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September, 2014:

Fixing the #passvotes problem

Following up on my last post, it looks like PASS has addressed the election issues.  The gist of the fix is:

  • The voting deadline has been extended to October 14.
  • Members have until October 5 to update and validate your account.  Go do this.

My thanks to the PASS Board of Directors to doing the right thing on this.  As an organization, you should always be concerned with the care and service of your current membership.  I still have one question, though:  Are we addressing the symptom or are we fixing the problem?

The last week and the issues that came out of it were a mess and the Board make a great effort to fix it.  But this isn’t a long term fix, this was simply a one time repair of the the problems caused by the change in process.  What I want to know is what PASS is doing to prevent a similar problem next year?  My suggestions to PASS are:

  • You can not rely on email to communicate changes like this.  Make sure you are leveraging other methods (Twitter, blog posts, LinkedIn).
  • If accounts need to be validated, build this validation into the website.  Force members to update/review their profile when they log in.

Now that I’ve been burned by this, I will certainly pay more attention to how PASS is managing my account.  However, PASS needs to think about folks who aren’t as vigilant and be proactive about communicating changes.  Connect, learn, and share isn’t a one way street.

The Great #PASSVotes Cock-Up (of 2014)

I really hate having to return to my blog to write this.  I should be putting up another post about Powershell, SQL Server, and happy life in general.  Alas, this is not the case, and I need to express some thoughts publically regarding the recent PASS Board of Directors vote.  I’ve made quite a bit of noise around this on the Twitterz, so it’s only fair I put out my own big post on this to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.  Or some other such nonsense.

For those unaware, this week has the vote for the PASS Board of directors.  Four candidates who are noble in purpose and want to contribute to the SQL Community in a leadership role.  It’s a song and dance most of us have been through before and I applaud these folks for stepping up.  There’s usually a hiccup in the process, but this time around it’s one that is pretty unpleasant in my eyes.

First, let’s talk about the problem.  The registry is a hot mess.  Folks have multiple accounts, old email addresses, and internet profiles that have been collecting dust for a long while.  The organization has been trying to clean these up (which I’m all in favor of) and this time they said “Everyone should update their profile and we’ll send LOTS of emails about it so they know!”  If you didn’t, well you didn’t get to vote.  You’ll get cut off and have to file again the next time around.

I’m one of those people that missed the email and didn’t update my profile.  The reasons are simple:

  1. I, like many others, get a ton of email.  Lots of it goes to spam.  Things that don’t, I’ll glance at the subject line and only open if it interests me.  PASS sends me a LOT of stuff, most of it I don’t open because I don’t have time.  So I can’t tell you if I skipped it or it got spammed, but I didn’t get the message.
  2. Very little has changed for my profile.  I usually keep my online profiles minimal anyway because, well, spam.  Call it wearing my internet condom, but I only put stuff online that I absolutely must.  The only thing I’d like to update is my account login because the domain is no longer around.  Alas, I can only do that if I send an email to PASS HQ and have the staff intervene behind the scenes.

So there ya’ go, I didn’t update, I don’t get to vote.  Sounds pretty cut and dried, except that I don’t see it that way.  Mostly because of the way PASS decided to handle this, then how they decided to communicate this, and finally how they’ve handled things after the whole thing went up in flames.

Updating your Profile

Let’s talk about the process.  Update your profile?  I mean, I guess, but how many of us do that on a regular basis?  I’ve got so many online profiles I could probably turn them all into sheep and start a mildly profitable wool business in New Zealand. I’m not going around to update these unless I’ve got a reason to.

However, PASS has other ways (or should) to identify my active profile.  I’m the Vice President of Events for the Denver SQL Server Users Group.  I log into the site 3-4 times a month to manage chapter events, send out emails, and generally keep things running.  Are there no logs of my use of the site?  I use the same account (linked with if you didn’t know) and have used it to register with 6 SQL Saturdays this year.  To insist that a profile update is the only way to know my account was active is silly.

