#passvotes Welcome to the Nom Com: Here’s Your Helmet.

It’s been over a week since my last post on this subject, and to be honest, I was hoping that I wasn’t going to have to write any more.  I felt like I had stated my position that the Nominations Committee for the PASS elections of 2010 had been faced with an unpopular decision, and we chose to take the high road of following the process we established before picking the slate.  Since then, I’ve had the peculiar experience of both being hailed as a hero (for making a public statement) and yet having my work deemed inferior (the decision we reached as a committee).  I’m hoping that I can clarify some things, and publically answer some questions that have been asked of me online and face-to-face.

Catching up…

If you haven’t been following along, or (like me) have missed a couple of really good postings on the issue, you may want to check out the list of postings at the Discussion page on http://elections.sqlpass.org.  I think it speaks volumes about our community that we worry about things like fairness and openness, and that the organization which is at the center of the controversy is hosting comments (both positive and negative).

The caveats: It’s all about me, really.

I should note that I’m making this post as an individual, not as a sanctioned representative of the Nominating Committee or PASS.  It’s all me, and these are my beliefs and my opinions.  I like to think that I hold myself to the highest standard possible, so there are some things that I’m going to frame in terms of my beliefs, even those beliefs may be more restrictive than what is legally or professionally required.

First, I believe that the Nominations Committee should be a “black box”; you define the standard by which decisions should be reached, the applicants to whom those decisions apply, and the decision makers before putting that in the box.  Whatever happens in the box, stays in the box.  I had earlier alluded to protecting the privacy of the applicants, but to be honest, the Committee should also protect the privacy of the members (in my opinion).  This was a volunteer gig, and even though many of the volunteers were sitting Board members, a few of us were not.  I know I said some things in those meetings about applicants that I don’t necessarily want broadcast, and according to the election procedure, my comments should be kept in committee; I believe that volunteers should have the right to express ideas in discussion that are unpopular, and those comments should not be used in a court of public opinion.   If I thought that Jack Corbett was an evil genius intent on destroying the world, I should have the right to use that to spark a discussion in committee without ruining my relationship with him (by the way, I don’t believe that; Jack is one of the sweetest guys I know).  

Second, I believe that no matter how unpopular the decision, groups that are composed of volunteers shouldn’t throw the committee under the bus when the work is done.   I SUPPORT THE RESULTS OF THE NOM COM.  Period.  This is not “circling the wagons” or “hiding behind the process”; this is a fundamental precept of my understanding of civilized discourse.   Seven people had an opportunity to discuss all of the applicants, and seven people reached a majority decision to promote five applicants to the slate.  I respect the work of my colleagues on the Nom Com, and I hope they feel the same way about me.

Third, we’ve all got to work together tomorrow.  The SQL Server community is large, but it’s still a small village in some ways, and I want to be careful in what I say because I want to engage in productive dialogue, and not destructive.  It was funny to see some of the tweets about the perceived “us-vs-them” (and I know those tweets were in jest), but the truth is, I respect a lot of people that I don’t always agree with.  Andy Leonard and I had some great discussions over the weekend at SQL Saturday 51, as did Andy Warren and I.  Lynda Rab hugged me.   Steve Jones and I have exchanged DM’s, and I’m hoping to sit down over a beer with him at some point.  I’ve also had several emails and phone calls from others with whom I disagree; I’m friends with people, and I hope that at the end of the day, we can walk away respecting each other even though we may have different ideas about how to solve the problem.  There’s no “them” in this discussion; we’re all us.

On to the issues…

Andy Leonard recently posted a great wrap-up about the process as he understands it; he does make some conjectures about the process which I think are incorrect, but for the most part, I think his analysis is insightful and a great read for people who can only observe from the outside.

Andy makes a great argument about process failures versus execution failures, and I can see his point. 

I left Farmville Virginia at 4:00 AM EDT Friday morning heading to SQL Saturday #51 in Nashville Tennessee. I thought about where I was going the night before, printed some basic instructions, pre-programmed a few addresses into my Garmin, and then drove roughly 550 miles in about 9 hours… this was my process. If I’d ended up in New York City instead of Nashville I could offer the excuse that I followed a process, but you would see right through that excuse, wouldn’t you? You’d say things like "That’s weak Andy". If you had a vested interest in meeting me in Nashville and I called emailed you from New York City to tell you I wasn’t in Nashville and that I was, in fact, even further from Nashville than I was at the beginning of following my process, you would be understandably put out.

