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Would you be involved with PASS without a SQL Saturday?

I wanted to bring you a quote from #SQLSaturday channel in the SQL Community Slack that I found amazing:

“They [the PASS board] are already signaling they don’t want to spend $$ on SQL Sat and a few of the board members would just as soon SQL Sats die.”

Having missed the Q/A at the Summit, this blew my mind.

Everyone I know who joined PASS had a requisite SQL Saturday or local user group to get them interested and welcomed into the community.
Even after my second SQL Saturday I didn’t really recognize what PASS was (beyond my local UG) and if someone had asked about the international org, I would have responded with (at best) “uh, sure, I guess?”

In my opinion, the local user groups are the primary thing that matters, the national/international components of the org may put out a few high quality webinars on a weekly basis, but 99% of that content is not related to my problems at hand. The local UG/SQL Saturday gives me valuable time with experts which I don’t have to pay thousands of dollars for to get on a plane or buy a ticket to the Summit.

If you ask the question “Would the SQL PASS Summit exist without SQL Saturday?” I think the answer is no, or if yes, then a much smaller less welcoming affair.

Agree or disagree?

I would love to hear more from the community whether they cherish and think SQL Saturday should be funded, or if it seems like a dead end activity for PASS.

 

 

 

 

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33 Comments

  1. The fact this is a blog post saddens me. I shall write up a blog post about my thoughts on the matter.

  2. Not sure about funding, but definitely PASS should promote SQL Saturday and provide the proper technology for the organizers.

    Sponsors can fund (yes, finding sponsors is hard), or a minimal ticket price…$20 including lunch will help a lot.

    I knew about my local UG back in 2004, PASS shortly thereafter, then Summit. never heard of SQL Saturday until maybe 3 years ago.

    • ck ck

      Interesting! So you had local connections but SQL Sat is a new thing for you, did you hear about the Summit through your UG?
      Playing devil’s advocate (as you seem to approve of SQL Sat), do you think the funding could happen through some other venue that wasnt as “rigid” as SQL Saturday (eg local user groups) to funnel membership and sponsors?

      • In the early 2000s, I worked contracts at MS in Dallas…big SQL Server market. I don’t know when SQL Saturdays even started…I wouldn’t have noticed if it wasn’t a local one.

        I think SQL Saturday is a great tool/event and should be continued. Funding is always a dicey conversation, and I’ve not paid any attention to how PASS uses their money, since I don’t pay a membership fee. Local UGs generally offer one topic, once a month. That’s why SQL Saturday is so great…all different flavors of SQL folks in the same place learning different things. I would pay a modest fee to go.

  3. Cyn Jo Cyn Jo

    My very first event in the community was Summit. A technical person working in a non-tech industry told me about it at a transportation conference. It was after Summit that I began to get involved with user groups and SQL Saturdays. I do think they are valuable though. If there is an issue with money then maybe Pass can continue to brand SQL Saturdays without the constraints and sponsorships? It’s always about the money, isn’t it?

    • ck ck

      Wow, Summit first eh? Interesting!

      To your last question, yes, it pretty much is always about the money. However, I think having a sustainable organization is much preferable to cost cutting because we are trying to do something we just don’t have the cash for.

      So to me I think we need to either set the budget up in such a way that the cost of SQL Sat is clearly tied to the benefit, and that benefit can be raised in the org’s eyes.
      If they think that its not a cost center but in fact a profit center they can develop that has a delayed payoff (or some such budget magic) then maybe we can move on with a stronger local and global presence.

  4. Without PASS supporting SQL Saturdays, such as the infrastructure for the website, sponsorship management, attendee management, etc. SQL Saturday would all but disappear. How many local organizers could put up a website to support a SQL Saturday.?20-30 cities? And I will be very blunt. If it was not for the SQL Saturday in Indianapolis in 2014, I would not have ever heard of PASS, I would have never been on Twitter, I would never have heard of #SQLFamily, and I probably would have saved myself $5k a year in travel expenses.

    • Aaron N. Cutshall Aaron N. Cutshall

      I totally agree with John (THAT doesn’t happen very often! 😛 ). My first exposure back in 2006 was with the Indy UG which I attended for a few years before I went to my first SQL Sat and I went to Summit only the last 3 years. In my humble opinion, if anything were to get dropped it would be Summit. I became part of SQL Family by being involved with various SQL Sat events. Summit is nice, but not as important to me.

