August 19, 2014 – What’s in a name? For PASS, it’s a proud heritage of 15 years as one of the world’s largest and most vibrant technical communities.
Synonymous with premier technical training and networking, PASS was founded in 1999 by Microsoft, CA/Platinum Technologies, and passionate DBAs and database developers as an independent, not-for-profit professional association dedicated to promoting and educating SQL Server users around the world. Since then, our community has grown in both size and breadth, with over 100,000 members who work with the integrated Microsoft Data Platform in a variety of roles – from DBAs, data and application developers, and IT Managers to data warehousing specialists, business intelligence architects, and business analytics pros.
In the past 2 years, our organization has embraced the increased interest in and growing educational and networking needs of the analytics community through the PASS Business Analytics Conference and PASS-supported BA-related virtual chapters and BA-focused local chapters. Last year at about this time, PASS updated its mission statement to officially welcome and support the broader data community, including those who may not work directly with SQL Server. Over the next few weeks, we’ll also be updating our websites and other communications, replacing most instances of the association’s spelled out name with simply “PASS.”
Run by and for the community, PASS remains dedicated to networking, knowledge sharing, and peer-based learning, with serving data professionals at the core of everything we do. Our legal name will remain Professional Association for SQL Server, meaning we will continue to use the full, spelled out version on legal and corporate documents. But to our members, we will be PASS – representing all the history and excellence of our community as well as the promise of amazing things to come as we set our sights firmly on our mission of empowering data professionals.
– Denise McInerney
PASS VP, Marketing
August 5, 2014 – The five-member PASS Nomination Committee (NomCom) has had a busy summer streamlining the application process and timeline for this year’s PASS Board of Directors elections and working on new campaign events to better engage the community and help them get to know the candidates before voting opens.
First up was a detailed review and update of the PASS Board application, which resulted in two focused documents. The PASS Board Elections Overview covers election processes, rules, and requirements, including everything from applicant criteria, recommended qualifications, and references to time commitments, procedures for ranking applicants and awarding seats, and campaign guidelines. With more requirements details and clearer examples all consolidated in the overview, the application itself is now shorter and easier to navigate.
The NomCom also adjusted the elections timeline so that campaigning opens before balloting and to reduce the time between when candidates are notified of elections results and when those results are announced to the community.
Although the NomCom is still working on PASS-hosted campaign events for this elections season, it has announced two official campaign events for Sept. 18 and 19, before ballots go out. These online Live Speech/Q&A events will feature a time slot for each candidate to give opening and closing statements and have an open Q&A session with the community. The events will be hosted via GoToWebinar; GoToWebinar will provide the audio, with each candidate responsible for providing the video portion of the session, which will depend on the candidate’s webcam and bandwidth capabilities.
“Serving on a previous NomCom and being a former Board candidate, I am happy with the changes we’ve been able to make to this year’s processes,” said NomCom member Allen Kinsel. “The streamlining we did on the campaign timelines and changes to the election events should have a great impact on candidates’ ability to execute successful, interesting campaigns – which should also increase voter interest in who is running and what they can do to make PASS a more successful organization.”
Added Erin Stellato, who has served on both the 2013 and 2014 committees: “The highlight for me has been the significant progress we’ve made on what last year's NomCom started. I think that we have improved the application process for candidates, and we are working to give the community an even better opportunity to get to know the candidates prior to elections.”
The NomCom is continuing to work on ranking methods for future elections and streamlining the overall elections process even more. These items will be reviewed post-election so that the NomCom can get a better idea of what can be improved. The current ranking methods will remain in place for this year’s elections, and as in the past, all applicants’ rankings will be posted to the public unless they opt out.
“We’ve identified some tweaks that I think will be good for candidates and voters,” noted NomCom member Andy Warren, “and we know that we need to put more time into a document that explains the ‘why’ of parts of the process to future NomCom members. It’s also a lot of fun to work with a group that is serious, diverse, and open minded, so much so that I think when we finish the work of the NomCom, we should find another project to tackle!”
