Traverse City Film Tech Unconference

[Although this post discusses the topic of “film tech,” it might be more accurate to use the term filmmaking technology. However, until I’m more knowledgeable about common terminology in this industry sector, I’ll use film tech because it may be just as correct…and it’s shorter.]

Background: TC Film Tech Unconference

Yesterday, as the result of an email conversation in response to me linking a few people to the “Northwest Filmmakers’ Un-conference 2015,” a serious look is being taken at organizing a film tech unconference in Traverse City, Michigan.

Traverse City, both bays

Lake Michigan’s Grand Traverse Bay and Traverse City, Michigan

In the past couple years, the Traverse City (TC) region has seen people put energy and time into connecting and supporting the tech community in that area. Examples include the geek breakfast at Bubba’s, the Venture Up North website promoting tech opportunities in the area, the push for gigabit fiber internet access in TC and, most recently, the TC New Tech group. (I don’t live in northwest lower Michigan, and there may be other equally important tech community activities I didn’t mention because I’m not aware of them — apologies to people working on other tech community initiatives…)

The reasons I linked the TC people yesterday to the 2015 filmmakers unconference are:

  1. TCFFIt makes sense for an area to leverage unique or semi-unique resources when putting time and energy into innovation, entrepreneurism and regional economic development. The Traverse City Film Festival (TCFF) is a successful annual event and a semi-unique resource for the TC area. It’s a logical resource to use as the starting point for developing a high-impact niche technology community.
  2. The TCFF is a participant-driven, volunteer-focused festival, so having an unconference related to the film industry seemed like a natural extension of what the community has already created and is continually improving.
  3. I’ve had discussions with TC people about ways to build the region’s tech community and focusing on film technology seems like a perfect opportunity. There have no doubt been aspects of TCFF which involved film tech. But I’m not aware of an intentional effort to “develop” a TC region film tech community. Due to TC’s geographical location, low population, lack of a major 4-year university, and absence of a full-spectrum filmmaking ecosystem, the area is unlikely be recognized by the industry as a top film tech region, but it can develop niche areas of film tech expertise which could keep homegrown film tech talent in TC and attract new tech talent to the area.

Film Tech Online Research

film technologyAfter interest was expressed in seriously considering a TC film tech unconference, I had to do initial research on film tech. I know unconferences and regional tech communities, but I don’t know film tech. A Google search was the starting point, followed quickly by reading the Wikipedia entry for “History of film technology.” Unfortunately, that entry doesn’t really address film tech recent developments, state of the art or emerging technologies. It also wasn’t obvious to me that any other Wikipedia entries gave a good overview of those three aspects of film tech. Next stops were a bunch of Google hits for university film tech departments and recent articles about film tech pointed at by Google News.

The universities with filmmaking departments I plan to initially look at are USC, UC Santa Cruz, Chapman University, Pratt Institute and Michigan State University. Michigan State wasn’t listed on the website which showed the first four schools listed above, but my main TC contact for the film tech unconference said Michigan State has been involved in the film school section of the TCFF.

My film tech research over the next week or two isn’t intended or expected to make me highly knowledgeable on the topic or able to effectively organize a film tech unconference without the help of people actually involved in that field. The research will enable me to help develop a film tech unconference proposal, ask the right questions about such an unconference, (mostly) understand the answers to my questions, and help make me an effective events wrangler for assisting on a TC film tech event.

Next Steps Toward TC Film Tech Unconference

Traverse City region, Google maps Mar 2016

Traverse City region in the Northwest section of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula

At this point, the TC film tech unconference is just a vague concept, a conversation, and a desire to intentionally expand and strengthen the TC region’s tech community. The next steps to move the idea forward appear to be:

 

  1. More film tech research by me and organization of relevant info in a Google Doc I created yesterday.
  2. Initial unconference groundwork by my TC contact.
  3. Development of a film tech unconference proposal.
  4. Conversations with TCFF people about the value of discussing the unconference at a meeting of TC area people.

The keys to a successful start of organizing a TC film tech unconference are:

  1. Confirming there’s perceived significant local value in the unconference (and that current TCFF activities and plans don’t already do everything that an unconference would).
  2. Identifying and getting commitment from one or several influential TC champions for a film tech unconference.
  3. Connecting an effective core team of unconference organizers.

