PASS Update #8

Last week I was in Seattle, so I decided to stay an extra day and drive up to Vancouver to meet with the staff at PASS HQ on Thursday. I met up with Bill Graziano & Rushabh Mehta on Wed afternoon and we finally started the drive up about 6:30 pm. Fairly uneventful drive up, though not as nice as I had hoped because we were driving after dark, missing the scenic view. We talked a little about PASS, but nothing serious, just relaxing after a busy first part of the week. About 9 pm we hit the Customs checkpoint, and then the fun began. They were somewhat confused by us because; we all work for different companies, we were leaving Canada on different days in different ways (2 by plane, me driving back), and we didn't have the address of the office handy (we were just headed for the hotel that night). They have us park and we go inside to stand in line, after about 30 minutes finally asked to provide our documents and tell our story again. Finally they decided we were either no risk or too dumb to be a risk, and let us proceed after about a 45 minute delay.

Our hotel was in downtown Vancouver, and took a while to get there, lot's of stop lights. Nice area though, and nice view. I think the thing we all noticed is there are lots of condominium towers and lots of Asian restaurants (at least compared to where we're all from). I was up early the next morning and went over to the hotel restaurant for breakfast, only after eating did I find out out was a $25 breakfast and no, it wasn't that good (and I won't bill that to PASS, I should have asked first). We left a little later than planned because one of my travel companions was late (it wasn't Bill), and we stopped at McDonalds by PASS HQ for coffee - not recommended, made from concentrate and truly bad.

Our office is nice, not extravagant, just enough for what we need and in a location I suspect is reasonably priced. We had an agenda set up, but that was soon off track and both Bill and Rushabh had to dive into VP stuff (that's "very portant" I think), so we reconfigured and I spent most of the morning talking to Craig and Sanj about advertising, the PASS Connector, and related items. Sanj is my support line, and it was good to spend time just talking with her and understanding how things worked. For example, one thing I didn't know was that after she builds the Connector each week, she currently sends to David (our IT guy) to convert it to HTML. Obviously not the most efficient plan, so we'll get someone to spend some time with her to show her how HTML works and let her own the entire process. Lots of little discoveries like that only happen when you have time to just talk, and one of many that made the trip worthwhile for me.

We went across the street for lunch and I was disappointed to learn that Vancouveriates (ians?) don't seem to appreciate really iced tea. The restaurant staff tried making some from English breakfast tea, but I don't see how the English drink that stuff for breakfast, much less lunch!

After lunch we finally got everyone back on track, and spent some time working on the staffing diagram. A big challenge is to align tasks with Directors to the extent possible, but staff usually works across Directors and also on the Summit, so this was a chance to review what had been developed over the past two years and look for gaps. For me it was clear that there were a few things that made sense to move to Sanj, and that will probably happen over the next couple months as we migrate those. Overall it was a bit amazing to see how much stuff goes on, especially with regards to the Summit. I'll see if we can get the Visio diagram posted when it finishes up the review process.

From there we talked about a lot of smaller stuff; our content strategy and how it relates to SIGs, how to make the elections run smoother this year and how to grow/find great candidates, marketing strategy around Summit generated content, and more. I'll have to omit a lot of the details for now because much of it needs to filter back to the Board, but it was a solid 3-1/2 hours of work, and again proves my contention that if you want to get creative work done, you have to put people in a room and just see what happens - nothing else works as good.

We ended our meeting at about 5:30 and headed back to the hotel, meeting up with Judy, Craig, Blythe, and Kate for dinner at 7 pm and talked some about PASS, real estate in US/Canada, state of the economy, and some plain old small talk. It was cold by the time we left for the hotel at 9 pm - I was ready for head for home! My drive back through Customs on Friday was painless, and the direct flight to Orlando from Seattle was ok, about as good as 6 hours on a plane is likely to be flying coach.

I've made a note to write more about our HQ office and staff sometime in then next couple months. Interesting story to tell, and they play a vital link in providing continuity as board members come and go.

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PASS Update #7

A very short update this week, the minutes of the January 2009 board meeting have been posted. Going forward we've set a goal of having them online within 2 weeks of the meeting, so I'm hoping we have the minutes of the February 2009 meeting posted soon. If you have any questions, please post below and I'll work on getting you answers.

I've also added a couple new volunteers to the team. Steve Jones is already looking at our LinkedIn presence (here's our group) and trying to figure out how to best support it. Neal Waterstreet is waiting on an assignment (soon!).