August 5, 2014 – PASS is excited to welcome Hortonworks as a Gold Level Global Alliance Partner as the company expands its event and program sponsorships into a comprehensive, strategic relationship that supports the worldwide PASS community year-round.
Founded in 2011 by the original architects, builders, and operators of Hadoop, Hortonworks develops, distributes, and supports the only 100% open source distribution of Apache Hadoop explicitly architected, built, and tested for enterprise deployments. The company became an active PASS event sponsor in 2012, drawn by the organization’s dedicated professional community and mission to provide excellence in technical education and networking.
“Understanding data and making the best use of it for your business has never been more important,” says Audrey Ng, Hortonworks Sr. Director, Strategic Alliances. “We’re committed to delivering innovative big data solutions and helping data pros as they transition to a modern data architecture and build the next generation of applications. We’re thrilled to be working more closely with PASS to support this passionate data community.”
As a Gold Level Global Alliance Partner, Hortonworks is a Gold Sponsor of PASS Summit 2014, will be supporting the PASS Big Data Virtual Chapter as its sponsor, and will be a Silver Sponsor at PASS Business Analytics Conference 2015. The company will also be supporting the entire PASS community through Connector sponsorships, web advertising, and more.
PASS sponsors are a vital part of the community, supporting the organization’s many training and networking opportunities, including free learning events. Through the Global Alliance Program, PASS looks forward to bringing many new opportunities and added value to our community and to our partners. For information about becoming a PASS Global Alliance Partner, please contact Craig Ellis.
Congratulations to PASS SQLSaturday organizers, speakers, sponsors, and attendees for another record year. This past fiscal year, dedicated volunteers from the global PASS community hosted over 86 free SQLSaturday training events – 34 international SQLSaturdays and 52 US events. The accomplishments below wouldn’t be achievable without the amazing work of our volunteers, helping new and returning attendees connect, share, and learn throughout the year. If you haven’t attended a local SQLSaturday, we encourage you to find the next event near you!
July 9, 2014 -- FY2014 has been a huge year for PASS Virtual Chapters (VCs), now encompassing 27 special-interest and global language VCs.
Over 5,000 data professionals have attended at least one of the 160+ webinars that have taken place over the past 12 months, participating in more than 21,000 hours of technical training since July 1, 2013.
A huge thanks goes to all of our VC leads, co-leads, volunteers, and of course, our speakers, who make these free training opportunities possible every month.
Remember, if you missed out on a webinar, you can view archived recordings by going to the VC’s individual webpage.
Calling All Speakers
Presenting a VC webinar is a great way to build up your technical speaking experience and share your expertise on your favorite topics. Why not contact one of our VCs to see if they need a speaker for an upcoming webinar? Topic suggestions are always welcome, too. VC leaders are happy to walk you through your first webinar and give you all the help you need to make it a success.
Thinking of Starting a New VC?
We’re always looking for suggestions on new VCs. Right now, on the back of the World Cup excitement, we’re considering a Sports VC that would meet regularly to discuss predictive analytics topics with a sports focus. Think Moneyball, NCAA brackets, and more. If you’re interested in leading, volunteering, or speaking for this VC, please get in touch.
VCs for the Business Analytics Pro
This past year also saw a lot of growth in our Business Analytics-focused VCs, including the addition of the Excel BI VC. The Business Analytics, Business Intelligence and Data Warehousing, and Big Data VCs continue to meet regularly on the latest topics for getting the most out of your data and staying ahead of the curve with best practices and new technology.
VCs Go Global
Our VCs not only span a variety of special-interest technical topics, but we also have leadership and participation around the world. We have VC leaders in most areas of the globe, and this past year has seen nice growth within our Global Language Virtual Chapters; With seven language-based VCs to choose from, you can tune in to learn in Chinese, French, Hebrew, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish. Many of our special-interest VCs have also instituted additional webinar times to suit data pros in different time zones.