It’s a great analogy, but it’s hinged on one troublesome precept: the Nom Com and the Board of Directors failed.  I don’t think we failed (and I know that statement’s about to open up a heap of trouble).   Did we (the Nom Com) arrive at an unpopular decision?  Yep.  Did the Board of Directors support that unpopular decision and ratify the slate?  Yep.   Is that a failure?  No.  If you’re assuming that Steve Jones deserves to be a candidate, then I can see how you want to blame somebody or something for reaching a different outcome than you desire.  But that’s not a failure; it was an unplanned outcome <G>.

Here’s my take on it: We (the Nom Com) had an agreement with PASS to find qualified candidates for the 2010 Board of Directors; to fulfill that agreement, we developed a process that we published and had explicitly approved by the BOD, and implicitly approved by the PASS membership (I don’t remember getting any feedback at all from the membership after making this post).  We used a template to evaluate written applications, and then interviews (more about the template below).  After all was said and down, it came down to an Yes/No/Abstain vote from each of the Nom Com members (as explained by Tom LaRock); Steve and Jack didn’t get enough votes to go on.  Did the Nom Com deliver a slate of qualified candidates?  Damn skippy; I believe that each and every one of the five individuals of the slate deserves an opportunity to be a Director.  Did we leave off candidates that were qualified according to public opinion? Obviously so.  Is that a failure?  I wouldn’t call it one; to rephrase Andy’s analogy, I think we made it to Nashville, but we left behind part of the slide deck.  Can we still go on?

What about the Numbers?

Both Andy Leonard and K. Brian Kelley provide some insight into the numbers from the templates used to rank the candidates.  Again, very well written and thoughtful posts that certainly raise some questions about why Steve (and to some degree, Jack, who is getting a very short shrift in this controversy) didn’t make the slate.  It’s understandable, because those templates are comfortable to look at for data-oriented geeks.  We like numbers, and we like it when numbers make sense.   It would be great if we had some sort of objective measurement by which to determine the qualifications of an applicant; unfortunately, the template ain’t it.

Brian’s analysis shows the holes in the theory that we had an objective measure by questioning how we (the Nom Com) arrived at those ratings; granted, his rankings are based on his personal knowledge of Steve Jones, and he’s a sample of 1, but it shows the subjectivity inherent in a ranking system.  Granted, the averages were supposed to ease some of the subjectivity (by reducing the emphasis on outliers), but 7 is still a small sample, so extreme differences among Nom Com members could have definitely impacted the outcome.  Furthermore,  the Nom Com was privy to information that was not public (the complete application and interview); our rankings were based on our perception of how well the candidate met the criteria using all information available to us, and most of that information came from the application and the interview.  Did I know about Steve’s black belt? No.  Did I know his son was on the Eagle Scouts?  Wasn’t on the application form.

Ultimately, the numbers were used as a guide to facilitate discussion; there was no cut-off point, and 7 interviewees were well within the maximum number of candidates for the Board (as defined by the bylaws; see the election process for more details).  It came down to a majority vote, and the majority of the committee felt that Steve and Jack were not ready at this time to be on the slate (for Jack, it was 0 yea’s, 6 no’s, and an abstention; for Steve, it was 1 yea, 5 no’s, and an abstention).  

The question of fitness.

Here’s a quote from Andy Leonard:

I know Steve. I believe he would be disruptive. I think he would challenge the status quo and defend the SQL Server Community with every ounce of his being. I believe he would start his two years of service on the Board more stubborn and obstinate than he would end it. Like every Board of Director member that’s taken time to share their experience, Steve would evolve. For some, that’s a problem. They cannot tolerate the disruptive-ness. I believe Steve was deemed "unFit" for the Board for this reason.  

I may be misreading this, but Andy seems to be accusing some members of the Nom Com and the Board of Directors of bias against disruption or discussion, and to that end I ask: Have you met Rick Bolesta?  Andy Warren?  Lynda Rab?   None of these folks would I consider to be peacekeepers; they’re all opinionated, strong-willed, intelligent, and fair people (and I can name others on the BoD).   To assume that we (the Nom Com) deliberately excluded an applicant because they met the same characteristics of many of the sitting BoD is illogical.

To be fair, I can see how Andy got there; Steve is not known for pulling punches when it comes to PASS, and I can see how it looks like “Steve was a bully, so I’m not going to let him play on my team”.   But, to linger on that assumes that the we (the Nom Com) are incapable of being professional when it comes handling criticism.  To pull another quote from Andy regarding the Nom Com:

You could argue that they did their job with the same zeal as the people who shrink-wrap CDs and DVDs. But understand they were told to protect us from another marketing executive. This isn’t a complaint about the NomCom – it’s constructive criticism. I believe members of the NomCom know the difference.

