Should There Be A Successor to PASS?

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PASS was a big influence on a lot of us and did a lot of good, if never quite as much good as many of us wished. I wish PASS had survived, but it didn’t, and now we’re at a crossroads for what comes next. We’ve got short term challenges as far as supporting events that are coming up in the next few months and getting groups moved to an alternative of some sort, but beyond that, we have to decide if we want a successor to PASS or not.

I think to answer that, it depends on what we want the new org to do. What would that new mission statement be and can all (most) of us agree on it? Even before we get into funding and a governance model, what can/could a new org do that we care about?

My short answer is that a new org should do all the stuff that doesn’t make much money, if any. I think it would exist to facilitate career growth in areas not served (or served well) by for profit businesses. I think it could be an org we see as the glue without being in control. I think it probably doesn’t include a Summit class event because it just over shadows everything else. I think it could help facilitate regional events via grants and experienced volunteers. I think it can’t be all things to all people, but it could be some thing to many people.

Back in 1998 defining it the focus as SQL Server was an obvious move. Today, there’s still plenty of people that use SQL, but there is lots of other stuff going on and figuring out where to draw the line is important, because that mission statement helps you evaluate everything you do or don’t do. Microsoft Data Platform excludes a lot of cool stuff. Focusing on Azure tends to ignore the world of on premise, AWS, and Google. But…it depends on what you want to accomplish, doesn’t it? Is it to be a professional association? To make money? To do good at a larger scale than a single product or profession? Or to narrow the focus, perhaps on day long events or SQL DBA’s or growing speakers or whatever.

I made a small wish list (and surely I could add another 100 lines to this!):

  • A real non-profit, with a sturdy and clear charter that includes a commitment to transparency, and one that owns all the intellectual property we choose to put into it (for example, SQLSaturday.com if we can get it)
  • A plan for raising the minimal amount of funds needed for things like owning a domain, hosting event sites, etc, and building a multi year reserve
  • No full time staff and limited outsourcing on a project basis, with all the day to day stuff automated or handled by volunteers
  • Vendor agnostic, vendor independent, but one that recognizes the importance of vendors in our work and our community.
  • A solid way of deciding who can be a voting member (one person=one vote) and who can join the Board
  • An org that we’ll be proud of and hold up as a best in class example of how to build a technical professional association.
  • As few rules as possible

To answer the question I posed in the title, I haven’t decided yet (though I started out two weeks ago thinking “yes”). I don’t know if its possible or practical to have a single successor org to PASS. I’m still thinking about it, and waiting to see what ideas bubble up over the next couple of months.

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