PASS Volunteer Appreciation

(Reposted from my blog; read the original post here.)

Do you know someone in the PASS Community who is a hidden hero? Perhaps a chapter leader who is doing terrific work to help the SQL community. Maybe it's a member who is putting in 110% to organize a SQLRally, a virtual chapter leader who is organizing great sessions, or perhaps it's a speaker you’ve seen go above and beyond and speak at multiple chapters/virtual chapter events this month. There are so many people who contribute and make the SQL community so vibrant that finding those who stand out is tougher than ever!
 
These people are the lifeblood of the SQL Server community. They freely give of their time to make PASS the premiere SQL Server association, and it's about time we start recognizing them!
 
Since I've been volunteering with PASS, one thing that has always struck me is how rare it is that PASS actually recognizes outstanding volunteers. When I first joined, we only had the PASSion Award, which is awarded yearly at the Summit to the single volunteer who had the “most” outstanding contributions. In more recent years, we’ve done a better job of recognizing additional people who are outstanding volunteers through the outstanding volunteers presentation at the Summit. However, these volunteers all come from the PASSion Award nominations, and those nominations are only open just prior to the Summit.
 
I’ve always thought that we should recognize volunteers across the organization in a more consistent way, and not revolve that recognition around the Summit. Luckily, the opportunity to do something about this lack of recognition knocked earlier this year, and we’ve made progress. In last week's Connector, there was an announcement about nominating volunteers to be recognized as outstanding volunteers of the month. The initial intent is that we’ll accept email nominations during every month for any volunteer who has made outstanding contributions to the community. Those submissions will be reviewed on the last day of the month, and recognition will follow the next month. Initially, we are planning to recognize these outstanding volunteers with a nice certificate and highlight them in the Connector newsletter. It's not much compared to what these people do day in and day out, but with success over time, hopefully we can expand this a bit more. For a start though, I think this is a good first step down the right road.
 
We intend to have the first recognition cycle start in March, so that means that submissions are due by 2/29. Please, take a moment and send us an email with as many details as possible about the contributions of an outstanding volunteer who has made an impact in the SQL community. As always with these types of things, the more details the better!

SQLSaturday #103 Curaçao Recap – Planting Seeds

(Condensed from my Community Pollination blog – read the full version here.)

This past weekend, there were two SQLSaturday events: #108 in Redmond and #103 in Curaçao. I heard all the “Oh sure, tough choice there” comments, but my plans early on were to attend the Curaçao event.

The original vision for my new role as PASS Community Evangelist was to get to one first-time venue each month to talk to attendees who might not be familiar with PASS. My being onsite to assist with some logistics and last-minute details at these events helps out the first-time organizers as well. Plus, I can see what areas I need to make sure I’m mentoring on before event day. 

This trip was only 3 hours from Miami. I was greeted at the airport by event leader and local PASS chapter leader Roy Ernest [blog|twitter]. Roy went out of his way to not only pick me up, but to also pick up each speaker who came from over from the US. None of us arrived at the same time, so it wasn’t exactly convenient for someone already with so much stress of his approaching event. SQLSat #103 had three non- local speakers - Bill Pearson [blog|twitter], Rob Volk [blog|twitter], and Tim Radney [blog|twitter] - and two local presenters: Roy and volunteer and co-worker Rohan Joackhim [twitter].

Friday evening’s speaker appreciation dinner was at a great Indian restaurant - one of many in a renovated fort called Rif Fort. From the outside, it looked like a castle, but when you walked in, there were all kinds of restaurants on several levels, all with open seating. You could look out in one direction and see the beautiful crystal-clear, aqua-colored ocean and then look inward around the fort at all the entertainment, from drummers and bands to folks dancing in the open center area. It was really a unique setting; the only downfall was that the band was so loud, it was hard to hear even someone sitting directly across from you.
 
The event had two tracks, DBA and BI, and was held at the University of the Netherlands Antilles, courtesy of the head instructor, Rinnus Felipa. It’s always nice to meet those who help make a SQLSaturday happen, and kudos to universities such as this, which offer their venues for free to the IT community. It was obvious that the success of this day was important to Rinnus - he was onsite all day and meticulous about details that the university was responsible for, such as lunch. On the lunch menu was “Steak de Wea,” a local combination of rice and steak covered in a savory sauce, with fresh green beans and salad. It was delicious, and I enjoy trying something local and new to my taste buds. SQLSat #103 didn’t charge attendees for lunch, and the university kept the cost very reasonable (I believe each plate was around $7 per person).
 
