Right now, I see two sides to the SQL Server Community. One the one hand, I see tremendous, personal, meaningful support and guidance for SQL Server professionals. Both the fresh-faced neophytes, the hardened veterans, and everything in between. This is nothing short of epic.
On the other hand, I see an environment which is potentially on the cusp of becoming a victim of its own successes. Specifically, concerns have been raised about the future of a large, paid-for event (albeit with excellent content and networking opportunities), as it wallows in a sea of free events with similar resources and opportunities.
Looking at these as two sides of a single coin, I can’t help but play devil’s advocate and ask:
“Given the success of the devolved SQL community events (be they free or paid-for), does the SQL PASS Summit still have a place, in its current incarnation, in this rapidly growing ecosystem?”
There’s an apparently strong argument saying that annual attendances measured in the thousands are a good indicator of demand. But do we really know why people attend? Content and knowledge are approaching commodity status, and some networking can be done in the sprawl of free events (many of which are driven by SQL PASS itself) that have sprung up to fill the gaps between each iteration of the Summit.
Is it the scale of the event that attracts the punters? Thousands of attendees, attracting exhibitors, big names, and Microsoft itself. Yet the sheer scale of the event is exactly what the First-Timers Program is designed to counter-act, making it less daunting and more accessible to the roughly 700 attendees for whom each summit is their first (and last).
Is it nearly time for SQL PASS to spend more energy focusing on the smaller paid-for events, and going back to grass-roots? I honestly don’t know. Maybe the financials of that model just don’t work. I just wanted to posit the idea, and see what comes back. What do you think?