Andy Warren has posted another one of his excellent summaries of what’s going on at the PASS Board. Andy, thanks for what you do. Those of us who care about what goes on at PASS really appreciate your posts.
The discussion under consideration this time is the location of the PASS Summit. As you may be aware, it’s been held in Seattle for several years now and will be there for at least two more years going forward. It seems that the board is leaning, extremely heavily, towards making it a permanent fixture in Seattle.
I can see why they might do this. First, and biggest, it’s next door to Microsoft. That means the Summit gets tons and tons of Microsoft Employees in attendance, which is a huge draw and a very nice benefit. Second, it’s right near the management company’s headquarters, making it less expensive to get the huge staff needed to make a conference this size work. Third, the staff and volunteers are very familiar with the venue (assuming it stays the venue) so it makes planning and execution much easier. It really does make sense. The strongest of these arguments is, of course, the Microsoft presence.
Yeah, there is a but.
There are a lot of people, just in the US, who live in time zones other than the Pacific. In fact, way over half the US population is located in the Central and Eastern time zones. Let’s also add in Europe for consideration. All these places require extra travel time to get over to the Pacific. That’s added expense to individuals or companies, and remember, we’re talking about more than half the population of the US and all of Europe. That’s for the attendees and the speakers (who are attendees too, make no doubt about it) as well as the vendors and their staff, an extra 3-6 hours of travel, which usually means, an entire day on either side of the summit, just spent travelling. Plus an extra day or two in the hotel. Plus extra money spent on food. Let’s also add that this is frequently non-productive or less-productive times for the companies. And don’t forget the stresses and possible costs to the families left at home when all these people are travelling. All that cost is going to add up, and a heavy percentage of 1/2 of the US and all of Europe, might just decide they don’t want to pay all those added costs. Not every year. One year, maybe two, maybe in a release year, who knows, but not every year.
I guess the question is, are more people going to not show up because of cost than the number of people who won’t show up because the SQL CAT (great people, I’ve met several, helpful, smart, useful, I really appreciate them) won’t be there? The board seems to believe that they will lose more people because of a reduced Microsoft presence than they will lose because of cost.
I’m just not so sure. Based on how the economy has been lately, cost must be a huge factor for many, most, companies deciding how many people to send out for training and networking. Is a company less likely to send their people because some developers won’t be available for questions or because they have to pay more to send people?
I’m just not with the board on this. I think the cost is going to hurt attendance more than the added MS presence will help it. Remember, more than half the presenters are not MS employees, they’re MVP’s and others. And, remember, MS will still send a pretty healthy number of employees, just fewer than they would if the event is in Seattle. After all, they want to get in front of you and encourage you to buy and use their products. That’s a big reason why they support the event at all.
I’ve found that asking questions in blog posts usually leads to few, if any, answers, but I’m still going to ask, just to try to understand how far off base my beliefs are, if they are.
Which is more important to you and your company, reduced costs, or more Microsoft people?