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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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A PASS Summit Blogger No More?

… unless there is a public apology.

The day began with disappointment as PASS bloggers were warned to remain silent or “there won’t be a bloggers table next year.” This was in response to last year’s tweets and posts from the bloggers table that PASS and their sponsors found disagreeable.

I disagreed with some of the opinions of my fellow bloggers last year and their communication style differs from mine. But I respect their right to express their opinions in their communication style. PASS seems fine with bloggers expressing their opinions so long as neither the opinions and/or mode of expression are unacceptable to PASS and its sponsors. PASS wants the influence of bloggers, so long as it’s positive influence.

Transparent? Not at all. Attempted censorship? A sophomoric attempt, but yes.

I refuse to participate in blogging about the PASS Summit until PASS apologizes for this offensive behavior: namely, threatening – regardless of how weak the threat – members of the blogosphere. My limited influence is a package deal. PASS and its sponsors receive my praise when they do things I think are cool, and I reserve the right to point out deficiencies when and where I see them. My readers (both of them – Hi Mom!) expect honest opinions. And they will continue to get them. My fellow bloggers will continue to express their views in their style to their readership. I may disagree with them, but I will stand for their right to express themselves.

PASS is dead wrong here, and they owe the SQL Server Community an apology for attempting to control the media.

Andy
7 Nov 2012
Seattle

Published Wednesday, November 07, 2012 7:24 PM by andyleonard
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Jen McCown said:

Wow, Andy! No sooner do I start typing my own disgruntled thoughts, that you beat me to it! Well said, and well done!

I'm with you all the way. Bloggers are press, not children.

November 7, 2012 6:38 PM
 

AllenMWhite said:

Andy, I think you misinterpreted the message. The warning was due to the hoots and hollers of "ZOOMIT" last year during the presentation, taking focus away from the presentation and towards those at the bloggers table who were doing the shouting. I heard the same thing you did and never once felt they were attempting to edit our message, just our volume from the back.

November 7, 2012 6:39 PM
 

Karen Lopez said:

I got a completely different warning - too not be loud in my chatting and to not be personally insulting to the speakers.  I wasn't asked to remain silent or to stop being critical. In fact. I asked about two specific annoyances - one unreadable demos and was told it was fine to be critical if the critique was technical not personal. That seems fair to me.

November 7, 2012 6:48 PM
 

Peter Schott said:

Kind of sad - shutting down the bloggers' table won't result in more respect from that group of people. They've got a pretty big influence in the first place and will just blog/tweet from their seat instead. If you don't want them to poke fun at the presentations on-stage, don't give them fodder to do so. If I remember correctly, there were some pretty silly examples used in the presentations last year and that didn't help any.

It seems that they should just learn from the people posting and change their presentations accordingly. There's (sadly) a pretty good reason why the tweets and blogs post negative comments or poke fun at some parts of the keynotes. On the other hand, I doubt that Dr. DeWitt received much, if any, negative commentary. That should speak volumes about what makes a good keynote or a bad keynote.

I hope you enjoy the rest of the conference. Seems like there's been a lot of greatness happening outside of this particular incident. :)

November 7, 2012 7:37 PM
 

Brent Ozar said:

Ooo - this isn't exactly what I heard.  While I was at the blogger's table this morning, I was told to keep audibly quiet to respect the other attendees.  Tom LaRock specifically told me that I could blog/tweet/Facebook whatever I wanted, and that they weren't trying to censor us at all, but that we shouldn't be making a lot of noise in the back row.

I might have gotten different instructions than other folks, but I just wanna make it clear that I wasn't censored at all - other than the courtesy of being quiet.

I totally understand the request for quiet - the blogger's table was pretty loud last year with a lot of snickering (who could forget the Contoso Frozen Yogurt van enticing kids down by the river?).

November 7, 2012 9:22 PM
 

andyleonard said:

Karen, Brent, and Allen, did you hear the threat? If not, then you are correct in saying we heard different things.

Andy

November 7, 2012 10:21 PM
 

Kevin Kline said:

Hi Andy, I hate to say it since I love me some Andy Leonard, but you're off the mark here. I was literally sitting right next to you and did not hear anything like what youve described.  I was flabbergasted by your interpretation.  Tom specifically stated that the request was for verbal commentary, not censorship of our writing in any way. Tom also said that if bloggers didn't show proper decorum in their verbal comments, then the bloggers table would go. But that was because a large number of attendees complained about a group of gasbags at the blogger table who A) constantly shouted at the presenters, and B) couldnt be bothered to whisper during their extensive, ad hoc conversations during last year's keynote.  I clearly recalled being so annoyed with these very loud folks that I considered asking them on my own to pipe down and show some common courtesy.