I, too, believe the Nom Com knows when criticism is constructive, and I think we factored that in to the definition of Fit.  But one’s ability to deliver constructive criticism is NOT the only component of that measure; we examined all nominee’s skills, experiences, and strength to derive that measure.  Granted, it was a subjective measure masked as objectivity, but it should not have been used as a bias against Steve (or any other candidate) because he’s a rabble-rouser.

Other bits and bytes…

After all of that is said is done, there’s still some lingering questions to be answered.  I’d been meaning to write a post about this, but obviously the controversy is outweighing the need to understand what happened in committee.  Let me briefly summarize some of the main points:

Would I have changed anything about the process?

Yes.  I think that the Nom Com qualification process needs to be standardized and used every year; that would alleviate some of the concerns as to why the quality of candidates differentiated so wildly from last year to now.   I think the template is a great idea, but the Board needs to define (in conjunction with the membership at large; stole that idea from Andy Warren) what constitutes a qualified candidate.  Those qualifications need to be simple and easy to understand, and allow for a broad range of candidates to qualify.

I also think the board needs to have more community members sitting on it, like others have suggested (I couldn’t find the reference, so if you were first to post this, sorry).  I do believe that a Nom Com is necessary for PASS, and I’m open to discussions about the role of that committee. 

Am I mad about the controversy?

There have been times over the last week that I have wanted to haul a few posters aside and have a discussion out in the parking lot (despite the fact that the last fight I was in was in 7th grade, and I lost because my lip got stapled to my braces).  I’ve gotten very good at relieving stress via Wii Boxing.   I think the criticism that hurt most was from people whom I respect and they posted something without thinking about the people involved in the process; most I have forgiven (and talked it out).  Others will take a while before they gain my trust back.

I also HATE that 5 talented individuals that did make the slate (and 1 who did not) are being marginalized because of the outcry over Steve.  We’ve got to move on, and soon, or we’re going to miss out an opportunity to understand the next set of Directors.

Would I serve on the Nom Com again?

Hell, yes.   I plan to serve until I get the chance to deny Paul Randall a seat on the board (j/k).   To be honest, I’m very proud of my service, and I hope to do again.  I realize it’s not the easiest job in the world, but nothing important is.

August 24, 2010 · stuart · 28 Comments
Posted in: Election2010, SQLServerPedia Syndication

28 Responses

  1. Andy Leonard - August 24, 2010

    Hi Stuart,

    Fair post.

    A single question: How does Steve get the lowest score for References?

    Andy

  2. stuart - August 24, 2010

    I dunno.

    However, I think you’re missing the forest by examining each tree for clues; it came down to an up-down vote, and the majority determined who would make the slate. I think I overheard Andy Warren ask a better question as to “how was the Nominating Committee picked?” Would picking a different committee yield a different result?

  3. Chuck Boyce - August 24, 2010

    Stu,

    I understand how you feel even if I do not agree with some of the things you have said. I am not going to respond to those because this is all in the past. I think maybe it help the NomCom to realize the perspective of the community. Many of us would like to feel that who leads PASS is **OUR** decision, not a decision made by a committee or a decision made by a Board of Directors. That does not mean we find fault necessarily with the members of the committee. It seems that some members of the NomCom and the BOD are incorrectly perceiving criticism where instead it is simply a frustration with an obvious contradiction to deeply held beliefs about ownership of community decisions.

    Many good things have come from this, many new voices of leadership have spoken, and I think the community will long term gain from this community conversation. Good things are to come, I believe.

  4. K. Brian Kelley - August 24, 2010

    Stu,

    I understand your point about not being able to know it all. However, the information I pulled about Steve, except for perhaps being the old technical editor for SQL Server Standard (and even this is findable using Google) and how he helped Midlands PASS is in the public domain, either on his SSC blog or his dkranch one. I’m not knocking how anyone did their job with the NomCom. I don’t have the knowledge to say how anyone did their job and it would be counterproductive for me to say someone did a lousy job, even if it were true.

