Growing the Pool of SQL Speakers – Part 2

About a week ago I wrote Part 1, and got some interesting feedback (which I appreciate). Today I want to try to think about some of those comments and try to evolve the idea some. I want to defend my ideas a little, but not sink into defensiveness. I definitely expect my own thinking to change as I go, but hoping maybe I get yours to change some too!

Overall what I heard was a few different challenges to look at:

  • Opposition to requiring speakers at the Summit to take a year off here and there (and note, I have no say in that – just my idea)
  • How to qualify who gets help in terms of funding to speak
  • Whether there is really a speaker shortage

On the first one about speakers at the Summit, my first thought was that I should have just left that out. We haven’t done badly so far and so far there have been few complaints, so why bring it up? Why not just focus on new speakers and worry about the rest later?


But I like to think long term, and I think the problem will arrive within 2-3 years that will require the program committee to do something. Last year it was 400 abstracts that lead to perhaps a 100 speakers. What do we do when we get 1000 abstracts from 250 speakers, all who have done at least a chapter meeting and a SQLSaturday? If six people want to talk about XML in SQL, how do we pick the best one? Is it the speaker we had last year on the same topic?

Yes, we can do scoring, and in most cases that leads to people speaking that have already been at the Summit. They are a known quantity and certainly should get some karma for having done it and succeeded. That in turn can easily lead to stagnation, as those on the island get to stay on the island.

Now if you’re on the bottom trying to work your way up, my plan probably sounds good! But if you’ve invested the sweat to finally make it to the top, the idea of sitting out a year doesn’t sound good at all – dues have been paid, time to enjoy the fruits of the labor. I get that. I deliberately didn’t submit a session last year, the first time since 2000. Right thing for me to do, but definitely missed having the chance to speak. Undecided about this year so far.

So…I don’t care so much about how we get there, whether it’s scoring, volunteering to just be an attendee for a year, or something else – as long as it’s not waiting on someone to retire to open up a slot for someone new (but not a newbie speaker). I want to see tons of friendly competition, some new faces, and to make sure that if you’re willing to invest the time, you’re not locked out of the top row because you weren’t a first mover (or old enough to have been one).

For now I’m hoping that you’ll just think about it, and as we get closer to that point, we’ll see what happens. What’s best for the community?

Next week I’ll continue with thoughts on the other two points (and maybe more), and we’ll see if I get clobbered for not giving up on this part of it!

3 thoughts on “Growing the Pool of SQL Speakers – Part 2

  1. I’ll give you some props before you get clobbered, I think term limits are a great idea to stimulate growth within the speaker pool, and only excluding them for one year every few years would still put them in the mix regularly, and would not hurt the value of the summit.


  2. My take on your idea is this. You don’t want to have years where the headliners aren’t on the itinerary. Something akin to spotlight session should be reserved for those that achieve the superstar status (think Bob Ward, etc). For others, taking a year off might make sense. That might also give incentive to achieve the superstar status (based on ratings of previous sessions, reputation, etc). Superstar list should be known to all.


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