The Future Direction of the PASS Organization

  • What should be the future structure, mission, goals, values, and structure of the PASS organization.

    This would include whether the organization is still needed.

  • In interesting thread from Mike Walsh:

    Do we need PASS? It's worth a debate. I am also torn here, mostly because I feel these are things  I'm confident of:

    1. The Summit has become a Rat Race to fund the org to fund the Summit to fund the org, repeat. That seems wrong to me.
    2. User groups are mostly independent. If I'm wrong, let me know, but not sure PASS provides much help.
    3. SQL Saturdays can run independently. We did 32 or 33 without PASS. We would be nowhere near the 1000 without them, but I bet we'd have 300+. I think for all their support, they also create limitations.
    4. Outside of the Summit, what do they do? Lots of virtual user group support, but I think that those are easy to do these days, and there are lots of MVP wanna-bes that will find sponsorship.

    That being said, I think the org has been good for many leaders and influencers in the community, who in turn help others. There is pride in the org, and many supporters. No organization will be perfect, and I do think that they can evolve, though I'm honestly not sure exactly what I think they should do with regards to :

    1. revenue diversification

    2. other services to the community

  • Why I think PASS is snecessary - people who are underprivileged and do not get highlighted easily - women, POC, those who don't have talent sticking out a mile - they need an umbrella they can get together under. Other people who gather there get to know them. If a minority person of average talent goes to a sql saturday and tries to talk to people on his/her own, you would get a few contacts at best. With PASS, those contacts are given to you, by way of fellow ug leads/volunteers/various. That support and highlighting is needed. Not for all, certainly for some. That is certainly my stance.

  • Is this because of PASS or the events? Not arguing, and the underprivileged and the disadvantaged struggle. My view has been they learn about a UG or SQL Sat, without knowing about PASS.

    That being said, PASS has provided a scholarship and some outreach items in the past.


  • To me personally it was both. As an introverted person, the first people literally who I got to network with were my fellow ug leads , once a year , in the meeting at summit. Events certainly help, but not everyone can travel to a great many events. It does take volume to make it work that way. And even with events, that they are pass run, or run under a specific brand, means people know what to expect and whom they see. Its not that way with a random open source event, for example, even if they get their tech learning there.

  • Users groups are mostly independent. Those groups that are still PASS dependent can replace user group web site functionality with freely available commercial tools like eventbrite/tito and mailerlite/sendgrid in a month or go for meetup $15 a month and get a better product.

    SQL Saturday events are totally independent. the only dependency is PASS requirement to use web site, so this is more like a forced dependency. the benefit of notifying 3000 speakers at once when your event becomes available could be replicated.

    IMHO, we should let PASS focus on running PASS Summit and spin-off user groups and sql saturday to a different business entity, business entity with a single goal in mind - free or almost free community events.

    To make more room for underprivileged and the disadvantaged, we just need to copy the musical chairs game/speed "dating" that PASS has at the PASS Summit for first-timers - you get to talk to other people at the conference and switch chairs.


    In my humble opinion, SQL Saturdays are, by far, the biggest contribution PASS gives to the community.

    • We have a central place to look for events to apply to speak
    • Event organizers have a central place to expose their events for speakers and attendees, specially speakers
    • If we can't get any sponsor for a SQL Saturday, we will still receive a minimum amount from PASS

    Improvement/Savings here: When Microsoft decides to provide sponsorship to SQL Saturdays, is the PASS money really needed? Could PASS save the money only for the events not supported by Microsoft?

    Highlight: I'm speaking in a lot of SQL Saturdays. There is a central place to apply for, a single system to keep my information and use it to apply for events. Besides SQL Saturdays, it's quite difficult to find events to apply for without missing a lot.

    Besides SQL Saturday, PASS also provides us with technical support:

    • We receive space and tools for a user group web site
    • It's not only a static web site, we have tools to publish our meetings, the content of our meetings and they will immediately appear on our web site
    • If we move to a different country/regions (as it happened to me), PASS provides a central point to connect with the local community

    In my humble opinion, whatever will be the future of PASS, these benefits should not be lost. It would be a huge loss to data platform community if we lose these benefits.

    About PASS Summit: I always believed PASS Summit revenue was used to provide the funding for SQL Saturdays around the world. It's a cycle, since SQL Saturdays around the world attract PASS Summit attendees, but it doesn't seems to be a big problem. However, if this isn't true and the revenue of PASS Summit is only used to pay for the internal organization expenses, them it seems a problem.

    Among the years many people notice how PASS Summit is increasing the savings: every year the attendees pack is smaller, the final party was cancelled and so on. We were told this was in order to provide better funds to SQL Saturdays and user groups and there was no financial problem. How precise is this information?

  • Hey all!

