One measure I have heard used to measure the effectiveness of a church goes along the lines of “If your church closed its doors tomorrow, would anyone notice?” I think that works for any civic organization, individual life where you want service to others to be a part of that and also membership organizations like SQL PASS.

Well Andy Warren asked recently what is broken about PASS and what should be fixed so here goes.

I’ve blogged at length about this a few months back in two posts…  One “PASS Is Not The SQL Community” and a more positive followup, “What Should PASS Be And Do?” Both were meant in a positive manner, because like Robert Matthew Cook, I really like the people that make up PASS. Like Grant Fritchey I enjoy the conference, the support of Women In Technology and run a PASS chapter and am helping Grant with a couple others run a SQL Saturday in New England that I blogged about last week.

How would my life be different if PASS closed its doors?

  • I wouldn’t have the Summit to go to.
  • I wouldn’t have the ability to network with folks through volunteer opportunities like helping with the MVP Birds of a Feather lunch, orientation committee, program committee, etc.
  • It would have taken me longer to meet a lot of the friends I now have in the SQL community.
  • I wouldn’t be able to say that I spoke at the event that draws the largest crowd of SQL Server community members in 2010 😉
  • I may not have found out about the Women In Technology organization
  • I wouldn’t get the 24 Hours of PASS, though I don’t stay up for all 24 hours, watch some when they share recordings later, and watch the same speakers at other webcasts/etc.
  • My wife and I could be called strange for many reasons. One of them is we decided to get rid of the TV in 2010. As a result, I can’t watch Soap Operas. Reading blogs, tweets, comments about PASS fills this void quite well.

Ok.. So the soap opera part was a joke. Other than Lost, I never actually watched any soap operas. 😉

Unscientific… But…

Every user group meeting I run, I roll out the PASS show. I talk about the Summit. The rally. SQL Saturday’s, VC presentations, etc. Then when I ask for a show of hands from the 25-60 we see at the meeting, most don’t belong to PASS, most have never been to a Summit. Some go to webcasts, tune in to a part of the 24 HOP, etc. Basically if PASS shut its doors, my User Group attendees would be fine. Most of them don’t even know the names I mention to see who knows the “SQL Community” that I think of. Many wouldn’t even know who Brent Ozar is, let alone the fact he has a sheep costume. I hear this from others. There seem to be three types of people out there in SQL communities:

1. Content where they are – They’ll learn what they have to do their job. They may do a fine job where they are but don’t want to go out of their way for any growth/community learning whether free or not – They don’t know what PASS is.

2. User Group Attendees – They want to better themselves and be challenged. They want to see what is out there. They may tune into more community events, hit a regional event or a conference if the cards are right. They might know what PASS is.

3. Gung Ho Community Types – The people, like me, who have something wrong with them. They want to run the user group meetings so they don’t have to drive 2 hours to one. They want to speak at events and help out. They want to learn as much as possible. They want to learn through teaching, blogging, etc. They know what PASS is and they are probably volunteering in some way.

What Should PASS Do Better?

I am going to steal from Andy Leonard’s post here a bit. He won’t mind, he is a forgiving guy.

  1. Community – Focus on it. Build it. Drive it from those who are already centers in the community, not from a board or organization down.
  2. Nominations – Change their role (broken record time) – let them weed out any who miss blatant prerequisites. Have them help perform interviews for the community. But not to narrow the field. Let the voting process work. I don’t care if the ballot looks like a phone book, we are smart people and can figure it out.
  3. Regional Initiatives – I have a PASS regional mentor. I think I may even have two. I met one of them at the Chapter lunch where I sat with others from my PASS region (NE). That’s the only time I’ve met them. The SQL Saturday that I am helping with has been planned and run 99% by the 4 of us mentioned in that post. Other than a website, mailing program and a money vaulting/distributing process and a donation we could definitely do this event on our own. My chapter? Other than the fact that I had to sign some stuff, get a comp to the Summit and try so hard to advertise for PASS at each meeting, you wouldn’t know it was a PASS chapter. In retrospect, I could have definitely just started a chapter on my own without signing and have had no difference.
  4. Reach out to the first two groups of people above – Instead of trying to reach out more to group number 3. I have no clue how this is done. I am perplexed that less people interact with PASS or events.

So… work on regional initiatives. Reach out to the great unPASSed masses and give them some sort of value. More SQL Rally like events? More active SQL Saturday support? Regional road shows? Local 1 or 2 track events. Maybe partner with MS regional offices and offer PASS/MS partner events on SQL topics at Microsoft’s facilities? I don’t know. But be more visible locally, reach out to those who haven’t been touched by PASS and touch them. make an impact on them.

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