cares what I’m (we’re) doing for PASS.  Frankly much of what I work on is BORING to a casual observer.  Im still not convinced anyone really cares about the minutiae that we have to deal with week in and week out on the Program Committee but, I don’t know if that’s just myself becoming desensitized to the amount & importance of what I (we) do.

My friend Andy Warren (Blog|Twitter) mentioned something the other day about their being minutes posted on the PASS site (somewhere) from the meetings that are held in relation to the SQL Rally.  In the Program Committee we’ve produced minutes for the meetings that we have for quite a long time (2+ years) and they were simply emailed about and stored on PASS’s intranet site, they’re mainly used for keeping track of deliverables.

Change

Starting with our last meeting (first substantial meeting of 2011) Ive asked that we publish a copy of the minutes to the Program Committee webpage on the PASS site.  http://www.sqlpass.org/Community/SpeakerResource.aspx Look near the bottom left of the page for the first meeting minutes.  At some point, we may have to look at separating the Program committee info from the actual speaker info on that page but, for now this was easy and took basically no extra work from HQ or anyone on the team.

Useful?

So, the question is (and I rarely get answers to questions in a blog post): Other than to be able to say, yes we publish those minutes, does anyone even care?  Will anyone read them with any regularity?  Ive personally never looked at the Rally minutes, so I’m thinking its not going to be that valuable..  I agree that in general transparency is a good thing but, to a point like this I wonder if anyone out there cares.

Information overload

We will meet bi-weekly for the next 6 or so weeks but from that point on we usually meet weekly, and often a few times a week when crunch time hits.  As you can imagine, that creates a huge amount of minutes.  I hope that we dont wind up burying good information people might want to see simply because we meet so often.

PASS needs you

[cross-posted from Allen Kinsel's blog at allenkinsel.com]

Help wanted Needed!!

This year my portfolio within the PASS board is “Summit program and speaker management”  Ive been involved with this portfolio for at least the last 4 years.  This year, I’m going to be transitioning into yet a different roll within the committee.  Ill still be heavily involved but,  I’m turning the majority of the day to day decision making over to Lori Edwards (Blog|Twitter)  She was hugely involved last year, and I have no doubt she will work her magic again this year!

Program Committee Changes

This year, there are going to be some changes to the processes in the program committee, Ill detail some of those in a later set of blog posts.  For now, Ive decided to split up the groups of volunteers in the program committee to hopefully enable some of the future process changes.

Help Wanted

For this year we’re going to need help in many areas

Abstract Review Teams (led by Lori Edwards)

  • DBA/Cloud/BI/AD/PD

Speaker Review Team (led by Tim Ford)

  • This group will review speakers independently of their abstracts

Speaker Enhancement team (Wes Brown & Grant Fritchey)

  • This will probably stay a small group and work on updating sample abstracts, selection info, generating info for new speakers etc.

PPT/Abstract Editing review/approval (Led by Tim Martin)

  • This group will be working on sessions after they are accepted (lots of new ideas here)

Special Projects (Led by AJ Mendo & Lance Harra)

  • This group will be working on finishing the Speaker Evaluation tool, coordinating changes to the Summit online tool as well as a few other projects that are envisioned.

Cutting edge

Its been said that what we do in the Program committee is on the bleeding edge of what PASS does in organizing groups of volunteers at the national level.  That is to say, we need lots of help but, sometimes things dont always work out quite how we (I) had expected.  I say this only to set expectations that its not always a smooth ride but, rarely is it not interesting.

We developed an online survey to help us capture all of the relevant info about everyone who wants to volunteer.  Don’t worry, its not a job app and it shouldn’t be resume quality, we’re primarily looking for general information

http://www.zoomerang.com/Survey/WEB22BSJTXJZEA/

Please consider this a personal invitation from me to join us in making the content at the PASS Summit 2011 the best ever!

PASS Summit 2013 - A Bunch of Blog Posts Recently

[cross-posted from Rick Heiges' blog at sqlblog.com]

Recently, there have been a number of blog posts about having the 2013 PASS Summit in Seattle or elsewhere.  I had a post in November about the process and some of the major factors that were on my mind.  You can read it here

There is value in moving the Summit to another venue.  There is value in having the Summit in the same location/venue year after year as well.  Many of the posts that I read recently make excellent arguments for each.  As time goes on and you hear another good argument for one or the other, I keep waiting for the definitive argument.  You know that someone will make some obvious point that everyone overlooked, and the decision will be a no-brainer.  Well, I'm not convinced that we will hear that definitive argument ever.

I believe that my post referenced earlier in this blog entry gives you a hint of which way I am leaning, but I emphasize that many factors must be considered in order to make an informed decision not only about the location of the Summit in 2013 but also how that may affect the budgeting aspects of our other support services and offerings.

 

Farewell to Director Christoph Stotz

Dear PASS Members,

It is with great sadness that the PASS Board must bid farewell to Christoph Stotz. Christoph has been with the organization since its infancy, and throughout has been a passionate advocate for its cause. 

He helped launch PASS Germany in the early 2000s, a Chapter which is currently over 2000 members strong and a major hub for all things SQL Server in Europe. Christoph was also a foundational driving force behind the PASS European Conference, his tireless efforts instrumental in the event's growth and success. The Board of Directors recognized his skills and verve, and in 2005 he was appointed to the Board as an advisor on European matters. In time, his role encompassed a wider scope, and he became a champion for the global cause.

Christoph is stepping down to concentrate on a number of personal goals. He leaves a legacy that will be incredibly difficult to match by any successor to the role. In all his dealings with PASS, whether as Chapter leader, event organizer, or regional Director, Christoph was known for providing thoughtful analysis and sage advice at just the right time. His combination of wisdom and experience will not be easy to replace.

But as they say, all good things must come to an end. We wish Christoph all the best of luck in his future endeavors and have no doubt that success will continue to follow him wherever he goes. He will be missed!