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PASS, Don’t Waste My Time

Update: Apparently I can't write, or get a point across from the comments and a few emails, so I have edited this to hopefully make it clearer.

The pre/post conference sessions came out today for the 2010 SQL PASS Summit. And to my surprise the list of sessions wasn’t quite what I expected.
I know I complained last year about the selections, and a few people said that I should get involved if I didn’t like the way things were done. So I did. I volunteered and wound up on the Pre/Post Con and Spotlight committee. I spent quite a few hours of my time reviewing abstracts, emailing with the speakers to get more information, and then rating sessions. I got on a conference call, with all that prep work, and debated the choices with the others and think we had a great list of sessions. We, the three members of the committee, sent our decisions over to PASS over a week ago. Actually I think two weeks ago.
Only the sessions I the committee I was on had picked aren’t the same ones as the ones PASS published.
<insert four letter words here>
  ______-_______ _______ ________ ______ ______
</four letter words rant>
I understand that PASS needs to make money from these sessions, and there are marketing issues involved. However the instructions I had stated that my committee “Make decisions with regard to all Program aspects of PASS Community Summit.” (emphasis mine)
Apparently that’s not the case. I’m not going to disclose which session I picked that didn’t make it, and which one  got picked instead. That’s not fair to either speaker, and not the point.
If marketing, money, other issues are the important ones, that’s fine. If you ask others to pick sessions, and supposedly decide on what the community wants to see and what is good for PASS, then let the committee do that. I can't speak for the rest of my committee, but we were caught off guard and not happy with this decision. I'm upset because I wanted to make a difference to this process, try to do a good job, defend the decisions of the committee and take the flack for those decisions. I was also trying to ensure that PASS wasn't choosing people because they're a part of some "old speakers network". I feel I've failed there since I didn't make a difference, and the old speaker's club reigned.

If that's the way PASS wants to work, let some non-SQL, non-DBA, non-volunteer honk just rank everyone and pick the sessions they think are important. Publish the rules and guidelines and make it happen.
Just don’t waste my time as a volunteer.

To be clear: My committee sent selections to PASS some time ago. We were not informed, queried, or told of any changes. One of our pre-con sessions was demoted to an alternate. One we picked as an alternate, not sure it was one we wanted to see, was moved to a regular session. Nothing in the comments below seems to give a good reason for this.

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Steve Jones is the editor of SQLServerCentral.com and visits a wide variety of data related topics in his daily editorial. Steve has spent years working as a DBA and general purpose Windows administrator, primarily working with SQL Server since it was ported from Sybase in 1990. You can follow Steve on Twitter at twitter.com/way0utwest


Posted by Steve Jones on 30 June 2010
Posted by Jason Brimhall on 1 July 2010

That would be somewhat deflating as a volunteer.

Posted by R L Reid on 2 July 2010

I haven't attended enough PASS conferences to say anything with certainty, but from a distance I've gotten a similar vibe.  PASS conferences are certainly worthwhile, but after a few I decided to give them a miss.

The odd part is that they are far more narrowly focused on a single product than any of the major single vendor database conferences.  

I made a proposal that was relevant but broader than MS SQL Server, was turned down, and asked if it was the scope.  No.

It was the lack of resume as a conference speaker.  

That makes some sense - no matter how good someone's knowledge is, if they can't present it effectively it's useless at a conference.  But I've done adjunct gigs at universities, and I regularly teach RDBMS classes for the general developers at work.  I could have provided a short demo reel (though some PASS volunteer like yourself would then have to find time to view it).

I guess it's like resistance to upgrade at work: "yes", my boss will say, "I understand the power of those new features, but we know this one works".  It's defensible up to a point.

But for tech conferences, playing it safe leaves me disinterested - I'll save my time and money for TechEd and TechWave instead.

Posted by Steve Jones on 2 July 2010

Good comments, RL, and I don't know if I saw your session. In terms of the "major single vendor database conferences", how it the PASS Summit more narrowly focused? Is Oracle less so? Or DB2? Not disagreeing, just wondering.

Part of the issue, and I have other posts coming on what to pick, is the lack of criteria given to volunteers, and speaking.

Definitely this was less of a issue with what was picked and more of a treatment of volunteers issue.

Posted by Kevin Kline on 7 July 2010

What is RL smoking before attending any other DBMS conference that gives him the feeling that other database conferences are more expansive in scope?  The two conference he mentions are broad technology conferences and are not equally comparable.  Apples to Oranges.  

Having attended Oracle World (Oracle's own event) and IOUG's conferences (the independent community event) a few times each, plus other various DBMS conferences over the years, I can say without a doubt that the other conferences are nearly identical in terms of "narrowness" of scope.

The only database conference I've ever seen that went much outside of its core scope is O'Reilly's MySQL conference and that's largely because MySQL is open-source with a huge variety of flexibility and outside influences.

What other DBMS conferences, RL, have you attended that veered far outside of their database platform?

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