Miscellaneous Notes on the PASS NomCom and General Election

Interesting day yesterday. A spirited discussion on Twitter, a challenging post from candidate Mark Broadbent, and a couple good threads on the NomCom discussion forum. I’ve picked some of the points where I want to add a few notes of my own (I’m not speaking for PASS on any of these, and in most cases my direct knowledge of some of this is now a couple years old). Most of these are complex topics worth a deeper discussion.


Nomcom Ranking

The NomCom ranks all candidates that are qualified (meets the minimum criteria as described in the voting process). The ranking does at least four things:

  • Tries to make a very subjective process a little less subjective
  • Rankings are used if we have too many candidates (current rules call for a limit of 3 candidates per seat available, you’ll often hear me call it 3x)
  • Rankings are a way to communicate to candidates how they did in a way that is informative and as polite as possible, so they can decide if they want to continue or withdraw (the default is continue). Imagine there are 9 candidates and you placed 9th. If you’re within a point or two of the leader you will certainly continue, but what if you’re 10 points down? You might decide to withdraw, work on some things, and come back in a later election. The point here is not to force people out, merely to treat them with respect and courtesy. If someone cares enough to run but doesn’t have (and possibly doesn’t realize) the skills and experience they are missing it could wind up being a painful or embarrassing experience for them. I know of one instance where a candidate withdrew because of that and that person felt like it was the right thing to do.
  • Finally, for voters who have a hard time figuring out style from substance, they can look at the ratings as a way to see what a very serious and informed group think of the candidates in aggregate. In fact, candidates are listed on the ballot by order of ranking.

I like this system.


Voting Password Security

Brent Ozar raised the question about how credentials were transferred to Simple Voting. It’s a very good question, pains me that I never asked way back when about the security. As far as I know sqlpass.org still runs on DNN and whether credentials are stored in clear text depends on the configuration. There doesn’t seem to be any SSL in use or available, that’s not promising. Troy Hunt, care to come take a look? The question deserves an answer, and certainly the SSL issue needs to be addressed.


Voter Turnout

In the spirit of transparency and dashboarding PASS has the chart below posted at http://www.sqlpass.org/Elections/Archive.aspx (thanks to Gavin Campbell for finding it). What it doesn’t show unfortunately is the number of valid/registered voters, the closest is this link http://www.sqlpass.org/AboutPASS.aspx that references more than 100k members. 1500 votes out of 100,000 doesn’t look great. The challenge is that many of those 100k joined by attending SQLSaturday (a decision I agree with) and that list probably includes members back to the beginning of PASS. In previous years PASS has deduped the voting list, I’m not sure it deduped the member list – many of us have ended on the list with multiple email addresses. It has made an effort this year to determine eligible voters based on having updated their profile (not great at all, but better than nothing). There is the mailing list, then there is the voting list (deduped/qualified), and then of that there is some number of members that are interested and have time to vote. I’d like to see PASS post the count for the voting list each year to go this chart as well (and maybe even a regional break down).  Does PASS do enough to encourage voting? I think there is always more that can be done, but anyone interested enough to read the Connector certainly should see it happening. Is it easy to vote? Arguably it’s harder this year than last year because you have to find/remember your PASS login (last year each voter got a unique link good for one vote, no password required), but it’s nothing that will take more than a couple minutes. Is it a conspiracy? No, sadly no conspiracy here! Why don’t more people vote? Go to any Chapter meeting and you’ll see why – as much as Chapter leaders try to make the connection, Chapters (and SQLSaturday) are local, and more than that, they often feel like they don’t know enough to cast an informed vote, and I suspect – I’m guessing – for many the inside baseball of PASS just doesn’t hit the Top 10 things they care about. Should we work on it? Yes. All of it. But the number that we should measure, because we have it, is the turnout. Why did it drop last year? Can we grow it this year? As much as I want it to grow, I want it to be solid growth, people that vote because they care, because they want some kind of change, not to hit a quota of votes per Chapter or per state.




Should We Campaign For the NomCom?

