Posts tagged Ideas

PASS Volunteer Appreciation

Do you know someone in the PASS Community who is a hidden hero?  Perhaps a chapter leader who is doing terrific work to help the SQL community.  Maybe its a member who is putting in 110% to organize a SQL Rally.  A virtual chapter leader who is organizing great sessions or perhaps its a speaker you’ve seen go above and beyond and speak at multiple chapters/virtual chapter events this month.   There are so many people who contribute and make the SQL community so vibrant that finding those who stand out is tougher than ever!

 

These people are the lifeblood of the SQL Server community, they freely give of their time to make PASS the premiere SQL Server association and its about time we start recognizing them!

Since Ive been volunteering with PASS one thing that has always struck me is how rare it is that PASS actually recognizes outstanding volunteers.  When I first joined, we only had the PASSion award which is awarded yearly at the Summit to the single volunteer who had the “most” outstanding contributions.  In more recent years we’ve done a better job of recognizing additional people who are outstanding volunteers through the outstanding volunteers presentation at the Summit however, these volunteers all come from the passion award nominations and those nominations are only open just prior to the summit.

 

I’ve always thought that we should recognize volunteers across the organization in a more consistent way, and not revolve that recognition around the Summit.  Luckily, the opportunity to do something about this lack of recognition knocked earlier this year and we’ve made progress.  In last weeks connector there was an announcement about nominating volunteers to be recognized as outstanding volunteers of the month.  The initial intent is that we’ll accept email nominations during every month for any volunteer who has made outstanding contributions to the community.  Those submissions will be reviewed on the last day of the month and recognition will follow the next month.   Initially, we are planning to recognize these outstanding volunteers with a nice certificate and highlight them in the connector newsletter.  Its not much compared to what these people do day in and day out but with success over time, hopefully we can expand this a bit more.  For a start though, I think this is a good first step down the right road.

 

We intend to have the first recognition cycle start in March so that means that submissions are due by 2/29 (tomorrow!)  Please, take a moment and send us an email with as many details as possible about the contributions of an outstanding volunteer who has made an impact in the SQL community.  As always with these types of things, the more details the better!

 

How deep can you dive?

Go deep or stay home!

After last years Summit we launched a feedback site http://feedback.sqlpass.org in hopes of gathering all of the feedback about the event in one place.  The number one thing people have asked for on that site is for there to be a track of sessions in the 400-500 level range.  The problems with the community desire for higher level sessions are twofold, one we dont normally get a huge number of session submissions that are at the 400-500 level.  Two, I’ve been told by those who are qualified to present those types of sessions that an hour and fifteen minutes (spotlight) is often not enough time.

Cramped for space

In the past our conference size has dictated the floor-plans at the conference center and we’ve been  maxed out at 14 concurrent sessions.  This year however, because of anticipated attendee growth, the logistical geniuses at PASS HQ were able to add another session room (I’m looking at you Anika and Craig).  With this new room I have options on what to do with the extra session rooms!!

Changes for the Summit 2011

This year we’ll be using the space we gained from the new room addition to have longer deep dive sessions.  The current idea is to offer these longer sessions in hopes that they will attract presenters who are qualified to present these deeper dive sessions. Currently, the plan is to have a maximum of 6 deep dive (lvl 400 or 500 only) 3 hour sessions.  Because of the way the schedule is laid out, we will run 2 of these sessions concurrently every conference day.

Rules… Yeah there’s always rules

We will accept abstracts for this new session type in the same manner as a regular abstract.  That is to say anyone can submit a half day abstract.  If you submit an abstract for a 1/2 day session it will count as one of your 4 allowed abstract submissions.  The session selection for these sessions will be handled by the regular respective abstract review teams.  Even though we are going to allow anyone to submit abstracts for these sessions, it should go without saying that if you don’t have prior experience or reputation for being able to give an extended, strong 400-500 level session it may be best to focus on a regular summit session.  What I mean by this is for these particular sessions we will be instructing the review teams to weigh the speakers perceived ability to deliver the session higher than we normally would for a regular session.

Possible Hiccups i.e. Changes

Two things could change with these sessions.

  • I am considering making the sessions 4 hours long (roughly 3 regular session slots).  If we do that the maximum number of sessions would drop to four.  I’m leaning heavily away from this but, if anyone has a strong opinion on this I’ll listen
  • Depending on the quantity and quality of the abstracts we receive, we may have less than the maximum sessions shown above (4 or 6)
  • Im still considering a single DBA 101 “Accidental DBA” type session for one of these sessions but havent been swayed that there is more interest there than there is in deep dives

Something old is something new

For the new year I have decided to try something different with a series of small regular posts.

Dealing with our large team of developers and our DBA team as well, I often run across interesting discussions about small things that are easily overlooked.  Often times these discussions end in a exclamation of “I knew that!!”  Of course what really happend is the memory of that specific feature or tidbit has simply been paged out of our memory.  I intend to take these (typicaly) small tidbits of SQL goodness and publish them to hopefully jog your memory as well. 

It never hurts to have your memory paged back in occasionally and I hope this helps

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.

    PASS Program Update #3

    Its been a while since I wrote an update about whats been happening in the PASS Program Committee.  I just havent had time to write about it with all of the work thats going on in addition to my regular day job.  Hopefully Ill have time now to do a better job at this!

    The annual content survey was sent out and the results are in, I’d like to go on record now and say, Im not a BI user/admin/developer.  We took the BI questions from last year’s survey (which were obviously from 2008).  Unfortunately, while going through them and updating the questions I didnt reach out to a BI person and get a gut check for the BI questions.  So we wound up with some out of date info in that section.  I swear we like BI @ PASS, I just goofed, there’s not some secret conspiracy, and YES to the 1 of you who asked, I do read all of the comments .  The good news, for those that asked, the survey results will be released as soon as we can get them collated and readable (any day now)  **UPDATE** The survey responses are here there are definitely some very interesting tidbits to be mined from this.

    We are making progress in working on several projects, from redoing the speaker resources, to developing a new system to house the speaker evaluation data.  As with all things volunteer driven, these tasks are taking time but thats not unexpected.It has to be better than this

    The biggest project Ive been spending my time on is the call for speakers.  The call for speakers (and resulting abstract review site) is always a huge undertaking.  This year it seems to be even more magnified since we’re undertaking a new vendor (the same 1 that does tech-ed).  There have been quite a few bumps in the road along the way (I wont bore you to tears with all the details) A steady diet of 1-2 conference calls a week and about 50-100 emails a week and we’re closing in on a useable product in the call for speakers site.  The abstract review site, well that will be the subject of a whole other blog post in the future!  Ill just say that right now Im hoping to find some spare pixie dust or at least a few extra rolls of duct tape and bailing wire prior to the close of the call for abstracts

    There have been many discussions about changing some of the SOP in the program committee, I have blogged about some of those previously so I wont rehash those here again.  Ill just add a few more ideas Ive been kicking around.

    1 of the largest things that will effect the average attendee at the Summit is that we’re exploring ways to allow 2 new session types this year.

    1) Community selection – The current thought is to allow the community to choose from (pre filtered) submitted abstracts to choose a session per track (or some similar method/amt)

    2) Best of the Summit– The current thought is to take the top session(s) from the first 2 days of the summit and repeat them on day #3

    Both of these ideas have execution issues to overcome but, I think they should be doable for the 2010 summit.

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