Less done this past week than I'd hoped, had to spend time at work/home to prep for being out of the office for a week. I'm visiting PASS HQ on Thursday to spend a day with our full time staff, learning more about what they do, talking about my goals so far, and in general trying to get closer to understanding what work is best done by staff and what work is best done by volunteers within the task areas I manage. To explain on that a little, using full time staff gives us reliability and repeatability, but with a real cost. Using volunteers is a way to reduce our cost, but sometimes at the risk of lower repeatability. Ideally we balance and re-balance, using volunteers in particular when deep knowledge of our profession is required.

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PASS Update #6

It's been pretty busy since my last post. Just in one week I had at least 12 hours devoted to PASS activities, and I'll share details of some of that here. To start with, I was able to mark another of my Q1 goals complete as Sanj from PASS HQ was able to update the web site with the missing issues of the Connector (and will maintain it going forward). It's not a huge item, but I believe in consistency and in making as much PASS material as possible available via the web for search engines to find - and the occasional new member may enjoy digging through some of the history.

I've received a handful of additional blogs to list, and still watching for more, though I'll say it's challenging with a list of almost 200 to ask myself "do we already have that one" when I'm reading them!

Grant Fritchey has sent me another revision of his page for sqlpass.org that covers all of the SQL Server online communities. It's another sign post page, one that will be of particular interest to those new in our profession. Look for that to be online in the next week and I'll add a short post when it's live.

I spent a lot of time this week working out task details for the volunteers that work with me; giving them what I hope is a good overview of what I had in mind, then letting them run with it and see what develops. To the end I'm trying to leverage our relationship with Microsoft, already I've gotten John Magnabosco connected with two members of the SQL certification team as he builds out some certification content, I have a call next week to talk with MS about how we can jointly produce technical content just for PASS, and I had a call with MS this week to talk about how we might aggregate MS news & high interest items related to SQL.

We also had a board meeting via phone, and that is definitely a different sort of meeting than the one we had in January. Scheduled for an hour, the format of this meeting is to raise topics that need a vote or significant input, or to just update the board on key items. I actually had nothing on the agenda this time and really we didn't discuss much that was exciting. One thing I expected but didn't see was progress reports from each board member. I think it would be valuable to get a pre-call paragraph or two about what was going on, because we tend to churn away in our own silos. At the same time I'm reluctant to advocate adding another task to everyone's list, I expect Wayne has a pretty good view of how each person is tracking on their goals and that's really the biggest thing. Probably the biggest thing going on internally is the European PASS Summit, schedule is set and things are moving along. I don't have plans to attend (just too far!), but I think it is important that PASS be more than a North American focused organization.

We still don't have the minutes of the January 2009 board online, somewhat to my frustration. I think we're close to having that done, and going forward our goal is to have them available 2 weeks after the meeting.

We have two big challenges coming; the SQL Server Standard relaunch plan, and trying to get our content strategy written down and implemented. I imagine you have a rough idea of what's involved in writing/editing/publishing solid articles, but on the larger content side trying to figure who owns pages, who can update them & how often, what is valid and what isn't - just not a small process. As I've gotten deeper into it I see it will have to be an iterative approach, we're going to start with a couple day effort to realign some menu items and put up some new content pages. We're using DNN, but many of you probably feel the same pain around Sharepoint. At the end it's not so much about who can/can't as it consistency in messaging.

Got a question about PASS, my efforts, or ? Comment below, or contact me andy dot warren at sqlpass.org.

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PASS Update #5 (Blogger's Please Read)

We'll be announcing this on the main www.sqlpass.org site and the PASS blog over the next day or two, but the first major revision of the blog directory has been posted. We had many people email us their blog info, some sent OPML containing their feeds, and then we spent more time just doing searches and seeing what we could find. The result was a list of close to 190 blogs that seem to be SQL centric, and most have posts within the past 6 months (our window for listing). For lack of a better plan we've just listed them alphabetically by the name of the blogger. We're missing a couple of links that we'll get patched up in the next day or so. We've also included a complete OPML file of the same listing so that you can load into the reader of your choice.

I've been monitoring the complete list over the past few days and I was definitely missing a few interesting bloggers - this is probably twice again the size of my personal feed list prior to the update. We're hoping that PASS members will enjoy the chance to discover blogs that they might not otherwise find.