Keeping VCs Growing
In conjunction with our passionate volunteers, we are working hard to revive some older VCs and jump-start new ones to ensure that all groups are providing the best free technical training on a regular basis. We recently welcomed new VC leads to the Business Analytics, Cloud, Global French, and Oracle VCs. If you are interested in serving as a VC lead or co-lead or helping create or moderate webinars, stay in touch with us for upcoming opportunities.
– Jen Stirrup
Director of PASS Virtual Chapters
July 2, 2014 – It’s been exciting to see all the blog posts and tweets from speakers selected for PASS Summit 2014 – especially those who will be presenting at Summit for the first time. It’s also a bittersweet time as we commiserate with those who weren’t selected for this year’s program.
The hardest part of the Program Committee’s monumental task of reviewing, rating, and selecting sessions and speakers is not being able to include all the quality sessions and speakers we want to. This year’s 88-member team of community volunteers worked extremely hard and had to make some difficult choices. As the Program Committee reviews this year’s processes as well as feedback from its members and the community on how to improve and deliver the best possible Summit program, we wanted to share some ideas around the main discussions regarding the 2014 session selection process.
A Great Place to Start Is with Data
As both the SQL Server and Business Intelligence space and the attendance at PASS Summit continue to grow, our program also continues to grow to cover key topics and meet the needs of our community. For PASS Summit 2014, we increased the number of community sessions to 135 (not counting Lightning Talks), nine more than last year, and the number of community pre-conference sessions from 12 to 16. For the 135 session slots, we received a record 943 abstracts from 335 speakers, meaning that from the outset, we would be able to select only about 15% of submissions. (For an overview of the session selection process, please see PASS Summit: Already Setting Records.)
We want PASS Summit to be a showcase of the best and brightest technical experts and compelling speakers – from seasoned experts to rising stars. That means creating a mix of returning and first-time Summit speakers; this year, 26% of our speakers will be new to Summit. Because we continue to see an increase in the number of great session proposals from quality speakers, we will continue to look at ways to increase the number of community speaking slots.
To Publish or Not Publish Ratings
Members of the speaker and abstract review teams separately rate each speaker or session they’re assigned. The Program Managers and myself then use those speaker scores and abstract ratings, as well as topic balance, speaker balance, and skill level considerations, to build a cohesive program. Even a highly-rated session in a particular track might not be selected for the final program if that speaker already has the maximum two general sessions, for example, or to achieve a balanced program in terms of topics and skill levels.
So why not make the ratings public? First, the Program Team doesn’t want to embarrass or discourage anyone whose session received a low rating. Publishing the ratings would also open the door to questions and disagreements about why speakers or sessions received certain ratings – even among sessions that were selected. Although it’s unlikely we will publically share the session ratings, we are continuing to look for ways to improve feedback on why a session wasn’t accepted, some of which we instituted this year (see the next point).
Providing a Feedback Loop
As part of the session review and rating process, each session is typically reviewed by three or more team members. Reviewers are encouraged to provide written comments about the abstract along with a rating. The Program Managers then use the comments and ratings to build the best possible program. Unfortunately, not all the abstracts have comments, and the quality and quantity of the comments vary greatly. Our current tool, Orator, does not have the capability to combine all the comments from the various reviewers into comprehensive feedback for each session. We are looking at how to improve the use of comments in the abstract review process for next year and enhance Orator with better feedback capabilities.
If you submitted a session proposal for Summit 2014 and would like the comments from the abstract review team, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and we will send you the comments that are available for your abstract. Please note that, as stated above, not all abstracts have comments, and the comments are related to the abstract only and not why the session was or wasn’t accepted.
