Thursday, October 29, 2009

What Should PASS Strive To Be?

Steve Jones had a good editorial earlier this week entitled, What Do We Want from PASS?.  It didn’t generate as much discussion as I would have thought, but the discussion is worth reading.  A couple of the posts mention how PASS does not seem to do anything to make the daily life of SQL Server professionals better.  I have to agree with that sentiment.  Until about two years ago I wasn’t even aware PASS existed.  I had heard about the Summit in passing, but never even considered attending.  Unfortunately I think this is a common occurrence with PASS.  What can be done to change this?  Here are some things I think PASS should be doing:

  1. Make sure people refer to the conference as the PASS Summit not PASS.  If you follow SQL folks on Twitter or many blogs you see people saying “See you at PASS” or “Are you going to PASS?”.  PASS needs these people, the influencers, to refer to the PASS Summit so that others understand that PASS is more than the Summit.
  2. PASS should be THE voice for SQL Server Professionals.  When there is an issue that affects our profession, PASS should be speaking for us.  Regulations, best practices, salary information should all be found at PASS.
  3. PASS should build from the bottom up.  If PASS really wants to be relevant it needs strong local Chapters.  This is where the majority of the interaction between professionals will always be, make it a priority.  Here are some ideas on how it can be done:
    1. Speaker list
    2. Sponsor contacts
    3. Training for Chapter Leaders on how to interact with sponsors and how to market the group.
    4. How to be a Technical Speaker seminars at a local/regional level
    5. Regional events.  SQLSaturday is filling this void, and I’m a big fan of SQLSaturday, but this is really an area where PASS should be.  Not everyone can go to the Summit, especially east coast people when it is in Seattle every year.  Give them something to go to.
    6. SWAG, especially for startups.  PASS should be able leverage its reach to get vendors, publishers, recruiters, etc… to get some money and items.
  4. PASS should provide a growth path for leaders.  In addition to the international Board of Directors there should be regional boards that help implement the vision of the international board.  These groups can also be the one in charge of regional events.  Then you have a growth path from chapter leadership to regional leadership to national/international leadership.
  5. PASS should rotate the location of the Summit.  East coast, Central, and West Coast.  This will give people who can’t travel to Seattle a chance to go.  I’ll be honest, if SQLConnections continues to have a spring conference in Orlando (where I live), I’ll choose that over PASS some years.  I don’t have to pay for hotel and airfare or lose 2 days in travel.  I can fly to Boston in 3 hours.  Seattle?

There are some things that PASS does very well:

  1. The PASS Summit.  This year will be my first one, but everyone I know who has gone raves about it, so it must be good.
  2. Virtual Chapters (formerly known as Special Interest Groups).  Online communities based on areas of interest instead of geographic location.  There are regular Live Meetings that are are fantastic.
  3. 24 Hours of PASS.  Literally 24 straight hours of online training from some of the best SQL Server minds in the world.

I should note that I am good friends with Andy Warren who is on the PASS Board of Directors.  We have discussed what PASS should be doing before, but most of these ideas will be new to him as well.  I hope to meet and talk with all the members of the board at the Summit and share these ideas with them and hear their vision for PASS.

What do you think PASS should strive to be?


  1. Jack, I think that is a pretty good list. The only one that I'm not sure about is the regional boards. Don't know that I'd vote no, but it needs to be fleshed out more. The rest I agree we should work towards.

  2. "Until about two years ago I wasn’t even aware PASS existed"

    What could we have done to reach you? What were you reading?

    I'd be happy to talk. You've got some interesting ideas. I'd like to hear how you prioritize them. Especially around #2. I'm easiest to find right before or after the keynotes near the front on the speaker's right side. Or you can email me at firstname.lastname at

    -Bill Graziano

  3. Andy,

    I think the regional boards would be something that replaces/enhances the regional mentor idea. No doubt it needs the details filled in, but it provides a growth path for leaders, more people to implement the vision provided by the BoD, and resources for local chapter leaders.

  4. Bill,

    I'm not sure what could have been done differently. Be easier to discuss than write, I think.

    I'll definitely try to connect with you one morning. Meeting all you big-wigs is one of my goals for the Summit.

  5. Hi Jack,

    In terms of the regional "boards", we've already been establishing regional committees for PASS. If you look at the region pages (under chapters) on the PASS website, you'll see these already for Asia, Australia/New Zealand/Africa, Europe and Central/South America. The Asian one is the longest running so far and it's worked very well indeed. We're in the final stages of creating two that will cover USA and Canada. I'm hoping to have those complete before the summit.

    One of the issues with the location of the summit is Microsoft attendance. In Seattle, we currently get a number of Microsoft VPs and *hundreds* of developers from the SQL product team, plus pretty much all of the SQLCAT team. The question is how important their attendance is to you. Hundreds of SQL product group developers won't get sent to Boston or Orlando, no matter how much we might want that. Does that matter to you?



  6. Greg,

    Thanks for the comments. I didn't know about the regional "boards", but I'm glad that they are there. I was actually thinking, admittedly US-centric, smaller than country/continent, like Southeast US. Maybe something based on # of chapters in an area. Definitely needs more thought.

    As far as moving the Summit location, would it be better to get fewer MS employees, but have a wider reach because different people can make it each year if you rotate it? I think reaching more people should be more important to PASS. The Summit is where you are going to get people to be passionate about PASS.

    Again I appreciate the comments. Hope we can discuss it more next week.


So what do you think I am?