There has been some discussion recently around the location of the PASS Summit. The debate was centered on the results from a recent survey hosted by PASS. Today’s Community Connector has an editorial by the PASS President, Rushabh Mehta, explaining why those of us on the East Coast will be flying to the other side of the continent for the next two years, and supplying the results of the survey
I get why they’re doing this. Microsoft really will commit more resources to an event that is in their back yard. I get it. I also understand, that those of us who consider the PASS Summit a big part of our “community” are actually in the minority. Most people attending the Summit aren’t involved in the community, aren’t interested in networking, and go to the conference to learn something and then go back to their hotel room. They want to see Microsoft developers, not community members. I understand. I also know that the excellent support team provided through the management company is also headquartered out there. We might see fewer of them at the conference, and those few will cost more to fly in. I get it.
With the economy shrinking, and no end in sight, budgets are getting tightened. Travel expenses are being examined closely where I work and justification for a trip is more difficult than it was previously. Cutting a few corners here & there, including reducing the cost of a plane flight, might make a difference. For example, doing a quick search on Travelocity, no details, accepting defaults, meeting half-way, in Dallas, would cost $216 instead of $399. That’s almost $200 in savings. Even if Rushabh is right and we’d have to increase the cost, let’s say $150/attendee, that’s still offset by the flight.
Still, those are savings at the margins, would that offset it enough to prevent people from travelling? Maybe, some people. But, there’s also the flight itself to consider. Not everyone is Gail Shaw, prepared to cross continents, oceans, raging rivers, burning deserts, and French strike lines to get to the Summit. For some people, that hike out to Seattle, ignore the cost, Microsoft, the community, is too much. Would moving it to Atlanta or Dallas or wherever guarantee a larger percentage of attendee’s? Nope, probably not, but I’ll bet you you’d see a different set of attendee’s and I’ll bet you the attendance wouldn’t drop. Because remember, it’s not just the flying time or the travel costs or the time away from work (yay). It’s time away from the family. Based on the results of the survey, 800 (51%) of the 1500 plus think a short flight is very or somewhat important, where as only about 380 (25%) thought it wasn’t. The vast majority of people responding to the survey are in the Eastern & Central time zones (585 & 458 compared to 331 in the Western zone). I could actually be wrong about the number of attendees.
And let’s just mention, Microsoft is holding some sort of get together in June. It seems to be fairly well attended by Microsoft people and, oh, look at that, it’s in New Orleans, not Seattle. I guess it is possible to get some Microsoft involvement in other places if Microsoft wants to.
I’m not on the board, so it’s easy for me to snipe from the sidelines, but based on the noise level, and the fact that 588 people thought having a conference on the east coast would make it more likely that they would attend, with only 405 making it less likely, and the fact that that number goes up to 639 more likely if the Summit was in the center of the country, I’m not alone in thinking that the PASS Community Summit should move around a bit more than we’ve been doing lately.
On another note, the release of the survey results was… poorly handled. The board, probably for good reasons, tends to play things very close to the vest. I think, at least in this case, too close. I appreciate the need to keep valuable information away from the competition. However, since this is a community organization, and one that is largely run by volunteers, I think the board really ought to err on too much communication instead of too little.
Finally, assuming anyone has made it this far, I want to thank the board and Rushabh for releasing this information. I think explaining how they made their decision and providing the basis for that in the results is absolutely the right thing to do. Did it apparently, or even evidently, require poking from people outside the board? Maybe, but they still did it and deserve the credit for taking the right action.
That’s it. End of the pointless, wandering diatribe. Go about your lives citizens. Hopefully, I’ll get another session or two accepted this year and I’ll see you all Seattle (again).