PASS Ponderings Part newsequentialid()

Everybody else is doing it and I’ve never been shy to share my thoughts on the organization I enjoy being a part of (PASS is not the SQL Community, What Should PASS be and Do?, If Pass Closed its Doors…) And my motive is typically a constructive one. I actually really am PASSionate about PASS. I believe they we have the network and resources to be a driver of SQL Server content throughout the world – beyond the conference. As I talked about in most of those posts above, I think there is work to be done to get there. Work for the board and work for the volunteers and membership.

Which kind of brings me to adding yet another post on the latest #SQLFamily dysfunction/feuding. I’m not going to say anything revolutionary and I’m going to probably contradict the way I said some things in comments on Brent’s post – at least the first thing I said there…

First – why share? Because I care. I just want to put another thought/side out there to the decision for the board appointment (If you don’t know what I am talking about, Brent’s post is probably the one that summarizes all of the others the best, you may disagree with some of the commentary – but he summarizes the events pretty well)

I only have a couple some related main thoughts to share –

I Like Representative Democracy better than Direct Democracy

Especially in professional organizations. It’s not that I don’t trust all my fellow citizens, it’s that I trust the folks we send to represent us. I trust the ability to change them if they screw up. When looking at the congress and senate in the United States, I’m happy that they vote on the bills and discuss them. They make the time to understand the nuances, to poll the people but then to vote on what they think is right. Now I may (and I often do – from both sides of the aisle!) disagree with what was decided and what bills made it into laws, but I don’t want the solution to be me and a few hundred million others voting it out. We elect a representative because we feel they can handle business on our behalf.

With PASS we send folks to the board who are willing to take on the time commitment, who are willing to put up with criticism and make decisions on an organization they care about. We vett these candidates (sometimes better than others) then have access to ask them questions, learn more about them and decide to vote on them, or not. I like this system.

I’m Okay With The Board  Appointing Board Members

Because I’m okay with indirect democracy (we don’t like a decision we vote ’em out, but in the meantime, we get their decisions), I’m fine with the board making these kind of appointments. There are rules to prevent them from stacking the board with folks from their company. There are rules in place on who is and who isn’t qualified. There are standards to be met. Then these people that represent a cross-section of our SQL community have to still approve the recommendation. This still represents checks and balances. Just like a legislator in a committee (although I say even more so with our Board – they aren’t doing this for money, prestige or lucrative speaking engagements while collecting a pension when they are done), they are acting with the best interests of the organization in mind. Even if the decision is a tough one, one that will catch flak and draw ire and silly comments like “Bill should resign”, they make it for the good of the organization. Can you get some bad apples? Sure, but you have to get a majority of them to have a bad decision. I don’t see that with our board. In fact, three of the people who just voted on the recent appointments were the top three vote earners in the same election we’re discussing! The same clamor for “go with the popular vote!” could also consider those who won the popular vote agreed on the decision. I don’t know Denise well but I know Rob and Adam and I know they aren’t pushovers who would be forced into voting against their conscience from peer pressure. I know Tom cares so deeply about the PASS organization. I know Allen has poured so much of his time into the group. We are talking about people who really do seem to care about PASS. I trust them to appoint members. If I didn’t trust them with that, I probably wouldn’t trust them to manage the world’s largest SQL Server event, a budget and the various portfolios they manage.

Further, as Aaron Bertrand has pointed out in numerous direct and indirect ways in response to folks, so many professional organizations already do appointments this way.

The Timing…

Brent raises an interesting point that stands in a vacuum. I don’t know what and why the board did what they did, but perhaps we should stop to consider that maybe they had reason. They discuss people issues in closed session. This is standard in just about every organization I’ve been a voting member of, it’s standard in town or city politics. Because I like a representative democracy and because I trust those we elect to represent us to do what is right and best – I trust their thought process. The only frustrating part here is the timing, it was right near an election, in fact the vacancies essentially coincided with the election process. The by-laws allow what was done to be done and I support the board and exec team in their decision making process, whatever their reasons are. (In fact I respect them even more for doing it! I think the easy decision would be to say, “we are gonna feel this one! let’s just go with the popular vote, we are fine by by-laws either way, if we say no to anyone folks voted on you know we are going to have to explain and if we don’t we get called out, insulted and annoy folks.. If we do explain ourselves then we potentially risk hurting reputations of folks passed over”.. They went with the hard choice, I think).

Maybe A Change Like…

So I signed the petition that Andy Warren put out. Early on but now I wish I hadn’t. I like the spirit of the change but there are issues with it.. What happens if a vacancy is 6 months after the election? A lot can change in 6 months. I wouldn’t mind seeing something like:

– If the vacancy is before, during or within 1 month of a general board election, the Board shall appoint the next highest vote getter

– If the board learns anything that disqualifies that individual (and has clear and convincing rationale – maybe even discussion with the NomCom about that info) then they can pass them over to the next on the list.

