Notes on the May 27, 2015 PASS Town Hall

I attended the online Town Hall yesterday, the second one that PASS has held this year. The recording should be available soon (next week) for those that missed it. On to my thoughts:

  • Bravo to PASS for continuing to do this. More communication, more channels, I like the trend.
  • I think it’s tough/distracting to have participants on camera that aren’t active. They have to sit there and look engaged. I think better would be the active speaker only.
  • I thought Amy did a good job setting the stage on the topic (PASS Summit Program), but I would like to have seen slides and/or a blog post to go with it.  I think that kind of opening is useful, but PASS has to remember if they do it it’s “presentation mode” with all that entails, then shift to Q&A.
  • I found the questions interesting and based on the names of those who submitted them, I think attendance was higher than the last town hall.
  • I’d like to hear the submitters full name, and I’d really like it if we could get the question up on a slide, I think it would help me and the person answering stay focused.
  • I think it’s a tough format for complex issues because the questions don’t lend themselves to short answers, it’s easy to get off track with the answer, or to misinterpret the focus. I don’t want to stop doing it, but one tweak might be to watch for follow up questions/comments from the same submitter.
  • I think the moderator has to engage a little more, be an advocate for both sides in terms of focus and time.
  • I think a topic centered town hall is interesting. Open it up to any question at the end if time remains (and at least one “open” event each year, if not more). I’d like to see more topics like this, and not just ones about pain/controversy.
  • I thought it was under advertised/marketed.

As far as the topic, I heard a lot of interesting questions. The one that interested me most (and I’m sorry, I forgot who submitted it) was asking why picking a session on the schedule builder didn’t guarantee a seat. That’s a good question! Reserving seats is a step forward in complexity, but also in service – I’d like to see that idea discussed and blueprinted before building, but I think it would be useful.

I was thinking afterward that there is a lot still to talk about. I think hearing what the Program Committee thinks and why (and especially the history of how we got here) is useful. I think having the PC hear questions to challenge them is useful. I was also thinking that many of the questions focus on tactics (do this) instead of what they want to accomplish at a strategic level. For example, I asked about community choice selections. That’s a tactical question, but what I really want is there to a way to get a few speakers on the schedule that didn’t get picked via the normal channel. I’m open on the “how”, but I like a method that drives engagement and thus marketing. The question is whether we agree on having alternate channels for speakers to get on the agenda?

I think we also have to think and talk about “making things better”. Better for who? Imagine you had to score the schedule based on some metrics and then do 5% better the next year. What would you measure? Attendance? Evals? Overall evals? If we don’t agree on better, it’s hard to drive decisions.

I heard a question (I think Kevin Kline) about using SQLSaturday as a farm club. I’ve long been an advocate of that idea and it pains me, truly, that we don’t have a Board level seat that just focuses on the speaker eco-system. It’s been mostly ignored because it’s grown based on SQLSaturday and others, but if we want to improve the Summit, we have to think about the entire picture.

I like watching these conversations and thinking about the different “hats” being worn and how they drive viewpoints. The PC volunteer. who has to look at 70 abstracts. The speaker who wants to break in. The Director who needs to merge the community and MS speaker/topic list.  None are wrong, but they are different, and all tend (I’m generalizing, I know) to only see their own viewpoint. Conversations like the Town Hall help change that.

I know that I hope the Summit ten years from now isn’t the same as the one this year, or the one ten years ago. It doesn’t need to be revolutionary, but it shouldn’t stay the same either. Try things (some of which may fail).

Finally, I hope the Program Committee got at least one idea for next year they can try, and that they don’t do it in a vacuum. Engagement generated the ideas, engagement can make it better too.