    In all likelihood, this will get me kicked from the board, however, I'd like to share something about my passion for this community and why PASS as an organization is so important to it.

    Let me start by stating something publicly that I've said before in private. If PASS as an organization goes away, will the Data Community disappear? Nope. The Data Community is so much more than this one organization that it will absolutely continue. It will simply be less, a lot less. Let me explain.

    PASS is more than Summit. PASS is more than SQLSaturday. PASS is more than local groups. PASS is more than virtual groups. PASS is more than 24HOP. PASS is more than PASS Marathon. Oh yeah, all of that is PASS. However, PASS is more than that. PASS is an organizing hub around which all this community stuff, and more, is built.

    So, PASS was founded, and continues to be funded, in part (and it's a small part), by Microsoft. We have Microsoft people sitting on the board with votes (and the current ones are the most amazing people we've had in a while, I absolutely adore them and their commitment to the community). PASS provides a mechanism for the community to work very directly with Microsoft at a high level. We meet with the VPs of the Data Platform a couple of times a year. We help them get their word out. Our ability to set direction and provide guidance, teaching and more, through all the platforms listed above, is why Microsoft engages with us on that level. Take away PASS, Microsoft still gets it's word out, but not directly through the community, not in the same way. Oh, and, we're working with Microsoft on some other stuff (can't share, NDA, and I'm already probably in trouble for this) that's only going to work if there's an organizing body behind it. You know, PASS.

    Let's also bring out the fact that a lot of other vendors see the same thing. We're working with AWS to bring their content out and get it to Summit, sure, but also out to the local groups, virtual groups & SQLSaturdays. Redgate uses PASS as a way to get information out to a wider audience. PASS acts as a conduit to all the individual people out there for a bunch of organizations.

    PASS has long been the mechanism by which the community builds itself. When Kevin Kline first started Summit, way back in the day, with several others, the one thing they talked about doing was being aggressively friendly. That tone was set and has been passed on. Everyone that's gone to Summit sees it in action. And it's carried into the SQLSaturday's and local groups and even into all the other places that are not in any way affiliated with PASS... but are run and organized by people who saw how we run things and recognized the utility of it all.

    So, the community will keep going. It's just going to be less. Without that larger organizing body, setting the tone, working with vendors, all the rest, the community is just going to be less.

    There. You can all savage me now. Have fun!

    "The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood"
    - Theodore Roosevelt

    Author of:
    SQL Server Execution Plans
    SQL Server Query Performance Tuning

  • Even after splitting this into separate threads, there's a lot going on in each of these threads. To save myself from writing a long missive, I am going to try to make some narrow comments on things previously mentioned. (I still failed to keep this short, sorry)

    Regarding underrepresented groups:

    I actually have been really discouraged by PASS's diversity & inclusion efforts. The Women In Tech (WIT) group has done great things toward it's goal of raising up the voices of women in the community. However, diversity in tech is more than women--and PASS has failed to take the momentum of the WIT group and grow it into a broader diversity effort. I've raised this over the years several times, particularly around LGBTQ topics, and each time I have been disappointed with the response from PASS. Instead, I have done things on my own within the data community, without PASS. I've heard that PASS is planning on expanding beyond WIT, but have not yet seen any fruits from those efforts. The diversity efforts are lopsided & confusing, with a lot of "PASS official" amplification being given to the WIT program, but near silence around racial, LGBTQ, and other forms of diversity. My interactions with PASS HQ specifically around LGBTQ diversity efforts have made me realize that PASS HQ is actually part of the problem, and has made me come to the decision that I simply don't have the ability to transform both PASS HQ & the data community, so I need to engage on my own terms with the community directly, without PASS.

    Regarding PASS's history:

    I think it's indisputable that PASS has helped some individuals with their careers. However, PASS is a corporation, and their future depends not on their track record, but on what their future "product" is. If their product isn't compelling, people won't buy it. Grant mentions "PASS has long been the mechanism by which the community builds itself," which certainly has been the case. However, I think in many ways, the community has grown faster than PASS. Sponsor-driven / free-to-attend events are increasingly easy to put on without PASS, giving SQLSaturday more competition & a less clear ROI for organizers. Previously mentioned, the primary benefit for User Group organizers is the complimentary Summit attendance--which itself has less intrinsic value with the reduced cost of virtual Summit. I don't know what the answer is for the future of PASS & what their "product offering" should be. But I think it's important for folks to remember that if PASS is going to answer that, the answer needs to have a foundation on it's future offerings, and not what it has done in the past.

