PASS Summit 2011 Preconference Session selection info

The other day I detailed as much info as I could about changes to this years session selection processes.  The call for ALL Sessions at the Summit is officially open until May 5, 2011 that means we’re accepting abstracts for regular sessions as well as for the Preconference sessions.


For many of the more experienced speakers in the SQL Community the opportunity to give a full day highly technical session at the summit is attractive.  Not only do they get to showcase their technical skills, they also get to showcase their own unique training style.  Additionally, the pay isnt half bad either.  Of course, most of these speakers will tell you that based on the amount of time needed to generate an all day session the pay is actually half bad, not half good 🙂

Requirements Change

For the past 3 years we’ve had a set of requirements in place that qualify speakers to present a preconference session, those requirements are looked at every year by a set of volunteers to make sure they are still valid and usually only minor adjustments are made.  This year however I made a larger adjustment.  In order to clarify the requirement that giving a precon requires you to also give a spotlight session, I added #11 to the list of criteria you should meet to deliver a precon.  Since that is a gimme criteria, I bumped the total criteria needed to meet from 4 to 5


After you’ve done your thing and submitted a terrific abstract for a precon session its up to us to try and be fair in the selection process for these sessions.  Over the last few years we have tried many things to both open up the selection process and to open up submissions to a competitive process.  There have been many ups and downs in this iterative process.  Sometimes we do well, and sometimes… not so much.  The point is that we’re always trying to produce a better process.  I’m excited that hopefully this year we’ve ironed out a few more of the wrinkles we exposed last year.

Process Part one

After the Call for abstracts closes we are going to release a “preferencer” tool that we’re going to use to allow PASS Members the ability to communicate what their favorite sessions are.  We’re going to use the data gathered from this tool to assist us in making the session selections.  Additionally, we are tentatively going to use this same info to prepopulate your attendee schedule builder after the selections are made.  I’d like to think we’ll be able to use the data from this tool in a 1-1 fashion where we take the top X precons per track and build the session schedule that way.  In reality though, I expect we’re going to find several overlapping session subjects at the top of the list.  I’m thinking things like 3 “indexing sessions” in the top 5 for the DBA track, or 2 Sessions from a single speaker for instance.  We’ll need a a team to help make those decisions.

Introducing the team that will make the decisions

K. Brian Kelley Author/Blogger/Speaker Extraordinaire – A man with his credentials doesn’t need an intro.

Lori Edwards PASS Junkie, blogger, and all around pain in the …  – I kid, Lori has been picking up all of the slack in the PASS Program committee, as well as participating in the PASS ERC

Me –  Yeah, Im going to have a seat at the table this year.  I havent participated in an actual abstract selection team in a couple of years so this should be a fun diversion.

In building this small team, I’m expecting that there wont be a heck of a lot of “work” to do.  I’m really expecting that we will be able to rely mainly on the members preferences but I wanted to have insurance in case there was more to the selection than simply relying on preferences.

The multiple similar session problem

In the past one dilemma that Ive been looking for creative ways to solve goes something like this.

“If I specialize in Architecture for SQL Flux capacitors and Veteran speaker XYZ always presents a precon on SQL flux capacitor architecture how will I ever get chosen for a precon”

This year, I’m hoping that with the membership showing which sessions they’d like to see if a particular topic has an apparent huge interest, we can potentially give 2 precons on a similar topic (1 on Monday, and 1 on Tuesday).  The way the tool is being built, we should get good data about which precons a group of people would most like to see.  I dont know if this will work or not but, its a small enough risk that I cant see why we wouldnt at least try to see what the data tells us.

After thinking about the data this tool should generate, I wonder where I can find a good data analysis person to volunteer and tell me what it means.  Maybe I should ask someone in the community for help with that before mucking it up myself *hint*