If you're a blogger (or just happen to read one not on the list) and not on the list, please just drop me a note andy.warren at sqlpass.org, and we'll get it updated. Note that it's just a directory, no syndication.

This is my team's first deliverable for PASS and while it's not a huge thing, it's a service that makes sense for PASS to provide and one that we hope the entire SQL community will find useful. Let me know what you think.

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PASS Update #4

Last week I posted Update #3 that discussed my first board meeting, but I didn't have time to cover my goals, so I 'll do that and add some other minor items as well.

Defining first quarter goals was a challenge; needed something doable, didn't (and don't) quite understand all the pieces and players yet, and adjusting to a revised portfolio with essentially no history. Here's what I proposed to the Board:

  • Add pages for PASS history (of the organization), SQL history, certification, MVP's, SQL Communities, and the SQL Server Standard (for back issues) to sqlpass.org
  • Update the blog directory with as many SQL bloggers as possible, which leads to Q2 goal
  • Get content for the SQL Server Standard in the pipeline with a goal of publishing 3 articles each in Q3/Q4 (and hopefully arriving at 6 per quarter in 2010)
  • Get missing back issues of the Connector online
  • Standardize reporting on Connector and sqlpass.org and report to the Board monthly
  • Identify volunteers to support those goals'
  • Update PASS blog with some content every two weeks

Since then, I've added one goal:

  • Write a comprehensive guide to content for sqlpass.org, PASS Connector, PASS hosted web sites. Right now we haven't firmly set rules for what kind of content goes on what page, when to use what logo, how often, who updates, etc.

And I've got a few other things in early stages that I'll save until I know for sure what I want do do!

I've identified some volunteers and we're working on getting tasks assigned - I think I've got an extraordinary group (seriously - look at the list), now it's up to me to give them the right work to do and let them do it!

  • Brian Kelley
  • Grant Fritchey
  • John Magnabosco
  • Tim Mitchell
  • Tim Ford
  • John Allman
  • Jessica Moss
  • Jack Corbett
  • Brad McGehee
  • Scott Klein
  • Chuck Heinzelman

I'm also having to work on delegating. I'm not bad at it, but I'm used to relying on volunteers for shorter and more tactical tasks on game day as it were, now I have to look for people to take on a wider range of tasks. I'm reluctant so far to publicly list tasks assigned to a specific volunteer, but eventually it might be a good idea. For now the plan is that if a volunteer gets something done expect me to publicize it here (or on the PASS blog), and if something doesn't get done - I didn't manage to completion and I'll have to own that.

Speaking of volunteers - if at some point you volunteered to join my Merry Men (um, People) and I've excluded you, it wasn't deliberate. Drop me an email and I'll do my best to find something that fits your talents and time.

So aside from goals, it's been a struggle to keep pace with the email. I'm expected to contribute to conversations that may not involve my assignments, so I'm spending time looking at 2008 Summit survey results, thoughts from Tom Larock on SIG's, marketing plans for PASS Europe, and more. Plus...lots of back office stuff. For example, this week I've had a call with HQ to review advertising plans and rates, email about whether we should form more direct partnerships with other SQL sites (deferred), email how to best work with MS content producers to find a win-win, and more. I'd guess I'm spending about an hour a day on routine stuff, plus some driving time and etc just thinking on stuff when I'm not really working. I'm hoping that by Q2 I can decrease the daily time to about 30 minutes and spend a few good quality hours each weekend, but will have to see.

I have a trip scheduled to Seattle for the first week of March, so I decided to stay over an extra day and drive to the PASS HQ office in Vancouver. I wish I could stay longer, but hoping one good day will give me a better idea of the skills, challenges, and roles that our full time staff play, and try to get a few things done while I'm there as well.

Thoughts, comments, and questions are welcome, may take me a day or to reply depending on my work schedule.

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PASS Update #3

It's been busy since my last update, lots of stuff to work on! I probably won't get it all in one post, but I'll try to hit the highlights. The main event over the past two weeks was my first board meeting in Seattle.

I arrived Monday afternoon and shared a taxi to the hotel with Kevin Kline. Kevin is a nice guy and has been with PASS since the beginning, and has the distinction of being the only two term President so far. He was kind enough to share some advice about how I might work on getting my ideas to succeed, and in general just talked about how things had been versus where they were going. Good conversation.