– If no one is next on the list, the board can proceed with a recommendation from the President of PASS as they do today. Same thing if those appointed decline.

– If the vacancy is greater than 1 month after the election, but less than 1 month before the next election, the PASS president shall recommend candidates in a manner they see fit. These candidates are then interviewed, discussed and voted on by the voting members of the board.

– If the vacancy is less than one month prior to the next general election, that position is not filled until the general election

– All Board appointments made outside of the general Board elections shall be valid for the remainder of the calendar year, and any appointed candidate who wishes to run for a seat shall go through the nomination committee process as though they were a new applicant.
Or something like all of that… Now we still run the risk of the NomCom allowing someone to go through, having them get position four and then learning something about them in the 2 weeks between election and nomination. The board would be able to reject that person and to protect privacy they wouldn’t be able to state why. That does lead to speculation, that does lead to “reputation concerns” for the individual rejected. I don’t think there is a way around that though. If something about you coming out would hurt you and your reputation, I don’t suggest you run for President of the United States – it will come out. If you are honest with yourself and feel there is something that could do damage to your reputation or cause you to be rejected by the NomCom or the board during an appointment, it probably isn’t a good idea to submit an application. That sounds harsh, but kid gloves only work so far.

Wrap It Up, Walsh…

This is another tough moment for PASS. We can handle it in a few ways that these statements summarize:

  • “Fire them all! JRJ should resign immediately, Bill should be fired and this whole process is junk.. They are all liars and corrupt!”
  • “Forget it… I’m done with PASS.. It isn’t going to change”
  • “Let’s tackle this new challenge. Let’s analyze the by-laws, let’s see if we can be a bit more direct in explaining our reasons without causing issues, let’s figure it out and clean it up”

I’ve never uttered statement 1. I started off with the sentiment in number 2, when I got fired up in chain reaction mode and let other comments influence me. I’m at sentiment number 3 now… No heads need to roll here. No confidence has been shaken. We found a potential weakness in one of our processes. I don’t think it is a weakness that needs radical change like “anytime someone vacates a position, fire up an election” – that hamstrings an organization that is actually trying to adapt to change and make itself better. But maybe something heading towards the c- towards the c-c-c..compromise described above (or someone else’s compromise idea, I don’t care)

Some of the comments (thankfully there aren’t tons of them) on some of the blogs are just brutal and mean spirited and without all of the information. It seems like we are learning too much from the political discourse coming out of both major political parties in the USA and the media supporters on either side. We can all just get along, so let’s do it.

The noise is loud right now and I want to see it quiet down, I want to see folks support the board (the board that we elected) and then I want to see the board tackle some of the sentiment I had in my series of posts linked to above (and more). After all, our ability to work past our differences and talk about touchy subjects is one of the reasons I really love this #SQLfamily and PASS is one of the orphanages for all us SQL People in the family.

10 thoughts on “PASS Ponderings Part newsequentialid()”

  1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts Mike, and for your trust.

    Next week the BoD is meeting in Seattle, and we have set aside time to discuss how appointments will be made in the future. We will discuss possible bylaw changes, nomination process, and any other ideas that have been mentioned this week.

    Best,

    Tom

    Reply
    • Thanks for the update on the BoD meeting – glad to hear there is time carved out to talk about this “stuff”. I’m confident good will come out of it.

      Reply
  2. Good take on the issue. I totally agree that we need to trust those WE elected to make decisions based on what they think is best for the organization.

    The election was very late this year so that all the recommendations by the Election Review Committee could be implemented. Because of this we knew that there would be 2 extra vacancy on the board before the election. I wouldn’t think that this would happen in the future.

    If there to be a change to the by-laws I’d prefer to see a change that says any vacancy known prior to the start of the election process be filled via that election. Then any vacancy created post election start be filled via appointment as is done now. Certainly I’d expect the board to take the previous election into account, but not be bound to abide by it.

    The second change to the by-laws should set a firm date for the election. Preferably the election would be complete prior to the Summit, assuming the Summit will always be in the fall.

    Reply
    • Hey Jack –

      Thanks for the comments. That’s another good approach with the by-law change. The 1 month was my stab at doing that since within a month should still account for those and the voting should still be fresh. I also think it is critically important to still give the board the ability to bypass that vote if there is an issue with a candidate. Like you said WE elected them, and we should trust them to act in the best interests of the organization they are donating a huge chunk of their time to on the all volunteer board.

      Reply
  3. Mike & Jack,

    I’ve also been wondering what a bylaw change would look like. I’ve thought about basing something on dates but that gets challenging quickly — as your post pointed out. I was also thinking about vacancies that are publicly known prior to the start of the election and filling those via the election. I think that puts everyone on a level playing field. That also makes it very clear when the Board is allowed to make a decision and when they aren’t.

