Why I’m All For 24HOP Showcasing 24 Women Speakers

This is not the HOP you are looking for.

I’ve been thinking about the upcoming 24HOP event planned for March 15 and 16 which will showcase 24 women speakers. Karen Lopez (post | twitter), Jenn Stirrup (post | twitter), and Jen McCown (post | twitter) have all written posts about it. Kalen Delaney ( blog|twitter) has left some comments with her views, which I’ve also appreciated.

If you’re not sure what 24HOP is, prepare yourself for an acronym within an acronym: 24HOP = 24 Hours of PASS. PASS= the Professional Association for SQL Server. This is an online event featuring 24 one-hour sessions on all sorts of nerdy relational database topics.

This will be the fourth 24HOP event, I believe– there have been two general-topic English speaking events, and one Spanish and Portuguese language 24HOP event (LATAM HOP).

Some people think it’s a bad idea to have a woman-only 24HOP. And there are some thoughtful comments on why that might be the case.

However, I think it’s a very smart idea.

Think about this from the perspective of an editor who is putting together a collection of great fiction. You have a lot of choices when it comes to your book– you can choose items by theme, by time period, by genre, or by some factor of the author– their culture, their gender, their age.

A way to make a collection compelling is by a subtle thread. You want a variety of topics, and you want things in your collection to be different and interesting. There are many good types of way to build a collection, and one of those ways is by gender.

So if you’re a person who’s put on a few 24HOP events, do you want to put on something that’s very much like the one you did before? With maybe a little bit of new feature content?

Wouldn’t it be way more exciting, and a bit risky, to come up with a challenging idea that creates an interesting and different collection of speakers? It might spur your crowd of presenters to be creative and invested in the event more than a more general speaking engagement.

Well, I think so, at least. Regardless of the gender issue itself, I think this is a smart theme to build new content for the community.

High five, Tom LaRock.

Do I Want to Present?

I do!

I submitted a session. The title is “No More Bad Dates: Using Temporal Data Wisely”

(I am actually really excited about the topic. Yeah, dates and times— all sorts of weird fun to be had.)

Would I have Submitted a Session if it Wasn’t Women-Only?


Here’s why: SQL Rally is coming up, and I’ve submitted two sessions for that.  SQL Rally and 24HOP are going to both do selections by popular vote.

And popularity contests are, frankly, terrifying. I almost didn’t submit to Rally altogether because of the risks of being voted Least Likely to Present.  But I talked myself into submitting two sessions because I really love presenting, and I know the SQL community down in Florida is super passionate and interesting.

So if this was a general-topic 24HOP, but with sessions now being selected by public vote, I would not have submitted. I’m concerned that by being up for votes on two bills, I’ll hurt my chances on whichever is voted on second, even though I’ve submitted different abstracts. (People may feel like they voted for me before, so they want to give their vote for someone else on the other to be more fair.) Plus, it’s frankly twice the anxiety. Did I mention that popularity contests are terrifying?

But I do think this 24HOP idea is exciting and a little risky, and I would like to do what I can to try to make it great, if only by submitting. So I decided to submit a session, also.

24Hop: Hat Edition

Even if I’m not selected, I want to see how this 24HOP turns out. Maybe it’ll be remarkably like the ones that came before. Maybe there’ll be just something a little different that you can’t put your finger on. Maybe it’ll be really unique.

So, Should We Have 24 HOP Showcasing 24 Men Speakers?

Well, I actually thought that would be a good idea. Until I realized that we’ve already had 24HOP featuring 23 men speakers. I think that means the theme wouldn’t generate much but confusion. It would be all sorts of “So… what are we supposed to be doing?”

But there are other things to group by. New speakers. New presentations only. Mythbusters 24HOP. Present about your favorite feature. Maybe it’s the whole event, maybe each day has a different theme, but I like the idea of a focus. You could do a 24HOP like those playwriting events where a whole production is created in 24 hours.

However this goes, I hope we continue to have experimentation with 24HOP. I’d really like for it to continue on in an exciting direction where it doesn’t quite do what you expect– otherwise I think it’ll get to be SQL PASS Express Edition, with Auto Close enabled.

11 Comments. Leave new

  • So by this same decision path, should the PASS Summit also try a women-speakers-only format? Are you saying the PASS Summit has auto-close enabled? What is it about the 24HOP that’s gotten so stale already? I’ve got answers – that’s not a rhetorical question – but I wanna see you finish what you started there. 😉

    I’m actually excited by the change of format, and I think they should keep it going by having a different focus to every 24HOP. They could do a Fresh Blood version with only people who haven’t presented at PASS, an All-Stars version with people who’ve had Top 10 sessions in the past, an AppDev version, a Book Authors version, etc. But I’m just questioning what it is about the 24HOP that needs this change of blood, whereas the Summit doesn’t. Or are you saying it does? (And I’m not saying it doesn’t – just wondering what people think.)

