If PASS Closed Its Doors…

One measure I have heard used to measure the effectiveness of a church goes along the lines of “If your church closed its doors tomorrow, would anyone notice?” I think that works for any civic organization, individual life where you want service to others to be a part of that and also membership organizations like SQL PASS.

Well Andy Warren asked recently what is broken about PASS and what should be fixed so here goes.

I’ve blogged at length about this a few months back in two posts…  One “PASS Is Not The SQL Community” and a more positive followup, “What Should PASS Be And Do?” Both were meant in a positive manner, because like Robert Matthew Cook, I really like the people that make up PASS. Like Grant Fritchey I enjoy the conference, the support of Women In Technology and run a PASS chapter and am helping Grant with a couple others run a SQL Saturday in New England that I blogged about last week.

How would my life be different if PASS closed its doors?

  • I wouldn’t have the Summit to go to.
  • I wouldn’t have the ability to network with folks through volunteer opportunities like helping with the MVP Birds of a Feather lunch, orientation committee, program committee, etc.
  • It would have taken me longer to meet a lot of the friends I now have in the SQL community.
  • I wouldn’t be able to say that I spoke at the event that draws the largest crowd of SQL Server community members in 2010 ;-)
  • I may not have found out about the Women In Technology organization
  • I wouldn’t get the 24 Hours of PASS, though I don’t stay up for all 24 hours, watch some when they share recordings later, and watch the same speakers at other webcasts/etc.
  • My wife and I could be called strange for many reasons. One of them is we decided to get rid of the TV in 2010. As a result, I can’t watch Soap Operas. Reading blogs, tweets, comments about PASS fills this void quite well.

Ok.. So the soap opera part was a joke. Other than Lost, I never actually watched any soap operas. ;-)

Unscientific… But…

Every user group meeting I run, I roll out the PASS show. I talk about the Summit. The rally. SQL Saturday’s, VC presentations, etc. Then when I ask for a show of hands from the 25-60 we see at the meeting, most don’t belong to PASS, most have never been to a Summit. Some go to webcasts, tune in to a part of the 24 HOP, etc. Basically if PASS shut its doors, my User Group attendees would be fine. Most of them don’t even know the names I mention to see who knows the “SQL Community” that I think of. Many wouldn’t even know who Brent Ozar is, let alone the fact he has a sheep costume. I hear this from others. There seem to be three types of people out there in SQL communities:

1. Content where they are – They’ll learn what they have to do their job. They may do a fine job where they are but don’t want to go out of their way for any growth/community learning whether free or not – They don’t know what PASS is.

2. User Group Attendees – They want to better themselves and be challenged. They want to see what is out there. They may tune into more community events, hit a regional event or a conference if the cards are right. They might know what PASS is.

3. Gung Ho Community Types – The people, like me, who have something wrong with them. They want to run the user group meetings so they don’t have to drive 2 hours to one. They want to speak at events and help out. They want to learn as much as possible. They want to learn through teaching, blogging, etc. They know what PASS is and they are probably volunteering in some way.

What Should PASS Do Better?

I am going to steal from Andy Leonard’s post here a bit. He won’t mind, he is a forgiving guy.

  1. Community - Focus on it. Build it. Drive it from those who are already centers in the community, not from a board or organization down.
  2. Nominations - Change their role (broken record time) – let them weed out any who miss blatant prerequisites. Have them help perform interviews for the community. But not to narrow the field. Let the voting process work. I don’t care if the ballot looks like a phone book, we are smart people and can figure it out.
  3. Regional Initiatives – I have a PASS regional mentor. I think I may even have two. I met one of them at the Chapter lunch where I sat with others from my PASS region (NE). That’s the only time I’ve met them. The SQL Saturday that I am helping with has been planned and run 99% by the 4 of us mentioned in that post. Other than a website, mailing program and a money vaulting/distributing process and a donation we could definitely do this event on our own. My chapter? Other than the fact that I had to sign some stuff, get a comp to the Summit and try so hard to advertise for PASS at each meeting, you wouldn’t know it was a PASS chapter. In retrospect, I could have definitely just started a chapter on my own without signing and have had no difference.
  4. Reach out to the first two groups of people above – Instead of trying to reach out more to group number 3. I have no clue how this is done. I am perplexed that less people interact with PASS or events.

So… work on regional initiatives. Reach out to the great unPASSed masses and give them some sort of value. More SQL Rally like events? More active SQL Saturday support? Regional road shows? Local 1 or 2 track events. Maybe partner with MS regional offices and offer PASS/MS partner events on SQL topics at Microsoft’s facilities? I don’t know. But be more visible locally, reach out to those who haven’t been touched by PASS and touch them. make an impact on them.

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15 Comments

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  1. K. Brian Kelley February 22, 2011 at 15:46 #

    You make good points. For my user group, I can count the number of people who have been to the PASS Summit on one hand:

    - Me
    - My Vice-President
    - Andy Kelly (we claim him since we’re the nearest user group to him)

    If PASS were to go away tomorrow, there would still be:

    - Pragmatic Works’ free webcast series
    - SQL Lunch
    - Idera’s monthly webcast
    - SQL Server Mag’s occasional webcast
    - SSWUG’s occasional webcast
    - Microsoft’s occasional webcast

    So training would still be there. It wouldn’t be in the 24 hours format, but it wouldn’t go away. So as of right now, there’s little incentive for my user group members to be part of PASS unless they are going to the Summit, and the only reason then is because it’s mandatory to be a member and be at the Summit, unless things have changed.

