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SQLSaturday Acquired by PASS – Reactions

The Announcement

On February 2nd, PASS (@sqlpass), here, and Andy Warren (@sqlandy), here, announced ownership of the SQLSaturday franchise brand was transferred to PASS.  Since I am friends with Andy I know that this is something that he and his partners (Steve Jones (@way0utwest) and Brian Knight (@BrianKnight)) have wanted to do for awhile. 

The Reactions

After the announcement there were several posts in reaction to the acquisition (if I missed any, please add them in the comments):

  1. Andy Warren Explains the move - SQLSaturday & PASS – More Details
  2. Andy Leonard (@AndyLeonard) interviews Andy Warren including the reason for the move - Interview with Andy Warren about SQL Saturday, PASS, and More
  3. Steve Jones gives his take - SQLSaturday Bequeathed to PASS
  4. Marlon Rubinal (@marlonrubinal) – is very positive about the change - SQL Saturday Acquired By PASS
  5. Tim Ford (@sqlagentman) takes a more skeptical view of the move - A SQL Saturday Sequel: Van Halen or Van Hagar?
  6. Tim Mitchell (@tim_mitchell) is positive, but also had some concerns - The PASS Acquisition of SQL Saturday

The Reason

Having been a co-organizer of SQLSaturday #21 – Orlando I have some understanding of what it takes to put on an event (Andy really did most of the work so I don’t understand all of it).  Plus, being friends with Andy and seeing him regularly I also have some insight into the amount of work he put into helping events and maintaining/improving the tools (web site).  Based on this I understand why Andy, Steve, and Brian would want to pass the administration of SQLSaturday to PASS, an organization with event experience and a full-time staff.  Remember, SQLSaturday was not a profit center for Andy, Brian, and Steve, any time Andy (or either of the others) put into SQLSaturday was time not spent trying to make money.

My Take

You can see in my post, What Should Pass Strive To Be?, under point 3 that I believe PASS should be supporting/administering regional events like SQLSaturday.  Based on that I believe that from the perspective of PASS this acquisition is a great thing.  Having said that I understand and, really, agree with the concerns Tim Ford and Tim Mitchell raise.  I think that if PASS remains true to the founding principles of SQLSaturday which I understand to be:

  1. Provide a day of quality, free SQL Server focused training that is organized and administered by local people.  Key word free.  Yes, some events have charged for lunch, but getting that lunch is optional. This is facilitated by providing:
    1. An event framework with a minimum of rules
    2. An administrative application (SQLSaturday web site) for registration; accepting, approving, and scheduling sessions; messaging for sponsors, speakers, and registrants; and processing funds collected from sponsors and lunch fees
  2. Provide another outlet for local speakers.
  3. Provide a growth path for local speakers.  Chapter session –> SQLSaturday –> National/International Conference

and builds upon them then this will be great for both parties, if not then I think it is likely that previous local SQLSaturday organizers will start organizing non-PASS branded events to continue the spirit of these principles.  PASS needs to understand that many people in the SQL Server community are committed to these principles.

What Can/Should PASS Do to Make SQLSaturday Better?

To reference my, What Should Pass Strive To Be?, post again (point 4), I think one areas PASS can help is to develop regional leadership teams that assist the local Chapter Leaders in organizing a SQLSaturday.  For example, in the southeastern United States you have Andy Warren, Pam Shaw, Stuart Ainsworth, Karla (Remail) Landrum who have all done or by the summer will have done multiple events, use their experience to help others.

Provide assistance in contacting sponsors.  Chapters tend to lean on local companies and recruiters who have been great supporters of the events thus far, but the size alone of the event means that they need more than that and organizers may or may not have that contact information.

Continue to enhance the administrative tools provided via the SQLSaturday web site.  One of the things I see as missing is volunteer management, and I did mention it to Andy.  The session scheduling application could be tweaked to schedule volunteers.  This has 2 benefits:

  1. The volunteers know when and what they will be doing ahead of time so they can schedule their day appropriately.
  2. The organizers will see where they need to fill in gaps and make better use of the volunteers’ time. 