The morning of the event, there were 95 registrants, including those who opted out the week prior. Actual attendance ended up being around 60 - so as typically seen at SQLSaturdays, about a 30%-35% drop-off. The event had only three sponsors: PASS, Redgate, and O’Reilly. But even with the little budget he had to work with, Roy managed to put on a great event for his community. As I talked with attendees during breaks and addressed the group as a whole at the end, many comments rang a common tune - they want to see another SQLSaturday… and most don’t want to wait another year for it (hint, hint, Roy!). As always, I stressed to the attendees that they should work on becoming presenters themselves for the next SQLSaturday event, and they could start sharpening their SQL and presentation skills by speaking at their local user group.

This post would not be complete if I failed to mention another key Curaçao volunteer: Surenda Djaoen [twitter], another of Roy’s co-workers and someone he is mentoring to become the new leader of the Curaçao SQL Server User Group. With Roy doing so much running around on Friday, and still prepping his own presentation for the big day, Surenda took on a lot of the last-minute details for the SQLSaturday. One of the highlights of the trip for me was getting time to talk with her about running a user group and some tips on growing the local speaker pool. It’s always rewarding to see volunteers’ eyes light up with excitement as their minds start racing with ideas. That’s all it takes - just plant a few seeds, and watch them grow!
 

Official Launch of SQL Server 2012 Takes Place March 7, 2012!

Jennifer Moser, Microsoft SQL Server Senior Marketing Manager and PASS Director, spoke with PASS Marketing Vice President Thomas LaRock again to discuss more about the upcoming virtual launch event of SQL Server 2012 on March 7, 2012.

Thomas: Last time we spoke, you told me about the SQL Server Virtual Launch Event, are there updates you can share?
Jennifer:  Absolutely! As you know on March 7, 2012 we will be hosting the first ever Microsoft SQL Server online launch event. We opened registration for the event in late January and the community seems very excited about this event!

Thomas:  Wow! That’s great news. What do you attribute to your success so far?  
Jennifer:  A couple of things. First, we’ve developed a compelling track of sessions that appeals to our core audience, our IT implementers. We’ve created approximately 30 sessions which focus on the new features and improvements of SQL Server 2012 and our vision for the future. Plus we’re showcasing customers who have already implemented SQL Server 2012. It’s one thing to hear how great SQL Server 2012 is from us- but when you hear directly from customers who have already had success, it has a lot more impact. I’d also attribute our success to our community. Our SQL family has really stepped up to help share the exciting news with their inner circles. We couldn’t have had this kind of success without them.

Thomas:  That’s great to hear! I also hear PASS is giving away some goodies as well. :)
Jennifer:  Yes, you’re right! We’re doing a PASS sweepstakes where if you visit the PASS booth in the Expo Hall on March 7, 2012 you will be entered to win one of six PASS Summit 2012 Recorded Sessions DVD sets, or one of three grand prizes - a full-conference pass to PASS Summit 2012! 

Thomas:  Can’t wait! Looking forward to it. 

Register today and join the 14,000+ that have already signed up.

 

 

Budget News

Our budgets tend to be fairly conservative and we try to budget at break-even or a small profit.  After accounting for additional costs we’re roughly estimating a 10% profit for fiscal year 2012.  Over the last two weeks the Board approved a number of motions that used some of this windfall to increase our budgets in key areas.

First, anything that we don’t spend will eventually end up in our reserves.  Our goal is to spend less than $200,000 of our profit and allow the remaining $300,000+ to flow into reserves.  The downside of allocating that money to reserves is that we’ll be taxed on any profit for FY2012.  PASS is a not-for-profit but isn’t tax exempt.

In the PASS budget, the vast majority of our revenue comes from the Summit and that’s where we spend most of our money (Our revenue was higher than projected for Summit 2011 hence the profit we’re seeing for fiscal year 2012).  It’s always a challenge to carve out meaningful contributions for our community programs.  When we do have additional money available one of the first places we look is to our community.  We allocated over $100,000 to support chapters, SQL Saturdays, international events and the 24 Hours of PASS. 

