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20 August 2012

4 word v3

Here is the third installment of our semi-regular feature, 4 words or phrases. Thanks again for Craig supplying the words!

14 August 2012

A crew in a balloon are lost...

They see people on the ground and lower themselves to hailing distance.
"Excuse me, can you tell me where we are?" asks one of the balloonists.
The folk on the ground ignore them and carry on with their business.

What makes your change initiative special? Why should people be paying attention to what you have to say (regardless of how valuable it might be.)

Earn the right to join to conversation. Don't presume it.

Earn it by offerring service and value in a way the client expects to see it and asks for it.

13 August 2012

Feedback on LAST Conference 2012

Here is some feedback on the LAST conference Ed and I ran. Hopefully this gives some insight into what people are looking for. Perhaps you can leverage this information when running your own event in your city.

I am not going to go overboard on the analysis except to say it was well received. Perhaps we could so better in managing the multiple streams, maybe by having room monitors or something similar. (In fact we chose not to do this to infuse some of the vibe of being on campus and rushing from one class to another.)

Despite the fact that Ed and I actually invested a number of hours in the evenings and weekends to get this event over the line, it wasn't too hard. Especially since the venue (a local university) was secured. I'd highly recommend that if you have a local community of interest going on you organise something similar. THe tools we used are listed at the bottom of this post.

Here is the Wordle showing a summary of some of the feedback
(You can click though to see the original here.) Wordle: LASTConf

Ratings of the key attributes

This last graph shows the median-average in the middle block and the standard deviation in the vertical line. The standard deviations ranged from 1.4 (Content, Structure) to 1.7 (Catering) so pretty consistent in general. The high marketing score amuses us as all we did was (a) tweet, (b) blog, and (c) DM the local meetup groups we run. It was pretty low effort.

