Why I’m Only Casting One Vote This Year in the PASS Election

First, a reminder/disclaimer that I am serving on the PASS NomCom this year. The four candidates in the election are all qualified, I have no debate with that. I’ve waited until the slate was posted to make any public comment about the election. None of my comments here are based on anything I heard or read during the application qualification portion of the NomCom.

This year we have 3 incumbents and one new candidate running, see the election page for more information. I know all of them, and are all good people – this isn’t about people. No, the reason I’ve voting for only one candidate is the three incumbents were part of Board decisions that changed the mission statement and the name of the organization so that “SQL Server” is included in neither. We voted them in to safeguard the organization and to serve the members, I believe those decisions do neither. Such a change might be necessary some day, if SQL Server ceases to exist, or attendance at events drops dramatically, but for now attendance is solid and there is no competitive threat, making that change unnecessary.

Did you imagine when you cast your vote for these candidates two years ago that removing SQL Server was something even on the table? They’ve crossed over into a place I don’t understand, and while I’ll try to speak out more often, there is really only one way to cause change and that’s with the votes we cast. This year, as much as I appreciate the efforts of the three incumbents, I’m voting for the only new candidate, Grant Fritchey, hoping that he will be a voice for safeguarding the community built by a lot of people over a lot of years.

11 thoughts on “Why I’m Only Casting One Vote This Year in the PASS Election

  1. I’m most certainly not trying to tell you how to vote with the following but I don’t agree.

    The fact that SQL Server has been removed from the mission is not necessarily all that bad frankly. PASS and the Microsoft data ecosystem is made up of more than just SQL Server over the past few years. Microsoft has invested tons into branching into the big data space with partners like Horton Works and Hadoop, which is only loosely related to SQL Server but have everything to do with data consumption and what the DBA and developer have to work with. On the BI spectrum, more and more BI that was traditional SSRS is being baked into Excel through Power BI. Things like Power View and Power Pivot are SQL Server features that have been rolled out into other SKUs but are no less important to a SQL Server BI developer. These sessions at PASS are typically packed.

    Making those changes was insightful of the PASS board. Otherwise, they could have been painted into a corner. I can see your point if the pass board all of a sudden said we want to support Oracle, DB2 and Cognos and heck, let’s have sessions at PASS about it. That would cause a revolt. But making a decision based on a single move of the board resembles not liking the perfect political candidate for you because he doesn’t stand up to your death penalty stand.


    1. Brian, I appreciate you taking the time to read and comment.

      Perhaps I was too subtle, but obviously my grand gesture changes nothing. Even if somehow everyone only voted for Grant presumably the Board would re-appoint 2 of the three remaining candidates. One of many points was that we have precious little opportunity for change, not least of which is the problem of having six voting Board members that do not stand for election. Litmus questions are rarely good, I don’t disagree. Maybe we’d agree on my choice if we agreed on the problem.

      I don’t disagree about Hadoop, or Azure. I’d even grant that Powerpivot/View has an audience within the current membership. How we pursue that, though, that matters.

      PASS isn’t just a business. They’ve done little to bring the members along, or take to show us a roadmap. Their vision for BAC has been muddled. Is BAC a good idea? It might be. But it’s never been marketed well, and there is no effort to build the grass roots in parallel. My point is we could include Hadoop and much of the rest by saying “SQL Server and…”. Instead, the Board has made two decisions with no effort at member input. Not saying it had to be a vote (though that would have been interesting), but to ask and think and sell us on the changes. The last thing I want is a “no change” PASS, but communication matters, marketing matters, and more.

      It’s not a simple issue and that’s why I’ve said little about BAC, but on the issue of mission and name, those feel like changes that just weren’t executed well, and I’d argue still are not, thus my grand gesture.

      I’ll say again, nothing simple about it.



  2. I see the backlash against that as coming from the anti-cloud and anti-bi crowd. Azure isn’t SQL Server, HDInsight isn’t SQL Server, DocumentDB isn’t SQL Server. Yet they are potential parts of a professional toolset for data people who work with SQL Server tech.

    Heck, too many community members think that SSIS, SSAS, DQS, MDS, et all aren’t “REAL” SQL Server. They are offended by the mere mention of those technologies since they aren’t part of their day to day lives.