This breaks down as follows:

  • We increased our Chapter portfolio budget by $40,000.  I’m expecting Allen to blog in more detail about where he expects that money to go.
  • We added $30,000 to support SQL Saturdays.  Much of this will go to sponsoring additional SQL Saturday events.  This program also has a long shopping list including laptop stickers, DVD giveaways, and table skirts that they’ve been talking about for a long time.  We’re hoping they can get to a few of these.  I don’t know exactly how Kendal will prioritize this but you should keep an eye on his blog for more details.
  • PASS regularly sponsors non-PASS events – especially internationally.  The huge growth in international events has depleted our funds in this area.  We approved an additional $30,000 to support these events.
  • The Board approved $7,200 to support closed captioning to 15 languages for the upcoming 24 Hours of PASS. We have high expectations for this and I’m anxious to see it in action.

We also allocated money to areas that aren’t as publicly visible.

  • We try to have three in-person meetings each year in addition to a brief meeting at the Summit.  In the final approved budget we removed the third in-person meeting to balance the budget.  We added back the $30,000 to support the third meeting.   
  • We allocated another $20,000 for Board travel.  This is an area I felt needed additional funding.  I want the Board members to get out to SQL Saturdays, chapter meetings and maybe an international event.  I want them to talk to people they don’t know and see what’s going on in places they wouldn’t otherwise get to.  I’m planning to pick a SQL Saturday where I don’t know anyone and attend.  I think that’s one of the best ways to find out what’s important to our members.
  • PASS continues to look at ways to change our governance structure to better support the international organization we are becoming. Our global governance team is meeting in late March at SQLBits to continue discussions about what these changes might be.
  • We looked at a variety of locations for this meeting and found that most of the people we wanted would already be there. We allocated an additional $10,000 for travel expenses to support this.
  • We approved $10,000 for marketing for video production. At the Summit we show videos right before the keynotes. These are produced on site and we try to cram as many faces into them as we can while highlighting all the great events from the previous day. They’re great for seeing your friends but not always a great tool to convince someone to attend the Summit. You can see these and a hundred more PASS videos on the SQLPASS channel on YouTube. We plan to use this video as marketing for the Summit. We hope to use it as pre-roll for existing videos, chapters, SQL Saturdays and any other events where it may be appropriate to show it.

If you add all these up you get to $177,200.  We think there may be additional spending around governance changes related to becoming a more international organization and we wanted to leave room for that.  And of course, if we don’t spend it then it goes to reserves.
 

24 Hours of PASS

(Crossposted from Rob Farley's blog)

Hooray – we’re ready to announce the details of the 24 Hours of PASS event that’s coming to an internet connection near you on March 21st! Read on for the day’s schedule, some of my thoughts on the 24 Hours of PASS concept, information about the platform, and an announcement which I think is really quite a big deal and worth making a fuss over.

24 Hours Straight
So – March 21st. No overlap with any other days, just 24 Hours of PASS, squeezed back into a single day. The last few events have been split over two days, running from noon to midnight (GMT), which conveniently fits in daylight hours of the Eastern United States. To help with the current push for internationalisation (and there’s more on that later in this post), we’re starting at midnight GMT (which is a perfectly reasonable 8pm in New York on March 20), and running through to the following midnight GMT (which is the next 8pm in New York, strangely enough). I’d like to be able to give prizes to people who attend all twenty-four, but I’m not quite that keen. Tell you what though – I’ll cheer on Twitter and my blog for anyone who tells me they’ve made it through all of them. I know people have done it before, and hopefully plenty will again.

VC involvement
The Virtual Chapter portfolio isn’t mine. It’s Denise McInerney’s. She’s doing a brilliant job, and we both see a strong correlation between 24HOP and the VCs. There are likely to be lots of people who tune in to 24HOP who haven’t really noticed that there are virtual chapters that meet, providing excellent online meetings, several times every month! We’ve roped in many of the VC leaders to help choose the sessions, host the sessions, and more. In fact, I suspect that many of the sessions that were submitted but not chosen could well be getting selected for the Virtual Chapters in the weeks and months to come. The Virtual Chapters are one of the best things about PASS, and it’s great that 24HOP can be showcasing them this time around. Most of the VCs are represented, including Performance, Data Architecture, PowerShell, Professional Development, and the larger ones like BI and AppDev. Even the newly forming BigData VC. The Oracle VC isn’t. Sorry, Scott.

Platform
LiveMeeting is such a great product. If you haven’t tried it out, you really should. It’s been our platform of choice here at 24HOP for ages now. Unfortunately, 24HOP seems to have outgrown it. People who have tuned in to recent events will have noticed that the video hasn’t always streamed as nicely as we’d like, and although we really do love LiveMeeting, we’re going to try a different platform – called IBTalk. This thing looks really impressive, and has some really cool features too. Most importantly, it should scale well. And record nicely. And allow eval forms nicely. And make coffee* (*feature list may not be completely accurate).

