Category: Volunteers

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!

PASS: 2013 Summit Location

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

HQ recently posted a brief update on our search for a location for 2013.  It includes links to posts by four Board members and two community members. I’d like to add my thoughts to the mix and ask you a question.  But I can’t give you a real understanding without telling you some history first.

So far we’ve had the Summit in Chicago, San Francisco, Orlando, Dallas, Denver and Seattle.  Each has a little different feel and distinct memories.  I enjoyed getting drinks by the pool in Orlando after the sessions ended.  I didn’t like that our location in Dallas was so far away from all the nightlife.  Denver was in downtown but we had real challenges with hotels.  I enjoyed the different locations.  I always enjoyed the announcement during the third keynote with the location of the next Summit.

There are two big events that impacted my thinking on the Summit location.  The first was our transition to the new management company in early 2007.  The event that September in Denver was put on with a six month planning cycle by a brand new headquarters staff.  It wasn’t perfect but came off much better than I had dared to hope.  It also moved us out of the cookie cutter conferences that we used to do into a model where we have a lot more control.  I think you’ll all agree that the production values of our last few Summits have been fantastic. 

That Summit also led to our changing relationship with Microsoft.  Microsoft holds two seats on the PASS Board.  All the PASS Board members face the same challenge: we all have full-time jobs and PASS comes in second place professionally (or sometimes further back).  Starting in 2008 we were assigned a liaison from Microsoft that had a much larger block of time to coordinate with us.  That changed everything between PASS and Microsoft.  Suddenly we were talking to product marketing, Microsoft PR, their event team, the Tech*Ed team, the education division, their user group team and their field sales team – locally and internationally.  We strengthened our relationship with CSS, SQLCAT and the engineering teams.  We had exposure at the executive level that we’d never had before.  And their level of participation at the Summit changed from under 100 people to 400-500 people.  I think those 400+ Microsoft employees have value at a conference on Microsoft SQL Server.  For the first time, Seattle had a real competitive advantage over other cities.

I’m one that looked very hard at staying in Seattle for a long, long time.  I think those Microsoft engineers have value to our attendees.  I think the increased support that Microsoft can provide when we’re in Seattle has value to our attendees.  But that doesn’t tell the whole story.  There’s a significant (and vocal!) percentage of our membership that wants the Summit outside Seattle.  Post-2007 PASS doesn’t know what it’s like to have a Summit outside of Seattle.  I think until we have a Summit in another city we won’t really know the trade-offs.

I think a model where we move every third or every other year is interesting.  But until we have another Summit outside Seattle and we can evaluate the logistics and how important it is to have depth and variety in our Microsoft participation we won’t really know.

Another benefit that comes with a move is variety or diversity.  I learn more when I’m exposed to new things and new people.  I believe that moving the Summit will give a different set of people an opportunity to attend.

Grant Fritchey writes “It seems that the board is leaning, extremely heavily, towards making it a permanent fixture in Seattle.”  I don’t believe that’s true.  I know there was discussion of that earlier but I don’t believe it’s true now.

And that brings me to my question.  Do we announce the city now or do we wait until the 2012 Summit?  I’m happy to announce Seattle vs. not-Seattle as soon as we sign the contract.  But I’d like to leave the actual city announcement until the 2011 Summit.  I like the drama and mystery of it.  I also like that it doesn’t give you a reason to skip a Summit and wait for the next one if it’s closer or back in Seattle.  The other side of the coin is that your planning is easier if you know where it is.  What do you think?

 

What’s important in a Summit Location

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

I thought after my last post on Summit location that I wouldn’t need to write anymore about it but, I got a couple of responses(questions) wondering what I thought was important in a location for the summit. What I’m guessing these people really want to know is where Ill vote for, not, what I already wrote about which is what I’m essentially voting against.

Well, I’m not going to go so far as to say exactly where I’d like to see the Summit.  What I will do is list what I think are the top 3 most important things when looking at where to locate the summit.