    • Well Sharepoint Saturday happen, so does code camp and here we have Music City Code. Sure #SQLSat is spoiled with the speedpass. I can generate invoices from PayPal manually so that would take care of sponsors. You can use eventbrite and charge $ to register attendees.

    • JESSE SEYMOUR JESSE SEYMOUR

      After my first experience with the PASS infrastructure for SQL Saturday I strongly considered not doing it again. Instead, I would work with my local tech college for registrations and just have sponsors mail me checks to pay the bills with.

      For me, the biggest value that PASS provides is access to a pool of speakers who are willing to come to Wausau WI to speak to maybe 100 attendees. That is pretty much the only thing keeping me on the PASS platform.

  5. Chrissy LeMaire Chrissy LeMaire

    I heard about SQL Saturday (2010) before the Summit (2013).

    I’ve been a DBA for decades, but only recently got involved in the SQL community in the past couple years. I was pumped about there being an official association but kept hearing that PASS could use a ton of improvements (to put it kindly). One thing I never heard people complain about? SQL Saturday.

    Seems that SQL Saturday gives PASS a lot of good will and that goes a long way. Perhaps more of the investment could go the other way (without exploitation, SQL Saturday being affordable and approachable is key.) SQL Saturday feels homey, local and _good_. It’s a feeling I prefer, if you get my drift.

    • ck ck

      Can’t agree more.
      At least my SQL Saturday is a super positive, fun, and local place to hang out; I honestly would go even if no one was speaking just to be there with my people.
      To your second point, my thoughts follow the same track – I want to make sure that long term both pieces work together in a way that is mutually beneficial.

      I saw the budget and straight up SQL Sat is 200k in the hole in the way things are recorded, I want to make that feel less bad.

  6. Andy Yun Andy Yun

    I certainly would not be involved in the community without SQL Saturday Chicago. That’s where I first learned of the greater SQL Server community, of PASS, of my local User Groups, etc.

    On a related note, right now SQL Saturday really relies on PASS for IT infrastructure services. Why can’t those be transitioned out to a 3rd party SaaS? There’s great sites out there to facilitate event management like Meetup. Perhaps just keep SQL Saturday site “centralized” for central marketing purposes and the like?

  7. First I got promoted to MVP due to help in forums, then I got involved on the community more beyond forums.

    Then I was invite to the MVP summit without have to pay for it, still on my 2 works I was never given any license or help to assist an event, so to assist summit 2015 I had to pay the plane, hotel and everything, I am from a emerging country and at that time my salary was not a lot so I had to ask for vacations, and use them for this.

    I am sure I am a odd person and not the primary target of PASS, but without SQL Saturday it would be hard for people on this countries to flourish.

    • ck ck

      Wow, what a story! I am really glad you came out the other side, that’s huge.

  8. Mala Mahadevan Mala Mahadevan

    Funding is very different from supporting SQL saturdays. We have never received any significant funding from PASS and most of us can well do without what we get now. But if support is withdrawn, that is a pretty big thing. The website, the ‘global’ sponsorship network, speaker base – a lot of things would suffer because of it. I hope it does not get that far. I have never understood or agreed with the argument that summit attendance is impacted by SQL saturdays. Majority people from my neck of the woods who come to the summit do so because their company sends them. SQL saturdays need no such backing to attend. Most people come on their own volition. The networking as well as other gains you get at the summit is not even comparable to sql saturdays – which bring free training to a huge number of people who cannot afford it. I hope this ridiculous comparison ends somehow.

    • ck ck

      Hey Mala 🙂

      Interesting take, so you dont think removing the SQL Sat attendance would lose Summit attendees, but you still think they should stick together?
      Devil’s advocate, if I was the Summit then why would I fund SQL Sat? (besides good will)

      • Mala Mahadevan Mala Mahadevan

        Why would you ‘fund’ SQL Sat if you were at the summit? Am not even sure i understand the connection. Are you speaking as a vendor or an attendee? I can onl yspeak for my town where i’ve done 9 sqlsats so far. The audience is hardly the same. Very few among sql sat audience get to go the summit. And the number of companies locally sending people to conferneces has not changed in any way because of sql saturdays.

  9. As many commenters before me, the only reason I heard about PASS was due to SQL Saturdays. Those are the only PASS events with actual impact in the communities.

    It’s ok to have a PASS Summit (where the majority of people are from North America, because traveling costs and visa are a huge barrier to everyone else), it’s also ok to have online events such as 24HoP and Virtual Groups/Chapters (why the hell did they change the name — useless waste of time and money!), but those event’s are a tiny percentage of what the community needs or sees.

