A quick reaction to the PASS board appointments
First of all, I want to congratulate both Kendal van Dyke (@SQLDBA) and James Rowland-Jones (@jrowlandjones) on their recent appointment to the PASS Board of Directors. I have no doubt they will go above and beyond to fulfill their duties and represent the SQL Server community at large.
Some others feel that more deserving candidates were slighted by this process, and argue that the immediate runners-up in the previous election should get called upon to fill vacated roles. You can read about them here:
Steve's main argument is that the next highest vote recipients in the recent election should automatically fill vacated slots. He contends that Sri has done a lot of work for the community, organizing SQLSaturdays and bringing SQL Rally to Dallas. I know it is not his intention, but stating these things, in my mind, tends to belittle the efforts of the people the board did choose. Kendal's resume is quite similar to Sri's – he works tirelessly for the Orlando SQL Server user groups, speaking at every SQLSaturday there, helping plan their most recent SQLSaturday, and starting a user group (MagicPASS). He was also a key player in bringing the first SQL Rally to Orlando, and having attended as both a speaker and a sponsor, I know that Kendal went to great lengths in making the event as flawless as possible. And James' effort with SQLBits should not be overlooked either – I have been to multiple events over there and I can tell you first-hand that the UK SQL community is quite happy with his efforts on their behalf. He has also served as an international advisor to the PASS board since early 2011, and is involved with many community groups in addition to PASS and SQLBits. Both have been recognized as SQL Server MVPs and constantly demonstrate their commitment to the community. I don't want to take away from Sri's accomplishments, but do want to have equivalent context for the other choices as well.
Andy simply argues that, while the by-laws allow the board to vote for whomever they please, they have traditionally appointed the person with the next highest votes from the previous election — so that's what he expected to happen this time, too. This is a fair expectation, but not a perfect one: to me it seems similar to when people get bitten by the fact that ORDER BY in a view no longer guarantees order without an explicit ORDER BY on the outer query: they're relying on observed behavior vs. what is (or what isn't) written in stone. The process that happened here is not at odds with the way the by-laws are written, it just so happens that in previous incidents the board's decision happened to coincide with the community's vote. (He also suggests that they could have changed the size of the board in order to give James a vote and still take the next two highest vote-getters to fill the vacated seats.)
The idea Steve and Andy have is not without merit, but this is not how the by-laws are currently written (Thomas LaRock explains). I also think there are time limit issues at play. If these appointments happened in March, July, or October 2012, would the 2011 election results be as relevant? If we were to rely solely on community votes, at what point would we need to hold a new vote? I'm just trying to think of how the by-laws could be explicitly written to allow for the community to control every member of the board without having to hold elections all the time.
When I tried to think of real-life (well, non-tech) examples of this, I could only come up with two off the top of my head.
- President of the United States
When the President becomes unable to serve, the Vice President – someone who the President just happened to choose as their running mate – takes his/her place. Not the runner-up in the Presidential race, who quite likely does not hold the same values as the person the people elected. That doesn't mean they are not capable of the position, or that they wouldn't have done a good job, it's just not how the law is written.
- Beauty Pageant Queen
When these ladies lose their crown, the runner-up takes their place. This is more in-line with what Steve and Andy are arguing for, though it is still not the community at large who determined the queen, runner-up, and so on, it was a smaller group of judges. As with the Vice President, the runner-up may not be the city's / country's / world's favorite choice (especially considering these people can change over time), but those are the rules.
In any case, this is part of the by-laws as they are currently written. There is no magic, voodoo or unethical behavior going on. The board voted 11-1 in favor of Kendal and James, and frankly I am quite satisfied that they did so in the best interests of the organization and the community it serves. There were only two spots to fill and at least five willing and capable people to choose from. I am also thankful that the circumstances surrounding their decision is private – while I agree that there needs to be some transparency, if people were not chosen due to personal or other reasons that are not public, they should stay that way. If there were such circumstances, the board could choose to inform those who were not chosen about why they were not chosen, and leave it up to the individual to make that known to the greater community if they so choose.
Does that mean the by-laws don't need to be revisited and potentially re-written, such that both initial and replacement board members are decided by the community in some way? No. I think that the stir this has caused shows that the current process is imperfect and should be considered carefully before the next election. If they do change the by-laws to make the vacancy appointments more dependent on the previous election, I hope they factor in my point about timeliness.