Archive for August, 2010

5 things I want to change while on the PASS Board

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking over the last 3 or 4 months about “why” I wanted to run for the PASS Board.  I think I have finally come to the point where I can distill it down into a list of 5 specific things that I will work to make happen while on the PASS Board

5. Pass Summit location.  I believe that we can reach more of our membership by moving the location of the annual summit.  I like the idea of a 3 year rotation in Seattle.

4. Transparency.  I plan to continue the push for as much release of information as the community wants.  Particular things I’d like to see: full disclosure of individual BOD votes, more exposure of the Executive Committee “election process”

3. Better Chapter Support.  We need to do a better job at giving our chapter leaders what they need, some of the most frequently requested things on the chapter “needs” list could be completed more easily than many think if I can succeed with item #1 on this list.  I don’t necessarily want to “own” chapter support but, I think I can provide help to this group, especially where it lends itself to my strength in PASS : speaker management.

2. Professionalism.  I want our association to become more professional.  That is to say, to begin offering more than education as the primary benefit to membership.  I think there should be more benefit to being a PASS member than education & networking .

1. Community Involvement.  I want to get our volunteers engaged in as many processes and tasks as possible.  I’ve done what I consider to be a pretty good job at getting as many people involved in the program committee processes as reasonably possible, Id like to  expand that same involvement into all areas of PASS.  I wrote a lengthy reply on the PASS election forum about this subject, let me know what you think.


If you believe in these changes and you like how I communicate them, consider voting for me. I’m running for the PASS Board of Directors, and I need your help to make a difference.  Click here to read about why I’m running.

What I’m doing to evolve the Program Committee next

Since I wrote about how we’ve been evolving the Program Committee in the past, I thought Id write about some of the ways we’re trying to change the Program Committee in the future.

But first, I want to clarify something that someone else pointed out to me.  When I write about the Program Committee, I always say “We”.  When working on something as complex as the program for the summit, it is necessary to work as a very cohesive team.  This leadership team I am a part of is who makes all of the tactical decisions about the way we manage the education at the Summit.  I always refer to “us” as “we” because I cannot (and will not) take all of the credit for putting the Summit education together.  Without the team, the committee wouldn’t be half of what it is.  While I have been the overarching member of this team (the 1 they cant seem to run off) , the others are always there when we have work to do.  Well, except Jeremiah, He’s got this new gig where he’s a turtle hunter or something….

We’ve been working hard over the last 2 years to bring some exciting (well, exciting to me anyway) changes to the program committee.   A couple of these changes you should start seeing official announcements about any day now but, I decided to be a tease…

  • We’re going to be opening another limited call for speakers for a new session type
  • There are 2 new session types coming (well, 1 is a bit old but, its new & shiney)

Some additional thoughts I have about evolving this process are in no particular order

  • Expand the use of Community Choice Sessions to include pre/post conferences(1 or maybe more), Id love to even be able to give those who vote for the precon that is selected a discount code to use on that precon.
    • have a separate speaker review team that will rate/rank speakers across all tracks and sessions, so we can cut down on the differing ratings per speaker.
    • Allow that team to reject speakers without considering abstracts if they dont meet some predefined criteria (no exact ideas on those criteria yet)
    • Have a Virtual Chapter sponsored session category.  The initial idea is if a VC is active, (say has XX events a year) we allot them 1 speaker slot that they can then award to one of their best speakers (as they see fit within some reasonable framework).
    • Use the session evaluation tool for all PASS events (local, chapter, sqlsat, summit, rally)
    • Expand the feedback for speakers when we dont accept their presentation at the Summit.  Allow the review teams to leave free form comments, as well as a standardized reasons we’re using now

    If you believe in these changes and you like how I communicate them, consider voting for me. I’m running for the PASS Board of Directors, and I need your help to make a difference.  Click here to read about why I’m running.

    The long evolution of the PASS Program Committee

    It all had to begin somewhere

    I joined the Program Committee in late 2006; I spent the first 2 years working on the DBA track teams selecting abstracts.  I have spent a good deal of time working on the technology (vendors) of the Summit (the software we use to manage speakers, room assignments, itinerary planner, etc.).  After going through several demo’s and actually attempting to use two different software packages, I started pushing for PASS to build our own software.  We are paying a (small) fortune for what we use now, the only reason I can figure is that its much more robust than what we need for PASS.  Last year I worked with PASSHQ to put together a project plan for PASS to build a new technology platform to manage the Summit.  This year David with PASS HQ has started delivering on parts of the software.  Once this is in place and we’re not changing software every year/other year, we should be able to focus more on the process, and less on the new software. 

    Prior to last year, Pre/post conference sessions (AKA precons) and Spotlight sessions were 100% invite only, and the guidelines for who was allowed to present these sessions was never published outside of the committee.  Beginning with last year, we worked to publish guidelines for who was eligible to present precon sessions.  In publishing the requirements list for who could present an all day precon session we opened up the call for precons to include anyone who met the requirements.   At the same time we opened up spotlight invitations to competition, where we invited more speakers than we had slots for in hopes of raising the caliber of these sessions.  We also began using an easy to understand formula for who gets invited to present spotlight sessions. 

    In this same time frame we reached out to many experts and asked for help developing a speaker resource page.  Prior to this there was no real information on PASS’s website documenting what it takes to write good abstracts, or get selected as a speaker.  We have pulled together quite a few resources to help develop speakers, including webcasts and sample abstracts, etc. 