    Financial support for local chapters and events is drastically low. And guess what? Local initiatives “should” be the basis of PASS’s work…

    Instead, for a local event organiser, there is literally zero benefit from that being a SQL Saturday anymore: you get nothing or close to nothing financially from PASS, you have no backing from PASS if your event fails (you get stuck with the bill, at least outside North America), you have to be an “approved” user group (that’s a ridiculous other PASS problem), you have huge rule limitations on what you can do, including access and usage of your own attendee’s information, the websites have been costing a fortune in maintenance and each and every event organiser has had a calamity of problems with the website… There are now an incredibly big spin off of events such as SQLDay, DataMinds, Nexus, SQLKonf, etc, basically because the bureaucracy involved doesn’t justify the community return.

    PASS hasn’t changed much in the last 10 years. There is sand in the gears, since it feeds a lot of companies and people (providing “services”, that is). Why, after so many regular (weekly) failures and flops for the SQLSaturday website, do they still have the same company maintaining it? Any other place they would be canceled with just cause… Reasons for keeping those companies that clearly provide poor services are unclear.

    I have a feeling a lot of things will change at PASS this next year… or in a few years communities will have no need for PASS…

  10. Hi there. I’m still a Board member (for another three days). I don’t know of anyone currently serving the BoD that aligns with “a few of the board members would just as soon SQL Sats die”.

    Statements like that, without names and facts to back them up, are nothing more than gossip. Unless that person can name names, then they should reconsider their public statements on the matter, as such statements only help to create conflict.

    • ck ck

      Thank you.
      I thought about this before posting the comment, and I left the name off (though anyone can check for themselves, and I assume you did.)
      I recognize that there are some people with hurts or grudges and they may take this as an opportunity to blow off some steam, and I apologize for the enabling of that.

      However, I dont think this is the first time this sentiment has come up, and if it is not true then it warms my heart because I have talked to people in the community who feel very constrained (and of course, I have only one side of the story here being on the outside) around building new groups and feel like jettisoning some of the existing cruft may be worth the pain it would definitely cause.

      I don’t want to lose SQL Saturday and I don’t think looking for someone to point the finger at solves anything, mostly I just wanted to shout from the rooftops SQL SATURDAY IS GREAT.

      • Peter Shore Peter Shore

        CK,

        I must have missed it because I did not see the name of a board member attached to that quote. The person who posted it in Slack has a notable voice but is not a member of the BoD to the best of my knowledge.

        At the risk of perpetuating unsubstantiated comments, I have heard that the management company has folks who are of the opinion SQL Saturday should die unless it becomes an income source for PASS. For what it is worth, it seems many of the complaints about PASS fall at the feet of the management company. This leads me to the question of what can be done about that, given the pain of changing and the reasonable risk that the situation could worsen.

        • ck ck

          For your first comment, that is correct, and if I made it seem that way, I apologize.

      • Thanks for the reply, and I agree that SQL Saturday’s are great. But that’s because our community is great, too. I think it’s healthy for us to have a discussion about SQL Saturday events. I don’t think it’s healthy for people to think anyone on the BoD is acting with bad intent. Judging from some of the comments here, it seems that some readers have that impression. I’d like to help clear that up, if I could.

  11. Chris Wood Chris Wood

    I went to my first Summit in 2002 and didn’t have a local Pass Chapter until 2008 or 9. Coming from Alberta, Canada we didn’t think about a SQL Saturday until 2016 and then because Winnipeg had one. Only #SQLFamily and the infrastructure provided by PASS makes our SQL Saturday work and connections my group have made at Summit and thru @TechOutbound. We try and hold local meetings every month.

    SQL Saturday was created because not every one can go to Summit which attempts to get bigger and bigger each year even in more demanding economic times. As a SQL DBA Summit was the best way to learn in 2002 with mostly DBA sessions. Now there are just as many DBA sessions at Summit, only they now represent say 30% rather than 80% as it was then.

    SQL Saturday will shrink big time without the network that PASS provides, infrastructure, speakers and sponsors.

    Lets just hope that PASS can still support SQL Saturday and local User Groups.

  12. John John

    I found my First SQL SATURDAY just over 3 years ago by accident or a blog. It was Dallas and only because I attended did it open my eyes up to PASS. Since then, I have attended about 10 a year and plan to do more this year including speak for the first time in Baton Rouge!

    The thought of this really saddens me because what I have gained from every SQL SATURDAY can’t be beat!

