Notes From the September 16, 2015 Jacksonville SQL User Group Meeting

Forgot to post the next day and now missing details! Notes:

  • Rained the entire drive up (and back)
  • Not a bad drive for me, about 2 hours
  • You know it’s a strange day when you turn left at Wackos to get there
  • Location is a restaurant/bar/grill. Had to look twice, is this the right place? They have several meeting rooms and the space worked out fine.
  • Really good crowd for a rainy night, 30 attendees!
  • Food was provided, wings/chicken fingers/veggies, and they sent leftovers home with several attendees – nice touch
  • My presentation on corruption went fine. Saw quite a few eyes light up as they learned something. Think many were surprised about my saying that it was smart to call for help if corruption happens – tendency is to DIY the fix, not always the right thing to do.
  • I liked the vibe of the group. Quiet, comfortable, good questions, good feedback afterward
  • Thanks to Devin, Scott, and Eric for inviting me and being gracious hosts


Thoughts on the 2015 PASS Election

We had a decent election this year. Thanks to all four candidates – Argenis Fernandez, Jen Stirrup, Ryan Adams, and Tim Ford – for participating, and congratulations to Jen, Ryan, and Tim for being elected. PASS surely can’t survive without volunteer leaders and it’s great to see that we continue inspire members to higher levels of involvement. I also want to thank the 2015 NomCom; Bill Graziano, Lori Edwards, Grant Fritchey, Robert Davis, and Bob Pusateri. It’s not glamorous work, but it’s important work. Thanks also to Janice Simpson at PASS HQ for all the detail work that goes into supporting the NomCom and the election.

Last year I served on the NomCom, so this year I watched with perhaps greater than usual interest to see how the election would go. I have a bunch of thoughts on what worked and what could perhaps work better. I offer these in the hopes that they can be used constructively to improve the process while understanding that the process will never be perfect, or done.

Regional Seats. The way we handle this is awkward. If you read the 2015 guidance and go to the section titled “Process for Awarding Board of Director Seats” you can see the way seats are awarded. It’s documented – that’s good. The challenge is that when you vote the ballot is just names without the information on the regional seats. Pasting/linking to the guidance won’t fix that. Read this analysis by Rick Heiges to see someone try to translate it to plain text. I remain ambivalent about regional seats, but I’m not advocating we change that. We should change the ballot, and perhaps the voting rules with regards to regional seats.

Candidate Webinars. This year each candidate was online for 30 minutes with NomCom Chair Bill Graziano asking questions. Some were his, some were provided by webinar attendees. I liked this better than anything we’ve tried so far. It allowed me to focus on a candidate and made far better use of time than having one candidate answer while the others tried to look interested (last year). I think it would be very useful for someone who didn’t know a candidate.

All the candidates did ok.  All tended to run long and ramble some, not unexpected given the format – just a different dynamic than delivering a presentation. Recordings were made available the next day, that seemed to work out fine.

I don’t have attendance numbers, but I’ve heard they were not great. I don’t know how many watched the recordings either. Numbers aren’t the whole story of course. It’s important that we give voters a chance to engage with the candidates (in various ways). The question is – for those that watched, was it useful? More so if you didn’t know a candidate?  I hope PASS polls on this some.

Scoring. This was the first year we went with ratings over rankings, a decision we agonized/argued over last year. I thought it worked as intended and gives the voter more data to consider. Did it make a huge difference? I don’t know. I’d guess no. I’ve heard no negatives on it so far.

Rules. We amended the rules last year with regards to use of PASS mailing lists. In the 2015 guidance see “Campaign Rules” for the details. We were trying to thread the needle [Note: the following is my interpretation, I don’t speak for the NomCom, this year or last year] by limiting what PASS lists can be used for (in particular we’re wary of an incumbent using PASS resources to get re-elected) but recognizing that Chapter Leaders (CL) are a special case. It’s not realistic to tell a CL they cannot talk to their members about their candidacy.  It’s not a simple topic. It’s really not a simple topic.

For all of that, we failed by not educating everyone on the rule amendment (I didn’t include in my own notes about the 2014 NomCom either). Going forward I’d like to see all rule changes discussed at a Town Hall as a minimum.

The rule caused pain this year because Candidate A asked another member of a Chapter to send out an email to the chapter list promoting his candidacy. Candidate B objected to the NomCom, then publicly on Twitter, which sparked a heated debate conducted without a reference to the rules. It took a while for the NomCom to respond that they were working on a response and then more time for their official response to be posted. The finding, which I agree with, is that Candidate A had complied with the rules.

