XPDay – Reflections and Thoughts By Marc Johnson

I like the idea of publishing our thoughts about how XPDay went, so here is my follow up to Chris’ post. I’m going to try not to cover the same topics as Chris (unless I have different thoughts or want to emphasise something), so please go and read his post. Much of this post will focus on the technical track, as it was my first time organising a track (feedback welcome and appreciated) and particularly one within a conference which has a minimal formal structure.

I’ll echo the previous request to please leave comments about what you liked and disliked, and ideas for next time. If you’d rather provide feedback directly, please e-mail me.


1. Enjoyed learning about how an open space can be facilitated, it was more formally organised than the barcamps I’ve been to. I have had some feedback that the first-come first-served nature of this, might have led to most of the sessions being run by regular speakers. I’d love to hear other people’s thoughts on this, and if others felt this way, other ideas?

2. The closing of the open space seemed to work particularly well, especially once we started handing the microphone round the circle rather than to the person we were thanking. I really like the idea of thanking people for the ideas and learning that have been shared. Phil did a really good job of facilitating this.

3. Having an end of day keynote and the closing of the open space, worked as great bookends for when people were tired and a nice way of leading people into the pub.

4. I seem to have an inherent fear of microphones, I seem to much prefer shouting!

5. Really glad people felt safe to swap rooms and rearrange spaces, it makes the job of an organiser very easy on the day.

6. The technical and experience report tracks take up a significant part of the schedule space, which makes it really important to organise the other sessions as well as possible.

Technical Track

1. Really surprised at how busy the sessions were, we definitely needed the larger space, as most of the sessions were full or standing room only.

2. Running a mini code retreat as a final session did not work, people seemed to be all coded out and I needed to set expectations around the purpose of a code retreat, to help establish the minimum requirements (Possibly break from tradition and have pre-prepared coding environments available to save time).

3. When calling for papers, have an explicit initial session length and equipment, and ask the speakers about what is the best duration for their session and if they need additional equipment.

4. Communicate as early as possible the plan for session arrangements. Make sure you have communicated how the day is going to work, this is particularly important given the limited structure in place at an open space conference.

5. Establishing a rough idea of what the days were going to look like really helps with knowing your options for number and length of sessions.

6. Possibly run longer sessions which allow for deliberate practice, like Jon’s, Keith’s, Rob’s and mine. Though this needs balancing with the other styles of technical session, all of which were really popular. Fitting all of this into the same conference as an open space will be challenging.

Finally, I’d like to thank all of the attendees, technical track speakers (particularly for putting up with a first time organiser), sponsors and organisers for making my first XPDay a very enjoyable experience.

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