24 Hours of Pass (or 24HOP) is a great program offered by PASS to provide free, online training for anyone who wants to learn more about SQL Server. They routinely have the best SQL Server presenters available for these sessions, and attract hundreds, perhaps even a thousand attendees from around the world. This is definitely one of the best things they've started doing in the past few years, and every session I've attended has been excellent.
So why am I so grumpy about it?
I'm not really, pretty much everything here is a minor annoyance that I can deal with. However since they're so minor they seem to be things that can be easily corrected and would make the process much better.
First off, this is my biggest gripe, the registration page:
What grinds my gears about this? I have to scroll alllllllllllllllllllllllllllll the way to bottom to actually register for the sessions. This wouldn't be so bad except all the details of the session, including the presenter, is in a separate list at the top. Both lists contain info the other does not, and scrolling between them to determine "Should I make time to listen to this? Who is speaking at this time anyway?" is really unnecessary.
My preference would be to keep the top list and add the checkboxes and schedule info in separate columns. This is a full-width design, so there's plenty of space for this data, which is pretty small anyway. The other huge benefit is halving the size of the page, which improves performance and lowers bandwidth usage considerably. And if you know HTML/ASP.Net, and you view the page source, you can find PLENTY of other things that can be reduced even further. (not just viewstate)
One nice thing that PASS does is send iCal reminders to your email address so you can accept them to your calendar. Again, they leave off the presenter in the appointment details, while still duplicating the meeting title in the body. Sometimes I make decisions based on speaker rather than content (Natalie Portman is reading the Yellow Pages??? I'M THERE!) and having the speaker in the iCal is helpful.
Next minor annoyances are the necessity for providing a company name, and the survey questions. I know PASS needs to market themselves effectively, and they need information to do that, and since this is a free event it's really not worth complaining about, but why ask the survey question twice? (once at registration, once again when joining the LiveMeeting) Same thing for the company name. All of this should be tied to email address, so that's all I should need to enter when joining the LiveMeeting.
The last one is also minor, but it irks me in this day and age of multiple browsers and the decline of Internet Explorer as a dominant platform. The registration page was originally created in Visual Studio 2003, and has a lot of IE-specific crud representative of the browser situation of 2003. (IE5 references? really? and is the aforementioned viewstate big enough?) This causes some grief with other browsers like Firefox, Chrome, and sometimes IE8 or 9. And don't get me started on using the page on a Mac or in Safari.
My main point is that PASS is an international organization, welcoming everyone from all levels of SQL Server proficiency, and in that spirit I think it would help to accommodate a wider range of browser software, especially since the registration page is extremely simple. I recognize that this page is not hosted on the PASS website and may be maintained by some division of Microsoft, but to me that's even worse if MS can't update their own pages. They've deprecated IE6, so they don't need to maintain support on their own websites anymore.
OK, I'll shut up now.