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.