  13. Interesting post and opinion.

    Would the Summit exist without SQL Saturday?

    Of course it would. People would still want to come and see speakers who would want to still come and sponsors would want to continue putting themselves in front of those people and pay for the privilege. People enjoy the networking.

    Should PASS keep supporting the SQL Saturdays and the SQL User Groups?

    YES and more so. These are the feeder leagues into the Summit for attendees, volunteers, speakers and sponsors and should have much more attention and support applied to them.

    Could SQL Saturdays continue without PASS?

    Of Course. Look at SQL Bits, SQL Grillen, SQL Relay, SQL Server Days, (Now DataMinds connect), SQL Intersection, SQL Day , SQL Cruise. It is possible. But a global organisation should be able to make it better/easier to put on one of these events

    How did I hear about Summit?

    At my local user group, where I also learned about SQL Saturdays and SQL Bits, became a volunteer (User group first, then SQL Saturday, then SQL Bits) and became a speaker (User group first, then other user groups, then SQL Saturdays, then SQL Summit and in 2018 also SQL Bits 🙂 )

    Finally.

    During this past year I have been at a lot of events, mainly around Europe. I have been asked the following questions or ones like it at several of them. It’s food for thought about the way PASS is seen by some people.

    What is PASS for?
    What does PASS do for me?

  14. The statement above is just shocking to me.  My first exposure to PASS was to go to a SQL Saturday and it was still a year later before I realized they had PASS Summit.  And even later before I found out about local user groups and virtual groups. Without SQL Saturdays we would not have the SQL community we have now (see hashtag #SQLFamily on Twitter).  We are like a family because we get involved and have a chance to see each other in person and online because of events like SQL Saturday that allow us to network with each other.  Summit is the conference you got to learn from the experts but to also have the hallway conversations with heroes and friends. Although I spoke at 18 SQL Saturdays last year I still find it valuable to Summit to receive educational content and to network with the experts.  You can’t get access to all the experts by just going to a few SQL Saturdays.

    To grow future speakers we need more than local users groups, we need the SQL Saturdays so people can go in front of different crowds and get feedback.  To help a different audience with problems with have faced that they may be facing.  I know from working with the virtual groups some of them want the elite speakers and you can’t become an elite speaker with fewer speaking opportunities.  SQL Saturdays give us more opportunities to network with people outside of the workplace and local user groups which gives us a new set of people to be around and be a future help to.  With SQL Saturdays you limit the chances of people have to learn as well.  I spoke at Summit this year and there is no way without the experience of speaking at SQL Saturdays I would have even one submitted to speak at a conference for lack of confidence and two been prepared to speak in front of 200 people.

    Funding may be where the problem is coming in at, if that is the case then we may need to scale back the events (either by the number of events or by coming up more funding or cutting our unnecessary things (people bring your own lunch)) and PASS just can provide the platform.  Another option could be to start charging a small fee to attend the event outside the lunch fee.

    Without SQL Saturdays I feel PASS would be hurting getting out the word on the other things they have to offer but someone else would take up the torch to keep the #SQLFamily community intact and strong but PASS has the benefits of having started it and the #SQLFamily enjoying being a part of it.

    So I would love to see SQL Saturdays keep going on, and would like to hear what PASS thinks the future is for SQL Saturdays that initiated this comment along with what we can do as a community to help support SQL Saturdays better from PASS’ point of view.

  15. “Without SQL Saturdays I feel PASS would be hurting getting out the word on the other things they have to offer but someone else would take up the torch to keep the #SQLFamily community intact and strong but PASS has the benefits of having started it and the #SQLFamily enjoying being a part of it.”

    To me, this says it all, I would not be involved at all without SQL saturday and I am forever grateful it exists. Seeing it gone would only hurt.

  16. SQL Saturday is how I found PASS. We’re a smaller chapter in a smaller market and our chapter basically exists because we had to have one to organize an event. No SQL Saturday, no event and we’re about to organize our 4th and we’re doing well in spite of the decreased funding and apparent diminishing interest from PASS.

    PASS is off-mission here. SQL Saturday was growing and thriving until they lost interest. Instead of devoting less resource to it, they could do so much more. The more people that know the technology, the better for everyone right? We’re still building a community, right?

  17. Hello to everyone,

    Tom nailed it for me. However, let me say this.

    We are going to continue to support SQLSaturday.

    There are no plans or discussions otherwise at the board level that I’ve ever been privy to. We’ll be putting up a blog post on pass.org discussing this some more within a few weeks.

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