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SQL Man of Mystery

Wes Brown is a PASS chapter leader and SQL Server MVP. He writes for SQL Server Central and maintains his blog at http://www.sqlserverio.com. Wes is Currently serving as a Senior Lead Consultant at Catapult Systems. Previous experiences include Product Manager for SQL Litespeed by Quest software and consultant to fortune 500 companies. He specializes in high availability, disaster recovery and very large database performance tuning. He is a frequent speaker at local user groups and SQLSaturdays.

The PASS Session Selection Process, My Experience Part 2

In part one I talked about the abstracts. While important, abstracts are only one part of a complicated selection dance. Since there are so many submissions and so few slots even the best abstracts may not be chosen.

The Selection Criteria

We were given a set of instructions and categories to rate things. There weren’t too many of them and they were subjective in nature. We rated abstracts, topics and the presenter with a final subjective rating to act as a catch all.

Abstracts
Covered in part one.

Topics
This was a little odd to me. The topic and abstract are clearly dependent on each other. I wouldn’t approve an abstract if the topic wasn’t something appropriate. Conversely, I wouldn’t approve a topic if the abstract was weak. Also, don’t confuse the title of the abstract with the topic. The abstract could be the best written one in the world and not get approved if the topic was say how to knit doilies.

Presenter
This was probably the one thing that soaked most of my time. It involved lots of footwork on my end. If I don’t know you, haven’t seen you present or don’t have enough information how do I rank you? This is where filling in your Bio on the abstract submission is important. If you had spoken at a previous PASS Summit there is a possibility I could see your past rankings. They range from 1 to 5. If you are in the high 3’s or 4’s that works out well enough for me. If you haven’t spoken at the Summit I would look at your online presence. Do you blog, tweet or do other things to show you can communicate with the community? Also, I look to see if you have presented at a regional or local level and try to contact people I do know to ask how they thought you did. If you have spoken and I can find your slide decks that also helped me out. Luckily, I have been involved with the community for a long time and have attended every PASS since 2003.

Subjective Rating
I really don’t know how to deal with this one. I used it mostly to sum up my thoughts put a final rating on the submission. To me, all of it is subjective. It’s my opinion if the submission should move forward. This is like saying “I love the abstract, topic and speaker but the sky is blue today so I’m giving it a 1”.

Final Thoughts

Personally, I’d like to see clear breakouts with instructions on how to use them. There are several fundamental criteria that would keep a session out right off the top, you answer them and if they don’t tally up you move on to the next submission. There are exceptions to every rule, but in most cases I think it would work well.

My next, and probably last, post will cover the tools and processes that PASS makes available to do this job.


Comments

Posted by Jeff Moden on 31 July 2010

I know people that can write brilliant abstracts and have a pretty decent web presence.  Some are incredibly well known and may even be "revered".  I've seen some of those same people present... and they suck!  That's just my way of saying I understand and appreciate the major pain the folks in the PASS selection process went through whether they made good choices or bad.  I don't envy any of you good folks (Well, unless "beer goggles" help a lot).

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