This raises a bunch of issues:

  • The NomCom has to be available and responsive during the voting period. If the Chair isn’t available, who can speak on their behalf?
  • If Candidate A had violated the rule it wasn’t time sensitive (in hours at least) because the emails had already been sent.
  • Candidates lodging a complaint have to be given some idea of when a response will be given
  • Candidate A could have in turn complained about Candidate B unfairly hurting his candidacy by saying he did something wrong publicly that turned out to be incorrect
  • Taking it a step further, imagine the email wasn’t sent out at the request of Candidate A. We could have had the situation where A was blamed publicly – in a way that might well impact votes cast – only to have it turn out they were not at fault.

I understand the confusion and the frustration this generated, especially since we couldn’t quickly point to the rules (they are in the application). I was disheartened by how quickly it turned into an anti-PASS thing and by how quickly Candidate A was castigated for what was being called a breach of ethics by others in the community. I don’t have all the answers. The NomCom tries hard to get it right. The PASS Board tries hard to get it right. The candidates try hard to get it right.  I don’t want this to be blood sport or the equivalent of Constitutional law. We certainly have the right and the obligation to complain if something isn’t right, or even going well, but we have to be mindful about the personal impact. It can’t be entirely avoided (we can’t just criticize “PASS”).

Will the rule survive? I don’t know. I believe that it’s healthy for candidates to ask for endorsements. I’m not thrilled about “campaign ads” being sent out without a header/disclaimer. I’m not at all eager to see more rules added. My favorite part of rule #5 is decidedly gray:

“The PASS NomCom believes that the candidates who hold leadership positions within PASS have achieved this position by serving the community. We expect they will honor the spirit of this rule.”

Number of Candidates. We had four candidates this year. Two incumbents, new ones, competing for three positions, with a fourth vacancy effective January 1, 2016. Good candidates in my view. I would wish for more, especially since the 4th place person in the election will likely be appointed to the vacancy. Had the Board put that vacancy on the ballot we would have had a “no-election election” where the votes cast wouldn’t have mattered. That’s just not good. If we want more candidates we’re going to have to invest in growing and educating them.

Number of Votes. Voter turnout was down this year, 1285 voters to 1570 last year (the record was 1957 in 2012). I thought the election messaging was fine, on par with last year, so to what should attribute an almost 20% drop in votes? No idea.

The Campaign. I found the campaign disappointing. Not many questions on the forums, low turnout for the webinars, and not a lot of discussion about ideas and the future of PASS. It wouldn’t be fair to blame that on the candidates. I think it’s a function of the voting schedule as much as anything. Getting that schedule right is an ongoing struggle, but I think that we need a few days of campaigning before voting opens so that we all have a chance to hear various positions before voting. A lot of people voted on day one.

My Suggestions.

  • Candidates, catalog your network long before the election. LinkedIn, Twitter, etc are your friends because they allow you to reach your network directly. Note that you still have to use care about how  you build that list – you can’t just import the PASS member list.
  • Candidates, the NomCom is your friend. Don’t hesitate to ask for a ruling before you do something.
  • I’d like to see a (better) process for fielding/selecting questions for candidates.

Going Forward. We could easily just use what we have for the election process next year. Not perfect, but functional.


SSC Editorial: The Counter Offer – Part 1/Part 2

Counter offers (and the related discussions) are an emotional topic. The comments on two of my editorials for SQLServerCentral (The Counter Offer – Part 1 and The Counter Offer – Part 2) show that.  The takeaway for me is that we are still torn about being loyal employees and expecting that loyalty back and the workplace reality of each side needing to look after their own interests.

From a writing perspective it still feels like I don’t quite drive the thinking/conversation in the direction I intended. I want to have an open conversation, but focused more. Maybe not possible? Not good? Don’t know yet.

Recommendations, Endorsements, and More on the 2015 PASS Election

We have four good candidates this year, of which two are incumbents. I was asked by Argenis and Tim to provide references for their applications and I was glad to do so – both meet the requirements in my view to be candidates based on their contributions to PASS.

I’m finding it hard to decide who to vote on this year. Jen Stirrup has done a great job supporting and promoting BAC. While I’m still not sold on the concept, she did what a Director should do – try to make it work. She’s also been the best by far on transparency and interaction via blog posts and Twitter. Tim Ford has kept SQLSaturday moving and took point on the public discussion when the big site upgrade didn’t go as planned, though I would wish for more communication on things in the portfolio.

