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Databases – Infrastructure – Security

Brian Kelley is an author, columnist, and Microsoft SQL Server MVP focusing primarily on SQL Server security. He is a contributing author for How to Cheat at Securing SQL Server 2005 (Syngress), Professional SQL Server 2008 Administration (Wrox), and Introduction to SQL Server (Texas Publishing). Brian currently serves as an infrastructure and security architect. He has also served as a senior Microsoft SQL Server DBA, database architect, developer, and incident response team lead.

PASS Summit Session Selection

Let’s make it democratic. Let’s ensure we get solid sessions from key people. And let’s save a ton of work in the process.

Spotlight Sessions:

There are certain folks that are extremely knowledgeable in their areas of expertise. They also happen to be excellent presenters. Have the spotlight sessions and invite them to present a talk. Limit the number of these, obviously. However, this ensures top speakers are presenting.

Let the Community vote:

Since folks had to update their community profiles in order to participate in the voting, let’s go down that road, except for session selection. It doesn’t matter if it’s a pre-con, a regular session, or a lightning talk. Put the abstracts up, complete with who is giving them, and give the community a chance to vote on a particular number. Perhaps for each track you get to vote for your top 10.

Does this skew things in favor of those who are more popularly known? Yes. But it also means the community is seeing who they want. So what about those who don’t have as solid a reputation? Let them build a reputation via the following:

  • local user groups
  • SQL Saturdays
  • virtual chapters

That’s what’s effectively being done by having a speaker rating score, anyway.

Set the deadline, tabulate the votes, and then take the top presentations per track and schedule them.

What if there’s a tie? Use a random number generator to make the selection.

But what if there are too many tracks?

Limit the number of submissions. Perhaps:

  • 1 pre-con
  • 2 regular session talks
  • 2 lightning session talks

Speakers try to game the system today because they don’t know what the selection committee for the Summit or for a particular SQL Saturday will want. So they submit more sessions than they actually want to give. Limit the # of submissions. What about panels? If the panel discussion is that important to you, then it takes one of your slots. No apologies, because you know that ahead of time. This causes a speaker to focus on what topics he or she really want to speak on and think will go over with the audience.

Will there be issues?

Of course there will. But this is more transparent than having selection committees behind the scenes. PASS, after all, is a community organization. It also eliminates any board influence (and there has been board influence in the past). So let’s keep this simple.

But that’s not how XYZ Conference does it!

No, it’s not. But XYZ Conference is probably not run by a community organization. If it is, perhaps they should follow the same model.


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