Based on feedback from the community over the past year, we also worked to improve the wording we use in our speaker notification letters for sessions that weren’t selected, as follows, but we currently do not have more specific comments about why a session wasn’t accepted.
||Updated This Year To
|3rd party or vendor specific topic
||Session deemed too focused on a vendor product
|High number of sessions already selected for topic
|Popular topic, higher rated session selected
|Limited target audience
|Less popular topic than others submitted
|Max sessions allocated for track
|Allocated number for track filled based on session rating and topic coverage
|Speaker has exceeded number of selected sessions
|Speaker has exceeded number of selected sessions - 2 General Sessions max
We are forming a Program Committee Special Project Team to review and improve the feedback process for future events and are committed to having the changes in place for the PASS Summit 2015 session selection process.
Pre-cons by Board Members
Members of the PASS Board of Directors are also part of the SQL Server and PASS communities and are allowed to submit session abstracts and speak at PASS events, including presenting pre-conference sessions. All sessions proposals – including pre-con proposals submitted by members of the Board – go through the same blind abstract review, in which the abstract reviewers don’t know who submitted the abstract.
In most cases, pre-conference speakers are offered financial compensation for their pre-con sessions. Section VI.14. of the PASS Bylaws state:
“Directors shall not receive any salaries for their services as Directors, but by resolution of the Board of Directors, a fixed sum and/or expenses of attendance, if any, may be allowed for attendance at each regular or special meeting of the Board; provided that nothing herein contained shall be construed to preclude any Director from serving PASS in an educational or speaking capacity and receiving compensation upon approval by a majority vote from the Board of Directors.
Simply put, any member of the Board is eligible to give a pre-con or other session at Summit. They are eligible for compensation if compensation is approved by a majority vote of the Board of Directors. The Board member selected to give a pre-con at Summit 2014 did not request to be compensated, therefore no vote was required. The Executive Committee did discuss the situation prior to announcing pre-con speakers and ensured that all decisions were in compliance with the bylaws and that the Board member would be able to fulfill all his duties during the week.
Changing Session Titles and Abstracts
All session titles and abstracts are reviewed and rated exactly as they are submitted. After the Program Committee has selected the final session list, all titles and abstracts are proofed for accuracy, clarity, grammar, and marketability, and we work with speakers on any requested updates.
Let’s Put It to a Vote?
There’s been some discussion about supplementing the session review/selection process or avoiding it entirely by putting some or all sessions up for community vote. Although it’s an attractive idea, whenever we’ve invited the community to vote on sessions – as with past Lightning Talks or Community Choice sessions – we’ve received extremely low participation, which leads to skewed results. Well-known speakers also have a distinct advantage in a voting scenario, and even in a “blind voting” situation without speaker names, it would be difficult to achieve a balance of topics, speakers, and session levels.
PASS Summit is first and foremost a community conference – built by dedicated community volunteers around open submissions from passionate community members – and we are always open and looking at ways to improve that process. We appreciate your feedback around the session selection process and helping develop new speakers, and we are working to schedule Program Committee office hours at Summit to hear your ideas, as well as talks on such topics as how to write an effective abstract and a good speaker profile – stay tuned for details. In addition, watch for sessions throughout the year on creating successful abstracts, how the Program Committee works, and how sessions are selected.
The Program Team’s work is never done – as soon as sessions are selected, we’re working on PowerPoint reviews, supporting speakers during the event, reviewing attendees’ feedback, and brainstorming ideas for making the next Summit even better. Please keep your feedback coming all year long; email us at email@example.com.
– Amy Lewis
Director of PASS Programs
June 24, 2014 – Congratulations to all the community speakers selected for PASS Summit 2014, and thanks to everyone who submitted abstracts in a record-breaking year! We had the most Summit submissions ever, with 943 abstracts submitted for the 144 community session slots in this year's program.
On behalf of the Program Team, I want to share how much we appreciate the SQL Server community’s ever-growing support in helping build the biggest and best educational program for SQL Server and BI professionals.
