Questionable administrative decisions (I’m looking at you, PASS)

It’s not often that I will call out by name a specific organization for what I deem to be questionable decision-making.  But today, I am making an exception.

Recently, the Professional Association of SQL Server (PASS — the organization that administers SQL Saturday) made a very questionable administrative decision.  In order to submit presentations to SQL Saturday events, all submitters must first register for the event.  Previously, if a speaker’s presentation is accepted for a conference, he or she was automatically registered for the event.

This decision has resulted in an outcry from people affiliated with PASS and SQL Saturday.

I’ll start with an open letter written by my friend, Steve Jones.  (Steve, by the way, is one of the people who first organized SQL Saturday several years ago.)

Tamera Clark, who administers the SQL Saturday Facebook group, also posted the following.

If you haven’t seen the “news” Pass made a huge change to the SQLSaturday sites that impacts both organizers and speakers. There has been no general announcement only to “current” event organizers.

If an event is open and their schedule is not published yet and you have submitted, speakers must REGISTER FOR THE EVENT as an attendee. Organizers can’t approve sessions until you are registered as an attendee.

As a speaker in order to submit to an event, you must register first and are prompted to do so.

*Yes this means organizers will need to contact speakers to get them to register.

*Yes this means you must register for an event and if you are considerate go back and unregister if you don’t get selected or can no longer attend.

*I’ve been told this does not register you 2x for the event.

Things I don’t know:

*What happens to the lunch status if a speaker is selected. Does it update to “compt by event”?

*As a speaker if I change my mind before the event(prior to the schedule being made) and just cancel my registration what happens?

*As a speaker if I change my mind during the process of a schedule being made (ie. session approved but not on schedule) and I cancel my registration what happens?

*As a speaker if I change my mind and the schedule is published what happens when I cancel my registration.

For organizers it looks like we might have gone back in time, now you don’t know if speakers are still attending when not selected. Inflating numbers and causing wait list issues for some.

Finally, I wrote an email to PASS, and I wanted to share it here.

To whom it may concern:

I am writing to strongly object to and to voice my extreme displeasure at PASS’s new policy about requiring speakers to register to an event in order to submit presentations.

This is an extra step that is wholly unnecessary, inconvenient, and detrimental.  All SQL Saturday speakers are volunteers.  The process for allowing speakers to submit should be made easier, not harder.  I have written ‘blog articles, and I have a SQL Saturday presentation, that encourages potential speakers to volunteer to this otherwise-noble event.  Requiring speakers to first register complicates the submission process, and may actually DISCOURAGE, not encourage, new speakers to sign up.

Additionally, if I register, and I am not selected to speak at an event, I will need to take the extra step of canceling my registration.  Number one, that adds to the inconvenience and complication.  Number two, if I should not remember to cancel (as is human nature), that is one more spot that I am denying a potential attendee who is on the waiting list.

I heard that this new policy is to enforce the terms and agreements for SQL Saturday.  This is not an acceptable solution.  If this is about terms and agreements, a more sensible solution would be to include the text along with the speaker’s registration — something along the lines of “if you are accepted to speak, understand that you accept the terms and conditions…” etc.

I strongly urge you to reconsider this policy.  Any policy that makes things difficult is more likely to discourage, not encourage, further participation.

Raymond J. Kim
PASS Member
SQL Saturday presenter

I’ve written articles encouraging people to become speakers, as well as put together a presentation that encourages people to present.  In one fell swoop, PASS is threatening to throw that away.

If you are involved with SQL Saturday, and you are as outraged about this policy change as I (and many others) are, I encourage you to contact PASS to voice your displeasure.  By applying pressure to the organization, perhaps they will reverse course.