Specific feedback comments are listed below

  • The only change I would like is for better info on where each session is targeted (novice, expert etc).
  • Some of the sessions were disappointing as they were targetted differently than I expected.
  • Thought the whole day was excellent! Nice mix of content. Extremely good value for money!
  • Things often felt a bit rushed with no buffer between presentations. So, for example, maybe next time having 50 minute sessions -- 40-45 minute presentation with 5-10 minutes for questions -- and then 10 minutes to move onto the next presentation might make things feel a little less crammed into a single day. Lecture theatres were great for the presentations, but the upstairs classrooms seemed a little overly cramped for their activities. Catering was adequate for the style of conference.
  • The venue felt very cold :(
  • It's time for a conference with no slide presentations at all, instead 100% interactive and collaborative.
  • Great conference. To make it better (for me, probably not for everyone): - have less streams (maybe only 2?), was difficult to work out the program - focus on battle stories from real projects, how it was applied rather than theory eg. Claire's case study of Live Below the Line was a great example of "you all know the theory, this is how we applied it to a project"
  • So many great talks often all at once that some had to be missed, I could have done with two days! Only thing I would change waste have more info on what each talk was to be about, maybe it was available but not from the days schedule that I had printed. Top effort all round, thanks
  • Only thing I can suggest is better signposting within the campus to help people find the venue once they arrive.
  • Loved the whole day program. Just a small request, publish the brief of the presentations much earlier so people can review them.
  • I think the informal nature of the day (as well as the excellent speakers of course) is a major contributing factor as to why it works so well. I also thought I'd mention that I heard a lot of participants saying it was the best value conference they'd been to in a long time. I totally agree. Well done!
  • The event was brilliant. The only thing I would suggest is finalising what is on a little earlier if possible. There was a brilliant mix of lectures and hands on stuff. Possibly having some of the talks going a little longer would be good. I felt some of the speakers ran out of time. So maybe less lectures that go longer Very good, maybe too many tracks to follow all the interesting stuff... but then again hard to pack into one day. Great value for money, great presenters... Thanks guys!
  • Firstly, excellent conference. Great value for money and aside from one session (Systems Thinking), all were excellent! Marketing could have been better as some people that would have greatly benefited from the conference weren't there. Other than that, amazing work and I'll be there next year!
  • maybe people could nominate for the events they will attend so we can get an idea of numbers. I feel some sessions were very full. Maybe run 2 days with the same content presented twice, so we can see more sessions.
  • can you please release all the material (ie the slides that were utilised) as most speakers said they would but haven't seen it yet.
  • Too many tracks with clashes of stuff I would've liked to see :(. Perhaps a LAST revisited is needed :)
  • There was so much to go that I couldn't. Maybe repeat sessions so you have more than 1 chance to attend a session?
  • A lot of the material was geared to people already heavily invested in the agile process, which is something we have yet to adopt. The marketing material wasn't explicit in this regard so a lot of the programs were over our heads.
  • It was a great day, thanks guys.
  • hard to predetermine but some of the workshops were over crowded
  • Think it was a really great day. Some talks were very popular and difficult to get a spot. There was a mixed bag of talks - some were fantastic, some a bit dull, but overall it was a great day out and fantastic value for money. Well done guys.
  • Liked the lecture room style (suited some presentations). Too many tracks (5).
  • Seemed like many sessions I wanted to go to where on at the same time and then there were times when I didn't have something I wanted to go to (had similar comments from others). Liked that there was a mixture of sessions (presentations vs workshop/exercise).
  • use nicer lecture theatres
  • My main problem was that the content was so good I needed three of me to get to all the awesome sessions running at the same time :-) Regarding the catering, I'm vegan so no-one ever manages to cater for me. The fruit was nice.
  • I completely missed the link to lanyrd - maybe the website could be clearer on that.
  • I really appreciated this cheap, weill-organised and relevant event. It was great to attend something relevant to my career and that was not just a sales pitch for some tool
  • Better venue and better catering, even if the cost of the event has to increase.
  • While all the maps to find the place were great, a few maps of the venue would have been great just stuck nexxt to the schedules perhaps, or just with descriptions even, e.g upstairs 3rd room on left. You handled the extra numbers brilliantly. Well Done, guys,,,,,,
  • More details on each session - i.e. target audience. Repeat some sessions to avoid missing out.
  • Too many good things running in parallel and as such there were a couple of very popular sessions which could of done with a different room (Edgy Agile Things for one)
  • Keep the nature of the facilitated sessions interactive, to me that was a key differentiator than your typical conference.
  • Best conference I have ever been too. Given how reasonably priced the tickets were I wasn't expecting that much, but was blown away with the quality of the speakers and fantastic catering.
  • Every talk or session I attended went over time. I'd like to see this tightened up a bit and run more to schedule if possible.
  • Windows xp, come on Swinburne, caused a few presentation hiccups.
  • Any idea a particular person to cover all sessions?
  • That was simply a great event. The sessions, presenters, content, everything was interesting.
  • That was simply a great event. The sessions, presenters, content, everything was interesting.
  • Would make it two days next year, and maybe try to get some volunteers to help organise the sessions. Apart from that, it was great!
  • More seats in the common/ lunch area would have been nice, but not a big deal. It was a great day.
  • More advanced topics, a lot were aimed at Agile beginners or new Agile adopters.
  • Was a really good conference, only suggestion would be run it for 2 or more days!
  • The upstairs rooms were a little cramped at times when a popular session was on.
  • Some sessions were better than others which is to be expected but had a good community feel to it. Maybe a little more time to chat and some of the 30min session were a little short.
  • More sessions for beginners. Although i'm aware that this was a conference by practitioners for practitioners, some basics would have been great too. maybe 5 minutes break between the talks to allow changing rooms
  • The facility was perfect. Small rooms help interactivity a lot. The sessions could have been scheduled a bit better.
Our tools
  • Google sites for the event site
  • Eventbrite for ticketing and checking people in
  • Google docs for accounting
  • Paypal for invoicing sponsors
  • Lanyrd and Google docs for managing and publishing the schedule and linking to supporting docs like presentation decks, blogs and videos
  • Twitter (#LASTconf) for promotion 
  • Youtube for posting event videos

10 August 2012

AT Task; Steer clear of this online project management software

*I may delete this post as I don't like to speak ill of others.*

From time to time we explore new software to support us in our jobs. Sometimes software is thrust upon us by well meaning technocrats that don't actually have to use it. Sometimes you join a company and it's the tool in use.

