World Series of PASS

August 17, 2011

I’m sure Americans understand the joke that is the “World Series” of baseball. Everyone else rolls their eyes and knows that this ‘world’ means North America.

Some people feel similar with PASS, unfortunately. The North American Conference and the Global Summit are one in the same, and the 2013 Summit is to be held in Charlotte, North Carolina, to bring it “closer to database pros in the Eastern US who may not have been able to make the cross-country trip in the past.” The 24 Hours of PASS events have been split into two sets of 12, because numbers show that fewer people attend the sessions when America sleeps. “Two Days of Free SQL Server Training” is actually two Nights where I live, and most other people outside Europe and the Americas. (I’m actually on the organising committee for 24HOP, and am hoping to see this change back again soon)

And so it’s very exciting to see that there are people within PASS who are trying to Globalise the organisation more. And that’s GlobaliSe with an eSs, not a Zed. Microsoft’s Mark Souza and the current PASS President Rushabh Mehta are among those keen to make this happen, and I was recently invited to Stockholm for some meetings with representatives from around the world to discuss how to make PASS more global (which unfortunately, also means less US-centric).

It’s an interesting challenge – trying to think how to cater best for people who are essentially a minority in an organisation. It’s clear that the majority of PASS members are in the US. This is no surprise – it’s also the place that more SQL Server licenses are sold. But there is also a large portion of the SQL Server world which is not being targetted by PASS. The US market is comparatively low-hanging fruit, but there’s something to be said for reaching further afield. The US community will still benefit from most initiatives that are designed to cater better for non-US folk, but the non-US folk are less likely to benefit from US-ones.

Part of the challenge will be around metrics. If PASS measures success by the number of members, then it makes sense to focus on the more-populated areas of America. On the other hand, if success is measured in other ways, perhaps even ones that are more qualitative than quantitative, then globalisation can make better sense.

The meetings in Stockholm were very interesting, and it was good to hear opinions from other parts of the world, not just Americans (or Australians). But one of the most interesting things happened towards the end of it.

Three of us were invited to be non-voting advisors on the PASS Board of Directors – Raoul Illyés (Denmark), James Rowland-Jones (UK) and me (Aus). These appointed positions, only for a year (based on what the board is allowed to do). See page 4 of–%20June%202009.pdf, "The Board may also choose to appoint any number of non-voting advisors to the Board by a majority vote for a period of up to one year each."

Yes, these are currently non-voting positions that we’re taking on. But we do still have the ability to go through the election process to earn the ability to vote on board issues. I’m not sure we really need it though – this appointment will give the three of us (and in turn, our respective regions) a decent voice, even if the final decision is left to the existing people. In time, who knows how we can influence PASS and how PASS can influence the SQL world.

Finally – this isn’t about PASS taking over the world. It’s about PASS being better placed to support the worldwide community. This will probably involve supporting non-PASS events (such as SQLBits) too, and possibly even reducing the focus on requiring communities to sign up as official PASS chapters. A lot of things might change, but the hope and focus is on making PASS a better vehicle for supporting the worldwide SQL Server community.


This Post Has 9 Comments

  1. John Walker

    firstly, congrats rob on the PASS position, its good to see some non-US influence coming through PASS.
    secondly..  i am left pondering if this quote "It’s clear that the majority of PASS members are in the US" is actualised because of the US focus, are the majority of members from the US because the US is the focus, which leads to US events and around we go again.
    It would be great to see some events such as SQL Saturday make an appearance in Australia, especially considering that SQL Code camp is in a bit of a hiatus at the moment.

  2. Rob Farley

    Thanks John.
    Yes, it’s circular, but it’s also because the US is where Microsoft is based, and where more SQL Server licenses are sold than any other country.
    As for a local event, keep your ear to the ground for announcements…

  3. John Walker

    I’ll look forward to a local announcement soon,
    how about a hint, does it start with "SQL" and end in "saturday"?

  4. Rob Farley

    No, it doesn’t. It’s more likely to rhyme with "doolally"

  5. raja

    it was nice!

  6. Jack Corbett

    I think it’s great that the PASS board is reaching out to community leaders around the globe.  Having just spent 4 years working in a non-profit that sends people around the globe and had global partners, I can say from that limited experience, it will not be easy for PASS to become more global.  Honestly, the biggest problem will be money.  Because the US has one of the largest economies in the world most money will come from the US and, unfortunately, that tends to create a US bias.
    Eventually I think PASS will have to "regionalize" and have an international board to set organizational direction, which regional boards will implement.

  7. andyleonard

    Hi Rob,
      Congratulations! I think this is good for PASS and good the community. I believe the SQL Server Community has been global for some time now, and it’s cool to see PASS taking steps that recognize and support this fact.
      I agree with Jack that there will be challenges, but I believe the SQL Server Community has shown incredible resilience in the past. I wish you the best and I think you’ll do just fine.

  8. Rob Farley

    Thanks Jack & Andy – encouragement’s always a good thing. 🙂

  9. Andy Warren

    Rob, we’re excited to have you join us, and I think you’re right that even as non-voting (for now) members you’ll exert a lot of influence, in particular because we want to learn, and one size fits all won’t work. We’ll need a variety of strategies to succeed internationally. As Jack points out just funding international growth is hard. It’s one thing for PASS to invest in "reach" over "viewers", but a whole different thing to sell sponsors on that, and often sponsors pay the bills. Interesting stuff for sure!

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