I had the chance after arrival to spend some time with Greg Low who heads up the PASS Chapters. Greg has done some great work on growing the number of chapters, and we talked about how/when to try to start translating our content into other languages. I'm sure most of you understand the challenges involved in that effort, but it's something that needs to happen...at some point. Deciding when is the challenge. We also talked the challenges of supporting community events with limited funding; Greg worrying that groups will be upset if they don't get funding, me believing that PASS can at least provide moral support (morale too!) and should do so. More on this in a bit.

Most of us were there for dinner Mon night and we talked shop some, but not entirely. Low key, and I called it a night about 9 pm so as not to be too tired for the first session on Tues. Tuesday we started at 7 am with a meeting with President Wayne Synder as he talked about the role of the Board, and our specific responsibilities, and our legal obligations (something to think about, we're ultimately accountable for both money and for things that go wrong). After that we had some opening stuff from Wayne about setting goals and meeting our goals - board members are volunteers, but clearly they have to shoulder more accountability for meeting goals than most. I thought he did a good job of stating his case, and won a little more respect from me by starting it by admitting there were areas where he had fallen short. I thought it was honest, fair, and a great way to level set.

Next up was a financial briefing. Some of that falls into the realm of confidential (you'll see it all in the once a year financial statement so don't worry), but it was part of the annual mid year course correction that is done once the final numbers from the Summit are done. For this year we're going to fall slightly short of our original 2009 budget, but each Director will be making some adjustments in spend to bring the difference back to zero. It's definitely a complicated process, as we're already accruing money and expects for FY 2010 and finance has to keep it all straight. Overall it was a good presentation, the current fiscal picture is sound, and the big challenge is to set a realistic budget for FY 2010 - something we'll complete at our May meeting.

We spent some time reviewing our mission statement, goals, etc - and while we made some progress, it felt incomplete. I think it's a good exercise because each year we have new board members and they need to understand/share the vision. But...we'll come back to this, because we weren't done yet!

From there we want into presentations by board members about their goals for the next 90 days. Bill Graziano started off by covering Marketing, which is primarily Summit marketing but includes general efforts as well. Nothing big to report here yet, they are forming plans for the Summit and seem to be in good shape to leverage what they learned in 2008.

Next up was Greg on Chapters, and his focus was technology needs (so that chapters are fully integrated into the main site & membership list), building regional mentors and sharing those lessons (he's had nice success outside the US), and working on a virtual speaker bureau (mostly technology).

Rick Heiges was next, his portfolio is PASS Community Connection, but he also currently handles MVP relations. Note that I'm going to try to state the following fairly, but realize I have some bias due to my involvement with SQLSaturday, and I abstained from the discussion of Community Connection related plans. We have a couple events in the works, but we're missing infrastructure to support it, and also some concerns at HQ (warranted I think) about the admin side if they really start to take off. Definitely needs technology assistance, but we won't know what we can get done over the next few months until Douglas McDowell gets up to speed this week and then we can fight for priorities. On the MVP side PASS hasn't done the greatest job in the past working with MVP's, and perhaps vice versa. Rick talked about needing to get information out to MVP's earlier about the Summit and in general engaging with them - all good stuff it seemed to me.

It was my turn next, and I ran longer than my allowed 30 minutes (not on purpose). There's a lot to do as far as content and communities, and I needed buy in from the board before starting some of those efforts. I'll have another post next week that goes into more detail, but a quick summary is that we're going to return to publishing the SQL Server Standard as PDF only, we're going to add some key pages to sqlpass.org that have been missing, and we're going to work hard to help our members connect with content - especially from blogs. A key point of my strategy is to do the things we're good at, and not try to duplicate the work of other sites that are good at what they do.

We took a break then, but in truth it was really just moving the meeting to a less formal setting in the lounge area until dinner, and then on through dinner. I had a chance to meet some of the staff at PASS HQ and they really impressed me. They want to work and win, and they know that they need help and input to get there from the Board. It's hard to convey here, but I know that they'll go where I need them to go, just a matter of setting direction. Lots of good sidebars during this time, and I kept coming back to wondering what questions I didn't know to ask. It's literally a new job, and I don't have a day to waste understanding how things work, what needs attention, etc, etc.