I'm sorry to say I had the displeasure of using AT TASK last year and I want to say that although I am sure they are working hard at making the product better and rolling out new and better services all the time I found using the product difficult to the degree I intervened and had the tool removed. I'll never tuch itr again and recommend you steer clear.

The failures I experienced were mostly due to reporting. It was laggy, and often reports timed out rather than yielding results. From a PM perspective it struck me as a poorer quality version of MS project, with uglier UI and many many instances where transactions would time out. The feature set is obvious and not special in any way.

Their sales people assured me at one point that the "next release' would sort all my performance issues out. It didn't. (That's when I shit-canned their product where I worked.)

Maybe it's better now, I couldn't say.  They seem like nice people with good intentions, but they don't deliver on what they say they will. I disliked using their product and wouldn't wish it on anyone else.

Oh, and another thing; when I called to cancel the product a month before the annual licence was due to be renewed - rather than take it honourably they pulled out the 3 month notice clause that said we had to give that much cancellation notice or be forced to renew (where were our legal team when we signed up!)

So after a bad user experience they screwed me again.

Don't buy this product. There are plenty of better and cheaper ones (even both at the same time) out there.

For the record; the prompt for writing this post was that, despite my explanations of my frustration with the product, and despite my obviously poor experience with them, I today received a spammy message from AT TASK asking me to let them guest post on this blog; An indication of their general lack of attention to detail and quality? Maybe.

LAST conference 2012: Videos of sessions

For those of you who don't like to miss things we recorded many of the sessions at the LAST conference we ran in July. The vids have finally made it to YouTube and now you can watch what you missed out on.

The best place to access the content is via Lanyrd where you can also check out the slide decks, related blog posts etc.

The YouTube channel is below. Not all sessions were recorded and not all were fit for publishing so this isn't everything. Have fun watching. Participate post-hoc if you can by commenting on the clips.


This moving pictures gimmick will never catch on!

2 August 2012

Post event report on LAST Conference

On 27th July Swinburne University hosted an industry conference in the EN building. The theme was lean, agile and systems thinking in the IT industry, hence the name LAST.  There were 191 attendees and 37 speakers and presenters. There were 5 tracks of content from 9am to 5pm. 

Mark Richards Empathy Mapping

The event was organised by Ed Wong and me, Craig Brown. Raj Vasa supported us with logistics and promotion to the DDD network. (DDD was hosted in the EN building on the 28th July.) Paul Dealy and his team helped with the physical setup and logistics and were the reason things ran smoothly throughout the day.

The motivation for the event was to provide a low cost, practitioner oriented knowledge sharing event. For me (Craig) it was also about getting my team and the people I work with access to high quality content that we otherwise couldn't access.

Neil Killick on Being Agile
The presenters were a mix of consultants, trainers and practitioners from industry – mostly from Melbourne (a few from Canberra and Brisbane.) The presenters were invited to attended from the organisers’ professional network.

It wasn't an unconference format, although we had space in the agenda for unplanned content and discussions. We wanted to balance the ability to get together and run your own conversations with focused sessions on particular topics we understand the industry wants to hear more about.

The ticket prices for the event was $50 which was mainly in place as a commitment fee for people to show up. Given the venue was provided by Swinburne we spent the revenue on catering for the event by Blac Café (Glenferrie Rd) and with a bar tab at the Hawthorn Hotel at the end of the day.

People playing Michi Tyson's choose your own pathway boardgame
The sentiment for the event was very positive. People made favourable comparisons to Agile Australia, a larger conference from May, and made comments such as ‘the university environment felt better for a day like this than a hotel conference room.

From an organiser’s perspective they day seemed to be a brilliant success. Everyone there was energised and excited. When I came to work on Monday my Swinburne colleagues were bussing with conversations about ideas they had picked up and things they wanted to explore further.

Ed and I would be keen to work with Swinburne again next year on a second LAST conference.