Following on from the other reflections on XpDay, the things that struck me about this year were:
- I’m actually quite surprised (and relieved) at how well it all came together. Chris and Nader’s confidence carried us through.
- Having an unusual building makes a difference. We used to have a tradition of finding interesting places which we let slip recently. Although the facilities (internet) weren’t as good, the space made up for it. Mary Ward House turns out to have a very appropriate foundation and history and the upstairs rooms are very nice.
- I’m hopeful we’ve found the right experience filter. We’ve had problems before with unhappy attendees who were essentially looking for training. As Kent Beck told us the first year, XP (or whatever approach is currently fashionable) is the draw, not fly-by personalities.
- 100 is a good size. We should, however, make it clear to those who registered but didn’t show that they cost us and excluded others who wanted to come.
- We just need to be better organised next year. Too much was left to a beyond-the-last-responsible-moment scramble which makes it difficult for session proposers and organisers. I’m hoping that we can build on this year’s experience.
- Perhaps we should consider a voluntary charge, as Citcon London did this year, to cover our losses.
- A loosely coupled programme is so much better than the usual alternatives.
- Perhaps we should include some hot nibbles in the lunches, although the sandwiches were decent.
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.
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.
At the post XPDay drinks session I realised that the easiest way to think of the XPDay organisation was that I was the Scrum Master and Steve Freeman was the Product Manager. He made the decisions and I kept an eye on implementation. We used Real Options rather than Scrum as the approach to organising XPDay.
Please leave comments about what you liked and disliked. Also ideas for next time. We will discuss them at the retrospective (Date to be confirmed).
A brain dump of things that spring to mind about XPDay…
1. The organisers, Nader Talai (Operations, Finance, Sponsors and Registrations), Marc Johnson (Technical Track), Julian Kelsey (Technical Track and Magazine), Steve Freeman (Quality) and I (As little as possible) were all regulars at XTC. This made it easy to organise meetings. We simply went off in the corner for ten minutes.
2. The nice venue added significantly to the pleasant atmosphere. It was so nice to be in a bright, naturally lit, space. I love Giovanni’s comment “This is the nicest basement I’ve spent two days in”.
It has already been suggested that next year might be held upstairs in the even nicer part of the building.
3. We had a complaint at the end of Day One that the “Technical Track” room was unpleasant. Nader arranged for the rooms to be switched for Day Two. Next year we should get feedback at lunch time.
4. Free entry reduced the operational overhead and gave the organisers more freedom on who could attend. Once the registration closed we had a policy of “XTC Regulars – Past and Present” could still be added to the registration list.
5. One hiccup was that the Lean Startup Meet Up site told people to register via the XPDay eventbrite page. However a number of people registered on the Lean Startup Meetup. In future, we should ensure that people cannot register in anyway on other sites.
6. We deliberated did not print delegate names so that no one could tell who had signed up and who just turned up on the day. Delegates wrote their own name badges. We provided material so that they could create a fresh badge for day two. Delegates were encouraged to write their twitter name on their badge (something copied from #ALEBerlin).
7. Steve’s requirement that all attendees write a five line experience report as a barrier to entry would appear to have worked. The general feeling was that most sessions were fairly advanced. It was felt that people new to Agile might have struggled with many of the sessions as they assumed a high level of knowledge. We will do something similar in the future.
8. We had hoped to provide the opportunity for someone to use XPDay as their first open space faciliation. Rachel did a fantastic job of facilitating the open space on Day one and mentoring and coaching Phil Parker. Phil Parker then did an amazing job of facilitating Day Two. I would like to see a master and Padawan run next year’s open space. I hope other conferences do the same to grow the number of open space facilitators.
9. The open space closing session was expertly facilitated by Phil. Phil asked people to share a learning and make an appreciation. He also asked people to tweet using the #myDailyThankYou tag. Phil projection the twitter stream for the tag as people were speaking. I found it very moving. The idea of using #myDailyThankYou as an appreciation came from Yves Hanoulle in the post #ALEBerlin discussions. I hope to do it again. It meant the end of conference generated a very positive stream of tweets.
10. I enjoyed the half hour walk from the venue to XTC. It forced us to get some fresh air and exercise.
11. I loved Rob Bowley’s “title sponsor” talk. He simply thanked the organisers and the other sponsors. Very cool.
12. The end of day one keynote worked well bringing everyone together before we went for drinks. I think most people were tired from the sessions and it provided an entertaining and informative end to the day when everyone was tired.
13. Last year we had no technical sessions. We learned that the last responsible moment for technical sessions was before the conference. This year we had a good selection of technical sessions. I think the track set the tone for the conference as a place for software practitioner’s. Having the technical track set up allowed for the spontaneous “Enigma” session at lunch on day two.
14. We did not create a schedule in advance. The technical sessions and experience report time slots were chosen by the presentors on the morning.
15. On day one, we used a first come, first served approach to proposing sessions. Day two, we put those sessions we had commited to the presenters (Technical Track and Experience Reports) on first. It went smoother on day two because of this as we did not have to tell people not to propose sessions in technical track or experience report rooms.
16. I thank Michael (@arsagilis) for a conversation that means we need to be clearer about the purpose of XPDay sessions. They do not exist to answer a question but rather provide a way of meeting the people who can help with answering the question. If you find an answer, its a bonus.
17. We committed to let people who had prepared a technical session or experience report the opportunity to deliver it. There was no commitment from the presenters. A few had to drop out but it did not cause any extra work as we did not have a programme.
18. We did really badly at letting everyone know what was going on. Need to find a way of communicating better that requires little or no effort.
19. Manning reception is a great way to meet people. Might offer the role to first timers next year so they can meet more people. Perhaps consider an ice breaker for first timers during the registration period.
20. Some people missed the big names you often find at other conferences. Some did not. It was suggested that XTC could organise more opportunistic XTC nights when big names are in town. Or get speakers on subjects of interest. The room at the Bishop’s Finger lends itself to talks.
More to come.