    The other thing I was kicking around was whether there needed to be some minimum vote cutoff for votes. If we had three candidates that received 1,000+ votes and the 4th received 20 votes I’m not sure that we would be excited about taking that 4th person. I’m not sure what the right answer is there.

    I’m not sure specifying the election dates in the bylaws is a good thing. Right now they need to be completed before the end of the year. I think that’s probably good enough at this point. That gives us a little flexibility to handle things like the ERC or Summit that is extra early or late some year.

    -Bill

    Reply
    • Hey Bill,

      Thanks for taking the time to comment here. I also appreciate your post on the PASS Blog explaining the decision.

      Definitely agree on your points –

      A minimum cutoff could be important. Maybe a question of percentages. Any person who receives less than some percentage of the popular votes (10%?) wouldn’t “automatically” get it?

      But then that brings up more questions for you folks to bat around – what happens if there are three slots open for a general election and the top three votes are 1,000, 800 and 50.. In that case, since we wouldn’t yet be in appointment territory the third vote getter would be under a percentage threshold but be the one because of the vote. So I think we could then say “that’s fine, the NomCom vetted this person and the board is always there as a safe guard if there is a disqualifying factor learned”. So I think maybe just assuming that “risk” that we already have today in the election we’d be okay. I think a key would be to make any vacancy appointment always be a one year appointment. Not even “fill out the term”, finish the year. If they enjoyed their time (or felt they were effective even if they didn’t enjoy it 😉 ) they could just run again and campaign on what they had done.

      I like the way of wording it to just say “vacancies known prior to an election” instead of publicly. This isn’t because I don’t trust the board (I think as you see I do) but it just prevents the conspiracy theorist element from being loud and divisive in the event a vacancy wasn’t known but happened right around voting time anyway. Know folks will be saying “See!!! The board withheld the info that so and so was resigning because they had a secret agenda and a Manchurian candidate waiting!” This avoids that potential. It’s that whole concept of “avoiding all appearance of evil”

      These are just my thoughts. You seem to already be heading in that direction and I know that you guys have a board meeting next week and this is all still quite fresh. I’m confident that you will work something out for the good of the organization. Maybe next year is the year we have the quiet election 😉

      Reply
    • Hi Mike,

      I know I’m super late chiming in here…but I think it’s important that there is one piece of information missing from every posting I’ve read thus far. As far as the number of candidates on the ballot, the NomCom’s role is to make sure the candidate is qualified to be a nominee. This year, PASS had six people throw their hat into the ring. The rules as they are now, are for the NomCom to present up to 3 candidates per open spot. So, there was room for nine people to ‘make it’ onto the ballot. Now, all six did make it – this time – and they were ranked accordingly. There is no guarantee that those who made the ballot this time would have been the same people to make it next time, given a larger pool of candidates.
      Granted, it’s a non-issue as what transpired was that we had an excellent pool of 6 very qualified candidates, I just wanted to show that the candidate pool can be a rather fluid thing.
      Thanks for you comments and time on this, Mike. I certainly enjoyed your viewpoints.

      Reply
      • Hey Wendy!

        So so so sorry for being late on approving the comment! I absolutely agree that not enough candidates put themselves forward and it would have been nice to have seen more international candidates to even perhaps been asked to run. I see no problem with current board members reaching out to folks with a “you should really think about running” note. But yeah the pool of candidates is definitely fluid, that is yet another reason to see some more clarification/spelling out of how we handle the “need to appoint someone” situation.

        Reply
  4. Mike- Great inputs and feedback. Awesome.

    Bill –

    Thanks for the response. I am glad you are listening to the community. I do want to let you know that while some people have taken this issue and attacked you personally, that is not fair at all. You went by the bylaws and we cannot find fault with you on that.

    I hope you can do 2 things.

    1. Bylaws are changed so the right thing is done esp when appointed positions are known before the FINISH of the election or finish of the term/year.

    2. Some level of justice is done to Sri here. I have to commend him for not launching a big campaign against the Board or taking this personal and blogging something nasty.
    He has taken this in a very professional manner from what I can tell. And by his tweets, he still seems very focussed on driving SQLRally Dallas to a success which is even more commendable. Don’t know how someone can be so committed to the success of PASS after something like this.

    The community has given you 2 clear runner-ups just by the voting numbers. I hope you go by that in addition to the position of JRJ which I think is necessary as well.

    Reply
    • David – I apologize for the late approval of this comment. The timeliness factor is a bit off and I don’t want to dredge up those emotions here but I don’t know if “Some level of justice” needs to be done though. It wasn’t like the by-laws said “4th position wins, and we’ve seen at least one example where someone was passed over (Tom LaRock). At the end of the day, the board acted in a way it saw best. It wasn’t a personal attack or an insult but a decision that was agreed upon by a nearly unanimous board (including three new members). Tough call here and an obviously sensitive situation for some but I am confident that we’ll start heading in a better direction.

      Reply

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