Wrapping Up The PASS 2013 Election–Part 2

I watched the election this year with interest and the advantage of having seen PASS elections from a number of different viewpoints:

  • Candidate for election and re-election
  • Board member
  • Author of endorsements for candidates
  • Author of letters of recommendations for candidates
  • Member of the Election Review Committee that designed most of the current process
  • Voting member since the days when the election was done at the Summit
  • Campaign critic/advisor

As I watch the election process at the top of my list of wishes that I want to see a real election each year, rather than a “no-election” election where there are exactly enough candidates for the open seats. It’s important that we as an organization continue to field candidates that are interested, eligible, and willing to run to insure the long term health of the organization. This year felt like a good year. Seven good and reasonable candidates.

Of course, the process starts before we get to the list with the setting up of a Nominating Committee (NomCom). The current process also calls for that to be an election, something that hasn’t worked out well. This year we had the “no-election” election because we had just enough volunteers to fill the seats on the Nomcom.

I think it’s time to change the process for the nomcom, but first a bit about why it’s there right now. We’ve had problems at couple points in PASS history with the Nomcom failing to put what the members see as qualified candidates on the slate and at least once putting a candidate on the slate who had almost nothing to do with the SQL community. When we revised the election process we tried to achieve a few things:

  • Provide a clear definition of qualified and embed that in the application process. Easy to see if someone is or isn’t going to make that first cut.
  • Plan for the day when we might have too many candidates – imagine having 15 or 20 or 25 candidates – just too many. So we made a key job of the NomCom to rank candidates and then take the Top 3x. [Note: because we had 7 candidates and 3 seats open this year, the ranking was still done to help users in their assessment of the candidates].
  • Limit the influence of the sitting board so that if the community wanted change it could get change – it sometimes seemed (fair or not) that it was hard to get change done at elections. We did this by limiting the number of board members and mandating community members on the committee.
  • Made it hard for the NomCom to remove a candidate that fell into the Top 3X ranking. Why? We’ve seen historically that the Nomcom members (Board and community alike) take their responsibility incredibly seriously, to their credit. The problem is that it’s all too easy to remove anyone that doesn’t fit their concept of what a Board members should look like.

That’s a very quick overview of the changes and why. The challenge is, of course, how to make sure we get reasonable people on the NomCom. If we let the Board pick and the Board picks people that see the world their way, we could still wind up with a slate that didn’t really represent the best of the candidates as viewed by the members (some of them anyway!). That’s how we get to the NomCom election – a lower bar of entry, but still a quick vote so the community could have some input.

We haven’t had a ton of candidates in the past couple years, maybe only one year  where we voted. NomCom work is important, but not glamorous. Maybe if we had more candidates the Nomcom election would be more interesting or important. So, we have two areas where I think we should look at:

  • How to get more candidates for the Nomcom
  • A better method of picking them (which I don’t have defined)

Back to the near present, I worry about how well the NomCom is/was prepped on the process and the why of the process. I’d like to see that document made public, in the interest of transparency and making sure that we’re telling the story well to the NomCom and to those voters who are interested enough to review it.

Note: None of that is meant as a criticism of the 2013 Nomcom – all of you served PASS well. My thanks for doing so!

Now to more details on the campaign.

I think the calendar/timing needs some work. There was a fairly large gap between the candidates being notified and the ‘start’ of the official campaign that left them in limbo – can I blog or talk to people before then? I’d like to see one or two more days of campaign time before the election starts, and I’d like to see the election close at the end of the day (admittedly a US centric view). Not huge items, but good to look at for next year.

PASS did a good job of keeping the Election HQ site updated with blog entries, that was good But the concept hasn’t grown since it was implemented. I’d like to see more effort to show the candidates side by side, maybe extract key parts of the applications. Who has the most experience? Who wrote letters of recommendation? Etc. Pictures and names across the top, categories down the side – help me as a voter compare and contrast.

The forums seemed to be less active this year. We need some expectations around this. Do we require candidates to answer them all? Some percentage? Should we leave it wide open as it is now to questions, or would their be value in some review process (and if so, by who?).  More importantly those answers didn’t get shared much. The answers varied from ‘Yes’ to pages long. I think we should put a cap on how much they write (or more realistically, an expectation of answers should be 50-250 words). The forums are where we can hit the candidates with the tough questions, but right now there is no impetus for a candidate to answer tough questions – why take the chance on losing votes? Just skip the hard ones. What I really want are questions that help me compare and contrast their views.

PASS led Twitter chats and two online town hall events this year. Good attempts and worth trying. The townhall events were so-so. Four bored candidates trying to look interested or prep their own answer while someone else talked. Some talked way too long, there should be a time limit for each answer. I love the idea, we just need to try some other implementations of it.

This year I think we had the most candidate endorsements I’ve seen and I think that is a good thing. We can’t always know all the candidates. An endorsement from someone else we know helps, and it also shows the size and strength of their network (we probably don’t want to elect candidates without a strong network). I see this as a healthy trend, but not without challenges for those of us who know more than one or two candidates. For what’s worth, here’s how I plan to handle it if asked:

  • I’ll write a letter of recommendation for the application for any candidate that asks and that I know well enough to write one for. I’ll do this when asked because I want to help good people run.
  • I’ll publicly endorse no more than 2 candidates. I won’t decide on endorsements until I can see the entire slate. I’ll have to like their application and platform too.

I’ve got more to say, but I think I’ll stop here for now and finish up the rest tomorrow.

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