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Andy Leonard

Andy Leonard is CSO of Linchpin People and SQLPeople, an SSIS Trainer, Consultant, and developer; a Business Intelligence Markup Language (Biml) developer; SQL Server database and data warehouse developer, community mentor, engineer, and farmer. He is a co-author of SQL Server 2012 Integration Services Design Patterns. His background includes web application architecture and development, VB, and ASP. Andy loves the SQL Server Community!
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PASS Summit Location Redux

Introduction

To quote Ronald Reagan, "There you go again." The Professional Association for SQL Server (PASS) is considering locations for future PASS Summits. The apparent answer is:

You Can Have The Summit Anywhere You Want...

... as long as it's in Seattle.

PASS conducted a survey on this about a year ago, and I commented on the results and PASS' (mis-)interpretation of said results in a post entitled On PASS Summit Locations, Time Will Tell.

"It's About Community"

I think every member of the PASS Board needs a sticky note on a mirror they look into each morning that reads "It's about community." It seems more and more decisions are about the business of producing a Summit, and there's nothing wrong with running a business that produces a yearly Summit. But this pesky community stuff keeps coming up.

Why is that?

I think members of the PASS Board do not trust the community. It shows in elections and session selections and the interpretation of surveys. For a while there, PASS leadership made statements like "We are the Community." I don't doubt the sincerity of the person who made that statement - he believed it to be true at the time. But the veracity of that statement has suffered from poor decisions. It's more accurate to say "PASS is a Community."

And the PASS community does some awesome stuff. The Summit is the biggee, Virtual Chapters are cool, 24 Hours of PASS is awesome. It's the other stuff that suffers - stuff that, coincidentally, involves the SQL Server Community en masse.

"Pull Up"

Every time I criticize PASS - recently at least - someone on the PASS Board takes it personally. That doesn't concern me. What concerns me - saddens me actually - is watching the organization that helped me and others advance our profession and careers unwind in such a fashion. Rather than worry about the ramblings of an old redneck with a blog, I wish PASS would spend its time fixing the widening cracks in the organizations' foundation.

I do not want to see PASS relegated to "has-been" status. It was a great organization. Everyone loves a comeback.

Pull up PASS. Please.

Conclusion

PASS can fix this today. They can announce the PASS Summit 2014 or 2015 will not be in Seattle. They can make that happen. They have a year or two to find another location and put money down. And those locations exist. I implore the PASS Board to do just that.

Andy

Published Thursday, February 03, 2011 1:59 PM by andyleonard

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Comments

 

Todd M Heflin said:

Bravo!

February 3, 2011 1:47 PM
 

Glenn Berry said:

I would like to see a "proper", non-leading question survey done. What do the majority of potential Summit attendees really want?

How many people actually can't or don't go because the Summit is in Seattle?

What would be a better location for the majority of people?

Is it really a large number of people in the "community" concerned about this or is it mainly the bloggers and tweeters?  I don't know the answer to that, but it would be nice to find out.

February 3, 2011 1:52 PM
 

joe said:

before issuing a survey on where PASS Summit should be held, it should be asked:

how many people think PASS is special because of the heavy SQL Server team presence, including the developers?

what if PASS where held else where, and far fewer of the SQL Server team could attend?

I believe Oracle World is in frisco every year, near their headquarters.

So if we are stuck with Seattle, then just go to the tanning salon the week before PASS, and learn to like fish

February 3, 2011 2:16 PM
 

Tim Mitchell said:

+1

February 3, 2011 2:27 PM
 

AaronBertrand said:

I'll state up front that I live on the east coast and I prefer Seattle for personal and selfish reasons.  As an MVP I get to have a lot more conversations with Microsoft employees who simply wouldn't all be at events in other cities.  Since I know PASS will never be in Boston or NYC, and because I fly out of a rinky-dink airport, I will never have a direct flight to PASS no matter where it is, so I know I will have significant travel - at least one stop - in both directions.  I do know that no matter where you move it, there will be people that will have to travel less, and there will be people that will have to travel more.  You can't make one area happier without crapping on others.

That said, my question is this: of all the people who say they won't attend PASS because it is in Seattle, how many of them will actually have the budget and time to attend a summit that is closer, when the time comes?  What a survey captures and what happen in reality are different things.  Even a fair and properly interpreted survey.

Two years ago I had to fight and fight just to get the time off to attend a *FREE* Microsoft training day in Boston, a 5 minute cab ride from my office.  So just because 95% of someone's user group says that they aren't going to PASS because it's in Seattle, that does not mean that they *will* all be able to get the budget and time approved to go - you don't know what their company is like now, if that will change by the time a deposit is due, or if they'll even be at the same job then.

