Without PASS, Our Community is Worse Off

This year the PASS Summit is virtual. I’m speaking, as a donation, and Monica Rathbun has written some thoughts on the event. I’m hoping that attendance is high enough to enable to organization to survive beyond 2020.

You can help by registering for the event. There are lots of great sessions, and some wonderful pre-cons.  I want to do a pre-con, but I’m struggling to pick one. I need to decide soon, and 2 pre-cons alone is about what the entire conference costs. I’m going to get some training at a good cost, but also support the organization and pre-con speakers.

PASS Brings Us Together

I have a bit of a like/dislike relationship with PASS. It’s not much stronger than that, but I have struggled to support them at times, for various reasons.

However, as I talked about the organization with a friend, we both agreed that PASS, however flawed they are, makes our community better. From user groups to SQL Saturdays to the Summit, they have fostered an environment that brings us together.

Certainly volunteers make user groups and virtual groups go. Organizers keep things on track and speakers make the events worth attending. SQL Saturdays are almost completely driven by people in the community. Even the great networking experiences at the Summit are largely driven by speakers and volunteers that openly great people, put on events like Game Night, the Photowalk, and SQL Karaoke.

It’s us that makes things special. It’s not the PASS staff or the Board of Directors or a conference.

It’s us. Each of us, engaging with each other.

At the same time, I think that without PASS providing the central place we congregate, that marketing can focus on (mostly community marketing), and giving some financial or other resource support, I’m not sure how well things would go.

I think we’re worse off if PASS fails. In some sense, I hate writing that sentence.

Is the Summit Worth It?

Training typically costs $400-700 a day, depending on who you go to. Online training might be worth less, or feel that way, but a lot of full classes cost this much. If that’s the case, then the $999 bundle, which includes 2 pre-cons is worth the cost. Heck, 2 pre-cons are $800, and it’s only $200 more for the Summit included.

To support PASS, get other sessions, and keep alive an amazing event that has likely helped you in your career, and by proxy, your employer, I think it’s worth it.

Forget about Microsoft and Amazon doing their large conferences for free. They lose money anyway on those events, spending hundreds of thousands, or millions, on Ignite, ReInvent, or something else for marketing. The DevOps Enterprise Summit, the Pass Summit, and others can’t survive without some revenue. Apples and oranges trying to compare these.

I think the cost for the Summit is fair. Maybe it should be $100 more or less, but I wouldn’t quibble about that. If you’ve enjoyed the Summits, if you’ve learned, support PASS if you can. I think the two pre-cons are a good value, and I would emphasize that to your boss.

Two full days of intense training from experts, then 3 more days available for a year. That’s not a bad deal to sell to the boss.

Once in a Lifetime

This pandemic is a once is a lifetime event. I hope.

To me, this is like the hurricane that nearly destroyed PASS in its early years. Kevin Kline makes a case that we should step up because of the nature of these difficult events. I tend to agree, though clearly PASS has struggled through some difficult times.

I don’t know if I would continue to support this as a virtual event in the future. I have to see how this year goes. I don’t know if the way that the PASS organization is structured or handles finances makes sense. I’ll give them a pass this year and come December we can review and debate this.

I don’t remotely think PASS handles communication, transparency, and governance well. My view is the culture and BoD has failed miserably here for over a decade.

I’ll still support them this November and give them a chance to improve.

Now is the time, in my opinion, to support PASS. We can push for change in December, but for now, I think the world is better with PASS in it, and we, as members, should support the organization.

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7 Responses to Without PASS, Our Community is Worse Off

  1. Quiet says:

    Yes, like 9/11, it’s a once in a lifetime event. If we just support them through a few more of these, they might start buying insurance and putting together a financial reserve.


    • way0utwest says:

      They have insurance, but insurance can take > 1 year to collect. It’s entirely possible that they wouldn’t survive until the payout. There are reserves, and arguably not enough, but it’s hard to argue about that right now.


  2. Chris F says:


    Thanks for posting this. I can relate to the idea that people can do great things in a flawed context. I’m really proud of a lot of things that the people in my church do even though there are things that make me cringe as well. We need to work to improve the things we’re a part of instead of writing off anything that isn’t nearly perfect.

    I know my employer (a hospital hit hard financially even though we weren’t hit hard by COVID) won’t have budget for training this year. What’s really funny is we just saved $600 on some work to finish our basement which is the same cost as the 3-day conference. There’s a lot more work to do there so it may be hard to convince my wife that the money is better spent here. I need to spend some time chewing on this and I appreciate the prompt to do that.



  3. anonymous coward says:

    I’m going to post anonymously with a rather unpopular opinion that I think PASS will be better off if it dies and is forced to re-birth. In my opinion (very much an outsider) the organization seems more like a self-satisfied and very insular club than anything remotely “professional.” The overall vibe I’ve picked up when I’ve attended the Summit has been odd and almost cult-like and while I have to give them credit for creating such adoration, I don’t get it.

    For me, SQL Saturday is by far the best thing PASS has done. (Maybe the only good thing.) And I understand that that wasn’t even created by PASS. I think catastrophic failure might be a good opportunity for such an organization to look inward, re-assess, and re-launch with a better focus.


    • way0utwest says:

      Fair enough. I would worry a rebirth doesn’t happen, but I would agree there needs to be change.

      As far as not professional, I’ve be curious what you mean by that.


  4. way0utwest says:

    I certainly understand the family budget item, Chris. Glad I got you to think a bit, and if there’s any chance the pre-cons are helpful for work, maybe ask them to split the cost with you. Sometimes no budget becomes a little budget if we share the load.


  5. Greg Moore says:

    I think you really hit the nail on the head. PASS if far from perfect, but I think the SQL world is currently better with it than without it.
    I’m definitely all for promoting the Virtual Summit this year, in hopes we get back to in-person next year. We’ll see what happens!


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