  1. Accessibility – It needs to be as easy as possible to get to, as well as get around once you get there.  Both the city as well as the Convention Center should be easily accessibilty
  2. Cost – The convention center needs to be reasonably priced, the hotels, food, etc should all be (somewhat) affordable
  3. Local Support – I would prefer a location with a very strong local support structure, whether Microsoft or the local SQL Community.

There are many additional variables that no doubt will be considered but, these are the things that make the top of my list.

SQLSaturday Round-Up (Feb. 3-9)

(This is Round 11 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?)

PASS SQLSaturday continues to go from strength to strength. Several new events are either in the works or have already been officially announced.

Last weekend it was Cleveland's turn to host the party. According to Ian Hunter, Cleveland rocks - after this past Saturday, we're sure* he wrote the song in anticipation of SQLSaturday #60!

*Okay, maybe just pretty sure.

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...

Nancy Hidy helped organize SQLSaturday #57, Houston (and reflects on what she and her team could've done better)

Ryan Adams presented at SQLSaturday #57, Houston

Aaron Bertrand presented at SQLSaturday #60, Cleveland (and also made sure to put his presentation slide decks out there post haste)

+ Wes Brown presented at SQLSaturday #57, Houston

+ Jack Corbett presented at SQLSaturday #62, Tampa (quite a few weeks ago now, eh, Jack?)

+ Grant Fritchey (miraculously) presented at SQLSaturday #60, Cleveland (this is truly a crazy story - we're impressed!)

COMING UP IN SQLSATURDAY...

Like we said, there are still lots of SQLSaturdays to look forward to in February. On Feb. 12 it's being held in Colorado Springs. On Feb. 19 you can attend the event in Phoenix. On Feb. 26 it stops near PASS management HQ in Vancouver, Canada - if you've been to PASS Summit, there might be quite a few familiar faces around!

IN OTHER NEWS...

Have you thought about presenting but just weren't sure what's in it for you? If you have the urge to share your knowledge, Mike Walsh tells you why you should present (next week he'll tell you how). Don't forget, SQLSaturday is the perfect venue for you to launch a speaking career and hone your skills. And if you're already presenting at SQLSaturdays, franchise founder Steve Jones wants you to know that it's always a good idea to upload your decks early, as his own experience proves!

For those of you who are busy planning a SQLSaturday of your own, Malathi Mahadevan has some hot tips gleaned from lessons learned hosting the recent event in Louisville. She provides lots of great pointers, so make sure you check it out.

Finally, PASS Director Andy Warren recently blogged about his PASS-related work goals for 2011. He has quite a few targets dedicated to SQLSaturday. An interesting read!

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.

PASS SQLRally 2012 - Selection Process for Host City Now Underway!

Hello Chapter Leaders!

As you may know, we will be having our first PASS SQLRally in Orlando on May 11-13. This event is PASS' new regional event that fills the gap between the PASS SQLSaturday 1-day training events and the week-long PASS Summit.

We have recently begun the planning process for the 2012 event and are reaching out to the Chapters in the US to see who would be interested in hosting the event in May 2012.

If you are interested, please inform Anika at PASSHQ of your Expression of Interest before February 14th. Please include the following information in your submission: 

  • Geographical Location (Note: Preferred locations will be in the Central and Mountain time zones, along with locations in the North Eastern US)
  • Chapter Size as determined by number of members
  • Proven history of managing events (ie. SQLSaturdays)

The SQLRally Selection Committee will review all submissions. The Committee is made up of volunteers and PASS HQ event and logistics specialists. All submitters will be advised by February 17th if they meet the primary requirements. 

For Chapters that meet the requirements for the 2012 Host City, the next steps will be:

  • Chapter to submit the completed application (attached) by Feb. 20.
  • PASS HQ to summarize all applications and provide to the SQLRally Selection Committee.
  • Selection Committee to choose the top 5 likely candidates.
  • Anika to contact venues in the chosen cities for RFPs.
  • Review and analysis of RFPs; Selection Committee to select the top 3 potential candidate cities.
  • Community vote to select the 2012 location.
  • Winner will be announced at the Orlando SQLRally on May 13.