And seriously ... "unless there is a public apology"? Really?!?  Wouldn't you want someone who thought you said something inflammatory to at least give you a moment to clarify before you took it to a public forum for thrashing? Did you ask anyone at PASS what they meant. Heck, you could've leaned over to me and said "Did he just say what I think he said?!?" Instead, you went straight into the public venue. I'm really at a loss as to how that is a constructive approach.

Karen, Brent, and Allen got it right.

November 8, 2012 2:41 AM
 

andyleonard said:

Hi Kevin,

  I respectfully-and I have immense respect for you-disagree. The attempt at a threat is an attempt at control, and I note you and those you list have not addressed that. Had there been no threat, I doubt I would have written about the matter. But, as you know,  I do not tolerate abuses of authority.

Andy

November 8, 2012 6:38 AM
 

Chris F said:

I'm not there so I can't speak to the content but it seems to me that if the threat was get the blogger's table to not disturb those sitting around them then it's legit.  That's disrespectful to both the speaker and to other attendees and if it had been a group outside the blogger's table they would probably be spoken to as well if there was a chance it was going to happen again.  If it was to not criticize the speaker or PASS outside the session (either afterwards or "digitally outside" on Twitter etc) then that's censorship and isn't appropriate.

If the blogger's table had tried to climb on the stage last year and the threat had been if they did that again this year that there wouldn't be a blogger's table next year would you think that's appropriate?  I realize there's a large degree of difference there but it may be wise to take to seek clarification from PASS before demanding an apology as to what behavior is expected if the blogger table is to continue.

November 8, 2012 10:38 AM
 

AaronBertrand said:

Andy, I have to agree with a few of the others that you heard and interpreted things in a radically different way than most of us. I did not hear: "Only blog nice things, or we'll take away your table." I heard: "Last year there was some real goofiness going on back here. Please don't be disruptive or, due to complaints from surrounding audience members, PASS won't be able to provide these benefits." That was not Tom's message verbatim, and I will admit that perhaps his tone was not perfect, but that is a pretty difficult message he has to deliver to his friends. In the end I thought it was a pretty reasonable request of us to not be idiots and to show respect to the room. And unfortunately as a group we do need that reminder - unless you've forgotten about all the shenanigans last year. This was not a response to tweets and posts so much, but about the heckling, yelling at the stage, and non-stop disruptive chatter back here. Nobody is trying to stop you from blogging or control what you're blogging about, they are just telling us the reality that this privilege - like many privileges - may get taken away if it continues to be abused. I think you are taking this way too personally as an attempt at censorship when that is not what it was at all.

November 8, 2012 11:05 AM
 

andyleonard said:

Hi Aaron,

  Misinterpretation is certainly an explanation for what occurred and for my response. I entered this post through the same door I excited: the (weak) threat. I stand by my interpretation.

Andy

November 8, 2012 2:59 PM
 

AaronBertrand said:

Regardless of your interpretation, I found your post to be an unnecessary over-reaction and almost seems like sensationalism for the sake of it. <shrug> Your post revolves around your allegation that there was censorship going on. I was sitting right there when the message was delivered to you, Kevin Kline and myself - and I still don't know what censorship you're talking about.

November 8, 2012 3:16 PM
 

andyleonard said:

I believe individuals and enterprises do not set out to do bad things. I believe the opposite is true; that individuals and enterprises want to do good things. There are exceptions, but most bad things start small and then scale.

Community can be messy. Allowing people to share their thoughts - regardless of whether their thoughts are supporting or critical, or whether an individual or enterprise approves or not - is fundamental to Community. It's a right in many forms of governance for that very reason. One way to measure the strength of an individual's or enterprise's belief in freedom of expression is by how they respond when someone expresses something to which one disagrees or expresses themselves in a manner with which one disagrees.

People are atomic. We are all package deals. Each of us brings things to Community. Members of Community find some of those things agreeable and other things disagreeable. No one expects everyone to agree on everything. In fact, disagreement in opinion - diversity - often encourages an environment of individual and organizational growth. Because of that, disagreement is a good thing.

People communicate stuff others don't want to hear in editorials and in person, from podiums and pulpits, from bloggers tables and in post comments. Should the unpopular voices be silenced? Should they be threatened? I think not.

Sometimes the messiness of Community hurts.

