What Does PASS Stand For? How Do You Answer That Question?

This past weekend I was at the 10th annual Orlando Code Camp as a speaker, attendee, and helping staff the PASS/oPASS/Magic table along with Kendal Van Dyke and Shawn McGehee. We had a prime table location and we talked to quite a few people. Many knew about the local groups and SQLSaturday, many did not, and we gathered about 40 names to add to the mailing list. Out of all the people we talked to one of the picked up the PASS laptop sticker and asked “what does PASS stand for?”.

A year ago the answer to that question was easy. Things changed last August though when Simply PASS was published on the PASS blog, saying that the legal name would not change, but would no longer be referred to in general communications. So what is the answer to a fair question? The smart ass but accurate answer might be “it doesn’t stand for anything”. More fair might be “it used to stand for the Professional Association of SQL Server, but now we just use the acronym”. Perhaps more useful is to just say “the Professional Association of SQL Server” and duck the complexities. None of these address the wider audience that PASS is trying to target, and I guess one of them should.

PASS isn’t IBM, at least not year. IBM has morphed quite a bit over the years, but most people get what IBM does after a whole lot of branding and marketing. PASS doesn’t have that level of recognition. If you’ve been involved in PASS, it’s not something you think about, it’s always been the short hand used for the org name. If you’re brand new though, you want to understand “what” the org does/is. People either figure it out, don’t ask, or perhaps don’t care, being far more interested in the speaker/topic than anything else (and I can’t fault that view). That doesn’t mean people don’t ask, or wonder.

My answer? I went with what I considered the useful and accurate one; the Professional Association of SQL Server. Right answer? I don’t know.

It bothered me though, and reminded me that my view of what PASS should be and what others think it should be aren’t the same. I’ve been wrong before and perhaps am this time too, but I miss that focus. Regardless, “what does PASS stand for” is a question we should be able to answer clearly and simply. Perhaps it’s just my resentment about the change/broadening of focus that gets in my way and there is a clear answer. I think that there remains a lack of a solid message and marketing material that explains the new PASS well.

I’ll write up some notes about the event separately, it was well worth attending and well worth having a PASS table at.