Then I look at the new candidates. I can’t think of a candidate that has done more to prepare than Ryan Adams. Preparation doesn’t guarantee success, but it sure makes it a lot more likely. Argeniz Fernandez brings passion and a real talent for communicating and inspiring to the table, and I know that he’ll be ok when the Board gets into the hard conversations that always happen.

I’ve looked at the NomCom scores and I think that they match up with with my own evaluation of the candidates. That’s good and will factor into my decision on who will get my vote.

I looked at the applications and especially the goals. There are some good ideas there and they give you a sense of what a candidate cares about. Still, I was underwhelmed by the goals. None had the kind of deep strategic reach that I always hope to see.

I haven’t yet seen all the video interviews. I planned to watch all four live and ended up only being available during the one for Tim Ford. I liked the format – I hope PASS uses it again in the future. I hope to see all of the videos before voting.

I’m definitely voting for Ryan Adams. He’s done all I could ask to prepare for the role and if elected I believe he’ll work his way through the learning curve and represent the membership well. Picking the other two is much harder. The two incumbents both have supported BAC and that’s an initiative that I am still uncertain is good for PASS in its current form. More than that, they haven’t – in my view – done a good job explaining why PASS has needed to devote such extraordinary resources to it and by extension why they support it. I’m reluctant to use that as the sole basis for deciding, but I’m also aware that if re-elected they will most likely continue their support for BAC so I’d be effectively voting for that. I want to see the video interviews and look at the one applications one more time, but right now I think I’ll vote for Argenis and pick one of the two incumbents as my third vote.


It’s tough to decide. Not fun to not pick someone – these are all good people. I’m pleased that it’s a real race this year, it’s good for PASS when we have a strong field of candidates. You can review all the candidates at




Improving Networking at PASS Events–Part 1

This week I’m spending some drive time thinking about how we might improve networking at SQLSaturday and that led to me thinking about the general state of networking within PASS. Some early thoughts on networking in general:

  • It’s not enough to put people in a room and say “network”
  • It’s not enough to put like minded people in a closed environment for a day either
  • Extroverts will generally do better at meeting people than introverts, but even the extroverts will tend to focus on learning (good) and interacting with people they know more than people they don’t know
  • Networking is a good thing, with the understanding that time invested in networking is a gamble – you never know if or how it will benefit you or the other person
  • Few people carry business cards
  • Networking should be optional, but lightly encouraged and facilitated
  • Many people are nervous about networking (and just saying hello)
  • Almost everyone in our business is capable of good conversation and/or small talk
  • It’s interesting to meet “famous” people in the industry
  • Small conversations can sometimes shape you in large ways
  • Traditions help, events help
  • LinkedIn is (to me) the most reasonable way to track/catalog your professional network
  • Networking skills can be taught fairly easily but require practice
  • Events/dinners/etc have to be designed with networking in mind
  • Especially for an introvert (me) knowing people makes an event more fun, more relaxing
  • Introverts require quiet time to recharge
  • We don’t talk enough about the smaller benefits of networking
  • Its easy to stay in the comfort zone of talking to people we already know
  • As a speaker, it’s common to watch people sit apart if they don’t know anyone and to watch everyone “face front” as if to avoid possibly interacting with someone next to them

I don’t have any big ideas yet. In Part 2 I’ll talk about my networking education and goals, and the history of the networking page.

An Evening of Networking at the 2015 PASS Summit on October 26, 2015 (Monday)

Going to be in Seattle on Monday night (Oct 26th) and want to see old friends and make some new ones? Here’s the registration link for our networking dinner/party. The location should be settled sometime in the next few days. Turns out Monday night is football night in Seattle and we’ve had to look at different locations this year (again!).  We’ll update the reg page and email anyone already registered once the location is locked in. Here’s more:

Join Steve Jones and Andy Warren at someplace near the Convention Center in Seattle, October 26, 2015, from 6-9 pm Pacific (and maybe later) for appetizers, dinner, drinks, and some low key conversation before the PASS Summit starts. Open to all PASS attendees – bring your spouse too! Registration is optional, but will help us make sure we have enough space and will give us a way to let you know if things change. Dress is casual. Everyone orders and pays for their own food/drink. This is our sixth year hosting this event and it is a LOT of fun – we hope you’ll attend!

Everyone is welcome, but in particular we want to invite first time attendees to the Summit. Conferences are a lot more fun if you know a few people and have stuff to do after hours – we’ll greet you at the door and make sure you meet some new people!