Thank You, Program Committee Volunteers
I would like to thank all of this year’s 88 Summit Program Committee volunteers for their dedication and hard work in the session review, scoring, rating, and selection process. The team reviewed all the 943 abstracts submitted by 335 speakers from around the world.
I also want to give a special thank you to this year's Program Managers, Lance Harra and Melissa Coates, who led the Program Committee through all phases of the selection process and spent countless hours analyzing and constructing a well-balanced conference program. Finally, a huge thanks to Marcella McKeown and Emilija Dufresne at PASS HQ – invaluable members of the Program Team who support and help coordinate and execute all program-related functions.
Behind the Scenes: How Are Sessions Selected?
The program-selection process is constantly being fine-tuned and improved based on lessons learned and feedback from each event. We welcome and encourage feedback and look forward to continuing to enhance our processes for a fair and objective approach that ensures a well-balanced program. Here’s a high-level overview of how Summit sessions are selected:
- Reviewing Abstracts, Speakers, PPTs: Program Committee volunteers are assigned to one of three teams:
- Abstract Review – Abstract Review volunteers work in sub-teams that match the program’s educational tracks, with each team reviewing and ranking abstracts in its track. The abstract review teams do not know which speakers submitted which abstracts; this "blind rating" is done to remove any favoritism in the scoring process, creating an even playing field for both new and seasoned speakers.
- Speaker Review – This team separately reviews speaker credentials, experience, and past attendee feedback to help select a slate of quality presenters.
- PowerPoint Review – After sessions are selected for Summit, the PowerPoint Review teams take over, reviewing speakers’ presentations, including verifying completeness, ensuring that required slides are included, and doing final spelling/grammar checks.
- Building the Program: When the Abstract and Speaker Review teams are finished, the program managers collect all the scores and ratings and analyze the top sessions from each track to fill the community session slots. Key factors in this analysis phase include:
- Topic Balance – The goals are to ensure that sessions within each track are inclusive and representative of the track’s key topics and to avoid duplication.
- Level Balance – We want to ensure a good mix of skill levels for beginners through experts.
- Speaker Balance – We strive for a lineup that includes both established expert speakers and rising stars. To offer a good variety of speakers, we limit the number of general sessions to two per presenter.
- Partnering with Microsoft: With the community sessions selected, our next step now is to open the Microsoft call for speakers, collaborating with Microsoft to make sure selected submissions complement the community sessions and create a cohesive overall Summit program. Watch for Microsoft sessions and the complete session schedule in early September.
New: Improved Filtering and Learning Paths
As part of our commitment to execute a robust and diverse educational program for Summit 2014, we are providing better attendee guidance through role- and skill-based learning tracks. This year, we are introducing Learning Paths, which are being rolled out as part of an improved session filtering and search feature.
Filter options include Track, Speaker, Level, Session Type, and the new Learning Paths, which let attendees further refine their search by leveraging nine cross-track topics:
- Big Data
- High Availability/ Disaster Recover
- Power BI
- SQL Server 2014
If an attendee is interested in sessions related to SQL Server running in a virtualized environment, for example, he/she can select the Hardware/Virtualization Learning Path. Additional Learning Path filters can be applied for an even more refined search.
Recognizing that Cloud/Azure-related topics cross various tracks and interests, this year we have incorporated Cloud sessions into the appropriate remaining tracks and have created new filtering and search options on the PASS Summit 2014 Sessions page. We hope the new filtering and search options will make it easier for all Summit attendees to locate sessions that are best suited to their interests and needs.
We have a phenomenal program this year, planned and presented by the SQL Server Community for the SQL Server Community. Help us spread the word, and don’t forget to register by June 27 to save $300 on your registration. See you in Seattle!
– Amy Lewis
PASS Director of Programs
June 11, 2014 – Recently at SQLSaturday Silicon Valley, PASS VP of Marketing Denise McInerney shared what's new with Women in Technology (WIT), including the growing commitment of more organizations, academic institutions, and companies to engage women in technology roles, a topic PASS has been passionate about for over 10 years.