    I just don’t understand how he could consistently get low numbers on criteria that should not have been greatly impacted by the interview. For instance, Performance, which includes impact as part of the criteria. Even Andy Warren doesn’t have the impact on the community at large as Steve does. That’s part and parcel with being the editor of SSC, one would say, but Steve’s always been a strong voice in the community, even before that. Andy L’s point about References is another one. Accountability. Steve’s tasks are extremely visible by the community and rarely has he had a misstep. How many times did he miss an editorial or not get the podcast done? On occasion a Database Weekly has gone out late. But that’s rare. And when you look at the podcasts, especially since he includes bloopers, you see how diligent he is to put forth a great product. So when I look at the overall body of work of each candidate that the community does see, I would have figured Steve’s scores to be much higher. And I think that is where those who have commented about what I wrote have seen, too. Not knocking the other candidates. But Steve’s performance level in a lot of those criteria areas are up front and visible to the community and he has consistently excelled. Note that I stayed away from anything related to interpersonal relationships within PASS or the like. I can’t comment on those. So I didn’t.

    And you’re right about Jack, or Denny, both of whom I interact with on-line, especially Jack. We’ve not talked about them. But the fact that you’ve mentioned that raises the question, does it not?

  5. Rick Heiges - August 24, 2010

    Stu – Thanks for sharing your point of view.

  6. stuart - August 24, 2010

    Great comments, Brian, and I hate to leave you hanging, but…

    I dunno.

    I have my theories, but to discuss them would require me to get too close to the line of privacy that I’ve set for myself. I can’t deny that there is a lot of variance in interpretation for the measures (which is NOT good), and I also can’t deny that some of the scores may have been unduly influenced (in both directions) by applicant interviews. Such variance within a small sample could lead to ambiguous results.

    Which is why, ultimately, the scores didn’t matter. It came down to a vote, and the majority of the committee voted to include 5 candidates.

  7. Wes Brown - August 24, 2010

    Stu,

    You are a poopie head, OK not really just wanted to get the name calling out of the way.

    Thanks for posting a follow up. The one thing that stands out and you rightly pointed to is the fact we are running on limited information. I think that is one of the biggest issues we are facing. Every time the NomCom or the BoD releases some of the info but not all of it we can only make guesses as to what was left out.

    Heck, at this point I’d ether release every bit of info or quit posting stuff like the ratings all together. Its just fanning the flames.

    Remember, don’t blame me, I voted for Kodos!

    -wes

  8. K. Brian Kelley - August 24, 2010

    Stu, I’m going to take this to the procedure because I respect the fact that you’re trying to stick by confidentiality, and it can be hard when only one side gets a say. So let’s look at what you said about everyone going to a vote. That should give us all pause right there. Rather than a procedure that says:

    a) Take all candidates that score above a minimum score of X.
    b) If there are more candidates who qualify than there are slots, fill the slots from the highest scores down.

    Ultimately, the scores can be completely trumped by the vote. So if a candidate had scored the highest, because of the vote, he or she can be ousted. So the question then is, Why do the template? Because ultimately all candidates are going to be subjectively evaluated.

  9. Arie Jones(AJ) - August 24, 2010

    Stuart,
    I will echo Andy’s post above, in that you have a fair post.
    But I will hinge it on the caveat that many people whom I speak to, have the understandable feeling that if you do something outside of PASS then it doesn’t count.
    When I look at Brian K’s post above it seems to echo that sentiment. When I look at the intitial criteria for some of the speaking slots at the upcoming SQLRally it also looks to be the same sentiment.
    I think what a lot of people are saying is that it is NOT the NOMCOM’s fault. They are executing the criteria that was set forth to them. However, it is up to the BoD to be the final approving authority for the slate. They are the ones that ultimately vote up or down on the slate… and BTW are vested to make the right business decisions on how PASS moves forward as an organization.
    Can they have failures..yes. This is still a captialist society whether it is the Proctor & Gamble or PASS. If people lose respect for the product you are putting out then they will stop buying. They are to be held accountable.
    Can we move forward…yes. However, the pattern of ‘perceived’ failure grows every year. Last year’s election process…this year’s election process…skewing the results of the PASS location survey.
    It looks like a pattern is forming and I ,as many other people in the community do, want to stop it from reaching critical mass. Yet, step 1 of the 12 step process for the BoD is to admit that they have an issue here.Can we at least get to that part?
    Lastly, I will reiterate that I do not think that most of us are getting personnel…..instead it is professional criticism of what the BoD is doing…NOT the NomCom…you folks did your job.

    Now get yer’ helmet back on and get in the GAME! ;)

    Cheers,
    AJ

  10. stuart - August 24, 2010

    @Brian, I can’t answer why the template was provided; the decision was made before I joined the committee. I can tell you that it WAS useful in guiding discussion about areas of concern (for example, Denny made it clear that his application noted little hands-on experience with PASS; the template highlighted it, and helped us discuss things).