If you have any questions or to submit your Expression of Interest, please email Anika at PASSHQ at Anika.Poliseno@sqlpass.org. Anika will be available to assist at any step along the way so please don’t hesitate to contact her at 604-899-6009 x118.

Thank you for your interest and we look forward to the selection process!

 

Why I will vote to move the PASS Summit in 2013

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

Oh no, not again!

Seems not a day goes by that I dont have a discussion somewhere with someone about the Summit Location in 2013 or 2014, or even occasionally about the location this year and next.

If you need background, a couple of my PASS BOD Cohorts have already weighed in on the various ways they are thinking about this decision Here, Here, or Here, additionally Grant Fritchey and Andy Leonard both weighed in as well.  Much additional conversation seems to happen regularly on twitter as well…

Ive been a member of the PASS Board for exactly 35 days and so far I’ve really only been shocked by one thing.  Its almost beyond baffling to me that the #1 issue the SQL community wants the Board (and PASS by proxy) to solve is the location of the 2013 Summit.  Honestly, I can think of at least 10 things that are more important for PASS to be focusing energy on than where the Summit is going to be located.  But, alas that clearly illustrates that it is a VERY important issue to many community members

I want to be perfectly clear

The location of the 2013 Summit has not been decided yet

The decision is expected to be made in the March BOD meeting.

This post wont go into all the 1000′s of ways a person could look at this issue, and trust me there’s more than 1000.  Instead I’m going to tip my hand, and skip all the mumbo jumbo because I believe everyone on the Board already knows how I feel about this issue.  So the only possible people who dont know are the 2 of you reading this.

I will vote to move the Summit out of Seattle in 2013

Now that the beans have been spilled (no big shocker there I hope) id like to at least outline how I’ve come to this decision so hopefully you can agree or disagree with me but, at least respect that the reasons are my own, and that I believe they represent whats best for the organization as a whole.

First a tiny caveat – yes I’m putting the fine print first, its important — If by some freakish accident there is no conference space available (within a reasonable $$ limit) in the finalist cities then I may be forced to do something different.  — that fine print is merely the DBA in me practicing for every possible outcome in a disaster.  Even though I dont plan for it, I cant ignore it might happen.

  • A large portion of the community feels so strongly about this that many feel almost disenfranchised by the very group that they have been an integral part of.
  • PASS’s #1 Mission is to serve the community, how better than to occasionally have THE SQL Server Event of the year in a location thats more accessible to different parts of the country
  • Microsoft has pledged their Support for the conference no matter its location
  • To the average “newish” DBA the difference between having 150 MS people at the Summit and 400 is nearly nonexistent
  • We’ve moved The Summit before, this isn’t unprecedented, PASSHQ is easily able to do this, the procedures should already exist.
  • My portfolio (Summit Program) would likely be the most effected by this change.  Maybe marketing would have a large impact as well but, as far as BOD work, Program would likely take the brunt of a move.
  • If the majority of the Microsoft presence is traveling, they wont have their homes to sneak off to at 5:00. so they would presumably be more likely to continue to interact after Summit session hours
  • Selfish Reason — Moving the summit would force Microsoft to lock in their speaker lineup earlier which would make my job coordinating that easier

Now for the limits of my support

  • I think the Summit should be in Seattle more often than not, say 2 out of every 3 years or 3 out of every 4.  Based almost entirely on SQL release cycles
  • Until it proves detrimental to the organization — I am a risk taker by nature, as evidenced by living on an island in the path of hurricanes (site of the worst US natural disaster ever) but, everyone has their limits

Id like to take a second and ask you Mr. or Mrs. SQL Community Member reading this to do me a personal favor.  Find one of those “other” really important things you wish PASS was better at, something we should be focusing on, and leave a comment here or send me a message in email or twitter about it and sling out some ideas, or better yet solutions!!  Approach that with the same level of enthusiasm as the Summit location and we should be able to get some real movement on other things that are important to the community.  If I get any responses to those “other things” Ill build them all into a a future blog post and make sure they get some attention.

