A wise man once said “praise publicly, criticize privately.” This week we saw a handful of blog posts and associated comments regarding the PASS Summit survey results. If you review the posts and comments I think you would find them more along the lines of “criticize publicly, remain silent privately”, because that’s how I feel since nobody bothered to do some fact checking before going public with their posts.

I’m not saying that the posts are wrong. I recognize the need for some healthy discord. I do wish, however, that we could get a few facts addressed and I would like to do that now.

Accidentally On Purpose

I have lost count of the number of times over the past weeks that the word “bias” has been mentioned with regards to the surveys that PASS has composed in the past. And I will not argue with anyone on this matter. What I do want people to ask themselves is this: Do you think the questions were constructed in a specific way in order to be biased? Because if you do, then you are giving us way too much credit. Believe me, we’re not that clever, and we are not sitting around a table trying to craft questions in such a way so that they have a bias. Any bias that exists in the survey is simply dumb luck, as it were.

Customer Feedback Is Important

Fairly obvious, right? Well, that is the whole point of the surveys that we send out. We need feedback from everyone in order to make certain we are steering the ship in the right direction. To the 200 people that answered the Summit survey I want to say “thank you”. To the 2,000 people that skipped completing the survey I want to say “I understand”. I wouldn’t want to answer so many questions either. I recognize that most people don’t want to answer more than seven questions in any survey. We will simply need to figure out a better way to get all the information we need.

We Need Help Putting Together Surveys

This one is rather obvious by now, to everyone involved. We need help in putting together the questions, the way the surveys are distributed, the way we can entice people to participate by responding, how the results are interpreted, and how we announce the results publicly. We need help in each and every area with regards to customer feedback. I am not trying to slam the work that has been done previously by PASS, I am only trying to make certain that PASS knows they need some help and that the Community knows that PASS knows they need help. Hopefully we can come together to agree on that point.

Now, I’ve seen a lot of people complaining, either about the survey itself or the fact that the PASS Board has not come out with an official announcement or whatever else they feel the need to get off their chest. What I haven’t seen offered up by anyone is a solution, only the complaints. I also never like it when a complaint is not followed up by a suggestion for improvement. So, I’ll be the adult here and offer mine:

Part Time Is Not Enough

We do not have anyone dedicated to putting together our surveys. And at the same time we recognize just how important it is for us to keep our fingers on the pulse of our Community. I would say that the time has come for PASS to either dedicate a resource to gathering community feedback, or we outsource to composition of our surveys to a professional service with experience in this arena. We cannot afford to continue in the same manner that we have been operating. The information is too valuable, we need to start treating it as such.

My solution is exactly that: We must create a position that is dedicated to polling the PASS Community in such a way that we get continuous feedback. There are a lot of options  for PASS to explore here; we could do surveys, we could ask 3-5 questions of each member at various times throughout the year, we could do informal polling during the Summit, we could find a way to do some polling at SQL Saturdays, etc. But none of that will matter unless we have someone in charge, someone coordinating the efforts, aggregating the results, interpreting them, and communicating the results back to the Community along with an appropriate action plan. This person could be a current staff member (which means that we would need to shift some current priorities and assignments) or we could look to outsource our needs. Either solution would come with a cost (either hard dollars or staff time) and right now we don’t really have extra resources on hand.

So, I’ll put it to the Community: leave your thoughts below on how we can implement a low-cost solution to gather, aggregate, interpret, and report an action plan based upon our collections. I’ll take the suggestions left here to the PASS Board as well as the PASSCAB and let’s see if we can work together on a solution.

[This post is my opinion, and mine alone. It does not, in any way, represent an official statement from PASS. If you think it does, you’re wrong.]