How Can I Help You Go To SQLRally?

[Cross posted from Kendal Van Dyke's blog at http://www.kendalvandyke.com/2011/02/how-can-i-help-you-go-to-sqlrally.html]

I bet by now you've heard of SQLRally, be it from the blogosphere, Twitter, the PASS Connector bi-weekly emails, word of mouth at SQLSaturday or a user group meeting, or one of the other umpteen places that it's been mentioned. Until now our marketing efforts have been focused around building the brand by getting the word out, figuring that if we keep repeating it people will get the message and sign up to attend.

While chatting with attendees during last week's MagicPASS UG meeting in Orlando Andy Warren (Blog | Twitter) and I had an epiphany: we've done a lot to let everyone know what SQLRally is and that they should go but we haven't done a good job of actually helping them get there. What we discovered is that most people have heard about SQLRally and want to go but for a variety of reasons they aren't…or at least aren't yet - I'm hoping we can find a way to remove whatever barriers are keeping them from signing up.

So here's my question for you:

What can I do to help you go to SQLRally this May?

I'm looking for your honest feedback here. Tell me what's standing in your way and, if there's something I can reasonably do to help, I will.

Tag, you're it!

SQLSaturday Round-Up (Feb. 17-23)

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

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

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

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

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

LAST WEEK IN SQLSATURDAY...

+ Colin Smith presented at SQLSaturday #47, Phoenix

+ Bill Ramos presented at SQLSaturday #47, Phoenix

COMING UP IN SQLSATURDAY...

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

IN OTHER NEWS...

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

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

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

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

Amendments to PASS Bylaws

Dear PASS Members,


There are certain governance housekeeping duties that all non-profit boards should perform on a consistent basis. One item that deserves regular review is an organization's bylaws. Bylaws should be clear and cohesive, and should reflect current organizational ideals and practices. Bylaws must also comply with any jurisdictional legal regulations - for PASS that means squaring all terms of its Bylaws with certain Illinois statutory requirements, as we are registered as a not-for-profit corporation in that state.

The last update to the PASS Bylaws occurred in June 2009. Since then, the organization has grown rapidly and has changed considerably, leaving that document somewhat outdated. As a result, keeping one eye on the present and another on the future, the PASS Board of Directors and I recently drafted a number of amendments to the Bylaws. 

The Board has decided to publish a red-lined version of the draft as part of its ongoing efforts to increase transparency into PASS operations. A number of Board members will also be blogging about these changes.

If you are interested in reviewing the proposed new Bylaws, you can do so by clicking on the appropriate links below:

Once finalized and approved by the Board of Directors, these Bylaws will be posted and accessible to all PASS members on the PASS Governance page (login required). If you have any questions of a legal or procedural nature related to these Bylaws, please email me or Bill Graziano. Comments are welcome until March 31, at which point the Board will vote to approve the new Bylaws.


Regards,

Hannes Bezuidenhout
PASS HQ - Governance

PASS SQLRally Gaining Momentum

It’s been almost a year since we started work on the project that evolved into PASS SQLRally, with our inaugural event coming up May 11-13, 2011, in Orlando. It’s been amazing to watch it grow from informal code name ‘spring conference’ to something with a great name (and logo) that will fill a niche in the PASS event portfolio. For those you who haven’t heard about PASS SQLRally yet we designed it with some interesting goals in mind:

  • Be affordable. You can attend the two day event for just $299, and there are tons of low cost hotel options in Orlando.
  • Serve a different area of the country from the PASS Summit.
  • Be less intense. This year it’s capped at 600 people. Still a crowd, but it means we can use a smaller venue, which in turn means a lot less time walking to find a room and a lot more time to network.
  • Fill the gap between PASS  SQLSaturday and the PASS Summit. Speakers will typically start at chapters, polish their skills at PASS  SQLSaturday, and then vie for a spot on the PASS  SQLRally schedule.
  • Be a partnership with a local chapter. For the Orlando event oPASS was tasked with site selection, administering speaker selection, and a big chunk of the marketing.