On Wed we started out by working on our goals some more, and what on Tues seemed not like the best use of time really grew into something interesting. One part that was very good is that PASS has altered it's view on community events to support any SQL event - regardless of label - to the extent that it can. The other part that went back to my talk on Tues was that we've come to a firmer vision of the role of PASS and how it relates to other communities. I don't know that we have in a couple sentences yet, but the essence is; we will embrace those that support SQL Server, and we're going to use our voice to positively impact our profession.

We had a short presentation from Tom Larock about SIG's, and the big change there is his focus on treating SIG's as virtual/online chapters. I think he has some info on his blog and I expect more soon, but I think just refining the vision may give the SIG's a chance to succeed to a greater extent than they have in the past.

Douglas McDowell in at PASS HQ this week catching up on where we stand on technology. Not everything is about technology, but clearly there are places where PASS - like any other business - needs to make investments to grow and sustain. His role is coordinator and project manager; make sure we don't duplicate efforts, that projects fit within the scope of what we can do, and then help board members get it done. Note that in FY 2010 each board member will have funds allocated for technology, they can use those as needed with Douglas providing support. I don't envy him the challenge, but I think he can really help us move forward.

Pat Wright didn't get to present his goals for volunteers due to time constraints, but he's got a good v1 strategy for making sure that all our volunteers are treated well and more importantly, that we find tasks to fit their skills and available time.

We wrapped up Wed by having dinner and bowling with some people from Microsoft, and we spent a lot more time talking than bowling - well worth the time, and then we met up again after that and worked until 11 pm (again) on firming up ideas for the next quarter.

It was an intense 2.5 days for me. Parts of the meeting were a little bit blah, but I'm hard to please at times. I definitely see that the integration of new board members needs more attention to reduce the get up to speed time. I also see that for PASS, now is the time. We've had some small but measurable successes, we need to build on that and earn our place. There aren't many things PASS can do that you (or I) will say "wow", but I think the cumulative impact in the next year can be pretty good - if we execute. I left the meeting excited about working on my part of things, and really looking forward to the next meeting - hoping that I can say all my goals are accomplished and that the rest of the board can say the same.

I found the meeting to be positive and I'm making an effort to highlight that, but it doesn't mean I don't see some weak areas. Some of that is lack of direction, some of it lack of accountability, some of it that working with just volunteers is hard. I'm going to press the other board members to publish their goals and then we can all see what is being done or not done. Being less than perfect doesn't mean we don't have good people - I didn't see anyone there that I didn't want to work with or that I thought didn't care about the success of PASS.

I hope I didn't ramble too much. When the minutes come out I'll get a link posted in an update to the blog, and next week I'll tell you about my goals. Until then, I invite your comments, questions, and suggestions.

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Book Reviews - Worthwhile?

Lately I've been thinking (again) about books and book reviews, mostly because I'm looking to see if it makes sense for PASS to continue doing them. I hope you'll drop me a comment or two at the end.

I think Amazon has a pretty good system of reviews in that they get enough of them per book that you can get past the one guy who loves/hates the book for whatever reason. I typically read a few reviews before buying unless I know Im going to buy the book anyway. Mostly the reviews are right, but there are still times when I liked a book more or less than I thought I would based on the review. Not perfect, but useful.

For the most part those views only help me once I'm looking for a book based on a few keywords - do I buy this one or that one? But what about the book I didn't know about? Big Brown for example. The harder part is discovery, and that's where I think reviews can highlight something I wouldn't know about otherwise.

I used Big Brown as a recent example, and I also recently reviewed a book from Michael Coles on Full Text Search. Maybe a few of you discovered those books here? Even if you didn't decide to buy, maybe those are topics you hadn't thought about yet? I bet even if you read my notes you were at least tempted to read the Amazon reviews? Nothing wrong with that.

Would it be just as interesting to just feature a new SQL book each week with the standard ad copy to with it? Kind of like the word of the day? Or how about a running list of books I own? Or no longer own!

Why do I care? No, I'm not writing a book! I think that Books Online is a useful resource, as are sites like SSC and MSSQLTips.com, but sometimes you need the deeper/longer learning that comes from a book (or a class, but often that's a different focus). I want book authors to keep writing (not a huge profit margin for most) and I want to spot books that I might not yet know I want to read.

Do you like book reviews? Do you often buy based on them? What makes a good review? Are there other approaches that make more sense?

