The April event is going pretty well, so let’s talk about what changes were made, and how they went.
What We Changed for April
We added chat in Slack. In the first event, I didn’t really like dealing with chat happening in GoToWebinar plus Twitter plus emails, so I focused on making it easier for folks to talk in Slack. The SQL Server community Slack has gotten really popular (up over 2k members now), and if I can drive people into there, I think they’ll stick around for the activity in other active channels. So I built SQLslack.com to make it easier to introduce people to Slack. I think that worked really well – the #GroupBy channel had over 250 folks in it.
We switched from session ratings to pick-your-top-10. Last round, we let folks rate sessions with five stars, but this time around we had them just pick 10 sessions with a list of checkboxes. I’m really, really happy with the way that worked. We had 327 voters, and no questions or complaints about the process – except one.
We required logins for a lot of stuff. To vote, attend the webcast, submit a session, or give abstract feedback, a WordPress login was required. I don’t have numbers on this (hey, it’s a spare time project) but my gut hunch based on watching activity is that participation dropped by a lot. I’m not really interested in building some kind of big master database, and the whole point of this project is to help the community, so I think we’ll pivot away from the logins.
Speakers did tech checks ahead of time. I let them book a GoToWebinar on my live calendar so we could test their webcams & audio, and get them accustomed to the GoToWebinar presenter UI. This worked extremely well.
We made the session breaks longer. We now start every 2 hours rather than every 90 minutes. I looooved this change because the event felt much less frantic. It let us have longer, more relaxed breaks, especially since I pulled in Erik, Richie, and Tara during the breaks. This probably means we’ll have less folks stay through the entire event, but more on that in a second.
We let volunteers edit the abstract transcripts. We use a transcriptionist to pull off the hard work, but then to clean up the abstracts, add pictures, and add section titles, we had an open call for volunteers. We gave them editorial permissions in WordPress, and emailed them when new transcripts were available for editing. I did a couple myself to show the standard we were aiming for, and…nope. This simply didn’t work – we didn’t get the participation we needed.
What We’ll Change for June
To lower friction, we’re abandoning logins for attendees. We’ve already gone back to a simplified webcast registration form on the home page, and the next round of voting won’t require a login either. There’s a risk here that people will stuff ballot boxes via scripts, so I’ll do some digging to see how easy that’d be to identify. Submitting a session will still require a login just because speakers end up editing their abstract over time.
We’ll tweak the site to reflect the new workflow. When I first put the site together, it was a wild experiment, and I wasn’t quite sure what process changes we’d need to make. Now, I want to make it easy for:
- Learners who want to discover good, relevant content available right now (videos, text, podcast, apps)
- Planners who want to register for a future webcast and help shape future abstracts
- Presenters (and perhaps soon-to-be-presenters) who want to contribute
We’ll outsource the transcription cleanup. Look at a session with a plain transcription, and then a session page with headers & pictures, and the difference is pretty dramatic. I think the section headers & pictures add a lot of value, and I want a presenter to be really proud of their session page. I’m going to work with our AV team to figure out what it’ll cost to add that higher level of polish to the pages. Plus, as a side benefit, that means they’ll control when the session’s page is completely done: with a podcast and full transcription. We’ll be able to re-publish the session page with a fresh date stamp, put it out as a weekly email, and the subscribers might love that.
We’ve also got a lot of little long-term tweaks on the Project Status page.
Now, what else should we tweak about the event?
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