In March of this year the PASS Board of Directors began kicking around the idea of holding some kind of event on the east coast after announcing that the Summit will be in Seattle for 2010 and 2011. The minutes from the June 2010 PASS Board of Directors meeting (free PASS login required to view) have been released and it's now official - there will be an event in the spring of 2011 here in Orlando! Bonus: It won't cost any more than $400 per person.
I like to think that I've played a hand in helping make this happen by working with Andy Warren (Blog | Twitter) and Jack Corbett (Blog | Twitter) on a proposal to host the event in Orlando. While PASS and the BOD will make the decisions about the specific details of the event, I want to share a few thoughts on what I think it should look like. (Disclaimer: I don't represent PASS in any capacity here - these are MY opinions only!)
What It Is
I see this as a grassroots event for the SQL community, by the SQL community. Very similar to a SQL Saturday, except that instead of one free day we're talking 2-3 days at a nominal cost. The idea is to put on something bigger than a SQL Saturday but smaller than the Summit. You don't get an expo hall, swag bags, and gigantic vendor sponsored "thank you" reception at night (a la GameWorks at the 2009 Summit). But you will get a 2-3 days of great technical sessions and opportunities to network with peers, authors, and speakers. This serves two purposes:
SQL Saturday welcomes just about anyone who is willing to speak, but if I'm asking people to pay then I expect some kind of abstract submission\selection process. For attendees, this ensures that they're getting quality speakers for their money. For speakers, this bridges a gap between running with the big dogs at the Summit and speaking at free local events like user groups, SQL Saturdays, and code camps. This gives speakers a chance to try out something bigger on a regional level, get a feel for the abstract selection process, and speak in front of an audience that expects more quality material because they paid to be there. It's a win-win if you ask me.
Why Orlando? Besides that Andy, Jack, and I all live here Orlando has an international airport serviced by many carriers, plenty of hotel rooms, and tons of entertainment options. The weather in the spring is fantastic, too. Hurricane season doesn't arrive for a few months, the daily rain showers haven't started just yet, and while the rest of the country is still thawing out from winter it's been in the 80's for at least a month.
Does this mean the event's in Orlando every year? My answer is no. We used Orlando in our proposal because we're familiar with the location. If I had my way it would rotate between cities every year. One of my ideas was to let cities bid for hosting rights every year, almost like the Olympics. This keeps the event from landing in the same place year after year which is one of the complaints I've heard about the Summit in Seattle. Charlotte, Atlanta, Boston, Dallas - all have had some really well attended SQL Saturdays and it would be interesting to see what they'd do with a chance to put on a big event (maybe even making the case as future host cities for the Summit?).
What's In A Name? That Which We Call A Conference…
I'm no marketing genius, but I do recognize the value in having a good name. I kicked around a few ideas while working on the proposal with Andy and Jack but didn't come up with anything magical. Do we put "spring" in the name? (Doesn't work if the event is in the summer). Will the it work well as a Twitter hashtag? How long should (or shouldn't) the name be? Do we have to include "PASS" or "SQL" as part of the name? Does it work for both east and west coast? How about international? There's at least 50 more questions after that which is why nothing clicked for me.
I'm interested to see what the marketing team at PASS HQ comes up with. I'm also curious what the SQL community thinks. If it were up to you, what would you call the event? Feel free to leave a comment and let me know. I bet someone has a good idea - don't prove me wrong!
When Will We Find Out More?
I don't know when we'll find out more, but I do know that PASS HQ is working on it. Working on the proposal helped me realize all of the things that go into putting on a big event. It's not easy, especially considering that PASS has the Summit coming in November. So for now I'm keeping the end of April 2011 clear on my calendar and letting the folks at PASS HQ do their thing. I'm sure they won't disappoint!