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PASS Update #2

It's been about two weeks since I posted PASS Update #1, so time for another update on my activities as a member of the PASS Board of Directors. It's been a quiet but interesting couple weeks. The first thing I worked on was an early draft of what I thought we should focus on for the next 90 days (note: my official title is Director of Virtual Communities, but in practice that means just about web based content/services not directly tied to the annual Summit). I've submitted that draft to Wayne (aka The President) for initial comment, and it's now circulating for comment with the other Directors. I've also emailed most of the other board members to find out what they need from me and/or how I can help them, and in some cases to start talking to them about some of my ideas and whether it will integrate with their plans.

I've gotten back some good notes, both from Directors and the PASS HQ staff, and I'm using that to refine the plan. For example, I think books are a high value item in our profession and happen to think book reviews are a good thing, but as I explored that deeper realized that managing them is a challenge (cost of international shipping, books sent out that never get reviewed, etc, etc) and thus are something that requires either a different approach (linking to Amazon reviews and/or just highlighting a book every 2 weeks in the Connector) while we try to see if there is enough value in making book reviews work, overhead, headache, and all (post ideas, please).

I'm definitely struggling with figuring out what I don't know. Who on staff owns newsletters? What's the cost for sending newsletters if I want to change the frequency? How do we post new content and what's the approval process? What's my budget? How much time can I use from staff and does it come out of my budget? I've gotten some of the answers, and with luck more will come over the next few weeks. It's just like starting a new job, but one where I'm really conscious that I've got a limited amount of time to identify what needs to be done and figure out how to get it done.

I've done a few calls with volunteers (I'll list them a bit later as I know how comfortable each is with being blogged about) to ask them about early thoughts on my ideas and to get questions/ideas from them as well. I've never had an idea that hasn't been improved by getting someone else that was interested to go through it, though sometimes it's painful to realize your initial idea as thread bare or worse!

I also had the chance to sit in on a call with the SIG's (special interest groups) with new SIG man Tom LaRock (and congratulations to Tom and Pat Wright on their appointments to the board to fill vacancies). Got a good group of volunteers itching to go, and they have some good ideas. Some will take technology to do, some just take a little more direction and support. It'll be interesting to see what Tom does to move them along.

I fly out Monday to Seattle for my first board meeting. The agenda looks good, time for each board member to present a plan for discussion and review goals, also some time for general brainstorming. In person meetings are expensive, but I think can be incredibly valuable - it's all in the brainstorming and collaboration time, I've never seen it work as well on the phone/Livemeeting, etc. Costs are managed pretty well, we all travel coach, PASS HQ makes group reservations for the hotel, and we have a schedule so we can try to share rides from the airport to cut costs. No PASS credit cards, all spend up front, then get reimbursed afterward (which I agree with). All looks good on the planning so far, but we'll see how I hold up to 2 days of meetings. One of the reasons I've circulated my draft in advance is to make the most of my 30 minute presentation time to focus on goals and getting them coordinated with other Directors. If you contemplate joining the board definitely consider the time issue. I don't have a good feel for weekly hours yet, but the meeting will take four days for me - one day to fly out, 2 days meetings, and then the next flight I could get was the following morning - takes all day to get home! That's four days you have to come up with - make sure that your employer will support it, or if you're a consultant, that you can survive losing the billable hours.

As I look at my potential project list, I see a couple things that are challenges. One is that many of them require technology at least long term, and I don't have a good understand of what our development task list looks like or the budget we have to go with it. The other is that there's a lot to do and the temptation is to try to do a lot. I want to get a lot done, but I think especially for the first 90 day sprint I need to do the things that can be done (to show you some success) and spend a lot of time getting stuff in the pipeline for later sprints. Don't take that as pulling back, just consider the book review thing posted above - given fair warning of a potential log jam and no immediate ideas to fix, better to look at the greater goal of exposing members to books than to get caught up in short term battles.

I'll try to get another update out after the meeting, and will try to get as much material from it posted as I can within the confidentiality guidelines. I've also got to finish up the PASS blog strategy to see if I should be posting this on the PASS blog and linking or cross posting here. What defines a PASS blog? Is it for "official" posts only?

Got a question about PASS? An idea to make it better? A complaint? Tell me! I'd prefer comments to be posted here so others can share/comment, but you can always email me - andy.warren AT sqlpass.org.

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PASS Update #1

As many of you know I'm joining the PASS Board of Directors for a two year term beginning yesterday. I'm going to try to post an update every couple weeks here, often enough to let you know what I'm doing, not so often as to overwhelm the blog. More 'official' posts will go out on the PASS blog, but here I'll be sharing and brain storming.