    It still comes down to a vote, however, and a simple majority wins.

  11. stuart - August 24, 2010

    @AJ

    Thanks for the comment; one of the reasons I wanted to post this was because I felt that there were misperceptions of how the process worked, and there is a feeling of bias in the process. I hope I clarified the former, and mitigated some of the latter; it was not my intent to be “woe is me” about this. I think these are important discussions to be had, and I also think that we need to address the rightful concerns of the community while remembering that the members of the Nom Com and the BoD are ALSO members of that community.

  12. Jack Corbett - August 24, 2010

    Stu,

    Appreciate your work on the NomCom and your defense/explanation of the process. You are going above and beyond what you have to do and should be lauded for it.

    I hope you aren’t on the NomCom next year, I hope you are being evaluated by it or whatever replaces it if the process changes.

  13. Andy Warren - August 25, 2010

    Just subscribing!

  14. Andy Leonard - August 25, 2010

    Hi Stu,

    You are correct – I am searching. I desperately want to find the clear and concise logic that leads to why Steve Jones was not recommended by the NomCom. But at every turn in my search, I keep finding stuff that doesn’t add up.

    This isn’t hard. References and Education should be an easy win for the NomCom and the PASS Board. Here’s an opportunity for you/them to publish empirical, non-embarrassing evidence that there were at least two easily-measurable metrics to which the NomCom applied some objective scale.

    I want you to hear this plea from the SQL Server Community: “Please give us something that appears objective.”

    If you cannot produce it, all the posts in the world about process and confidentiality are going to look like you have something to hide; that there was bias against Steve before he opened his mouth in the interview; and that that bias is reflected on every single line of the Interview Rankings Sheet.

    I want to believe this isn’t the case. Please help.

    Andy

  15. stuart - August 25, 2010

    @AndyW — Welcome to the party.

    @AndyL: I’ve been as clear and transparant as my principles allow me to be.

    I’ve explained both here and on Twitter that the rankings were SUBJECTIVE measures, and that each of the Nom Com members scored each applicant based on their interpretation of what those items were supposed to measure.

    I’ve also explained (on Twitter) how a small sample size could cause a great deal of variance from measure to measure if even 1 row of data was changed (again, assuming that ranking is a subjective measure).

    I’ve stated that it ultimately came down to a vote AFTER the interviews were completed, and that if you assume that the applicants made it to the interview, and then didn’t wind up on the slate, then something happened during the interview process to cause a majority of the Nom Com to NOT recommend he and Jack to the slate.

    However, there’s a big leap to be made from using subjective measure of qualification to accusations of bias against an applicant, and while some of my peers in the SQL Server community may persist in the belief of bias, it’s still faulty logic. Here’s the corollary to that statement: if you believe that there was bias in the Nom Com to keep Steve Jones off the Board of Directors, then you are accusing at least 5 of the 7 members of the Nom Com to hold that bias. Frankly, I have trouble accepting that statement (for obvious reasons).

    The short answer is that Steve Jones was interviewed by the Nom Com, and a majority of the Nom Com decided not to put his name on the slate. That’s it. Subjective? Yes. Biased? No.

  16. Andy Leonard - August 25, 2010

    “However, there’s a big leap to be made from using subjective measure of qualification to accusations of bias against an applicant, and while some of my peers in the SQL Server community may persist in the belief of bias, it’s still faulty logic.”

    Hi Stuart,

    I disagree with your assessment of the role of subjectivity in bias. I’m not saying you’re wrong. I’m struggling to come up with a good example of unbiased subjectivity.

    You’re smart and good with analogies Stuart. Help me out here.

    Andy

  17. Arie Jones(AJ) - August 25, 2010

    Stu,
    Sorry but your logic is incorrect.

    “Steve Jones off the Board of Directors, then you are accusing at least 5 of the 7 members of the Nom Com to hold that bias. Frankly, I have trouble accepting that statement (for obvious reasons).”

    It’s not that big of a leap. You go to the NomCom page..
    http://elections.sqlpass.org/Home/NomCom.aspx

    When I look here I see that we have 7 NomCom members…5 of which come from the BoD. If the community is outside of the process looking in then how can they not ‘assume’ that the deck is somehow stacked.

    In physics, we take a measurement and that measurement is based upon some rigorous method. That means that if we are on a team then we all use the same method. As you say…

    “I’ve explained both here and on Twitter that the rankings were SUBJECTIVE measures, and that each of the Nom Com members scored each applicant based on their interpretation of what those items were supposed to measure.”