I wrote the above mainly so the community that elected me to lead would know that I’ve spent a long time listening and trying to come up with a decision on this.  Now with this decision behind me, I can move on to worrying about other PASS (Community) business without the community wondering if I’ve been paying attention.

PASS Update #52 (ERC)

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

We’re doing weekly calls for the ERC (election review committee) and we seem to be making some progress. This past week we came up with a good outline of what we hope to see as the process for selecting the nomcom (look for a post from Bill Graziano for details), and you can from that guess that we plan to retain the nomcom as part of our recommendations back to the Board.

My focus has been thinking about what matters when evaluating candidates, because to a degree we’re trying to predict success. I’ve got about a 50% average on picking employees, so I’m not sure that I can do much better with picking Board members. But skill or not, there’s merit to making it clear which attributes we value, and giving the nomcom very clear guidance on how the attributes are scored and weighted. What I hope we’ll wind up with is a process that:

  • Allows potential candidates to easily self-assess if they meet the minimum qualifications (and yes, the hard part is describing those)
  • Allows us to score candidates in a close to objective manner in most areas. For example, if we include education we might award 1 point for High School, 2 points for two year degree, and perhaps cap it at 3 for a 4 year degree or more. For things like leadership it might be 1 point for each 12 months in a management/leadership position, with a max of x points, and it must have been within the last x years.
  • Allows our nomcom to add a portion of the overall score based on their impressions during an interview. Not everyone shines under stress, not every nomcom member will see everyone the same way. Maybe this is 20% of the score, but it’s not 80%.
  • Takes the scores and then puts the top 3*slots on the slate

That’s not a huge change from last year, but I think it’s really going to add a lot of depth and structure to the “process”. What we want is for the Board (and by extension, the members) to tell the Nomcom the attributes it values and how they want them evaluated. It’s got to be more than “pick the ones you think best”. Even with these changes it’s really important that we get a diverse Nomcom that’s vested in the health of PASS overall, and I think we have good ideas for you on that.

There are two places where I’m pushing for change. The first is that we need a safety valve, a way to bypass the Board and the nomcom to a degree, to make sure that if the members want change, they have a way to do it. My proposal is that of the candidates who passed the minimum qualifications but did not make it to the final slate we’ll have a vote by the members (I don’t know how else to do it) to the slate. It’s essentially a write-in, with the pre-requisite that you have to meet the minimums and do the work to fill out the application, which makes sure that we get candidates that are interested and viable.

The other one is removing the requirement that sitting Board members go through the nomination process for re-election. It takes time, and if they were qualified before, reasonably they still are. It’s both their time and the time of the nomcom, and it’s tough to imagine a time when the nomcom would not put a sitting board member on the slate. Then they get to run on their record and the members decide. Is this right? I argue with myself on it! I’ve been through it this past year and didn’t mind paying my dues, but was it worthwhile? I don’t think it was, but I’m sensitive – perhaps overly so – to the perception that we’re trying to make it harder to change by making it easier to maintain the status quo, if that makes any sense.

We’ve got a lot more ideas than that, and a lot of discussion, none of that is set yet. Doing it by phone is slow and mildly painful. Good discussion, great differing points of view, but no problems working together. I just wish we’d been able to work it out to spend a weekend working on this in one room. The hard part is that some ideas need time to grow, so doing it all in a weekend would have been unlikely.

As we talk about our ideas for recommendations I’m trying to look at the entire stack. It’s not enough to just fix one thing or tweak one thing, we have to try – as best we can – to look at the entire stack and ask if it’s rational. I want it to be clear and simple, if not easy, for someone to look at the requirements and decide to become a candidate, and I want them to be able to clearly understand how we evaluate and rank them. In the end we may not satisfy everyone about why we value x more than y, but we’ll have it up on the board,and we can revisit each year and tweak as we learn lessons. In fairness we’ve tried to do that the past two years, but never with the big picture view we’re trying to do this year.

I’ve probably left you with more questions than less, but wanted to let you know we’re working on it and I think that we’re making progress. Post questions if you have them and I’ll do my best to answer!