The schedule is set, now to get the word out. Let’s make sure anyone who uses SQL Server knows about PASS SQLRally and the value it offers.  No sales pitch needed, just a “hey, have you looked at PASS SQLRally?” will do. Send your colleagues an email, post a note on Twitter (#sqlrally), or maybe write something on your blog. Include a slide in your deck if you’re doing a presentation. Make sure the event info is posted on your chapter web site.  Let’s make sure that anyone who needs training knows about the opportunity.

See you in Orlando!
 

 

 

Are we there yet?

Things have been buzzing at PASS with the 24 Hours of PASS web event in March, the first-ever PASS SQLRally conference in Orlando in May, the ongoing SQLSaturday events, and PASS Summit in October. With all the activity going on though, you might be wondering about the European Conference. What’s happening with this event? Is it taking place? Is it dead? Is PASS focused just on US events now?

The answer to the last is a resounding ‘no!’ Let me take a step back to give you the longer answer and address the other questions.

The PASS Board met at the last Summit for a full day deep-dive into PASS planning. Central to our discussions were two key topics: global growth and the European Conference. We talked a lot about how PASS as an organization can better reach out to SQL Server users around the globe, what governance models could work best, and how to more effectively achieve our mission of connecting, sharing, and learning with users worldwide. We set a goal to support as many global regions as possible with a viable event model.

At the meeting, we also discussed and approved postponing the European Conference from its ‘usual’ Spring timeframe. The reason was partly due to time constraints and partly because we felt we needed to examine if what we were offering was truly a ‘European’ conference and if we were fulfilling the needs of the regional user communities in the best way possible.

Do we have an answer? Not yet but we’re working on it. We’re discussing ideas with community leaders in Europe and looking at a bunch of options. We’ve gotten great feedback on the SQLRally model: 2-day grassroots events delivering high quality training at a low cost. In fact, plans are underway for 2 more SQLRally events to be delivered in 2011! Watch out for information soon on the SQLRally Nordic event being organized by an awesome group of local community leaders in Sweden.

We’re really excited about the response from the community and about extending the SQLRally model around the world. We’re working on providing future SQLRally organizers with templates, guidelines, best practices, and other building blocks so they can more easily produce excellent events regionally. This model may be the one to follow for now. Perhaps we can grow the organization, volunteer, and member bases to the point where we could run an event in Europe–and elsewhere–along the lines of a PASS Summit. That’s a goal to strive for!

So, we’re not there yet but we hope to arrive soon. If you have any comments, ideas, contributions, or want to host a SQLRally event in your region, let us know. Climb aboard and join us for the ride!
 

Rushabh Mehta

What Should PASS Be? I Challenge You

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

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

But.

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

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

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

Speaker Agreements… Legal, Necessary, but awfully sticky

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

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

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

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

Drawbacks

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

Benefits

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

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

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

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

The Conversation: What Should PASS Be?

Recently, PASS Director Andy Warren blogged a challenge to the community: what do you think PASS should be?

A few bloggers have taken up Andy's challenge already, and we expect more to follow. We'll be collecting the responses here and updating this post regularly.

Please join the discussion! If you'd like to blog about it, we'd love that. Just let us know that you've blogged by commenting on this post or by sending us a quick message on Twitter (@sqlpass). You can also have your say directly on Twitter on the #sqlpass channel.

What Should PASS Be? The Community's Thoughts

Thanks once again for everyone's passion and dedication!

 

Cheers!
Hannes

SQL Azure track at the PASS summit

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

Is the cloud real or hype?

With SQL Azure (& the cloud in general) becoming more and more mainstream, I’m seriously considering creating a new Azure track for the 2011 Summit.  I’m still pulling the attendance & session evaluation scores together from 2009 and 2010 azure sessions to try and determine if its truly a good idea or not.

There’s always a tradeoff: we have a limited amount of sessions available, so creating a track would mean shifting allocations from the other tracks to cover the sessions given but, considering the future it seems to be the right move.

Just thought id throw this quick post out looking for thoughts & feedback

This is the first minor change I’m considering for the 2011 Summit

The Changing Face of PASS

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

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

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

Management Company

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

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

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

Financials

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

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

Minutes

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

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

Board Q&A

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

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

Board Votes

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

Summit Location

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

Elections

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Summary

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

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

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