Internationalisation
I know you’ve already read about how the event is going to be 24 hours straight, ignoring the fact that numbers may well be lower while the US sleeps. But that’s not the only way in which 24HOP is becoming more international...

During the event, the IBTalk people are going to provide Live Closed Captioning. So you can get subtitles during the event! But there’s more...This captioning will be available in fifteen different languages!

English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Dutch, German, Russian, Turkish, Arabic, Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Thai. You want subtitles in Thai? No problem. Watching with a Turkish friend? Sure, no worries. Even if you’re just more comfortable in Dutch than English...

PASS is serious about trying to reach people around the world. With these languages, I think most people are covered. There are a few gaps, such as not having Swedish or Bangla – but apparently just about everyone in IT in those areas speaks English anyway (so I’m told).

The platform also has an amazing feature that translates questions, so if you're more comfortable asking a question in Russian or Portuguese, you can do that. The presenter will see the question in their own language, and the attendee will read the answer in theirs.

The Schedule!
Read the full schedule at http://www.sqlpass.org/24hours/spring2012/SessionsbySchedule.aspx and http://www.sqlpass.org/24hours/spring2012/SessionsbyTrack.aspx. And while over at the 24HOP site, register for the sessions you’re interested in. But in the meantime, check out that list! I’m sure you’ll recognise plenty of the names, but probably not all. You’ll also notice there are plenty of speakers from different parts of the world, including the UK (like Mark and Neil), Australia (like Julie), and Israel (like Ami).

It’s going to be a massive event. Get registering soon!

Recent PASS Board Meeting Updates

The PASS Board recently concluded their two day Board meeting in Seattle.  The minutes will be published here later this week or early next week. The minutes for a two day meeting run to nearly ten pages and need to be approved by a majority of the Board prior to publishing. While the minutes cover all the topics in detail, I want to focus on six items that I feel are important to share: 

Information Technology. Three years ago the PASS IT department had one individual trying to keep up with office support, rolling out web sites and custom writing applications to support our business. We had many competing priorities and were struggling to make progress. Today we have three individuals and they’re providing outstanding support to the organization. Our internal support is efficient and we are quickly able to rollout event web sites. We’ve also started making significant improvements to the SQLSaturday web application. One huge win has been Orator, our custom developed tool that manages speakers and abstract submissions for conferences. Orator is already starting to reduce workload at HQ and amongst our various event program teams and has improved communication with speakers. 

PASS SQLRally. The selection process for the PASS SQLRally 2013 will be starting up in the next couple of weeks. This year we expect to have a room block approved to broaden the base of possible host cities. We’re also going to have HQ more involved in helping the cities with the logistics side of their proposal. We discussed various ways to involve PASS members in the selection process: either selecting the final city from a short list or having a vote earlier in the process that simply counts as one component of the selection process. Whatever form this takes will be clearly outlined in the application process. With PASS Summit 2013 on the east coast, our hope is to balance out our geographic footprint with SQLRally 2013. 

PASS Summit. We’ve grown so big that for this year’s Summit we will be using both the North and South sides of the convention center. The biggest change? The dining hall will move over to the North side and will be accessible via the sky bridge. We’ll likely have to move a few session rooms over to the North side as well – which means larger capacity rooms! We also brainstormed on new ideas/formats for this year’s Summit and discussed the possibility of having only 2 keynotes this year. What do you think? Let us know. The Summit selection process for 2015 and 2017 was also touched on. 

Board Appointments. The Board spent 90 minutes discussing Board appointments. I briefly covered this in a blog post last week. The discussion covered a variety of topics with the entire Board participating, and the bottom line is that we stand by our recent appointment decisions. However, we know we need to improve our communication around how the appointment process will work next time. 

Global Growth.  In an effort to manage the explosive growth of SQL Server events and membership outside of North America, we’ve set up committees to look at various ways we can better support our global membership. The Event, Event Content, Communications, Chapters and Governance committees all provided updates. Some highlights: we will temporarily un-gate all PASS recorded sessions currently on our website, we’re going to implement a new Connector newsletter look and feel, and we’re exploring different models of PASS governance structure.  I’ll be writing more about our  governance discussions and ideas in a future newsletter.

The next in-person Board meeting will be in Dallas in conjunction with PASS SQLRally 2012, which will also be attended by the Board. I hope to see many of you there!