    So when measuring a candidate each person can have a subjective scoring but everyone is using the same idea of what that measure entails. What good is it if I give a group of people the task of measuring an object …only to give some people a 2X4, some others a ruler, someone else a spoon, and then the last person a shoestring.

    At least if I give everyone the same measuring instrument with the same instructions then the margin of error is drastically reduced. Yes, their answers are still subjective in how they exactly measure the ruler but that margin is relatively small.

    I think what Stuart, and some of the rest of us, are trying to say and get acknowledged is that the margin of error in this case is waaaaay out of whack for what should be measured.

    More importantly, how is the margin of error so out of whack that the BoD did not react to correct it. I mean seriously, it almost looks as if they are just dialing it in on this one.

    Hopefully this helps you out with your argument Andy…..

    Cheers,
    AJ
    (Yes I do have a degree in Computational Physics which is why I use these references)

    PS. Watch out @AndyW is a spy:)

  18. Arie Jones(AJ) - August 25, 2010

    Sorry in the previous post I meant to say…

    I think what Andy, and some of the rest of us, are trying to say and get acknowledged is that the margin of error in this case is waaaaay out of whack for what should be measured.

    My bad …it be late in Indiana:)

    Cheers,
    AJ

  19. K. Brian Kelley - August 25, 2010

    Stu, scientifically, you’re wrong (this isn’t opinion, it’s well known based on testing technique). Andy L’s an engineer, which is why he’s struggling to find subjective analysis of this sort without bias.

    Bias, simply put, is making a decision and allowing previous opinion into it. This is something we all do. When you’re doing experimentation, a single blind (where the one making the choice doesn’t know what’s being tested, like when someone is told to choose which drink is better and one is Coke and the other is Pepsi), can still be subjective because the one administering the test can put bias in. For instance, I may lean towards the one I know is Coke because I like Coke, but I’m doing so unconsciously. That’s why double blind techniques were developed.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blind_experiment

    Saying there’s bias is not the same thing as saying you’ve got folks acting maliciously. Given that there is no way to do a blind technique in what is clearly a subjective analysis, there’s no way to filter out bias.

  20. stuart - August 25, 2010

    @AJ I’m not sure where the fallacy in my logic is, but I can blow a shotgun hole in yours:

    “When I look here I see that we have 7 NomCom members…5 of which come from the BoD. If the community is outside of the process looking in then how can they not ‘assume’ that the deck is somehow stacked.”

    The community could verify that the Nom Com consisted of 5 PASS executives, and 2 volunteer members, but it’s a hell of an assumption that having an affiliation with the Board of Directors automatically grants you an “I-don’t-like-Steve-Jones” card. If some members of the community choose to believe that, then there’s no point in discussing it, because there’s no opportunity to dissuade them of that.

    As far as your definition of subjectivity, I would disagree from the tradition of social sciences (I have an MA in Communication, an MEd in Instructional Design, and I’m ABD in Communication Theory with an emphasis on Research Design, just so you understand where I’m coming from) .

    “In physics, we take a measurement and that measurement is based upon some rigorous method. That means that if we are on a team then we all use the same method. As you say…”

    This ain’t physics; it was a modified unvalidated Likert scale. The tradition of phenomonology assumes that a) all of us have different “tools for measuring” an experience, so none of us experience a phenomena in exactly the same fashion, and b) variance in measurement can be minimized with a large enough sample population. Obviously, 7 is too small for us to be drawing any definitive statistical conclusions from, which is why I keep stressing the fact that the numbers were useful only in guiding discussion; ultimately, it came down to a vote.

  21. stuart - August 25, 2010

    Brian, if we’re quibbling over semantics, then we’re missing the heart of the discussion. I chose to use the word “bias” not in the scientific sense, but in the very loaded common usage of the word; Andy stated on his web page that he believes that the Nom Com chose to reject Steve because they deemed him unfit because he would be disruptive by challenging the status quo.

    I’m saying that the BoD consists of several individuals who are also rabble-rousers and challengers of the status quo; it wasn’t Steve’s ability to stir up discussions that kept him from the slate. Perhaps bias is not the scientific term, but I felt that Andy was making an accusation that members of the Nom Com chose to set aside fair judgement for Steve. I should probably have chosen the word “point” instead of bias in the original sentence.

  22. K. Brian Kelley - August 25, 2010

    Stu, we’re arguing semantics, because obviously you and Andy aren’t saying the same thing when you guys both say, “bias.” And that means we need to clarify. Go back and read comment 16. You’ll see that he’s using it in the scientific sense. That’s why I made my comment.

