What Should PASS Be?

A few days ago Andy Warren (blog|twitter) asked the question “What should PASS be?” and issued a challenge for people to throw their own thoughts in about directions the organization should head.

I can’t provide any answers to that without first explaining:


What PASS Is To Me

I attended my first PASS Summit back in 2008. I’m far from a social butterfly and I didn’t know anybody when I got to the Summit, I walked around for a week and left having learned a great deal but still knowing nobody.

Funny thing though, attending that Summit is what got me started with being involved in the community at large. While there I saw some signs touting the benefits of Virtual SIGs and went over to ask about them. Blythe Morrow (blog|twitter) helped me get signed up for the DBA one and explained to me how useful this whole Twitter thing could be. Not being captain social I wasn’t sure I’d ever use it but signed up anyway. Nothing to lose right?

Over time I attended a few of the virtual groups and started following folks on Twitter. Then I started interacting. I got to know people; learned a huge amount; started blogging; attended a SQL Saturday; presented at a SQL Saturday; attended the local user group frequently; volunteered for and went to the 2010 Summit.

What was different about the latest Summit? I went in knowing a few folks and came away knowing a lot more.

For me PASS was about getting me started in the community.  Now that PASS owns the SQL Saturday brand it’s even more about getting folks started in the community than ever before.


What PASS Is Not To Me

I don’t go to PASS for daily community involvement. It’s not the right place, that’s the niche that Twitter fills. I don’t go there for technical content, that’s why I have 115 RSS subscriptions in Google Reader.

The PASS website is not a place I visit often. Fact is I rarely go to the PASS site, there’s nothing there that I need for the most part. Other than trying to find out information about the Summit or an upcoming event such as 24 Hours Of PASS.

PASS is not forums, that’s why SQLServerCentral and StackExchange exist. Nor is it a daily or weekly newsletter.


What Should PASS Be?

The nominated Board of Directors have a tough job and I think for the most part they do it very well. Treading that line between community and company cannot be easy. I know that I’ll never sit on that board and so have to admire the dedication of those that do. Saying that, the Board needs to take a great deal of care with the nominations after the controversy of last year. How about things being a little less political and more straight up?

2011SummitThe PASS Summit is the keystone that holds everything else in place.  Keep on keeping on with that. The one thing I would like to see is something that’s already in the works and that’s moving the Summit every couple of years. While I leave in WA making it simple to get to the Summit for me I know that it’s not the case for everyone. There has been a great deal of talk about this. I think it’s good to move it every once in a while.

SQLRallyThe first SQLRally is due to take place this year. It’s being billed as a regional event although it’s more like a mini-summit, I like this idea. Do it again next year but be sure to move it around the country. Dallas, Chicago and Atlanta will all hopefully be in serious consideration for next year. It might also be worth considering having the SQLRally in Seattle those years that the Summit is moved.

I’d look at possibly changing one thing for SQL Saturdays. Maybe a small fund could be set up to ensure that a highly respected speaker or two could make it to each event. This would cover their travel expenses and maybe a put a few bucks in their pocket. Other than that I would like PASS to really keep their distance from these events. A non-intervention pact should be put in place to allow each event to continue to run independently. I believe without this independence something new will spring up and take it’s place.

The question has been asked, by Sean McCown (blog|twitter) as to whether or not mentors are dead. I don’t want to believe that they are. PASS should try to get involved and start an official mentorship program. I’m sure there are a lot of experienced DBAs, developers and BI folks out there who would gladly help bring along someone still in their early days of working with SQL. Why not bring these folks together. Offer up some kind of support program to help facilitate the contact between folks and continue that relationship by seeking feedback from both parties.

24HOPDon’t change anything for 24 Hours of PASS. It’s great. Just be sure not to exclude speakers, give the community a chance to vote on every submitted session. Thomas LaRock (blog|twitter) has taken on the mantle of owning 24HOP. His idea for the March 2010 24HOP having only women speakers I think is great, it really helps promote diversity in the speaker pool which takes me to my final point.

There are some great speakers out there, PASS needs to help groom the next generation. This is one of the areas I think that could be huge for the community. It would be great if PASS could introduce some kind of speaker  program that included feedback, evaluations and training. It would really help take people from SQLSaturday/local user group to PASS Summit speaker and beyond.


Final Thought

PASS Board, keep on keeping on. Overall you’re doing a great job. Keep getting people involved with volunteer efforts, run the Summit, Rally and SQL Saturdays. Don’t try and move into areas already well established with other companies, websites or tools.

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