    • The Summit could probably survive for quite a while without pushing the envelope much. It’s quite possible that other events could grow and start pulling away attendees.

      The cool thing about the Summit is that it’s long enough that it could easily do some exciting things each year without changing its core programming. I was very happy to see the Lightning Talks and Chalk talks at the Summit this year add some experimentation in format. It was a small percentage of the overall time, and it was interesting and engaging. A greater percentage of time should go into similar experimentation, in my opinion.

      Events like 24HOP work best when they energize the community. I also think that the lower cost to host the event, free cost to attendees, and online format should give it an advantage at pushing the envelope and testing out different areas. I think the mission of 24HOP should be to go out, find more people, and stir things up a bit.

      And when things play well in 24HOP, that could lead straight to a great feature section at the Summit– the “Fresh Blood” 24HOP idea would be perfect.

      Why would 24HOP go stale? Online training is great, but it’s hard to be “in the office” and actually take a lot of time out to concentrate over one or two days. It’s really easy for attendees to zone out and start looking at other things, and it’s hard to get really active Q&A without real eye contact. Once you’ve done a few iterations of 24HOP, I think it’s just a hard format to make exciting and compelling, if you’re not stirring some secret sauce into the mix, both in regards to speakers and topics.

      Thanks for the great comment! I love questions like this.

  • Kendra, I’m pretty sure they’ve had 4 now. The first Summit Preview in 2009, The R2 launch in Spring 2010, the Summit Preview in 2010, and then the LatAm 24HOP.

    I’ll look for links.

  • I too think it is a good idea to have a women speakers only 24HOP. I was initially concerned that they would not get 24 PASS Summit quality speakers (not because there are not that many available, but because so many good female speakers seem to be too timid to apply), but thankfully that is not the case.

    I gently nudged a few up and coming women that I know in the SQL Server Community to submit abstracts to 24HOP. I am looking forward to hearing them do their sessions.

    • I did start counting on my fingers, at one point, too, out of curiosity. 🙂 Then I glanced through some of the SQL Saturday schedules and realized there were quite a lot of women presenters I’d seen there who I hadn’t automatically thought of, and the number I had went way past 24.

  • […] Kendra Little: Why I’m All For 24HOP Showcasing 24 Women Speakers […]

  • 1) All for it.
    2) You should never be afraid of popularity contests Miss Congeniality. 🙂

    • I’m not sure if I’m more afraid of winning or losing a popularity contest. I just remember that feeling of picking teams in elementary school, and the sense of anxiety as time goes on and not getting picked. I don’t like feeling that for myself or for others.

      Here’s how I feel about conferences: If there’s a defined committee who is picking sessions, they usually have a mission to build out an event with a given variety and according to a number of factors. If I don’t get picked, very likely it’s because my abstract or talk didn’t fit into the larger picture of what they’re looking to do. They’re going to be looking for a number of factors in addition to popularity. When things go to a popular vote, I feel like a lot of that goes out the window, and it is more like picking teams in school.

      For that reason, I think submitting a session to an “open vote” event can be harder for people.

      In my case I think I’ll be nervous during the voting period, but either way it turns out, I’ll happily move on with my speaking career. I just really enjoy doing it, and I can try to learn things to help improve.

      But I will worry if there are some people who are just starting out who don’t get picked by the popular vote method.

      And I particularly hope for that reason that vote counts are NOT published. If someone loses by a landslide, I don’t want to know that!

      • About the popularity contest – my favorite approach by FAR is how http://SQLbits.com chooses sessions. The public votes on their choice of abstract, but the votes aren’t shown. The SQLbits crew uses those votes to help determine what sessions get picked, but it’s not just a pure popularity contest. The votes are only one part of the decision process.

        The public feels like they have a voice in the process, and the management gets to put together a cohesive set of sessions to cover a range of topics.

        I think a popularity contest approach could work if there were two ballots instead of one. I’d like to see a list of speakers, and a list of topics, but no connections between the two. People could choose who they want to speak, what sessions they want to see, and then both sets of results could be given to the abstract selection folks. I don’t want people voting for a session just because it’s their favorite speaker – I want to know that it’s also a good topic.

  • […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Brent Ozar and Christine Valdes. Christine Valdes said: RT @Kendra_Little: [Blogged] Why I'm All for #24HOP Showcasing 24 Women Speakers http://bit.ly/hRa0pu <–A little late on tweeting m … […]


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