This year at the PASS Summit, I submitted one of my favorite abstracts, How to Think Like the Engine. It’s an introduction to SQL Server internals.
I was really excited when the session was accepted – I love this presentation, and I figured the attendees would love it too.
When the Summit schedule came out, I saw that I was in the largest room. That’s super-flattering, a champagne moment, because I wasn’t really expecting that.
That room comes with a perk, too: a camera man doing a live broadcast on the web. It’s exciting to be going out live online, free to anybody who wants to watch. If I did a good job (and I certainly try to), then I might even be eligible to for PASS’s top 10 sessions list, which meant it might end up free on YouTube permanently. (The PASS speaker contract gives them the right to rebroadcast your material for free, forever.)
Only one problem: I was selling this class for $29.
This presented a problem (or is that opportunity?) because this class was actually for sale online at $29. Since we launched it in 2013 as a $29 90-minute course, we sold 740 seats at a total revenue of $19,559. (It was also sold as part of the Everything Bundle, but we track the revenue on that separately and don’t break it out per-course.)
The revenue came and went – when I presented it on a webcast, I’d get a bump of sales temporarily (which seems counterintuitive, but word would get out about it, and then people who weren’t on the live webcast would buy it.) It had only been doing 5-10 sales per month lately, nowhere near the level that I wanted to see given the work I’d put into that deck, so I had a couple of options.
- I could hope that the Summit session resulted in another bump in video sales (and maybe put more work into optimizing the sales pages or pricing to increase revenue), or
- I could just open source it permanently and give it away for free
Giving it away really called to me for a mix of selfless and selfish reasons:
- It’s a class I’m really proud of, and I wish everyone could see it
- I could help Summit attendees give the session back to their coworkers when they return, and hopefully ensure that they get budget to visit Summit again and again
- I could get people to get accustomed to logging into our online training store, adding stuff to their cart, and checking out (even if it was free)
- It was coming up on Black Friday, when we run our annual discount sale, and folks might be tempted to pick up our Everything Bundle
I wanted to make sure everybody won.
I’ll let you in on a little secret, dear reader:
there are people out there who don’t like me.
I know, right? Seems utterly impossible, but it’s true. Some folks think I’m anti-community, think that I’m just screwing the community as hard as I can, trying to wring every dollar out of every community member.
So if I was going to do this, I needed to make sure everybody won: PASS needed to gain marketing and attendance, I needed to gain marketing, and you needed to get something really cool for free.
I figured the most selfless thing I could do would be to give away the whole thing under the MIT License, which means:
- You can modify it
- You can give it away for free
- You can even sell it, like bundle it into your own training class
So I set the class price to zero, uploaded the PASS deck to SlideShare, added an MIT licensing slide, wrote a blog post announcement to go live the morning of my PASS session, and braced for impact. Sure, I can’t stop the fact that haters gonna hate, but I had to think everybody else was going to have a hell of a good time.
How did it go? It took off.
Here’s what we’ve got so far:
- SlideShare presentation: over 10k views, over 2k downloads
- Online course registrations since it went free: over 2k
- YouTube views of the PASS session recording: ~600
I’m most proud of the 2k slide download number because at the end of my Summit session, I gave an impassioned plea to the attendees: please take this deck, turn it into your own, and spread the knowledge to your coworkers and your local user group. I was hoping maybe a couple hundred people would take me up on it, but two thousand, that’s an insane number. I’m hoping like hell that maybe 10% of those folks actually give the session to their coworkers – that would be incredible.