I moderate comments on this blog. I possess authority to decide which comments are posted and which are not. You don't have to look far (just up) to see that I do not use this authority to stop messages with which I disagree.

Anyone reading this comment is free to disagree with my reasoning - in writing, even - without fear of reprisal (from me, at least). I believe in the benefits of diversity of opinion enough to facilitate your expression, regardless of my opinion of said expression. I will post your comment. Why? Because I believe the sharing of ideas and knowledge and passion and thoughts and insults and jibes is also atomic and a package deal; I believe you cannot enjoy support without enduring criticism.

I believe freedom of expression is important. I disagree with the position taken by PASS. I choose to support my disagreement by not participating at the PASS bloggers table unless and until a civil and earnest apology - no more or less than what civil individuals and organizations do when they err - is issued. I believe unfettered expression - even expression with which I personally disagree - is so important that I will not tolerate the slightest impediment.

You are free (here, at least) to disagree without fear of reprisal or threats.

Andy

November 9, 2012 8:43 AM
 

Aaron Bertrand said:

Andy, you're going on and on about censorship and implying that PASS was trying to tell you what you could or couldn't blog about. This is NOT what Tom asked. He asked us to be respectful, in person, at the bloggers table. Perhaps demonstrate a little decorum that was missing last year. You'll notice from the twitter stream and even a few blog posts that many of us still felt quite free to talk about both positive and negative aspects of the summit and particularly the keynotes. I strongly suggest you focus on the *actual* message PASS delivered through Tom, which was about in-person behavior and disruption of the event. Surely you can appreciate that the message about expressing our opinions in a tasteful way while sitting at the blogger table needs to be delivered to everyone rather than the select few who jeopardized these benefits last year.

November 9, 2012 10:30 AM
 

andyleonard said:

Hi Aaron,

  I think you have hit on the key difference in our views. My support for freedom of expression extends to and includes those who verbally requested presenters use ZoomIt. I chose to express myself differently, as did you. But I still support their freedom, even if I disagree eith their choice. In addition, the threat, however weak, was inappropriate.

Andy

November 9, 2012 11:55 AM
 

Aaron Bertrand said:

Ok, so let's say I think it's okay to encourage people to shout out ZoomIt 15 times and disrupt everyone (which I don't).

What about all the noisy chatter? Is that ok too? We should condone people carrying on noisy conversations at the blogger table, preventing both fellow bloggers and nearby attendees from hearing the speaker? Is this behavior ok at PASS Summit but not at a SQL Saturday? Given that PASS received direct complaints from both bloggers and attendees, do you think this concern is unfounded? Do you think a bloggers table should continue to be offered if a handful of people use bad judgment to spoil it for others and cause problems year after year?

I still think your interpretation I way off base, but I'm going to have to give up trying make you see why. Everyone at that table got the same message and it should be some kind of clue that you're the only one who has interpreted these things that simply weren't there. PASS is offering some great benefits with the blogger table and demanding an apology for reminding you of the conditions of those benefits is a little ludicrous to me.

November 9, 2012 12:22 PM
 

andyleonard said:

Hi Aaron,

  I believe you are welcome to your interpretation of what was said and how it was said. I respect your opinion and support your freedom to express yourself in whatever words, manner, medium, or tone you see fit.

  I am not requesting you change how you express yourself and I am not delivering a threat.

  I will continue to publish your expressions and allow them to stand on their own veracity. Further, if anyone attempts to interfere with your freedom of expression - even if you choose to use said freedom to argue against me or my position or my interpretation - I will argue and work to preserve what I believe is a fundamental attribute of all healthy communities: free speech.

Andy

November 9, 2012 1:38 PM
 

Aaron Bertrand said:

You're still focusing on censorship. The message wasn't about censorship, it was about behavior and respect. <done talking to a wall>

November 9, 2012 1:58 PM
 

andyleonard said:

Hi Aaron,

  I remain focused on the threat. One advantage of being trapped in my mind is I get to know firsthand what I'm thinking.

;{>

November 9, 2012 2:08 PM
 

AaronBertrand said:

I didn't perceive it as a threat. This is a benefit that has been handed to us, some of us (myself included) not only received the benefits of the table itself, plus power and WiFi, but also a complimentary full registration. I don't think it's unreasonable to expect that we should follow the rules and conditions about professional behavior that were laid out in e-mail and reiterated by Tom (with the additional context of potential consequences of *not* following the guidelines). The bloggers table isn't a right and I took Tom's words as a warning to friends not a reprimand or a threat.

