29 May 2016

We are changing LAST Conference this year: Here is how and why.

TL/DR: We are making changes to LAST Conference to improve the attendee experience. Go check out the sessions you want to go visit on Lanyrd. And then go buy a ticket before they sell out.

LAST Conference is widely regarded and commented as one of the best industry conferences in the world.

I heartily endorse this belief. I have been organizing it with my friend Ed Wong since 2011 and we think we have got a pretty good set up going.
We ask people what they thought of each event a week or so later, and the huge numbers of actual responses, plus the very overwhelmingly positive comments we hear reassure us our initial design ideas were right. We have also been written up by several industry folks unilaterally declaring our event to be amazing.
We hear that people love the community vibe, the low fuss, non-corporate feel of the event. We hear things like our instructions to "vote with your feet" on sessions empowers people to explore and bail on sessions if they aren't useful or fit for the audience member. And the rich variety of sessions; games, workshops, talks make for a great day.  Plus meals and a drinks tab at the local pub that pull people together and provide a place to talk and exchange ideas with co-attendees. 
We have done all this for less than $100 a ticket, because when we originally set this conference up we were looking to help people at not-for-profits, government agencies, small businesses and startups who didn't have the budget to go to expensive training events and conferences.

Despite all this, we get some complaints.

The most frequent issue reported to us is that the volume of sessions on one day mean that people get frustrated with the choices they have to make and the opportunity cost of going to one session over another.
Scarcity equals value, right? 
We have a huge number of speakers and facilitators with lots of concurrent things going on. We charge the equivalent of an expensive lunch for a ticket. So don't we need to make something scarce? We designed the choke point to be the attendee's time. AT first we though that was a good idea - people will just have to come along to the meetups in town, and come back next year for another event.  

This year we are going to try to address the pain.

We have spread the conference over two days and we have asked a number of speakers to come back and repeat their session from the Thursday on Friday. Not everyone could afford the time, and sometimes we have swapped out speakers but hung onto the same topic. 
We also have (as of the day I publish this blog post) MOST of the sessions published on Lanyrd, which means you can browse through what's on and think about what you want to track and go see. Check out the handy features on the Lanyrd page that help you plan your event. 
So head along, enjoy yourself, and let me and Ed know how you think the conference is doing.

12 May 2016

Put your damn photo on your work tool profiles.

Use a photo on your online profiles at work. Here is why.

Put your photo on your profiles.

Right now we are more globally dispersed than ever before, and people on opposite sides of the world have had very little interaction or chances to get to know each other. That will change over time, but we’ll also continue to grow and recruit new team members. Managing connected-ness over distance is becoming an increasingly important competence for more and more of our team members.

To increase our ability to collaborate, to work together and be one great team, we need to overcome the impediments that distance puts between us.

Distance presents all sorts of collaboration challenges; time differences, lags in back and forth communication and a variety of other things that slow the transfer of information from person to person.

Distance also stops us from even considering communicating. There is something called the Allen curve, which is backed up by repeated experiments over time that shows that essentially Out of Site equals Out of Mind. If we can’t see you we typically don’t think about you.

Photos on your Slack or Intranet profile won’t make a huge difference to this, but it will help people in other buildings recognise you and know who you are, and think about you as a human being rather than just a faceless name from another place. This combined with other interactions and activities will gently contribute to trust across the geographical divides.
So put your photo on your Confluence, Slack and other profiles.

Yeah, but no.

If we do nothing to address trust people will start wondering “What’s he building in there?” There will be suspicion, uncertainty, doubt and ultimately fear. And we all know where that leads us…

So, a photo is a little thing, but it helps. It’s absence hurts.

Tips for a good profile pic.

Here are some tips to do the picture thing well.

Use a photo of yourself. Photos humanize the name from another place. They help people who are travelling recognize you when they walk for the first time into your building. Using a cartoon character, an image from the internet, or a photo of someone else might be amusing, but they don’t contribute to trust, recognition and understanding.

Use a recent image. That picture of me from 2001 isn’t really going to help people recognize me when I walk into their office for the first time next week.

Make it a headshot. Headshots are best - profile photos are small. Don’t make it hard for people to recognise you from the photo.

Make eye contact with the camera. People will be able to look right at you and recognize you when they walk for the first time into your office. Don’t have that photo? Close approximation will probably do.

Smile, Damn it. Look friendly and approachable. Smiling is a smart option. After all, it’s trust we are working on here.

Don’t worry about perfect. Good enough is making a small effort. It shows you care. It shows you have taken a few moments to do something for others. That’s a great step.

Thank you.

Now go upload your profile picture.

14 April 2016

Heart of Agile talk by Alistair Cockburn

We recently had Alistair come to the office and give a talk.

The Heart of Agile is a fresh look at Agile that strips away a lot f the cruft that has built up over recent years. This video is interesting and useful.

It goes for about 50 minutes so find yourself some time and a nice quiet place and sit down and listen.

Here it is...