One big challenge is confidentiality. I suspect I'm the most published/verbose of the board members, and that did raise some concerns on both sides about what can/should be published. Part of the process of joining is signing a confidentiality agreement - a contract. Most of that has to do with communications between board members. Board meetings/discussions aren't always a pretty process, what will get published are the minutes of those official meetings. Part of those meetings may have to be excluded from the minutes - imagine a scenario where you have to discuss firing an employee, or other sensitive area. My goal will be to ask/argue that as little as possible be excluded from the minutes - but it will be a summary, not a transcript! As far as things I'm working on, expect a lot of openness - both because I want you to know what's going on with my projects and because I'll be asking for your help, both with ideas and with real work as volunteers.

My portfolio will be online content. Blogs, newsletters, resurrecting the SQL Server Standard, overview of SIGS, integrating chapter content, and probably a few more things. In other words, I'll be the one delivering the message, but not necessarily deciding what the message is! The tech side of it won't be my area, though as you can tell most of those will require some technology to make them happen and I'll be asking/begging/demanding help there where needed.

I can't tell you my first quarter goals yet because I'm still discussing ideas with Wayne, and I need to share those ideas with the board members because most will require joint effort, but I'll share some of the ideas I'm pitching and hope you'll let me know what seems interesting or not:

  • ISQL Server Standard. Will be online/PDF, thinking to focus on deep interviews, tech edited content (but what content/level?), PASS stories. I want to look at the possibility of publishing it once a year as a book, kind of a year end summary/year book kind of project.
  • Blogs. I would really like to build a master list of every SQL blog in the world, provide a feed of new blogs/dead blogs, and provide one or more super feeds that are aggregates filtered by an editor. For instance, an SSIS feed would only contain SSIS posts that the editor considered worthy. The goal would be to make it easier for all of us to find the news we need, but to still highlight/celebrate individual bloggers.
  • Books. I want to highlight books written by PASS members, also publish a feed of new sql books when published (as in available for sale)
  • Integrate with existing communities. For example, if PASS does build the blogs mentioned above, ideally those get syndicated to SSC, SQLTeam, etc, if they want to use them - we provide a service that helps their community and in return we get the PASS logo displayed. I'd like to use the communities as the proving ground for writers before they make it to the Standard as well. Position the Standard so as not to compete with SQL Mag, others.
  • Not sure if it falls in my area, but also more social networking. Twitter for those that love it, bookmarking, Linked In - figure out which ones PASS can use/be visible on without reinventing any wheels (expect networking to be a big focus on mine here in the blog over the next year)
  • Making minutes and board member blog entries easy to find

Overall I think the PASS web site needs to provide relevant information/news to members and provide a solid base for the marketing team (and chapters!) to talk about PASS. I think the SQL Server Standard web site will focus on a few unique PASS created content items, but will probably also feature the best content from existing user communities. Social networking will fall mainly under PASS web site, most feeds under SQL Server Standard.

If you've got a content related idea, post it or send it to me. If you want to volunteer to help on one of these projects, I wouldn't turn down help. In fact one of my goals is to stay strategic, find volunteers to take on limited scope/duration projects and figure out how we can sustain them long term - either by an orderly transfer from one volunteer to the next, outsourcing it, or assigning it to PASS HQ as a maintenance task.

Speaking of volunteers, let me share my philosophy. Most of work hard already, have families to nurture, and other demands. If you volunteer, it should be for something you think you can get done..but, I get that things go wrong. What we don't want to happen is for projects to just fail because one key person got pulled into 70 hour weeks at work. I'm hoping to do weekly/bi-weekly status checks with all my volunteers to see how things are going and when someone is falling behind, we're going to either assign more help/reschedule the delivery date/cancel the task. I want volunteers for their enthusiasm, I'm not going to punish anyone or even be disappointed if life intervenes in unexpected ways. Volunteering should be fun and rewarding, but not painless.

I'm going to be focused on my area, but also looking to see how I can support/challenge the rest of the board. I'm planning to do 90 day sprints ala Scrum, and win or lose, post the results publicly, and hope all on the board will do the same. Hold me accountable!

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PASS Connector for March 25 Available for Download

Hi All,

The latest issue of the PASS Connector can be downloaded via this link. All other past issues can be found in the Newsletter Archive.

Happy Reading.

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