  23. stuart - August 26, 2010

    –NOTE: I edited this comment because I think it sounded harsher than I intended.

    @Andy, I think the sticking point is that I’m intermixing a very scientific-sounding term (“subjective”) with a term that also has a loaded common usage; see my response to Brian above. I was reacting to your previous comment that:

    “that there was bias against Steve before he opened his mouth in the interview; and that that bias is reflected on every single line of the Interview Rankings Sheet.”

    I don’t think that the members of the Nom Com dismissed Steve because there was some sort of (trying to avoid the word, but can’t think of a better one) bias against Steve before he opened his mouth in the interview. You do realize that the ranking sheets were done AFTER the interview, right?

    I guess the only analogy I can come up with is ice cream. Say someone asked you to fill out a questionaire after sampling 7 different flavors, and that questionairre asked you things like “how sweet is it?” or “how was the portion size?” or “how do you feel about it?”. If you get asked to sample ice cream across several days, there’s a possibility that your measure of sweetness changes depending on the day; that’s subjectivity in motion. With me so far?

    Now I can see three different possibilities for this analogy, so I’ll stick with the one that seems to be consistent with what I perceive to be your position: I really like Rocky Road ice cream, and I find out that on day 3 of my testing, I get to sample Rocky Road. Unfortunately, the particular batch of Rocky Road I got tasted horrible to me; my scores are obviously gonna reflect that. Was there bias against Rocky Road before I sampled it?

    There could be people who had heard of Rocky Road but never tasted it, and were expecting it to taste like chocolate. When they got the first swirl of marshmellow, it may have bothered them so much that they ranked it low on their score sheet.

    Of course, there could be some people who didn’t like Rocky Road before they tasted it, and they didn’t like it afterwards; however, it’s painting a pretty broad stripe to assume that everyone who didn’t like the batch they sampled held that opinion before they sampled it.

    Of course, now that I’ve read all of this, and looked back at what I’ve posted over the last week here and other forums, I’ve begun to realize that I’m descending into a darker place than I intended to go. I’ve stated the truth as often and as publically as I can, and have acknowledged that there were weaknesses in our methodology (and I hope that those will be corrected soon). However, I stand by the decision we reached as a committee, and at this point, I don’t really have anything else to add to this discussion. Where do we go from here?

  24. stuart - August 26, 2010

    Well, then since I used it first (in the post), then my definition wins. LOL

    Seriously, though, if you read Andy’s comment #14, and substitute the words “unfair preference” instead of bias (which is a common definition for the term), can you not see how I would interpret that as an unfair characterization of the work the Nom Com (including myself) did?

    I can see the possibility that Andy meant it in the scientific sense, but regardless of that possibility, the statement is factually incorrect no matter what the perception was. There was no collective predispition against putting Steve on the slate prior to his interview. To maintain that belief is tantamount to believing that a majority of the Committee chose to set aside their personal integrity to “take one for the team”.

    Some people may choose to hold on to that belief because it’s easier to believe in a conspiracy than the possibility that Steve Jones said something that convinced fair judges that he was not ready for the slate. But I can’t agree with that, and I can’t let a statement like that slide by unchallenged.

  25. Andy Leonard - August 26, 2010

    Hi Stu,

    Yep. I said that. And I stand behind that statement. I base that on my knowledge of Steve’s character and obstinate morals. Again, that’s why I wanted him on the Board. Appparently I wasn’t alone. In fact, the only people I see accepting this decision are the NomCom and PASS Board of Directors.

    Are you going to state that Steve Jones has *never* irritated the entire PASS Board of Directors (including Andy)? Would you like the links to the posts? This isn’t about semantics or engineering – it’s about the courage to call it like it is.

    I used the word “courage.”

    The NomCom doesn’t own the term and yall durn sure don’t own the position by maintaining your confidentiality – “confidential” appears to have the distinction of being a term the NomCom defines objectively. I find that encouraging, by the way.

    Courage is also walking into an interview staffed with people you’ve irritated and refusing to compromise your principles. Yall are right – the NomCom has demonstrated courage by telling people what they don’t want to hear. But yall aren’t the only ones; and Steve did it first. Apparently you see the merit in a demonstration of courage in one instance yet cannot tolerate courage in another.

    I get that you know more about semantics than I ever will. I understand the ethics you’re demonstrating and admire your personal willingness to stand up.

    Given all that, this result was wrong; and for the wrong reasons. The more we all learn about the process that brought us here, the more disappointed I and the Community become.