And that is the last public comment I will make about PASS summit location.

February 3, 2011 7:02 PM
 

andyleonard said:

Hi Aaron,

  Your points are as valid as any I've heard from those who don't want to move the PASS Summit from Seattle (note: this includes the PASS Board). What bugs me about the excuses I hear against moving the Summit is they involve three-step logic as the response to a simple request: The customers are *asking* PASS to rotate to other cities every second or third year. That ratio - 3:1 - is a clue in and of itself.

  This isn't hard. The customers are requesting a change. They're not going to be talked out of their opinions, likes, dislikes, and inconveniences. Customers are pesky that way; they want what they want. PASS is a business. I'm confident they'll figure this out.

:{>

February 3, 2011 10:22 PM
 

Matt Masson said:

I always thought the main differentiator between PASS and other SQL conferences was the unparalleled access people get to the members SQL Server team. It would lose that if it was anywhere other than Seattle.

At the 2010 PASS summit, 15 people from the SSIS team attended the conference.

At TechEd North America 2010 (in New Orleans), we had 2 people from the SSIS team (and only because both were presenting).

I don’t think PASS would be the same if it took place somewhere else.

February 3, 2011 10:49 PM
 

Meher said:

Hi Andy,

Quick question. I was wondering where would the summit be in 2012 and 2013. Is it still going to be in Seattle?

Thanks

Meher

February 3, 2011 10:59 PM
 

andyleonard said:

Hi Matt,

  Valid point. The choices for some are: A) Nothing; or B) A Summit with reduced Microsoft presence. I think every third year PASS could rotate out of town so those that would otherwise get nothing are allowed to attend a Summit with a reduced Microsoft presence.

Hi Meher,

  I think 2012 is locked into Seattle and 2013 remains open for debate. There is some transparency on the issue provided by PASS Board members who regularly blog about PASS issues deemed non-NDA - most notably Andy Warren at http://sqlAndy.com. I'm not on the PASS Board so I am not sure.

:{>

February 3, 2011 11:07 PM
 

Ralph Wilson said:

I have now attended one PASS Summit (in Seattle, of course); however, before you start thinking I've skipped the others for no reason, I will also mention that it was the first PASS Summit since I was officially a DBA.

@Joe,

If the Summit were held in San Francisco every year, I would probably not mind as that as much.  SF is not quite as, well, un-tourist-frinly as my experience in Seattle leads me to believe Seattle is.  However, I would still have to wonder why the "Powers That Be" feel that everyone has to come to the Microsoft "Mecca" instead of Microsoft sending some of its experts out to meet the users.

@others,

I have attended conferences for other products and they have seldom ever been in the same city 2 years in a row.  Their approach to the situation was to admit that, yes, they would have to spend some money to send people to the conference (but, hey, aren't the customers/users spending a bit of money on the _product_ as well as to go to the conference?) and, by moving the conference around, travel for one region's users might be more _this_ year but travel for another, whose expenses last year were greater, might be less . . . so it's all good and it's more equitable than always causing the same people more expenses.

As for the argument that there would be less of a Microsoft presence . . . well, that, too, is a curable issue IF Microsoft actually has concerns about whether the users of their products have a good Summit.  There are many Microsoft offices around the country and there should be nothing that would prvent a company the size of Microsoft (they do turn a few coins each year, you know ;-) sending several people from Seattle to the Summit.  In fact, I would imagine that the various local offices would LOVE to have the "home office experts" drop in.

One last point, there are also several cities in the US that are significantly better equiped to handle conferences with large crowds.  For example, San Antonio, TX, is very well equiped for that.  There is a large conference center and _several_ hotels right by the conference center.  Restaurants stay open until late at night and, by the way, you don't get stuck with just Tx-Mex as your only option . . . if you really have a craving for fish, you can get fish but if really _don't_ have a craving for fish, you can get some great (and reasonably priced steaks.  There are tourist activities (in case your spousal unit or significant other is not a geek).  Oh, yeah, and the weather is unbelievably better at that time of year . . . as in SUNSHINE and WARM.

February 4, 2011 7:46 AM
 

Andy Warren said:

Andy, thanks for the thoughts concerning PASS, and we do try to listen, even to people in Farmville!

Even from these comments you can see the problem in trying to arrive at an answer. If MS presence is a deal breaker, nothing else matters. Travel is an issue for some, not others.

