Thursday, March 11, 2010

PASS Releases Survey Results & Summit Location – Reactions

The Impetus

So after Andy Warren’s (@SqlAndy) blog post, PASS Update #24, last week and the follow-up posts by myself (A Swing and a Miss By PASS) and Brent Ozar (@BrentO) (PASS Summit Location Voting Results), PASS released the survey results and the location of the 2011 and 2012 Summits(Seattle) in this month’s Connector newsletter and on the PASS web site.  The post includes the reason for delaying releasing the results and why they chose to stay in Seattle.  If you read the PASS post you also need to read the comments as there are those that agree the decision and reasoning and those that disagree with it.  You should also read Tom LaRock’s(@SQLRockstar) response to my post (and Brent’s I assume) which I appreciated.

Thanks Deserved

First I want to applaud the decision by the PASS leadership to get the results out immediately and especially including the locations they chose and why.  I don’t necessarily agree, but I think that getting the information out to the community is more important than the decision on the location.  One thing I believe is that the membership/community is PASS so the policy of the board should be to share everything and only vote on what should NOT be public.  I get the feeling that the current policy is the opposite, let’s vote on what to release.  

Other Reactions

There were several blog posts responding to the release of the data. Here are the ones I know about:

  1. Grant Fritchey (@GFritchey) was first with Location of the PASS Summit
  2. Brent Ozar was next with The PASS Summit Location Survey Results
  3. Simon Sabin (@simon_sabin) chimed in with PASS Location fixed for the next 2 years – Are they listening? and then PASS Summit Location followup - result analysis
  4. K. Brian Kelley (@kbriankelley) added his thoughts with PASS Summit to Stay in Seattle

The PASS Explanation

Reason #1

“There is a disparity between wanting to have Summit on the East Coast and the desire to have access to plentiful, top-notch Microsoft resources at every PASS Summit. For all three questions pertaining to the importance of Microsoft resources, 69%- 84% of respondents maintain that having access to many, and varied, Microsoft resources is important to their Summit experience.”

“We would not be able to achieve anywhere near the same level of support from Microsoft as we do when Summit is held in Seattle. We would lose out on at least 50% and likely 75% of Microsoft presenters, developers, and SQLCAT and CSS staff – all things a majority of survey respondents listed as important or very important.”

Based on the results from these 3 questions:

  1. Hundreds of Microsoft developers available – 45% Very Important, 33% Somewhat Important
  2. Availability of CSS and SQLCAT Experts in face-to-face environment – 36% Very Important, 33% Somewhat important
  3. Access to Many and varied Microsoft Presenters – 48% Very Important, 36% Somewhat Important

I’d argue that a more important question is, how many people who attended the Summit took advantage of the hundreds of MS developers or the CSS and SQLCAT experts.  If the “hundreds” we got in Seattle was say 300 would the top 75-150 of these be enough?  How many of the “hundreds” in Seattle came from non-Washington MS locations?  The one MS session I attended the presenters were not from Redmond and at least one attendee was on a flight to Charlotte with several MS employees from Charlotte.

Then the other question about having MS presenters, well of the Top 10 Sessions for Summit 2009 there were 2 MS presenters and 5 non-MS presenters, so that tells me that there are some good speakers outside of MS.  I will say that MS presenters did dominate the most popular BI Tracks.

Reason #2

“Based on Microsoft's release cycle history (major release cycles run approximately every 3 years, with minor ones often coming in between), 2011 or 2012 will likely be a launch year. It would be disappointing for the community to lose out on the advantages of being in Seattle during a potential release year.”

I can’t argue with that.  It would be nice to have the most MS presence in a release year, but Brent makes a good point in his post:

“If major release cycles run every 3 years, and minor ones come in between, then the odds of having a release on any given year is 2/3!  Every year is a potential release year.  As far as I’m concerned, if Microsoft wants to promote a release, they can come to the community.  This is exactly their strategy in Europe – they’re coordinating with community leaders to host regional events all over Europe for the launch of SQL Server 2008 R2.  Why does the community have to come begging to Microsoft’s doorstep?  They’re the ones making money off us.”

Reason #3

“Seattle is a very cost-effective location for a conference the size and scope of Summit. We were surprised to find that most East Coast locations we considered would cost substantially more and would likely raise registration prices and negatively impact the budget available to many other PASS activities, including Chapter resources and online events. We should also point out that survey respondents listed the cost of moving Summit to the East Coast as the least important of four PASS priorities (others included: Chapter resources, events such as 24 Hours of PASS, and the PASS website).”

Cost more for who?  Aaron Nelson made a point on Twitter that his hotel in Charlotte (one of the PASS investigated locations) for SQLSaturday was $59/night vs. the $200/night most hotels near the convention center in Seattle were.  Grant also mentions cost in his post:

“For example, doing a quick search on Travelocity, no details, accepting defaults, meeting half-way, in Dallas, would cost $216 instead of $399. That’s almost $200 in savings. Even if Rushabh is right and we’d have to increase the cost, let’s say $150/attendee, that’s still offset by the flight.”

My Conclusion on the Data

Despite all of these thing in the data nearly 60% of respondents said that the PASS Summit should be held OUTSIDE of Seattle EVERY OTHER YEAR vs. only 19% thinking that the Summit should ALWAYS be in Seattle.  Maybe I’m spinning the data to agree with my opinion, let’s move the Summit around, but I still think those are very strong numbers.  For the record I did not vote for moving every year, I voted for every 4 years. 

A Mini-Summit on the East Coast?

The final line of the editorial is:

“We are listening to all of you who desire more PASS presence on the East Coast, and are currently looking into holding a smaller conference there in the near future. We’ll share more information as it becomes available”

I don't want to sound ungrateful, but why would you do 2 events?  So now instead of the PASS Summit being THE SQL Server event, it is one of the SQL Server events.  Also, how does this mesh with all the reasons the board gave for keeping THE Summit in Seattle?  It’ll still cost more than a similar event in Seattle.  You still won’t get the MS presence that is so important, or if you do, why wouldn’t you get that presence if you held THE Summit on the East coast?  Is there a strategic reason for doing this or is it being done to pacify the “voters”?  I hope that there is a strategic reason for it and if there isn’t I hope that resources aren’t used for it.

I understand that the board believes it is making the best decision for PASS, but I disagree.  I want to see how this decision meets the goals of PASS: Connect, Share, Learn.   

I’m interested in what you think.  I know there are people who strongly agree with the decision to stay in Seattle, so let me know why.  Comment on this post or post on your blog and link to it in the comments.  I think anything that gets the community involved will turn out to be a good thing for PASS.


  1. Excellent summary. I didn't even think to address the "smaller East Coast" event. You're right, if there are so many huge reasons to not move the Summit, then having a smaller event, with less support from MS, the vendors, etc., that costs more than the main event, fewer top-tier presenters, etc., why the heck would you bother? Excellent point.

  2. Thanks Grant. I know that all the blog responses I have seen are from folks East of Seattle, so I'm wondering where are the people who want to keep it in Seattle responding to us?


So what do you think I am?