    Steve irritated the entire Board of Directors and he did not create this – he simply walked into it and then refused to compromise. That’s how he got the lowest scores on Education and References.

    For that, he was duly rewarded with a down-vote. I *get* that it came down to a vote. Do you get why?

    Andy

  26. K. Brian Kelley - August 26, 2010

    Stu,

    I’ve done my level best to try and keep things from getting nasty, even asking folks to take a more level position on comments to my blog. I’m not going to deviate from that. I believe the procedure is broke and I think, in my mind, the transparency has revealed that. If there’s an opportunity for me to contribute in a positive way to make things better, than I’m certainly going to jump in with both feet.

    And I get Steve could have said something that would have caused a majority of the NomCom to say, “Not ready.” Anyone can flub an interview. And usually they won’t get the job. But consider this… if Paul Randal were interviewing for a senior DBA position in your company and for whatever reason he completely flubbed the interview (maybe he went off on sheep and never got back on track), knowing what you know about Paul’s knowledge of SQL Server, would you hire him or would you pass?

  27. Arie Jones(AJ) - August 26, 2010

    Staurt,
    I too like Brian(Kelley) don’t want things to get nasty. After all, as you say…we are all members of the same community. But I would like to set a couple of things straight.

    1. I used the () about my degree as an aside..an attempt at humor. You’ll remember in Nashville that we joked about our degrees and even with you providing speaking tips(AKA the big O before a presentation bit). If you inferred that as me being mentally superior then I am sorry. I thought by putting it right above the ‘Andy is a spy’ comment it would be clear. I am trying to keep the discourse civil as I can see that Andy(L not W) is starting to get under your skin a little.

    2. I did not say that you had fallacy in your logic. Merely, that it was incorrect.

    3. My old infrantry blood starts to boil a little when people refer to ‘blowing a shotgun hole’ in anything. I haven’t had anyone shooting at me in years and would like to keep it that way. I like things civil. That’s why the one statement I used directed towards you was “Your logic is incorrect”.

    Now…it’s not just the NomCom that we are talking about here. It is also the BoD. As I said before the NomCom did their job but it was ultimately up to the board to give the final yeah/nea. This is one instance where the means do not justify the end result. Andy(L not W) et al are trying to get people to realize that.

    However, we have a PASS president that informs us that everything went honky dory and we accomplished everything that we wanted to with this process. I believe that statement to be in error.

    Now just so that you know where “I am coming from”. I used to be on a board that taught Complexity Theory amongst 4 different universities and across a wide range of departments. One of which is psychology……so I do know about Likert scales….

    A Likert scale is traditionally used as a surveying technique to measure how people feel about a particular statement and yes it is subjective.

    However, I think that it should not have been a free-for-all….everybody comes to the table with their own feelings..and just fills out the questionnaire however they feel they should be judging it. It should be a more refined process than that. It shouldn’t be ‘What do you personnaly feel it means to be fit for the position’. This is not..Hey I like Coke…Hey I like ice cream.

    The BoD can say all day long that they followed the process and this is what we got and there is nothing we can do about it. Yet at the end of the day if the community doesn’t think that PASS is serving their interests and instead the interests of what some people deem as a ‘good ol boys club’…they will walk away and then what good does that do any of us. PASS is still young organization…heck, one candidate evens wants to double membership to over 100,000…..but it’s taken one to many missteps here in the last few years. ….. It doesn’t matter whether you feel that you are right or not if the ‘perception’ that the process failed is what the majority of the people feel.

    Again, I do not want to sound hostile but how the heck do we have any confidence that this process is going to change if everybody on the other end is nodding their heads and saying ‘Mission Accomplished’.

    I mean look at Andy(L not W) ….he’s already starting to get all Southerny with the ‘Yall’ and ‘durn’ flying around….to a Midwestern that gets a little uncomfortable :)

    Cheers!
    AJ

  28. stuart - August 26, 2010

    AJ, you are right; I let the heat of the moment get to me and got drawn into an argument over the details, which is one of the things I said I would not do. I just felt like that no matter how many times I restated the same thing over and over again, people were continuing to try and pull something else out of my statements; it got to me, and I lashed out. I’m sorry.

    I just don’t feel like I have anything else I can add to the conversation at this point; I’ve tried to be honest and open, and yet at the end of the day, there will always be people who will still question the “rightness” of the decision the Nom Com reached because they didn’t agree with it. I’m tired, I’m frustrated, and that can lead to no good thing coming from me.

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