I launched this blog over a year ago with lots of ideas, a few expectations, many unknowns. It’s been an interesting experience, though one that hasn’t accomplished all that I hoped. This post will capture some lessons learned and thoughts about improvements if I decide to re-activate it in the future.
- The core formula of a weekly post still seems right. That’s often enough that you can see all the news for a week and easily see what matters, the overall volume each week is typically such that you can read it all if you want.
- One of the patterns I implemented was tagging each post with the authors that were included. A little thing, but one that is helpful in a simple way – you can see by the tag cloud who is posting about PASS topics frequently.
- I ran a once a week scan to look for PASS related content, then did a final manual filter before building the post. I think the manual part would always be worth doing, but it’s not one that took a lot of time and served to eliminate “noise” in the form of not-really-about-PASS stuff that would have been otherwise included.
- Related to that note, perhaps my biggest mistake was not including a standard footer about anything I didn’t include, something like “Items for this week were found by a scan of a list of known SQL bloggers and other sources. If any item you wrote is not posted the most likely reason is that my scan missed it. Items that I deliberately excluded are listed here (zero to date).” I’m sure I missed a few good posts along the way, but it wasn’t deliberate.
- One of the journalism lessons I learned is that if you just print it all, you’re not adding value. One way you add value is prioritizing, making the editorial decision about what gets listed first. The other is that suppressing noise might be required – imagine someone writing “#### sucks” every week. Once, even twice there might be news value. At week 3 it’s just gaming the system. To be clear that didn’t happen, the news I saw was relevant.
- Thinking about trends, I noticed the obvious one, the big spike before/during/after Summit, and a dip to almost nothing in December. I saw surprisingly few “I’m speaking” posts about SQLSaturday. Surprising because I know most events ask for those posts to help market the event and surprising because it’s a good way to document (for yourself) what you did and when. My guess is some don’t think to do them, others get tired of the same old post. It’s ok for it to be a mechanical/repetitive post – it lets the rest of us see who is doing what.
- I started off doing mini-reviews of the minutes. It was hard work to essentially comment on comments and make it worth reading. I much prefer what PASS did some of last year, to have someone on the Board write notes right after each meeting and post them. The challenge of the minutes is that a sentence or two can mean a lot, if you read it and you know why it has implications. That kind of deep review to write something was valuable too. There’s reading and then there is reading.
- PASS had what I would call the best year ever for overall transparency last year. More posts, better public response to problems. I hope that trend continues. Little things like a blog post to mark each time a governance document is posted/updated would be nice. A post about changes to HQ personnel or assignments. I see almost nothing from PASS committees (with what I do see from the Program Committee and NomCom), though I think that might be fairly attributed to having few active committees.
- I saw few posts that were about PASS. It may be unfair or overly hopeful, but I wish we had more members publishing ideas about how PASS might do better, or do more. Ideas are critical to growth.
- I also tried writing editorials based on the news of the week. Some weeks it was easy (read this post, etc), some weeks there was nothing exciting (no editorial), and a few times I commented on news that I didn’t agree with. I think editorials are good. In terms of delivery I ended up thinking they distracted from the news. Publishing them separately seems easier, if less effective. Putting them about the bottom of the news (like newspapers do!) might be a good middle ground.
- Editorials are also harder without a Board. I debated having one, and had volunteers, but because of the way the project was perceived by some I decided to go it alone. A mistake in hindsight, but a well intentioned one.
- As I’ve noted elsewhere I wish chapters were required to post an annual ‘state of the chapter’ and I wish every SQLSaturday would publish a review. We need to ideas and lessons learned. Not every meeting/event will generate them, but a lot will. Those would be fun to read in the news.
Some things I wish PASS would do:
- Make the PASS blog the one place to go to see what’s happening in PASS. That means posts about posting the minutes and financial statements, but also notes about events completed and lessons learned. Make it the place we should a new member and they way “wow” at the energy, volume, and complexity that is generated by all of PASS.
- Not all board members or HQ employee will be a writer. Get someone to write/interview them. Tell the stories. Stories matter.
- Document and publish a list of things that require a blog post (and/or other communication). Document the pattern.
I’ve let the project site idle for a couple weeks and already I miss it. I liked seeing who was doing what and keeping an eye on PASS to make sure things were going ok. I’ll still try to do both, but without the structure I’m sure I’ll do it less often/well. Watching (and participating) are important parts of keeping an organization healthy.
I’m going to leave the blog up for a while. Will I reactivate it? No plans now, but we’ll see at the end of the year.