    Structure of the PASS organization:

    As Steve mentioned (in another thread), PASS HQ is a 1:1 match with C&C. C&C is a for-profit company, and PASS is a "State of Illinois not-for-profit Corporation". This makes for a confusing structure. If the Venn Diagram of PASS HQ and C&C is a circle, and C&C is a for-profit company, I think that makes the PASS not-for-profit status be confusing at best. I think there is a lot of confusion & lack of transparency on the corporate structure of PASS, it's lack of 501(c) status with the IRS, and the relationship with C&C. This confusion & opacity makes it pretty difficult for me to offer any meaningful discussion on this front, other than to say the lack of transparency means the community likely can't have a meaningful & constructive conversation due to lack of knowledge of specifics. Instead, conversation will be based on a love of PASS or animosity toward C&C, or both--and that likely isn't helpful beyond the catharsis of it all.

  • This is how I see it. PASS has become a corporate machine. I was very much involved in PASS for a very long time. In the beginning everything was peachy. I founded the Curacao local chapter. I ran it for nearly 4 yrs. Slowly in time PASS as an organization that was there to be part of the community changed into a Corporate machine that looks at the bottom line. That is when I started to back out of PASS.

    Now I am not involved in PASS. Maybe I am wrong with my thinking but that is how I feel.


  • I think this is beautifully put and I fully agree. ' the lack of transparency means the community likely can't have a meaningful & constructive conversation due to lack of knowledge of specifics. Instead, conversation will be based on a love of PASS or animosity toward C&C, or both--and that likely isn't helpful beyond the catharsis of it all.'... I know they do a LOT of work and I hit that wall every single time this conversation comes up with people on the board or ex board members. I can't keep my job personally if all i have to say for myself is that I do 'a lot of work'. It is just not enough. Are there parts of that work that the community can help with, thereby reducing how much we pay them? Have we even looked to see if there are other organizations - Microsoft has used a third party event organizer for their events for decades, perhaps that is an option? Lastly, the people at C&C i have dealt with have all been super nice, caring folks. This is not about them, it is about how to do business and improve what we offer to community. And it is also about building a relationship with them or anyone else that is less co dependant - based on efficiency and mutual appreciation.

  • Ok, so let's just say that PASS, as an organization, disappeared (and I hope it doesn't).  Who would take the responsibility for the SQLSaturday site?  Who would fund the box it's on?  Who would maintain the code.  Who would fund the large number of emails that go out (most free sites have limits).  Who would advise us of those people that have committed some grievous error in behavioral judgement and should be black-balled from all such events?

    Although I agree that PASS and SQLSaturdays are not the key to the wonderful SQLCommunity that exists and that community wouldn't end if PASS did of if SQLSaturdays vanished.  But, oh my, what an incredible loss it would be.  Like Grant said in another thread on the subject, it is a significant part of my personal success and has provided a lot of possibly not otherwise attainable information about the community at large and some pretty substantial individuals that are members of this fine community.


    --Jeff Moden

    RBAR is pronounced "ree-bar" and is a "Modenism" for Row-By-Agonizing-Row.
    First step towards the paradigm shift of writing Set Based code:
    ________Stop thinking about what you want to do to a ROW... think, instead, of what you want to do to a COLUMN.

    Change is inevitable... Change for the better is not.

    Helpful Links:
    How to post code problems
    How to Post Performance Problems
    Create a Tally Function (fnTally)

  • I'm going to second Andy (@AMtwo) here. I find it very disturbing (to say the least) that PASS bylaws stating a non-for-profit nature while PASS has NO IRS federal tax-exemption (that is pretty much invalidates any Illinois State tax-exempt status if there is any). That looks like a huge legal/compliance problem and perhaps a good reason why PASS doesn't qualify for any non-profit programs through vendors like and programs like Microsoft for non-profits and pay some much for its infrastructure.

    IRS Status

    PASS bylaws

    I know its hard (for me personally as well as my career greatly improved with PASS), but we can't give a forever gratitude for what PASS did in the past. We can all say thank you for what PASS did in the past and also ask what can PASS do for us now and in the future!

  • SQL Saturday would continue to run. Honestly, Andy and I might just donate the site costs, though I'm sure I could get enough from vendors to cover those costs. I'd open source the code and work on taking PRs somehow and run it that way. I have zero worry about that continuing.

    I also think that a lot of the reason we donated this to PASS was the time sink in mentoring organizers early on. Today, that could be crowd sourced.



    Couldn't PASS use this strategy today and by doing so remove a good amount of work from C&C, reducing the costs?

    If the SQL Saturday website were open source, I would contribute with new features, for sure.

    However, how to deal with world wide data protection laws on a open source online service developed by volunteers, with our without PASS?

    Steve Jones - SSC Editor wrote:

    SQL Saturday would continue to run. Honestly, Andy and I might just donate the site costs, though I'm sure I could get enough from vendors to cover those costs. I'd open source the code and work on taking PRs somehow and run it that way. I have zero worry about that continuing.

    I also think that a lot of the reason we donated this to PASS was the time sink in mentoring organizers early on. Today, that could be crowd sourced.

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