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Andy Leonard

Andy Leonard is an author and engineer who enjoys building and automating data integration solutions. Andy is co-host of the Data Driven podcast. Andy is no longer updating this blog. His current blog is

Another Thought About PASS

Another Thought

In his latest book Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age, Clay Shirky (Twitter) makes the following statement about social systems: "Social systems have two modes -- dynamic and dead." Static isn't anywhere in that list. Well it is, it's just spelled d-e-a-d.

Folks in other communities want what we have in the SQL Server community. There are lots of reasons why the SQL Server community is vibrant, but a few core principles are at work here. Our community is a network of people who recognize we don't know everything, and at the same time recognize each of us knows something. It's the perfect setup for a social system, and PASS is a social system that represents a subset of the SQL Server Community. One thing I really admire about the SQL Server community is our ability to self-heal. I attribute this to the courage and strength of the leaders in our midst. A good recent example of this is found in the comment by Louis Davidson here.

There's an old psychology joke: How many psychologists does it take to change a light bulb? Answer: Only one, but the light bulb has to want to change. Does PASS really want to change and be more transparent? I ask this because of recent decisions made by PASS. Regarding dropping Steve Jones from the PASS Board of Directors slate, I know a lot of people are lining up to applaud PASS on sticking to its guns and holding to its process. In one sense this is to be admired. I'd like to offer another sense: Do any of us expect PASS to get it right the first time every time? What happens when they get it wrong? Isn't the correct answer to this question: "Fix it - quickly"? Why doesn't PASS do this? Is there no place or time for PASS to act quickly and decisively?

If this ain't it, then when?

I believe I have the answer to my question. PASS doesn't really want to be more transparent. The status quo is easy and familiar. If you think about this from the perspective of game theory, there's really no upside if PASS becomes more transparent. It's not like PASS members or volunteers are going to defect to NOSS (Next Organization for SQL Server) or anything - PASS is the only game in town.


Published Thursday, August 19, 2010 1:00 AM by andyleonard
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SQLvariant said:

You see!!

That's exactly why I nominated you.

You and Brian Kelly made the most effective point about this whole thing ovr twitter a few minutes ago.  

"Well, if Steve's not qualified"..."There's no point in me thinking that I can hope to be so."

August 19, 2010 1:03 AM

Todd McDermid said:

I disagree with that Andy.  What's another term for "fix it - quickly" due to public pressure - _against_ the principles you'd laid out before the decision was called for?  Yep - "Politician."

Now - that might be taking it a little too far, I'll admit.  And you do have a very salient point when you question what the "organizational motives" may or may not be.  Add to that that I haven't been "around" here nearly long enough to know better, and you can add a shaker-full of salt to my opinion.  But I think that you aren't weighting the points that Louis made enough.  In the short time I've observed, I see more transparency, not less.  I definitely do not see a stagnant organization, or immobile processes.  On every front - BoD voting, Summit program committees, VC organization, SQL Saturdays, SQL Rally - I see an organization that's changed quite a bit in the last two years.  It's an organization made up of people that make mistakes... but the "measure of a man" is how they learn from those mistakes and move forward.  I've definitely seen a mature organization when looking through that lens.

Mistakes will happen in the future, of that I have no doubt.  Was this one of them?  I'm not so sure.  To me (warranted or not) the NomCom let Steve know clearly that they wanted him to have more PASS-internal volunteering, and also (to me) clearly wanted him to achieve that and try again next year.  Is it reasonable to get riled up about the results of rules that were clearly laid out beforehand?  I'm not in that camp.  I think it's fair to be disappointed, and work for a change in those rules now that the effects of them are better understood.

More importantly, I think that the alternative may well be just as distasteful for entirely different reasons.  I'm confident that if the community wants PASS to operate in a certain manner, there's absolutely NOTHING that can stop that from happening.  If we get simplistic and frame it in an "us vs. them" mindset, it's inevitable that "we'll" either sneak in enough of "our" people to change it from the inside, or enough of "us" will get fed up and start something else.  It's not like the volunteers are beholden to PASS - they aren't slave labour.  NOSS would spring up right quick if that were how they (or we) were treated.  (Of course, I don't see it as an "us vs. them" equation - it's not a zero-sum game - and anyone that does see it that way isn't community-minded, IMO.)

Please keep up your pressure on PASS to do things "right," Andy.  I truly respect guys like you and Steve (and Tim) that _make_ the time to do that - I know you're lobbying "for me" to make a great community even better.  Guys like you "sucked me in" to this alternate reality of awesomesauce that is the SQL community.  We're the envy of the tech world in that respect, and there's no time to sit on our laurels.

August 19, 2010 1:12 AM

Arie Jones said:


Good posts on this(this one and your previous one). It's a little thing called 'courage'...

Maybe someone should look it up in Wikipedia:)

Plus, I was thinking about it last night and liked NoPASS in the line of NoSQL ....instead of NOSS

Maybe the byline could be

"We're not your grandfathers Organization for SQL Server" :)



August 19, 2010 6:59 AM

C said:

Last year, the NomCom put a candidate on the slate that had no prior experience or relationship with PASS and I recall strong arguments that experience with PASS should not had precluded the NomCom from putting this candidate on the BOD slate as it did not disqualify him.

This year, I am hearing people argue that a guy who's name I have known throughout my 10+ year career, read every day, engage with every day on twitter, and have seen at (almost) every conference I have ever attended is somehow not experienced enough with PASS?

Steve is qualified to be on the slate.  It's that simple.

The question (to me) is - who gets to decide who is on the BOD?  The community or the NomCom?

August 19, 2010 8:31 AM

Matt Cherwin said:

SQLVariant has it exactly right. I've only recently started to become more involved in the SQL Server community, and this decision definitely puts a damper on my enthusiasm. Steve Jones is one of the people in the community that one should aspire to emulate. If he's so unqualified that we're not even allowed to consider voting for him, what hope does a schmoe like me have of ever being qualified?

August 19, 2010 10:04 AM

andyleonard said:

Excellent comments!

I don't think the PASS Board of Directors and the NomCom are doing the math. Here's the formula to consider: Is the "protection" facilitated by the NomCom worth the disillusionment that disenfranchising someone of Steve's or Jack's or Tim's or Louis' caliber will cause?

I know I know, yall ask them the question "If we humiliate you publicly, will you still play for our team?" That's a stupid question for lots of reasons. And, frankly, a little presumptuous. But I get it - PASS is the only game in town.


August 19, 2010 10:48 AM

Jack Corbett said:


I get your comments.  In the relatively short time I've been part of PASS things have changed and for the better.  The only disagreement I'd have is that the changes have only come AFTER an outcry from the community about a decision.  The issue I have with that is this means that the BoD is not in tune with the community and the BoD is not supplying the vision, the community is.

Transparency. - the default is still to restrict access.  It is better, but has a ways to go.

SQLSaturday - this was not a PASS initiative.  It was donated to PASS as a pretty mature product.

SQLRally - I'm on the team for this one, but in reality it happened because the community wants the Summit to move around and the BoD doesn't and they decided to do this to try to pacify the community.  I think the event is a good idea in the way that it is being done, but it isn't really a substitute for moving the Summit location.

AS far as Steve needing more PASS volunteer experience, why let him get to the interview stage?  The application asked for PASS Volunteer experience.  If it was enough on the applicaton, but not in the interview?  Seems odd to me.

August 19, 2010 11:09 AM

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