    • Mike Walsh February 22, 2011 at 16:00 #

      Thanks for the comment, Brian.

  2. Mike Walsh February 22, 2011 at 15:58 #

    Another thought hit me – I actually went to a Summit in ’06 before I blogged, tweeted, etc. Before I knew anyone in the community other than Andy Kelly just through working with him. It was a good year, he introduced me to some of his Solid Quality friends and that was good but it didn’t impact me. I was going to say I wouldn’t have the contacts I have now if not for the Summit but the majority of those contacts actually came through twitter & blogging and the SQL community as a whole. PASS definitely helps because of the volunteer opportunities and chances to meet people in person at one big event but most of my contacts, I’d still have.

    Not trying to be negative. I really like PASS. I really like the people who are members, the people in the board, the staff that work tirelessly behind the scenes, etc. Just being honest.

  3. Andy Leonard February 22, 2011 at 16:52 #

    Hi Mike,

    It’s not stealing if you attribute it (and you did).

    I think you last comment if critical. A lot of people read criticism of PASS as people hating, and nothing could be further from the truth. Like you, I love PASS and want to see the organization improve. Like many others, I invested in the organization as a leader to try and change things from within. I’ve cited this (sad) statistic in the past and I will cite it again: The number of my community ideas implemented by PASS during my two years as a Regional Mentor was (…drum roll…): zero (0).

    I want PASS to do better. I believe they can do better. I hope they do.

    Andy

  4. Jorge Segarra February 22, 2011 at 19:22 #

    Hey Mike,

    Nice post but I just want to weigh in on one of your points: Regional Initiatives. I’m one of two Regional Mentors for Southeast (Adam Jorgensen being the other). The RM program is currently trying to dust off and get back off the ground after trying to come up the first time and falling flat on its behind (no offense to those involved). For what it’s worth, we’re trying to regroup and figure out HOW to bring value to chapters. As you know, it’s a process. Unfortunately results don’t come overnight and there are a million moving parts in a volunteer organization. Hell, even the RM program itself just changed board members in charge of it so there’s yet another bump in the road.

    It’s tough since so many of successes that have PASS branding have actually been grassroots efforts that in time were handed over to PASS. To steal a line from Seinfeld, “not that there’s anything wrong with that”. PASS, as a parent organization has a tough time because the actual resources at HQ are a bit scarce (proportionally to size of community) and even they’ve had quite a bit of turnover. I think we’re on our 3rd community coordinator in the last year.

    Cool thing about this community is we’re able to have open discussion like this and hopefully some of our magical good intentions and ideas will bubble up through the bureaucracy and in time be made a reality. Like a good soup, it just takes time to develop and the right ingredients. Right now this community is made up of the right ingredients…

  5. Dave Schutz February 22, 2011 at 20:02 #

    I did not know what PASS was when I started going to the user group meetings, I went because I was curious and Jeremiah Peschka got me involved. Even when I became part of our group board i still didn’t know what PASS was. Now I’m the chapter leader and I’m still learning what PASS does.
    I talk about PASS at meetings but most people don’t see a good reason to join. It’s hard to define what PASS has to offer compared to other free resources, other than Summit.
    PASS needs to do a much better job defining what it provides for the members and helping the chapters. My RM (Karla Landrum) is very nice and helpful. I have not met my other RM (Matt Ringling) but hope to soon.
    Mostly I like networkin at the UG meetings and Summit, we have a great community!

  6. Andy Warren February 22, 2011 at 21:29 #

    Mike, thanks for posting, good stuff. I share your concern about the RM’s. I know Jorge and others are trying to reboot it, but I’ll be honest and say I have low expectations, and that isn’t directed at Jorge or any of the others in particular. On #1, I know what you mean but how woudl you implement it?

    • Mike Walsh February 23, 2011 at 14:41 #

      That is a great question and it got me thinking about what a mission statement for PASS should be (again). I just posted a follow up post – http://www.straightpathsql.com/archives/2011/02/pass-plan-potentials/

      As to how do we interact with the community more? I honestly don’t know. I have a lot of ideas and I am sure others do but I think if we do things along the lines of what I mention in the post I just wrote that the community may just grow more strong around it as a side effect perhaps?

      How else? I am not sure yet. I am not even sure if that can be created or if it just happens?

  7. Bill Graziano February 23, 2011 at 08:46 #

    Thanks for your comments. Especially like the breakdown of the community. What percentage of your user group would you put in each bucket?

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Jorge Segarra - February 23, 2011

    Great post Mike! RT @mike_walsh: If @sqlpass Closed Its Doors… http://bit.ly/dMWWjR #sqlpass

  2. Charles Proctor - February 23, 2011

    RT @SQLChicken: Great post Mike! RT @mike_walsh: If @sqlpass Closed Its Doors… http://bit.ly/dMWWjR #sqlpass <- Good pts.

  3. Rob Paller - February 23, 2011

    RT @SQLChicken: Great post Mike! RT @mike_walsh: If @sqlpass Closed Its Doors… http://bit.ly/dMWWjR #sqlpass

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