First, the rules clearly allow it. Beyond that, what’s our goal? I believe we want a fair, experienced, diverse NomCom that will follow the charter given to them by the Board. We’ve got candidates, how do we discern between them? The NomCom app is trivial, and I’m not opposed to that (the app for Board candidates is quite a bit more strenuous) and we like that because we don’t want to put too many barriers in place – the NomCom is hard work. We could add more to the application, but then you’re only getting things that PASS cares about, which may not be the things you care about. How we campaign is interesting. I elected (so to speak) to put up a blog post about running, because I write about professional things I do, that gets a quick tweet (because it does it when I post), and I answered the questions posted on the discussion forum for the election. Beyond that, the discussion on Twitter was relevant and I’d have been in that even if I wasn’t a candidate, time permitting. This post – campaigning? Maybe, it’s more I want to share what I know/think, with equal chances it helps/hurts in the election. I don’t want complicated elections or campaigns, but I think a campaign is a good way to see who has game. The NomCom election is a way for people to get their feet wet. Shorter, milder, it’s a good way to learn the process, get some ideas, meet some people, and still do some good.

International Representation

I’ll admit to being less than zoomed in on this. I like that PASS is growing to be the international org it has said it was (or wanted to be), and I think that journey takes time. Would changing the allocation for the NomCom be a step in the right direction. I’m stuck at maybe. At some point it should be proportional OR we should change so that there is a PASS World  Org, then PASS North America, PASS Europe, or even PASS UK. I think
that is a decision we’re not there on, at least from what I’ve seen. I’d love to see the Board talk more about the roadmap, then we could se if the NomCom allocation is a miss, or just not there according to the Roadmap

NomCom Charter

The ERC (election review component) of the NomCom this year remains to be seen. I have huge concerns about one group trying to do two tasks, when clearly the primary task is to vet and pick the slate. I’d like to see the Board publish the charter and ideally would have done so before the election. My hope is that the committee generates a lot of notes and makes suggestions, but then that is followed by Board review and/or a mini to full ERC as seems to be needed.

5 thoughts on “Miscellaneous Notes on the PASS NomCom and General Election

  1. Andy, there’s one flaw around NomCom rankings – in recent years candidates, like everyone else, were only told the order they ranked but not how close they were points-wise to anyone else. It’s a change I hope we reverse because, as you pointed out, you may wish to drop if you know there’s a big gap but stay in the race if it’s close.


    1. I didn’t remember that. Tough call, transparency vs protect candidates pride/not push the recommendation too hard. I’d like to hear discussion, but I’d probably tilt the way you’re suggesting.


      1. I think candidates should privately be given their detailed information so they know where they ranked and what areas they need to improve on, but publicly only displaying the order in which candidates were ranked by the NomCom is sufficient.


  2. We actually discussed that quite a bit last year. Several of us thought it would be appropriate to provide the candidates with their aggregate score. We all agreed to not provide each person’s individual scores for the privacy of the NomCom. We ultimately decided to not do it all and I can’t remember exactly why now, but I believe it had something to do with it not being documented up front.

    I certainly believe it is something that warrants more discussion and thought.

    Let me say that the international part of the NomCom is a work in progress. Last year was the first year to have dedicated seats for regions and we had to take that into account by adding criteria for it in the rankings. It should be noted that these seats were added to encourage folks from those regions to run, because the more the better.

    I’ll second your thoughts on the ERC. I wish there had been another full blown ERC. In fact I think that should occur on a regular basis. Maybe every two years or so. I just think that every process should be reviewed on a regular basis to ensure it still applies as the landscape changes.


    1. Ryan, it feels like everything international is a work in progress. Nothing wrong with that, but no clarity on what has been solved/remains (as is known) either. PASS doesn’t tell that story. I agree with not providing individual scores, that was part of protecting the NomCom too – would suck and just not work if individuals were getting beat on about why they ranked someone at x level. The trick on the ERC is the scope of the charter. Adding an international seat was a big change and would have been putting up an ERC just to look at that. I’d like to see a process put in place to review each election – feedback from candidates, NomCom, voters, and publish that. That might well reveal tweaks that are easy (have voting start on Fri instead of Mon, or vice versa) and could be approved the by Board easily enough (or by a standing committee even). I like the NomCom submitting feedback and enforcing the rules, but I don’t want them making the rules – in many ways too close to the process. I don’t know how often the landscape changes? International was a change, a big one even, but past that, do we really want to open the whole thing up for possible revamping every two years? I’d like to see a report built after each election and submitted to the Board, the Board could then review and have a vote each year on if an ERC is needed before next election and what the scope should be. Hard the first year to get it all set up, but then – seems easy enough to me.

      Thanks for serving and participating!


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