Deb Hartmann commented about the state of BarCampTdot and some things we should consider to improve the experience. This is a great opportunity to reflect on the BarCampTdot event and use this coaching as feedback (inspired by Donald Schön’s and the learning and understanding methods presented The Reflective Practioner book).
First, let me apologize to anyone who did not have a great time at BarCampTdot. BarCamp is about you. We need to band together as a community and strive to fix the things that caused you to have a bad experience. We are a community, we need to be open. There is a feedback page on the BarCamp wiki (I’ve moved the Feedback page to BarCampTdotFeedback sorry Dan, Estelle and Deb for moving but I did copy all of the content, just none of the history).
I am thinking that some of the suggestions will get integrated in to the upcoming DemoCamp. This includes a little bit of facilitation about how DemoCamp is going to work. Specifically, noise and audience questions. There is currently not a roaming (roving) microphone, so please make sure you ask your questions loud enough for the presenters and the rest of the audience to hear. I’m sure that we can rent one from the MaRS facilities but the goal is to do these events with very little costs. Perhaps if an attendee had a megaphone that they’d be willing to bring we could use that as a way to amplify questions from the audience. I will ask the MaRS staff about getting 1-2 portable microphones, but I would prefer to find a solution that doesn’t have a cost or impose on our gracious hosts. IMHO It is not the responsibility of the presenter to repeat the question. It is the responsibility of the audience member to either speak up, in my opinion that’s both the person asking the question and the person who did not hear the question. We’ll work to find a solution, in the mean time, if you have difficulty hearing a question asked by the audience, please stand up and ask them to repeat it.
Key Areas for Improvement
Well it seems that one of the organizers could not follow his own suggestion to BarCamp like an old pro. Too much bourbon, too late of a night and a bad host it does make. So was a critical piece of the organizational puzzle make, well if the expectation is that we might have used some of the specific tatics and lessons learned from the first TorCamp and borrowed from other techniques (see OpenSpace ). I can’t say what direction I would have provided if I was not in such a poor, hungover, self-inflicted pain state.
Setting a schedule. The lack of organization actually continues a beyond the actual event. It wasn’t until 2 days before BarCampTdot that anyone decided to publish the approximate schedule. It had been left very loose “noonish Saturday – noonish Sunday”. We really needed to establish critical event timing before the actual event. This should have included a start time, end times, and established meal times.
To help over come this the next time, we need to distribute responsibility and coordination efforts. Community involvement in discussion and vetting of proposals, plans and activities can continue to happen through the mailing list, emails, IRC and wiki pages. However, we need key individuals to be ultimately responsible for specific areas this includes ownership and decision making. The roles/areas for key decision makers necessary for the next BarCampToronto would be:
- Space and facilities – This includes the location, the network, the furniture, etc. Making sure that there is a general meeting hall. A place for the grid. Presentation rooms. Sound transmission. Projectors. Insurance quotes. Special alcohol permits. Directions to the washrooms. Anything related to the location.
- Sponsorship and budget – Sponsorship makes BarCamp events possible. Coordinating the fundraising efforts. Talking to potential sponsors. Handling the costs and money.
- Sustenance and Supplies – Once a location has been set there iis still a lot of work that needs to be done. There is a little bit of a chicken and egg problem. How much sponsorship do you need? Well do we have t-shirts, catered meals, etc. Working together with the sponsorship follks is necessary. Do we have name tags?
- Facilitiation and coordination – Making sure that the participants have the best experience possible. There are activies that need to take place pre-BarCamp, at BarCamp and post-BarCamp. Communication about location, parking, gauging seriousness of people to attend, how BarCamp is supposed to work, organizing the preparation and clean up crew.
The goal is not to impose structure but to help reduce the effort required for any one individual. To help get the community involved in the the planning, organizing and coordination of BarCamp. These are essentially a community event and the more the community relies on a single individual the less ownership they are likely to take.
The long and the short of it, was the facilitation for BarCampTdot was very, very, very light-weight. Does BarCamp = OpenSpace? I’m not sure. Could we benefit from using a number (if not all) of OpenSpace tools? Most likely. Going forward we may need to embrace or adopt the facilitation tools that have allowed OpenSpace groups to flourish.
Expectations – Part of what was missing from the opening remarks was detailed explanation of how the day was going to operate and setting people’s expectations.
Introductions – In hindsight, I’m a little disappointed that we didn’t do a round introductions from all attendees. ‘Hello, my name is David Crow and I’d like to convene a session on sleeping off your hang over’. We did this at the first BarCampToronto. It helped identify people with similar interests. It helped at least give everyone the chance to explain what they were looking to get out of BarCamp. We need to go back to this type of start.
The Grid – It was different. Did it work. Yes and no. Probably more no. We need to make sure proposed sessions have the conveners name on them. No one should be moving sessions other than the conveners. We’ll work on this.
The space for BarCampTdot contributed to a lot of the issues and areas for improvement. The space was big, it was open, it was raw. This was fantastic it helped add to a revolutionary vibe. It was different and in stark contrast to a space like MaRS or the Bahen Centre where we held DemoCamp5. The space required that everyone understand that BarCamp was about them (the attendees) and the content, relationships, conversations that you would have to make the event a success.
The space determined the layout. The space made it difficult to project. The space was the cost of extra costs. This included additional furniture rental, cleaning supplies, cleaning time and disorganization. The lack of security is going to cost us for the keg and keg fridge.
Space is always the most difficult operational need of organizing a BarCamp. And it was the most difficult thing about BarCampTdot. Steps to find a more appropriate space for the next one need to be taken.
I guess it wasn’t just the hangover. The effects of noise on the presenters, audience, participants was exhausting. The noise was so bad that it detracted from the conversation and the experience. People left and did not return because fo the space. In picking the location next time, noise consideration are paramount. We need to be aware of and actively plan for sound cancellation. Certain spaces are better at absorbing larger groups and their noise.