SSC Editorial: The Problem Solver

The Problem Solver. Ever scoffed at personality types? Surely none of us are just one thing, but often we are mostly one thing, or at least one thing that is easily identified as being a big part of who we are. Writing this I was thinking about two things from the perspective of a manager:

  • If I have problem solvers I need to give them challenges that matter to the business and that keep them engaged, and be mindful that they can easily spend time on stuff that “doesn’t matter” if I don’t
  • Much harder is to understand is what the other “types” need. Fairly easy for me to work with problem solvers because I am one. For others, I need to do more to figure it out

The personal challenge for me is to not see life as a quest for bigger and bigger problems to solve. Dragon slaying is fun, but not necessarily the best use of my talents or energy – even if it seems like it is.

Does SQLSaturday Increase Chapter Attendance?

One of the big goals for SQLSaturday was for it to be a membership drive. It’s worked hugely well in some ways; we’ve added tremendously to the number of PASS members, grown the size of the Chapter mailing lists (for those that held a SQLSat), and introduced a lot of people to PASS/Chapters. But has it translated into more people attending chapter meetings?

I’m working from a really small sample of Chapters that I visit/hear about, but I don’t think it has. Here in Orlando we’ve seen attendance remain fairly steady. It might be argued that it would have declined without SQLSaturday and I’d be inclined to agree, but it hasn’t grown attendance. We registered almost 700 for SQLSaturday Orlando last year, our mailing list for OPASS is round a 1000 addresses, and we still get 15-25 at most meetings. Maybe that’s just us? Just Florida?


I’m writing this not to criticize SQLSat or Chapters, but to point out the disconnect. Bigger lists should result in higher attendance. If it doesn’t, what does that tell us? That’s worth thinking about.

SSC Editorial: Annual Security Compliance Training

Compliance training, never a fun topic and I think that is too bad. A combination of companies checking the box, lacking imagination, and being stuck with rules that require doing it annually. Do we really need to review the employee manual if it hasn’t changed since last time? Or if we were notified of updates as they happened?

Imagine you wanted to do this training not just because you wanted to, but to make your company stronger and less vulnerable, how would you do it and how much time/money would you invest in that? That is what I want to see the C levels working on.

Disheartening it is to see comments about it being a losing battle. It’s hard to argue that security is hard and getting harder, but often it feels like we’d rather give up than try. Frustration, lack of a bigger picture, and an unrealistic view of the effectiveness of security all contribute to that. Here’s a contrived example – how hard is it for someone to steal your car? If it’s locked and you have possession of the key it can still be stolen, but it takes more effort and usually deliberate effort. Just because removing the key doesn’t eliminate the risk doesn’t mean we shouldn’t remove the key!





SQLSaturday & The Speaker Wait List

When a new SQLSaturday event is launched an email is sent to all the speakers who have opted in to notifications for the region, basically saying “we hope you’ll speak at our event”. It’s lightweight and useful, and generally the only ‘send to all speakers’ message for that event, but with around a 100 events a year it’s still a lot of email to parse if you’re a speaker.

The organizers set a closing date for abstracts. Here in Orlando we try to set it 90 days out so we have time to shuffle the sessions around and have our schedule set no later than 60 days out (and earlier than that if possible). Marketing is more effective once the potential attendees can see the schedule.

We typically send one or two reminder messages to our previous speaker list (ones who attended any previous SQLSaturday Orlando) inviting them to return and noting the closing date. For the past couple years it’s been common to get a message after the closing date from speakers who missed the date. Informally we’ve put them on a wait list and if (when!) there is a cancellation we pull from that list to backfill after we give slots to speakers on our organizing team. Two reasons for that; one is that we know we’ll have cancellations and we like to keep a full schedule and the other is that we have other obligations on event day – not speaking eases that just a little.

There’s no speaker wait list in the site tools. Right now it’s an informal list in email which mostly works (except this year when there was one name I couldn’t find that Kendal finally dug out of his archive). I don’t know if needs tooling. I don’t think we want a public wait list – we really need 99% of them in by the cutoff. It might be useful as an organizer only tool though. It’s a minor issue/niche and I wouldn’t put at the top of the list by any means, but tools drive/enable behavior. Having an easy(ier) way to manage something can mean the difference between getting done and not getting done.

As far as seeing all the cutoff dates, it  turns out there is a page that has them all in one place! Go to MySQLSaturday page once you’re logged in to Thanks Karla!