Conclusion

I really think this change makes sense.  PASS has tried to do community events with the Community Connection branding, but struggled to get it off the ground due to lack of administrative tools and the fact that SQLSaturday was out there and had the tools.  So now they have the tools and hopefully, the will, to grow the event.

Comments

Posted by Wesley Brown on 18 February 2010

My opinion is pretty simple but comes from two different points of view.

I don't want them to change anything but the logo :).

As a community leader, I've worked very hard with little support from the top to grow my group and in turn grow the PASS brand. SQL Saturdays changed that a bit. We have the tools to give a quality day of free training at a local level. It's not the Summit but for some folks it may be all they get.

As a vendor, I don't want to get locked out of events due to agreements PASS may make with larger vendors. Being able to target regions really helps drive sales in areas that are flagging. It also allows us to give back to the community at a local level where I think the dollars have a much larger impact.

Every year the Summit gets bigger and slicker. Every year I see less and less trickle down to the local chapters. SQL Saturday was a breath of fresh air and a huge boon to the local folks and I don't want that damaged at all.

Posted by Steve Jones on 18 February 2010

Great points. I think PASS has some work cut out for them, but it ought not to be overwhelming. They just need to continue improving the brand/franchise incrementally and feeding that knowledge back into the community.

Posted by Jack Corbett on 19 February 2010

Wes,

Interesting take and good points, especially from the sponsor's perspective.  That's where it is important that PASS stick with the founding principles, especially #1.  Keep it run by the locals.

Posted by Blythe Morrow on 22 February 2010

Great post.

Steve is right, we definitely have our work cut out for us. Andy has been great with making himself available over the last two weeks to help us understand the importance of the administrative process from all stakeholders' perspectives (speakers, event leaders, volunteers, sponsors).

Wes, I don't understand your comment "every year I see less trickle down to the chapters." I'd love to take that off line. If there's something I'm missing as a chapter coordinator, I want to fix it.

Posted by Karla Kay on 26 February 2010

Hi Jack, I've been on the road for weeks now, but taking this all in.  I was curious to know if there were more reactions, which I hadn't seen Tim Ford's until your post, so thanks for putting these all in one place for us.  

I think that Andy, Steve and Brian wouldn't have done this had it not been something they see being even more beneficial to leaders and their communities.  I will be curious to see what indeed does change, will we continue to get to have our own events, or will these become regional as Tim Ford mentions...which means Pensacolians will get stuck going to Atlanta or some other larger, nearby city, which we don't want to happen!  Any large events like a SQL Saturday aren't typically brought to the Panhandle of Florida, but SQL Saturday #14 proved what I knew was certain, that there is a desire here for technical knowledge. It would be a shame to have to tell last year's 177 attendees that they now have to drive, stay the night, and basically pay out of pocket for what is intended to be free.  

Tim Mitchell's post had a lot of good questions, does anyone know if/when some of those will be answered?  Cheers, Karla

Posted by karlakay22 on 26 February 2010

Pam, are you out there?  What is are your thoughts on this, being the Queen of SQL Saturday's, and my inspiration?  KK

Posted by Ulysses Brown on 27 February 2010

It will be interesting to see the impact of this change.  Right now my main concern is that they do not cancel the re-scheduled event in Richmond,Va.  Hopefully, this will make the events even better.

Posted by Jack Corbett on 5 March 2010

Karla,

I don't know of any other posts about it.  

I don't know that there will be any direct answers to Tim's questions, I think it is more of a wait and see thing.  

I know Andy, Steve, and Rushabh are doing a "keynote" at Charlotte this weekend about the change and maybe some answers will come from that.

Posted by Jack Corbett on 5 March 2010

Ulysses,

This shouldn't have an affect on any local SQLSaturday's as long as there are people willing to take ownership of the Richmond event it will continue.  I know that Richmond has a pretty vibrant and active community so I wouldn't be concerned.

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