    The most vocal critics of PASS have been the ones who are neckbeard deep in engine stuff. They are always offended by any efforts or resources being allocated for PASS activities.

    And there are a lot of people that want to see content filtered for them, so they only have to see engine stuff. I don’t think they will ever be happy.

    And that makes me sad. Enterprise class, SQL Server-oriented community people will always have to work in environments where those and other related technologies exists. They will be expected to know about them and to work with tools other than TSQL and a query plan. Their wanting to have the rest of the community cater to their being “offended” by the mention of other technologies is irritating and screaming for special rights where none exist.


    1. Karen, maybe so, but I’m not sure. I’m not anti Azure, clearly it’s maturing, and I’m not anti-BI, or even against Hadoop/HD Insight. I can see tracks for all of those being valid, and we try to hit all of those at SQLSat here in Orlando. They aren’t part of my day to day life right now, and maybe tomorrow they will be, but certainly they are important to people I consider peers. I’m not even against an Oracle track. Again, maybe some are, but that’s not my view. I’m less able to understand the BAC “community”. That’s further removed from the work I do, for now at least, and it doesn’t feel like that community has coalesced, or if it can – we tend to silo around products for a reason. I’d love to see PASS run a BI conference in May that was 80% bi (and maybe some BA) and 20% engine, and reverse that for the Summit. BAC has been, from the outside, poorly defined and poorly marketed, and going into the third year (which seems to be do or die) it’s eating up a whole lot of resources.

      I see the point of content filtering. I go to PASS because its filtered at the right level for me, say compared to VSLive, which was a better fit for me years ago when my interests were different. Its important to have enough to attract, but not be so all encompasssing that you’re nothing to everyone, too tired to phrase that better!

      PASS can expand its mission, I think that’s fine. Maybe BAC is the way to do it. But when you have to give up what got you there – SQL Server – in the name that feels like one giant step. I like “SQL Server and…”, where the and adapts with the organization. It feels, again, from the outside, more about aligning with Microsoft than serving its members.

      Also, it reminds me that this has always been a challenge. At one point we tried to define PASS as “what ships in the box” to explain why we’d include SSRS, etc. Good for it’s time, at least a decide star steer by, but clearly that definition doesn’t work as well now, even if you just look at SQL Azure and leave out some of the other stuff (which may or may not be the right thing to do).

      It’s a good conversation to have.


  3. Hi Andy,

    I know I am jumping in late here but I have a question. Why are there only four people running for three seats? Does this mean only four individuals submitted? If others did submit and got filtered out I would like to know why. My intent isn’t to say anything bad about the four people running. I just find it odd that we only have one person who cannot be voted in.



    1. John, I’m going to answer, speaking only for me of course. The answer is easy this year, but some years it might no be. There are three ways candidates that submit an application might not wind up on the slate; not qualified based just on the app, a reasonably objective decision, because we had “too many” candidates and per the rules we rank candidates and then pick the top 3X, or if the candidate, upon hearing their ranking (or just based on their own self-evaluation) withdraws. We would not publish “not qualified” candidates to avoid any negative impact to the candidate from such a public disclosure. They can disclose, there is no restriction. If we had to limit based on too many, my assumption – it’s never been needed – is that we would publish the ranking of all candidates and show the top 3x as being the recommended slate. We would not publish any withdrawals, but again, the candidate would be free to talk about their decision.

      So what makes it hard is privacy/fairness vs transparency, we worked to put that in place. So my unofficial answer is that the NomCom did not filter out any candidates this year. As far as why only 4, that’s very much a question we hope to pursue after the election, but I think will not be a simple one to answer.


  4. I get what you’re saying. And I think, as far as it goes, that this is a decent venue to get your opinions out in the open.

    But I have to ask, as a member of the NomCom, why you didn’t resign in protest? That seems like the right level of intensity to indicate how unsubtle your feelings are on the matter. A public resignation would have put even more eyes on the discussion at hand.

    Or was it simply a matter of timing in that your time on the NomCom had come to a conclusion and then out came the news of them taking out SQL Server?


    1. Kevin, it was a tough call. Resigning from the NomCom might have brought attention, but might have hurt the election more than it helped. I don’t know that I made the right decision there, or by saying anything at all until the results were announced.


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