    Growing bigger better speakers

    I have blogged quite a bit about growing the pool of speakers and we have made some very good steps in the right direction in this space.  There were two fundamental changes I worked into the program committee.  The first was adding a “speaker bureau” option to the speakers contract.  This will allow PASS (where the speakers agreed) to hand off speaker info and abstracts to the local chapters that the speakers are near, which will hopefully facilitate some interaction between the chapter leaders and some local aspiring speakers they may not know about.  There is still work to do to build and enrich the process around this sharing of information back out to the chapters but the first (most important) step has been taken.  I also worked it into the summit speaker contracts that we would release aggregate scores to the other speakers presenting so they could know where they stood compared to their peers.  This was decided as a good first step in open conversations generated by the discussion in this post

    Lots of  internal Changes

    This year a few things changed internally within the program committee, I separated the BI tracks review teams to match the fact that we now have 2 BI tracks, I also added an extra person to the DBA track team because, well, their workload increases every year and they could use some additional help.  I created a true team of 3 to review precons and spotlights instead of the mgmt group doing that work. But, by far for me the largest change was getting Lori Edwards involved in the leadership of the program committee.  Initially the idea was for her to get a team of task based volunteers who could work on some of the extra technology that the Program committee needed in order to work more effectively.  The first thing I handed her was to take the monstrosity of an excel spreadsheet I had containing every speakers session evaluation since 2005 (when I first got a copy) and make it into a proper database, and get some reporting from it.  After some discussions, we decided to build this as a system to hold ALL speaker evals for PASS or SQL Saturday, or actually ANY SQL presentation, the idea is when its finished if you have a speaker at any SQL event you can accept online evaluations and the speakers will get better feedback in one place. In addition, the organizers of PASS events will have better information as well. This task is still in process, but the first deliverable was a standard report of speakers and their evaluation scores and this was available for this years Program committee.  Somewhere along the way, Lori became more and more involved with all of the bits and pieces of what it takes to run the program committee.  Her involvement in these things has enabled me to reach out and not just do the same old thing for the Summit this year.

    More evolution

    This year I continued to push to evolve the program committee in several ways.  One of the changes most visible to PASS membership was the Community Choice Sessions.  Like all great ideas I’m not exactly sure where this idea was born, but I worked with people across the PASS organization to get this done.  I wrote about the process a couple of times as it was coming into being.  After involving over 1100 members, I would say this was a great success for PASS, myself and the Program group.

    We are planning on taking the evaluation system that Lori and her team are working on and put it into use for the first time at this years Summit.  In doing so we have planned to offer a new type of session that I’ve written about before.  This will be what we’re tentatively calling “best of sessions” where we take the session with the highest evaluation on Tuesday and ask that speaker to present the same session on Wednesday, repeating the same process for those who speak on Wednesday, asking them to present the same session again on Thursday.  This should allow the BEST content at the summit to be seen by the most attendees.

    It hasn’t been all fun and games

    This evolution and opening of the program process hasn’t been all BACON and index seeks, there has been more than one change on this list that have caused many questions, and in some cases very involved discussions.  We haven’t always gotten everything right, but heck I’m happy that I can say I think we got it mostly right.  There is always room for improvement and more to do to continue to evolve these processes,

    If you believe in these changes and you like how I communicate them, consider voting for me.  I’m running for the PASS Board of Directors, and I need your help to make a difference.  Click here to read about why I’m running.

    I received my diagnosis

    Luckily, I didn’t have to pay a single thing for it.

    Brent Ozar unwittingly made the diagnosis the other day in a comment on Stuart Ainsworth’s blog (I shortened it a bit)

    Since I have served on both of those PASS Committee’s (Program Committee as a leader) I must be insane.

    I mean, no one willingly jumps in front of that many bullets, at least not for long.  Whether he meant it or not, Brent is right though, when you put yourself into one of these types of committee’s you truly are opening yourself to all sorts of bullets.  This sort of “target practice” has been one of the toughest things for me to learn how to deal with as a PASS volunteer.  The good news though, is that its amazing what it will do for you professionally, its one thing when your “favorite” developer is firing Air soft bullets in disagreement with you, its quite another when leaders of the SQL community who you have a huge amount of respect for start firing .50cal’s.

    Many of my companies developers (several hundred total) have commented to me in the last few years that I have “mellowed” out a bit, a few of them have laughed and blamed it on old age, but in reality, I know its a side effect of serving in very public roles within the PASS Community.

    PASS Summit Community Choice Session results revealed

    This year the Program Committee decided to try something different to increase community involvement with the abstract selection process for the annual summit.  We decided to allow any registered PASS members to vote on the final  4 community sessions to be presented at the Summit in Seattle this year.  With our historically low turnout in surveys of our membership, I turned to the team at PASSHQ with a simple question about whether or not we could use the same voting tool that is in place for the upcoming Board of Directors election.  Considering our surveys have traditionally resulted in 300-500 results , at the time I put a personal goal on the survey response rate of 500, anything greater than that and I would consider the time and energy It took to put it together a win, anything less and well, we wouldn’t be doing any more exploring in the use of public voting for Summit Sessions.

    I’m VERY pleased to say that by all indications, the voting process was a great success, sure we will always aim to do better but, for now, having over 1100 people vote on what they want to see at the Summit is a huge win for PASS as an organization.  In the App Dev group, the winner was declared by 2 votes.   2 votes out of 600 is pretty outstanding, if you didn’t take the time and vote, you could have been the vote that swayed the result!!  Don’t miss your chance next time!!  The winning sessions can be found here

    I want to take the time to thank each and every member of the awesome PASS Community who voted.  As well as Jeremiah Peschka (Twitter|Blog) & Lori Edwards (Twitter|Blog) for dealing with my crazy ideas on putting this together, and keeping me in check.  Andy Warren (Twitter|Blog) for helping me get the voting tool he built for pass working for this use.  Id also like to give a huge thanks to Hannes, Wesley and Elena at PASSHQ for helping bring all of this to PASS (pun intended)

    Go to Top