PASS Pro: You Want Us To Do What for Free?

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Note: I’m running for the PASS board of directors. Candidates are not allowed to disparage PASS, and I’m of the opinion that I’m not disparaging PASS in this post, but if anyone thinks I am, please let me know in the comments.

 One topic I’m always yelling about on Twitter and to any community speakers I chat with, is to never do anything for a for profit company without compensation. Compensation can take the form of having your travel expenses paid for a conference, or just getting paid for work product. No matter how small the effort, it’s a lot of work to write a column, or do a presentation, and you are a subject matter expert whether you realize it or not. Community events are a different story—I’ve spoken at user groups, virtual chapters, many SQL Saturdays and even some community conferences, like SQLBits (in person SQLBits does provide hotel rooms for speakers) and EightKB without any compensation.

I’ve written about the PASS Pro subscription offering, that PASS and C&C launched to build a secondary revenue stream, beyond PASS Summit. When it was launched, I said, conceptually it was a good idea, but I didn’t have faith in C&C to provide good execution. I also thought PASS would struggle to fill a content pipeline, without a large capital infusion to pay speakers to build content, the way Pluralsight and LinkedIn Learning do.

It turns out my assumption was correct, as this morning I received an email (forwarded to me) asking PASS speakers to teach Microsoft Learn modules to PASS Pro members. The work consists of doing a webinar and leading a Q&A session for an hour, and the compensation is “This is a volunteer position”. Yes, that’s it—PASS expects folks to do this work for free.

My (and DCAC’s) typical compensation for something like this would be $1000 at a minimum. In addition to the active training time we are typically paid for the time required to prepare to give the training class. Prep time for Azure training is hard—Azure changes all of the time, which means you frequently need to update demos, change screenshots in slides, and possibly even refactor entire sections of training because the Azure platform is constantly changing. Asking the community to provide free training to a service, that is an attempt to prop up a for-profit event management company is just unconscionable to me.

Because PASS Pro is a paywalled service there are a limited number of people who can attend these events. This means this training is not upholding the PASS mission of Connect, Share, Learn to the community at large. More importantly PASS is asking experts to provide their expertise and skill for free. Just like artists shouldn’t work ‘for exposure’, you shouldn’t either. If someone is asking you to build content for them, you have a valuable level of expertise that that company needs.

frozen water formations in winter day
Photo by Dids on Pexels.com — You could die from exposure.

I don’t mean to sound pretentious, but I’ve worked long and hard to have a very solid understanding of the Azure ecosystem, and I consider myself knowledgeable. My knowledge is valuable—it took me a long time to acquire that knowledge as well as the ability to teach others that knowledge in a manner that they can understand. That knowledge and skill is valuable, and asking professionals to work for free completely undermines the foundation of having a Professional Association.

I’ll take this a step further and say that anyone who does this for free is actively harming the rest of the community. As I mentioned before we at DCAC are paid for things like this, along with many other members of the data community and the Microsoft Certified Trainer community.  When others do free training for a paid service you are undercutting all of those people. You may ask what I think about people doing things on YouTube or other free services—those videos are available for the whole world to see, and in many cases are loss leaders to try to get viewers to subscribe to paid services.

I’m of the opinion that PASS Pro being a paid service had the potential to divide the community. However, when speakers are paid, that’s another opportunity for speakers to make money, and is how nearly all legitimate online training services work. If the success of your business model depends on free labor for your paid service, that’s just theft of labor, and you don’t have a feasible business model.

7 thoughts on “PASS Pro: You Want Us To Do What for Free?

    1. jdanton1 Post author

      I don’t disagree with you, but at least as the content creator, you can see all of the backend metrics, have access to a much larger audience (e.g. > 300 people) and direct your marketing, which you can’t even do with this situation.

      Reply
      1. James Phillips

        100% agree. There has to be a give and take. What if you were able to get access to the attendee lists or those who take and complete the courses? More of a sponsorship type of arrangement

      2. jdanton1 Post author

        Yeah, that would be a reasonable trade off. (Editing this after thinking about it more–it does lead into some challenging data privacy issues, but this whole situation is dicey)

  1. Karen Lopez

    I also saw that e-mail. I’m assuming from what I read that Microsoft is compensating PASS for this effort.

    I don’t have a problem with that, in theory. But I’m practice, his means that HQ would receive a non-trivial amount of that money. So these volunteers would be volunteering for HQ, not the association.

    Exposure won’t pay your healthcare bills.

    Reply
    1. jdanton1 Post author

      Cert training is hard–you have to cover a lot of subject areas, and pool of people who do it is pretty small. To ask folks to do this for free is just beyond the pale.

      Reply

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