Let’s go with the having to update the profile, though, since that’s what they want.  Since you want folks logging in to the site, can’t you just force them to update their profile on log in?  I have to do it for other websites, it’s not a new concept.  I’d have been annoyed, but by forcing me to complete that, PASS would have accomplished their objective.


Email.  Always with the email.  With a tech organization, you would expect them to understand the kind of impact email has on our daily lives.  We get tons of it, so we build filters and rules to manage it.  Email is a mess and it’s not getting any better.  (Believe me, I worked for an e-mail marketing firm for a while.)

So why does PASS expect people to always read every single email they send them?  Sorry, I’ve got to much going on.  “But Mike, that’s no excuse!”  Fine, but I expect someone running a tech based community to have enough sense to realize that email shouldn’t be the only means of communication.  Sure, Bill Graziano made a single blog post in January (6 months before the deadline), but no others?  No website notices?  Banners?  As Chris Carter would say “C’mon man!

The Aftermath

So here we are, about 48 hours after this all went nuclear.  There’s been quite the twitter storm and lots of chatter.  I’ve received 4 pieces of communication from PASS personell:

  • 2 form emails from PASS HQ essentially saying “Yeah, you can’t vote”.
  • A direct message from a board member saying “I am fighting to make this right, have patience.”
  • A direct message from a different board member saying “I want to talk about how we should have done this better.

First, the DMs.  To the first, thank you.  This is what we need on the board.  Someone fighting for the community, because without us there is no PASS.  The second…well, I know we need to make things better in the future.  But we also need to make things right.  Now.

The form emails are form emails.  Enough said, we’ve gotten enough crap like that over the years.  Might have well just gone to my spam box.

This is what really angers me.  I’ve been an active member of PASS for 4 years, presenting at SQL Saturdays, spending money out of my own pocket to attend Summit, helping run the Denver users group, and ultimately trying to show people why they need to be in on this.  I’ve been busting tail on behalf of this organization for a while now and it sure as hell feels like I’m being told to “shut up and sit at the back of the bus.”

What also rubs me raw is that we’ve also had a dust-up over the re-branding of PASS to be a more inclusive data organization.  Lets set aside that debate for another time, but right before the vote opened, we had this post on the blog on how we need to have a bigger umbrella.  Great!  Sure!  On the heels of this we then have an event where many folks (not just me), who have been serving PASS for years, get essentially shoved out from under the umbrella due to a technicality.  I’m pretty sure this wasn’t the intended message, but timing is everything and this one was pretty poor.

No, I don’t think any of this was intentional.  No, I’m not looking for a grand conspiracy to disenfranchise folks.  This was an accident, one that I believe came from poor planning and execution.  Like any mistake, however, the way you recover from it defines you and I’ve got a dim view of how this is being handled post-mistake.  The party line is “Can’t do anything, our hands are tied.”  That’s a line I just can’t swallow, considering the number of long shifts and incident meetings I’ve had to participate in to fix business mistakes.  The right thing can always be done, it takes the will and desire to see that it happens.


I’m calling on PASS to do the right thing.  I’m asking the Board to represent the community that they stand for.  For the third time this year, we the community are calling for transparency and accountability from our organization (The other two?  Rebranding and Speaker/Precon selection for Summit 2014).  If we can’t fix this, we need to know some details around why (disparity of systems why that was chosen, why we are unable to pull additional active voters into the mix, etc.).

To the Board, this is not a personal attack on you.  I know most of you, you are good folks and I like you.  But mistakes are being made and your community needs you.

To everyone else, thanks for reading.  It’s a big wall of text, but one I felt I had to write.    Am I going to get my vote?  Probably not.  Am I giving up on PASS?  Not on your life.  I will continue to tell everyone I can that PASS is the most supportive and open tech community I’ve ever been a part of and will strive to make that so.  Don’t give up faith in the community because, no matter how it gets branded or who’s at the top, we’re the ones that make PASS special.  Connect, learn, and share with those in your office, city, state/province, and country to make PASS what you want it to be.