I spent most of yesterday in the PASS volunteer training. It's not really training, more of a gathering of volunteers to hear about what's been going on and to present awards to the best of the volunteers. Kevin Kline did a nice (if a little long) history of PASS, talking about some of the things that have slowed forward progress through the years (9/11, hurricanes, etc), and each Director gave up an update on their projects. It was interesting, but again a little slow - I'd like to see them stick to a little more of a pattern; here's what we planned to do, here's what got done (or not), and here's what's next, followed by awards and misc. They aren't far from that, it just seemed to take longer than it should. A written version of it would be superb.
We got to see the financials for the first time yesterday and they are supposed to be released to all members in the next two weeks, until then we were asked not to share the details. At a rough glance I didn't see anything wrong (or expect to), but the real work would be to drill into some of those numbers to see if appropriate bang for the buck was being achieved. We also received a promise that beginning in January they would publish the minutes of Board meetings. I could see some hesitancy/fear from them around (maybe more fair to call it nervousness) as they expect to have to fend off questions and more about their decisions. I hope that proves to be reasonably unfounded. Nature of people and business that mistakes to be made, most are made in good faith. That doesn't mean that the overall membership may not want to have some input into how and when the funds are allocated. A good start to translucency.
They also talked about their goals for this year, from Microsoft. MS had really stepped back from PASS, but apparently at some point this year become interested again. The goals MS wanted to see PASS achieve were 120 chapters (not reached yet), 3800 registrations for PASS (this is main conference plus pre-cons and they expect to reach 3400-3500), and 100,000 members (about 35k today). In return is some promise of support/cash from MS. I'm really really torn on this. It's a nice opportunity to integrate with MS, leverage their reach, but it also has them driving the train again. I think PASS can stand alone and was on it's way to doing that, I hope that this doesn't prove to be a wrong turn. They also announced the end of the print version of the SQL Server Standard. That hurt a little as Brian, Steve, and I started that years ago and finally gave it to PASS in 2006. Never did as well as we hoped (wrong time to start a magazine), but it was nice to have a physical item that linked to PASS membership. They attributed this to printing costs, but I suspect it was the combination of not being able to sustain content for the magazine (only takes money) and that it wouldn't scale well to 100k members (I disagree there too, but ah well).
In the afternoon we had a couple hour discussion about chapters. Everyone introduced themselves (nice, but long - maybe 50 in the room), and Greg Low went over some of the upcoming changes to chapter hosting, single sign on, a shared event calendar, and more. Some of that is long overdue and I hope all will go live soon, no vaporware. We also got into a discussion about PASS Community Events vs SQLSaturday, and that was a bit frustrating. PASS is promising all the things that SQLSaturday already has; web site, admin tools, etc, etc - but they don't have them yet. They are offering some minimal funding to chapters that choose the PASS brand, but PASS must be the "primary" sponsor. From my perspective that's problematic, they aren't offering a lot of money or assistance, and it's important to recognize 'big' sponsors appropriately. Another must was they had to receive the entire registration list. I can understand that from a business perspective, and their's nothing about SQLSaturday that precludes it. There's some more friction there than meets the eye, and we'll see if we can't find a way to resolve it or make it worse before the end of the week:-)
Met a few new people yesterday; Judy from C&C (the company that runs PASS day to day) and she seemed like she wants/can get things done; Ken Starnes from Portland and owner of a new SQLSaturday coming up in May, Stuart Ainsworth from Atlanta who is also looking into doing a SQLSaturday, and also Jeremiah (drawing a blank on last name) who reads my blog and complimented me on my writing - have to say I was thrilled on two counts, one to get good feedback and another because he was an English major (I'd like to see him do a presentation on good writing, it's a good professional skill to have). I'm not great at meeting new people, try to find a few each day. Also got to chat some with Brad McGehee of Red Gate, we've said hello over the years but never really had time to talk.
Caught up with Brian, Pam Shaw, and Jonathan K from Tampa about 5 pm and just and talked until the welcome reception started. Reception was nice, usual quiz bowl but they also had tables where people could sit this year. Caught up with old SSC pal Michael Coles, saw Jeremy from MSSQLTips, and a lot more. Good to see people you know!
After that it was off to the SQLServerCentral reception. Good crowd, probably 200, though I did tease Steve about going with the same old formula of gambling and prizes. It works and it's nice to outsource the logistics (compared to years ago when we did Xboxes and ended up buying ten 36" TV's to connect them to, then giving away those too).