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SQL Server thoughts, observations, and comments
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PASS Fail

Long time, No see.  This space has been a bit quiet and I apologize for that.  Seems I have been a bit busy getting out and earning a living.  Tough times all over.

Anyway, the 2009 PASS (www.sqlpass.org) board elections just closed.  There has been a lot of controversy over this election with a non-SQL professional seeking a board member position.  Pro or con, I am not getting into that argument.  I see merits on both sides.. I will say that the nominating committee failed the PASS membership badly.  The failure was not in allowing this person to run.   On the contrary, I think a controversial candidate is great since it lets the members decide exactly where the organization should go..  The failure was in limiting the slate to just four candidates.for three open positions.  I do recall from history and civics classes that some political systems have the exact number of candidates as offices, but I don't remember the exact term for such a system.  "Democracy" certainly isn't the right term.  Community organizations should have leaders chosen by the community.  This is not the case with this "election".

Note that I am not criticizing the quality of the candidates selected.  Some of them I know personally and consider friends.  Others are professional colleagues that I know of and respect.  The problem is four people and three positions is a final round of musical chairs, not a board election.

Since I am a problem solver by nature (If you are not, consider a career change from DBA.  You won't like it and you won't do well)  I will propose a solution:

The nominating committee function should simply be to properly vet the candidates.  It should establish that whatever claims for personal and professional achievements a candidate claims are factually correct.  It should establish minimum criteria for candidates and publish those qualifications.  Those qualifications should be things like being a full-up member of the organization AND a local chapter for at least three years and attended at least two prior PASS summits (European ones count).  Maybe some level of volunteer community commitment, but I think that gets us too close to the weeds in measuring just how different volunteer efforts should be compared.  Simple, basic, fundamental requirements.

Then let the members decide.

After all, this is a community organization.  Isn't it?

 

Print | posted on Tuesday, October 20, 2009 4:11 PM |

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# re: PASS Fail

Spot...On!
10/20/2009 4:55 PM | Chuck Boyce
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# re: PASS Fail

The PASS board process has been a failure for years. I tried to run two or three years ago and was not allowed to because (I was told) I didn't volunteer enough. I tried to volunteer and my e-mails (several of them) were never returned. Since that time I've seen board members who were allowed to run--and who even got elected--who have much less of a history with the organization than I do. After watching the board I'm actually glad I didn't get the chance to participate--it's too much work for too little return--but I am forced to question the black box, seemingly random process used to tell people whether or not they're allowed to run.
10/20/2009 5:12 PM | Adam Machanic
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# re: PASS Fail

A great post. I'm wondering if the basic requirements should be a bit more flexible, though.

>It should establish minimum criteria for candidates and publish those qualifications. Those qualifications should be things like being a full-up member of the organization AND a local chapter for at least three years and attended at least two prior PASS summits (European ones count). <

Given that I believe PASS should be an international organization and inclusive of all SQL professionals, this criteria seems a bit of a challenge for people who could make wonderful board candidates.

Full member: check.

Local Chapter: What about all of those pros who don't live within commuting distance of a local chapter? I'm guessing this is the vast majority of SQL Server pros on the planet. Heck, I live in one of North America's largest cities and we don't have a local chapter. So perhaps this could be "member of a chapter (local or virtual), or member of a local database or SQL-related community." I suspect you want local chapter involvement to help candidates better understand PASS and PASS members. But joining a local chapter might not lead to any more understanding than someone who is actively engaged with the PASS community in general.

At least 3 years: Sounds a bit long to me, but I understand your point.

Attended at least 2 prior PASS Summits: What about great leaders and contributors who aren't funded for conference attendance? Should they be excluded as candidates? Can they not make great leaders? What if other life constraints keep them from travelling? Should that disqualify them completely?

The issue with these types of test is that they don't always have the intended consequences. I'd love to see a mix of board members who come from diverse SQL Server environments: big cities, rural cities, remote support, independent consultants, large corporation employees, consultant companies, software vendors, "real companies", international locations, companies with big DB budgets, companies with small budgets, companies that support volunteering but perhaps not all expenses, companies that throw money at PASS because it's their line of business, companies in non-IT businesses, etc. With the proposed constraints, the diversity will be constrained as well.

Maybe I just happen to work in the types of environments that have great people and lots of travel constraints. I just think that virtual participation and engagement should count for something.

I do believe that PASS should publish minimum criteria, then ensure that candidates meet that criteria.
10/20/2009 5:13 PM | Karen Lopez
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# re: PASS Fail

I completely agree that the limitation of the candidates to a pool of four to fill three positions was a disservice to the community. With those numbers, you're voting AGAINST one candidate rather than voting FOR three. Tim Ford's absence from final candidate pool is proof positive that there weren't enough choices. Hopefully everyone can learn from this and agree that it was a huge misstep, and learn from the mistake

But I do disagree that PASS shouldn't limit the number of candidates at all. I would still like to see some filtering of the final list of candidates. I'm not privy to the number of people who submitted their names for consideration, but I'd bet it's significant. If that process was open so that every potential candiate knew that they'd be on the final ballot, the number of submissions would undoubtedly grow significantly. While many of us would do our best to investigate all of the candidates, there's probably a much larger number of people who would simply check off the names that they recognize rather than reading the exhaustive bios of what could be dozens of individuals.

So for my $.02, I'd like to still see a review and qualification process, but a) make it more transparent, and b) give me more choices.

-Tim
10/20/2009 6:07 PM | Tim Mitchell
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# re: PASS Fail

Karen,

I thought carefully about my criteria.

PASS is the umbrella organization for local user groups. All true volunteer organizations start leaders at the local level and work up. We are told PASS is about the community. If you don't really commit to a local group, how are you going to lead a larger one?

As for the 2 summit rule, I see that as equally important. The Summit is PASS's most important eent and fund raiser. Again, experience counts. Plus if you don't have support to attend the summit, I doubt you have the resources to commit to the time and travel a board member requires. Microsoft can award an MVP anywhere for community service. We are talking about a much narrower set of qualifications; direct user group participatio and support.

Note that I did NOT require that the person be a SQL professional, only that they participate in our community for a while before attempting to lead it. I don't think that is too burdensome a qualification.
10/20/2009 6:29 PM | Geoff Hiten
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# re: PASS Fail

Karen: No local SQL Server group?!? According to your web site you live in Toronto. Assuming that's accurate you might want to spend some quality time with Google; 30 seconds found me:

http://www.tsql.ca/

Enjoy!
10/20/2009 10:44 PM | Adam Machanic
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# re: PASS Fail

Right on, Geoff!
10/23/2009 12:00 PM | Linchi Shea
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# re: PASS Fail

Yes, there's an official group, with a link. Pretty much dead, as far as I could tell. So Google helps find webpages, not active communities. Spending a few seconds on that actual page would show that. E-mails to the contact info there have gone unanswered. It is only in the last few months that this chapter even showed up on the PASS website, and even then there is no direct link to the chapter website.

I stand by my position that there are plenty, if not the majority, of SQL Server pros around the world who have no local chapter. I guess they aren't part of the community in this definition.

It's fine if the PASS board wants to limit itself to SQL Server Pros who live in the same city as a chapter. It just won't represent the SQL Server community as a whole.
11/15/2009 1:22 PM | Karen Lopez
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