You can watch parts one, two, and three of the interview series with Denise.
Want to learn more? Log in to your myPASS account today and follow the prompts to join the PASS WIT Virtual Chapter.
June 9, 2014 – A big thank you to everyone who made their voices heard in last week’s 2014 Nomination Committee (NomCom) elections. And congratulations to Erin Stellato, Andy Warren, and Allen Kinsel, the community representatives elected to join NomCom Chair Bill Graziano and Board-appointed representative Richard Bolesta on the committee to manage this year’s PASS Board of Directors election.
A total of 539 voters cast 1,537 votes in the NomCom elections, featuring a slate of 11 incredible candidates. To be eligible to vote in this year’s NomCom and Board elections, PASS members needed to update their PASS profile by June 1. The IT and Marketing teams analyzed the voting list for any duplication before sending out the NomCom elections ballot link to 9,086 eligible PASS voters.
The NomCom elections also saw the successful debut of PASS’s new online voting system. The secure and easy-to-use web-services-based Simply Voting system doesn’t hold any PASS member email addresses or passwords.
The NomCom community seats reflect the three seats up for election on the PASS Board this year: one US/Canada seat and two open seats. The five-member NomCom will manage the Board elections process, qualifying, interviewing, and ranking potential candidates. A final slate will then be submitted to the Board for approval. In addition, this year’s NomCom is charged with streamlining the process for involving and evaluating candidates and with enhancing opportunities for community engagement in the elections.
Applications will open August 6 for the three PASS Board seats up for election. To learn more about the 2014 NomCom election results and preview the upcoming Board of Directors elections, please see the Elections site. The discussion forums will be closed until the Board elections open, but if you have any questions or concerns, please contact PASS Governance.
Congratulations again to Erin, Andy, and Allen. And a special thank you to all the candidates for their dedicated volunteer efforts on behalf of the PASS community and their enthusiastic and professional candidacies in this year’s NomCom elections.
June 9, 2014 – SQL Server 2014 makes it easier than ever to unlock new hybrid scenarios between your on-premises SQL Server instances and Microsoft Azure. Here are three key hybrid scenarios that you can easily deploy with SQL Server 2014 and Azure to help reduce operational costs while improving business continuity:
- Quickly develop and test SQL Server applications. You can spin up a SQL Server 2014 image in minutes on Azure Virtual Machines (VMs) for your next SQL Server development and test project. And with full SQL Server compatibility and many VM sizes to choose from, you can easily deploy the application into production on Azure or back on-premises. The best part is that you pay only for what you use, so you can reduceyour capital-expenditure investment to set up a dev/test environment for SQL Server. You can also now easily connect to and manage your SQL Server VMs in Azure through SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS).
- Cost-effectively back up your on-premises SQL Server instances. SQL Server 2014 makes full SQL Server-level backup to Azure storage even easier with a new UI built directly into SSMS. SQL Server 2014 also offers the ability to encrypt the backup, where you have the option to hold the encryption keys. In addition, a new complimentary backup tool lets you also back up previous versions of SQL Server to Azure.
- Enable low RTO disaster recovery while improving BI reporting for your global offices. You can enable a low Recovery Time Objective (RTO) disaster recovery solution with SQL Server 2014 that not only improves business continuity but also gives you the ability to enhance business intelligence (BI) reporting for your global offices. The solution takes advantage of up to eight readable secondaries with the AlwaysOn feature in SQL Server 2014 and places them strategically across the many Azure global datacenters. You can use the readable secondaries to offload BI reporting or run backups, and they are much easier to deploy on-premises or on Azure with new the UI in SSMS.
These hybrid scenarios can benefit your on-premises SQL Server instances and help you innovate faster by providing flexible, cost-effective, and efficient ways of developing and testing new database applications. If you haven’t already, download the evaluation copy of SQL Server 2014 and try these new hybrid scenarios with Azure for yourself.