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PASS Summit to Stay in Seattle

PASS has released the survey results as well as its decision about where to hold future Summit events. The decision is to keep it in Seattle for the next two years. I've been upfront about wanting it on the East Coast, so needless to say, I'm disappointed. Seattle is a hard justify for some of us on the East Coast. Case in point: I don't think a single member of my PASS chapter has been able to attend the Summit for the last three years because it has been in Seattle and their organizations aren't going for it. In my case, I was going to go last year, but it was completely out of pocket. By keeping it in Seattle, I don't see this trend changing soon. That would quite possibly be a different story if we saw the conference in Charlotte or Atlanta or Orlando or Miami, just to name a few places. Even Dallas or Nashville would likely cause this trend to change.

But based on certain numbers (and not others) the decision is to stay put. My wife has a favorite saying, "Tortured numbers will tell you anything." This, of course, originated from her statistics coursework as an undergraduate psychology major and graduate school psychology major. And when I see how the numbers were characterized, that's what I feel like the case is with the decision to keep the Summit in Seattle. Case in point, one of the justifications that was made was the results for seeing Microsoft's presence at the Summit being somewhat or very important (Q. 6). Yeah, that's to be expected. Of course I want to reach out and touch the vendor, if you give me that option. And so that's cited as a reason to leave it in Seattle. What isn't pointed out, though, is that having everything within walking distance (85%) scored higher than the Microsoft presence (the highest of the 3 was 84%). Or that free wireless (79%) beat out two of the three Microsoft-related questions as well. So this would seem to indicate that the #1 concern isn't Microsoft (that's #2), but that having a great event with proper connectivity is most important. And one can have a great event in more places than Seattle.

Then I look at Q. 7 and Q. 8. There's a net gain of 183 if we put the conference on the East coast. The gain is 229 if we held it in the central region of the US. So that means we would pick up folks who don't normally go to the Summit. Then when I look at Q. 11, the folks who want it out of Seattle every other year far and away outnumber every other category. I saw the comment about cost, and that would strike me as a valid reason, but it makes me ask, "Why is Seattle so cheap?" What makes it an ideal location over other places? And if it's such an ideal location, why does Las Vegas and New Orleans and Atlanta and Boston and Orlando get conferences? Why aren't they all going to Seattle? What are they doing that PASS isn't doing? Why are they able to get reasonable rates when PASS isn't?


K. Brian Kelley - Databases, Infrastructure, and Security

IT Security, MySQL, Perl, SQL Server, and Windows technologies.


Posted by Jason Brimhall on 10 March 2010

Thanks.  It is nice to see some of the results posted in some form or another.  Not all of us were able to participate in the survey.  

Posted by Steve Jones on 10 March 2010

Good points, and the stats are just numbers. One of the big reasons in costs is that the HQ staff drives down from Vancouver. So they do a lot of prep at home and then hand carry things down. It can save money.

That being said, I think it ought to be on the East Coast sometime.

However is it that much more expensive? Orlando, Chi, Boston, they'd be a flight for many people so is there that much savings?

Posted by Glenn Berry on 10 March 2010

I don't think it is possible to please everyone with the location of the PASS Summit. I don't know that having the conference in Seattle really raises the travel costs for everyone that much.

Round trip airfare to Seattle from nearly anywhere in the U.S. is in the $150-300 range. By the time you pay for the conference registration, meals, and your hotel bill, the airfare is a pretty small percentage of the total expense. Unless the conference is in your hometown, you are either driving quite a way (and paying for gas and parking), or flying. Your airfare might be less if it is a shorter flight, but it might not be. It really depends on the airlines.

So, it seems like people are raising a ruckus over perhaps a $100-200 difference in travel expense depending on where the conference is located. Is that difference enough to really prevent people from going to the summit? Is that really enough to keep your company from sending you?

I live just southeast of Denver, so I would love for the conference to return to Denver. Denver is centrally located and is a major airline hub, so there are lots of non-stop flights to Denver.

I actually like Seattle quite a bit. Moving PASS away from Seattle would decrease the amount of Microsoft involvement, but people like Buck Woody, SQLCAT team members, etc. are going to come to PASS wherever it is located.

Posted by K. Brian Kelley on 10 March 2010

It's not so much monetary cost. It's more about the time it takes to travel to Seattle. I lose the whole day each way. Also, the 3 hour time difference in case there is an issue back at work. I know that when I was at TechEd in Boston and PASS in Orlando, things came up. I was on the same clock, so it wasn't that big a deal (other than I missed a couple of talks). But when I went to Black Hat in Las Vegas, which is a couple of hours difference, it's amazing how that does change things.

As to management, it's partially a mental thing, say Philly vs. Seattle, so Seattle should cost more, and even if you can show that it's not substantially more, it's still a paradigm shift to accept that. On the other hand, it's not with respect to availability of flights. Fewer hops, centering around hubs means if something did come up, it would be easier to get an employee back home. I know when I was looking at the travel arrangements from Columbia to Seattle, I only had a handful of choices that didn't force me to travel over two different days for one direction.

Posted by Anonymous on 24 March 2010

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