Something I've said about MS and I'll say again, it will be more than 2 people. They spend x $ each year on the Summit, and spending on travel will reduce the number, my guess is that we'd get around a 100 total. If you were MS, what 100 would you send? I'd send Bob Ward and Buck Woody and Conor Cunningham and a few more "names", and someone from every SQL team and specialty. Is it is as good at 500? Of course not, but it's not 20% as good - maybe it's 80% as good, because if you want to talk Service Broker or Full Text Search or your other favorite technology, they would have at least one person, and probably more, and it would be summit passionate and knowledgeable.

As I continue to push to move the Summit in 2013 my goal is to give members in other areas a chance to attend. No, I can't guarantee they will attend. If we do move I suspect some will choose to attend because it's close enough, and others will skip it because it's too far to go, which leaves us at about net attendance as a guess, and then some percentage of expected annual growth. For most people, right now, PASS is the Summit. I'd like to expose more people to that experience.

Maybe we should, or should have, done another survey. Surveys are hard, and as you can see from the last one it can easily be perceived as a vote. I've been trying to ask the question "what's good for our members" and it's hard to get that conversation going, because everyone frames it as "what's good for me". Human, natural, not entirely helpful sometimes!

It's not that the Board doesn't listen on this issue, it's that we each have the same different and distinct views that each of you do. Is Aaron wrong? Glenn? No. Me? Maybe!

I see three choices for us to take, and even picking one of them is hard:

- Make the call, Seattle is home, forever more. I think we lose purchasing power and power with MS, but we gain a comfort zone, easy logistics

- Move every x year, with a sub choice of a standard 2-3 cities, or rotating cities other than Seattle. We did this up until 2007 and no one complained, and we changed it without asking the members.

- Present our members with 3 choices this year and let the members decide (it's what we plan to do with the location for SQLRally 2012)

I like the 3rd option, but is it abdicating leadership or empowering the member? That's more than rhetorical, take a minute to think about it.

In the end I'd encourage you to consider that PASS isn't some blob, it's a bunch of individuals, and we want to do well for the members and the SQL community, but we don't always agree. Just because someone doesn't agree with me (or you) doesn't mean they are wrong, they just see it differently. If you care, take the time to do what Andy ha done and write about it, publicly or privately. Explain what and why you think would be good for PASS, not you. And then remember that if we don't follow your 'advice' it's not that we failed to listen, it's that the scale ws tipped the other way, perhaps by someone just like you with a slightly better argument, or one that just resonated with a particular board member.

February 4, 2011 8:10 AM
 

andyleonard said:

Hi Andy,

  As always, a well-reasoned and logical response. I like the options for which you're pushing. I also admire your attitude - both in sharing everything you can about your PASS Board experiences and in accepting the current pace of change on the PASS Board.

  I find your last paragraph intriging and believe it is in response to the heart of my post. I have two evidence-based, quantifiable questions: To your knowledge, how many times has the PASS Board reversed itself due to community feedback on important issues (elections, session selections, Summit location)? The correlated question is equally (if not more) important: How many times has the PASS Board refused the community? Note: I'm not talking about adding Dr. Dewitt's keynote to the PASS Summit 2009 DVDs here...

  I ask because one doesn't expect the PASS Board to "get it right" the first time every time. I believe the answer to one of the questions above is "0". That doesn't bode well for any business (and I maintain PASS is a business) - but that track record speaks volumes about any entity purporting to be a community.

  You personally have my support Andy. From my observations, there are a handful of PASS Board members who trust the community; but they are clearly in the minority. It's obvious you trust the community. I sincerely believe if the PASS Board can be migrated into a post-1999 community mentality, you and the minority can do it. If you fail, it's because the PASS Board *cannot* be migrated into a post-1999 community mentality.

  Keep fighting the good fight.

:{>

February 4, 2011 8:42 AM
 

Jack Corbett said:

I've left this comment on a couple of blogs.  What are the demographics of current Summit Attendees?  Are the majority of attendees from the Pacific and Mountain time zones?  Thus likely shortening the distance to travel to the Summit.  Are the attendees from outside that area paying attendees?  I only know of 3 Orlando area people who attended the 2009 Summit and we have had 4 SQLSaturday's with an average attendance of 250 in Orlando.  All 3 were comped.  One as a speaker, one as board member, one as a chapter leader.  Hmmm, would all 3 have gone without the comp?  I don't know, but I can say that it seems odd that an area like Orlando, with an active SQL Server community would only have 3 attendees.

Look at the numbers and see who you are missing.  Move the Summit there occasionally to grow the Summit and PASS.

February 15, 2011 11:28 AM

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