I suppose it comes down to a matter of perception, and I know I'm not going to convince you otherwise, but I still think your response is overwhelmingly negative and non-constructive. I do wish you luck in releasing the expectation that anybody is going to apologize (aside from Tom, who I believe has already apologized for how his comments may have been misconstrued - but not for the message from PASS that professional behavior is expected in order to continue enjoying this benefit).

November 9, 2012 4:12 PM
 

andyleonard said:

Hi Aaron,

  I think we both believe what we believe and are unlikely to alter our beliefs. I agree to disagree.

  Safe travels home, sir.

Andy

November 9, 2012 5:09 PM
 

Aaron Bertrand said:

Fair enough, and safe travels to you as well. Just try and see the other side of things too - some things you perceive as threats are just reminders of potential consequences. An having been at the blogger table for three years, I think the reminder worked - there was definitely a lot of heckle fodder but decorum was maintained.

If you take these things as worst case scenario every time, we're going to stop getting the reminders and just get our toys taken away with no warning. I know which scenario I'd prefer, an I hope you get a chance to reflect on this and reconsider your interpretation and reaction.

In any case, I do look forward to seein you at more events and hope we don't have any more situations like this.

Cheers Andy.

November 9, 2012 6:36 PM
 

Terry said:

Andy - I wasn't there. I completely agree with you; I wouldn't take threats against freedom of expression pleasantly.

But, after reading the comments I disagree with this post. Regardless of how I feel about that, I've a question for you.

What would you do if someone in your class is yelling in the back about something he/she doesn't like. Would you consider that as freedom of expression?

November 10, 2012 4:05 PM
 

Brent Ozar said:

Andy - so if you were in Tom's shoes, what would you have done differently if you needed to achieve the outcome of a quiet blogger table area?  Say your paying customers (the attendees) have complained about the noise from bloggers.  How would you solve it?

November 10, 2012 7:06 PM
 

andyleonard said:

Terry: That's a fair question. I would ask the offending class member to stop yelling.

Brent: I think there are many options for addressing the issue, some better than others. I believe a simple request, without a threat, preserves trust and respect while treating individuals as adults.

November 10, 2012 8:56 PM
 

Brent Ozar said:

I would rather get the threat (and I'm just setting aside whether it's a threat at all - I'll roll with that word for now) but lemme explain why.

People ask me to do things all the time.  For example, during the keynotes, I got several subtle and not-so-subtle requests from community members to tone down the snark.  I also got a lot more requests to keep up the good work because I made the otherwise-boring keynotes more enjoyable.  You can guess which requests I'll comply with.

In Tom's case, I'm glad he said that if we couldn't keep quiet, the blogger's table would be gone.  If I believed that in order to be a successful blogger, I needed to make noise, then I would have packed up my gear right then and there, left the blogger's table, and sat down in another area of the keynote room where I could make noise.  (I don't believe this, but roll with me for a second.)  I would have wanted the blogger's table to keep going without me - I wouldn't have wanted to ruin the opportunity for others.

If Tom would have told me, "If you don't tweet and blog in a positive, cheerleading way about Microsoft products and PASS announcements, we're going to close the blogger's table next year," then I would have immediately packed up my gear, moved to another area of the audience, and resumed my usual blogging style.  I would have wanted to preserve the blogger's table for people who do enjoy the experience.  However, I don't need power outlets to do what I do.

Having a clear expectation of what PASS needs from us in exchange for keeping the blogger's table open for business helps all of us keep our ends of the bargain - but it also helps us understand when it's time to pack up and leave.  I totally understand why you'd see it as a threat, but I just wanted to go the extra mile to explain why I didn't see it that way - and why I was actually thankful to hear it.  If there's ever a time when my own actions might shut down the blogger's table opportunities for other people who might enjoy it, I want to be the first to step out of the way and let other people continue to have fun with it.

November 11, 2012 9:42 AM
 

Glenn Berry said:

Andy,

I honestly think you overreacted to what you perceived as a threat from Tom. I was also there, so I heard what was said and how it was said. I did not pick up any hint of censorship in that message.

There was a lot of rudeness towards the presenters and the rest of the attendees from the bloggers table last year, so I think a gentle reminder to simply be polite was needed. I had no problem with it whatsoever.

I am sorry that you felt otherwise. Falling on your sword to defend the rights of a few loudmouths to yell ZoomIt seems like a mistake to me...

November 12, 2012 2:49 PM
 

Kyle Hale said:

Great article right here on sqlblog.com:

Rules of Holes -#1: Stop Digging

November 13, 2012 3:01 PM

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