How do you change something that can’t be changed?
As many of you know, Steve Jones was cut by the Nomination Committee and won’t be on the ballot this year. He made the announcement in a short blog post.
In the comments Andy Warren said “I’m disappointed as well. I think the NomCom tried hard to apply the process we gave them, so the fault – in my personal view – is with the process, just not rich enough. I’ll write more when I’ve had a chance to reflect some.
I would be disappointed – again, speaking just as me – if anyone elects to walk away from PASS because of this. Don’t agree with PASS on this or any other issue? Fight the fight to change it!”
I agree, if you walk away just because of this issue that would be a mistake. If this is last in a long list of mistakes that is a different matter all together.
From the Bylaws:
”These Bylaws may be altered, amended, or repealed, and new bylaws may be adopted by a two‐thirds vote of the Board of Directors, provided that at least thirty (30) days’ written notice is given of intention to alter, amend, or repeal these Bylaws and to adopt new Bylaws prior to the specified date of the vote.”
Thirty days, that’s all it takes to make a fundamental change to how PASS operates. Oh, and a two-thirds vote from the BoD. So, my question is how do I change something about PASS without running for the BoD? Did you know the qualifications for the BoD haven’t changed once since 1999? You have to be more qualified to run for the BoD than you do the President Of The United States. People govern our society with less qualifications and more success.
Not wanting to walk away from an organization I have been involved with for several years I choose to fight for change. My first little fight was attend meetings at the Summit voice my opinion and push for change. Next, to vote for people like Andy Warren and Tom LaRock. I think both are agents for change. Andy has been very vocal and has been as transparent as possible during his tenor on the BoD. I can’t say that for everyone else. The anemic amount of information coming from PASS and the BoD in general is just embarrassing. You don’t see much unless there is a firestorm going on. I also got evolved in the program committee this year. Again, I was a little surprised by how little information is fed back to submitters and the general lack of transparency in choosing speakers. I couldn’t run for the BoD this year but I was planning to run next year and getting my ducks in a row for that. Lastly, I talk a lot. I talk to leaders in the community, people involved in PASS and folks on the board.
I’ve also spent a lot of my time at the local level running the Austin, TX UG for several years and starting the San Antonio, TX UG. I speak regularly at my UG and more recently, at SQL Saturday events. Local community building is a passion for me. When Andy, Steve and Brian got SQL Saturday going I was just in awe how quickly it took off and how well local chapters handled these events. The thing that blew me away was the cost to the attendees. The quality of the training is on par with the Summit in most cases. In some cases it can be a little better as Baton Rouge showed me that you can include the .net folks as well and still have an awesome SQL Server event. We are also in the planning stages for our own SQL Saturday in Austin. Have I put in as much work as say Patrick LeBlanc? Maybe not yet but I have put in more than your “average” PASS member.
With all of that said, I can can tell you honestly, I don’t know most of the BoD very well at all. When people run for the BoD there is a good chance I probably haven’t heard of some them and have to dig to find out who they are. The BoD is elected by “Members in good standing”, a group that probably doesn’t know them ether. If you say there are around 200 chapters* and at least one chapter leader per group, some have committees and such but we are keeping this simple, that gives us 200~ or so “Leaders in the community” I bet most of them don’t know the whole BoD. 51%* of UG leaders knew who their regional mentor was, you know the person designated to liaison between chapters and the parent organization. Almost half of the UG’s have no real interaction with PASS. So how do these folks get voted in? They may be a known speaker or did some campaigning to raise awareness, honestly I think it comes down to the limited number of “qualified” candidates and the number of slots available. A coin toss in most cases. The few people that may be truly informed, say around 100, may have some influence as well. That is out of the roughly 40,000 possible PASS membership (if each UG averages 200 members). Fundamentally, 15 people decide what PASS is, not the 40,000 they represent.
Lets be honest, PASS isn’t a community organization, it is the Summit. Everything that PASS does is to get people to go to the Summit. I don’t see much in the way of UG support, other than the “comp” to the Summit. PASS is a marketing machine period. They use the UG to funnel people to the summit and “give back” by giving the UG leadership one summit pass, and they are looking to restrict that*. Douglas McDowell said* “There is always some misunderstanding that this is not an easy or free benefit for PASS to offer, the actual cost for a Summit comp is high since all the event facilities and food and beverage are all charged per-attendee plus incremental consumption – it adds up quick and requires a lot of allocated budget.” It is a marketing expense, and a fair one at that. How many people do the UG’s reach out to? I spend quite a bit of time cheerleading trying to get people to go to the Summit. It takes a lot of money to do the Summit. At the end of the day it touches around 3,000 people. Less than one tenth of the voting PASS membership. What has PASS done to reach out to the other 37,000? We got SQL Saturday! Oh, that was built by people outside PASS, then handed to PASS. How many people has SQL Saturday help train? With 40+ events done if each event had 200 people show that is 8,800 people, since 2007 no less. We got the UG’s! Again, local people do all the leg work they find their own funding, speakers and meeting space. The 24 hours of PASS is the only thing of true value outside the Summit that has come from inside PASS. PASS, as a parent organization isn’t relevant to 90% of my UG membership, we could be a chapter of the local funeral directors association for all they care. After 6 years I’ve all I have received are slide decks, comps and enough money to run the UG for about 6 months. In return I spend 11 months out of the year getting as many people as I can to attend the Summit.
Is the BoD all setting around like Snidely Whiplash and twirling their collective mustaches? I don’t think so. Did the NomCom receive secret orders to stand in the way of people like Tim, Steve and Brent? Nope, I’m sure they didn’t. Instead they have built up a system that feeds itself. The machine is self sustaining and there aren’t enough people at this point to make the changes at the top that need to happen. The focus is so tight on the Summit that everything else is just sparklers and window dressing. I say kill the Summit, focus on the local and regional events. You won’t need a three million dollar budget to reach out to the vast majority of the membership. The community will benefit as a whole. Have open elections, not just for the BoD but other key jobs inside the organization. Open it up, all the way. I have worked with other non-profits before, everything was open to the public, there were no closed BoD sessions or hiding from the community we supported, and I tell you that community needed a hell of a lot more than training, we were effecting peoples lives.
I’m begging you, the BoD, to fix this. Not just the duly elected members but the members from Microsoft and CA as well. As for my fellow chapter leaders, speakers and event organizers SPEAK UP! We are still a small group inside the electorate but we represent a much wider range of it than the BoD. Lastly, you the person who comes to the UG’s, attends the Summit or goes to a SQL Saturday let as many people know that you would like to see change, you are providing something in exchange for the education whether you pay the 1,500 bucks for the Summit or show up for free to the other events. You have the ultimate power as a consumer, the all mighty dollar. Demand more for your investment.
My issues with PASS as an organization didn’t start today. It has finally come to a boil though. I’m not exactly sure what I’m going to do in the future with PASS. I plan on staying involved with SQL Saturday events and building local community as much as possible. As for my ability to fight for change, I think I’ve reached the end of that road. There were UG’s before PASS and there will be UG’s after PASS has faded away. I for one look forward to joining ASSP, the Association of SQL Server Professionals, if they understand what caused PASS to loose the backing of the SQL Server community in the first place.