I have debated with myself for the past several days as to whether or not I was going to write this, and I decided I might as well weigh in on the subject. The subject in question is the PASS Summit speaker selection process. Because I am just an attendee and have not spoken at a single event, including a user group, I thought I might provide an interesting perspective on the subject.
I have been a database administrator for just over three years and have been following the SQL Community for almost as long. I have attended some user groups, SQL Saturdays, and the 2012 PASS Summit. I am fairly active on Twitter and have answered a few questions on dba.stackexchange.com, so I am not completely an outsider, but I am also not fully-engaged. This year is the first that I have followed the speaker selection process, and I must say that I am in awe of the SQL community. Here we have a group of people so enthusiastic about sharing their knowledge that they are disappointed and maybe even upset about not being selected to present. So much passion for sharing knowledge is amazing and inspiring!
My training budget is thin, so I had to choose one event to attend this year. It was a tough choice since there are so many great events, like the PASS Summit, the SQL Skills Immersion Events, the Brent Ozar Unlimited training, SQL Intersections and many more, but I chose the PASS Summit. Therefore, my experience at the Summit needs to be both an excellent time of community and networking as well as top-shelf training.
The Summit reminds me of the Boston Marathon—the pinnacle of marathons. People from around the world run in the Boston Marathon, but participating in the marathon is not as simple as just signing a form and paying the registration fee. In order to be eligible for the Boston Marathon, you have to run other marathons and receive a qualifying time. Why shouldn’t the Summit follow the same model with its speaker selection process? If you are going to speak as a subject matter expert at one of the SQL community’s biggest events, shouldn’t you have to qualify? Shouldn’t you receive a high rating at a specific number of SQL Saturdays to be eligible to submit a session? I think Brent Ozar hit the nail on the head four years ago with his post PASS Summit Speaking Requirements where he outlined a tiered approach to qualifying for speaking at PASS events. And what if you don’t quite qualify as a speaker? That’s where I feel PASS is missing a golden opportunity to use the twenty-four hours of PASS, or #24HOP, as a way to introduce the up-and-comers to the SQL community. This would make the #24HOP kind of like the National Invitation Tournament (NIT) for NCAA basketball; while you may not have been selected to speak at the PASS summit, you are still able to take part in a great event—the #24HOP.
Now, I have read blogs, such as Andy Warren’s Above Reproach, Kendal Van Dyke’s Thoughts On The 2014 PASS Summit Selections, Bradley Ball’s It’s not Business, It’s Personal, Amy Lewis’s PASS Summit Session Selection, and the myriad of tweets out there in regards to the selection process, and obviously speakers are at least somewhat dissatisfied with the current selection process. A qualifying process may not be perfect either; however, let’s remember that PASS is growing and learning as much as it is helping its individual members grow and learn, and there are going to be growing pains. Let us not lose sight of what these events are all about; they would be nothing without the attendees.