Whether or not this TC unconference happens, it will be fun and challenging to develop an effective proposal for a totally new event that could have significant long term impact. If the unconference or its direct descendant is still going strong ten years from now, if film tech businesses have been established in TC, or if film tech people have moved to TC to live and work due in part to the unconference, it will be pretty cool to look back at yesterday’s conversation as the start of something worthwhile!

What can you launch a conversation about today or tomorrow to connect, expand or strengthen the tech community in your region?

———-

Here are recent articles which mention emerging filmmaking technologies:

The Untold Story of Magic Leap, the World’s Most Secretive Startup
DJI’s Matrice 600 hexacopter is the go-to drone for Hollywood cinematographers
The Jungle Book Points Toward a CGI Future
Filmmaker Matthew Cherry Leverages Mobile Filmmaking in ’9 Rides’

*****

Improving Long Tech Events: #4 Priority

#4 Priority: Healthier At End Of Event Than At Start

healthy livingThe #4 priority from my list of the top 13 ways in which long tech events should be improved addresses health issues. A stretch goal for long tech events should be to have everyone involved with the event feel healthier at the end of the event than at the start.

Pretty much everyone would agree that’s a worthwhile goal, but there are reasons it’s not a common goal and factors that make it difficult to achieve if you do make it a goal. A few of the challenges involved with HealthOut > HealthIn are:

  1. Long tech events have inherent non-healthy aspects
  2. For coding work, flow and productivity sometime result in long work sessions
  3. More expensive to incorporate healthy factors / aspects / components into an event

Inherent Non-Healthy Aspects

pizza red bullThere are a variety of non-healthy aspects inherent in long tech events. Some relate to tradition, such as pizza and snack food being typical fuel for coders. Some are part tradition and part practical application, such as using stimulant beverages such as Mountain Dew or energy drinks like Red Bull, or eating pizza and a variety of non-nutritious snack food. The practical application of stimulants is that they are felt to help the coder stay awake longer so they can work as long as possible on their programs. Pizza and junk food snacks are handy for eating while you’re at your computer, continuing to try and figure out why it doesn’t work correctly.

Other unhealthy aspects simply come with the territory. Because tech people are knowledge workers, much of their work is done while sitting at a desk (or standing at a desk, these days), spending almost all their work hours indoors, and often working for tech work desksseveral hours at a time on one focused task. A tech worker rarely gets much physical exercise doing their job. Many tech workers are salaried, so their managers often expect them to work longer hours — more work time for no increased cost.

Many coder or other tech jobs involve solving new problems, rather than learning how to do one task, then repeating it over and over. And over. So at a hackathon and some other tech events, the participants are often trying to figure out how to solve a new problem, and they are sometimes trying to figure out at the same time how to use new tech tools, like a new API (application programming interface) or a new language, library or function. Innovation in software, computing and technology has been practically nonstop for the past thirty to fifty years. And that innovation means new hardware, software, firmware and services that tech people have to figure out how to use.

Being knowledge workers and using tools that are continually changing means that creating worthwhile tech products and solutions will be difficult work that takes long hours. That’s just something that’s in the DNA of a hackathon or an interesting participant-driven tech event.

Flow And Productivity = Long Work Sessions

An issue somewhat specific to long tech events which involve coding sessions, such as hackathons, is the concept of flow and productivity. Joel Spolsky describes it this way:

“…knowledge workers work best by getting into “flow”, also known as being “in the zone”, where they are fully concentrated on their work and fully tuned out of their environment. They lose track of time and produce great stuff through absolute concentration. This is when they get all of their productive work done…With programmers, it’s especially hard. Productivity depends on being able to juggle a lot of little details in short term memory all at once. Any kind of interruption can cause these details to come crashing down. When you resume work, you can’t remember any of the details (like local variable names you were using, or where you were up to in implementing that search algorithm) and you have to keep looking these things up, which slows you down a lot until you get back up to speed…”

What this means is that many programmers are the most productive when they can work uninterrupted for hours at a time. When they are trying to design an app or a large chunk of code, and they finally develop a clear picture in their mind of how it will work and what all the parts are, the last thing they want to do is stop because it’s time for supper, or because the non-programmers want to go to their home or motel to go to sleep.

Expensive To Help Tech Workers Be More Healthy

dollar sign greenMost employers are not going to pay their tech employees to exercise during work hours, and most employers won’t provide their sedentary workers alternative services, such as massage, yoga, or t’ai chi, to compensate for the lack of physical exercise in their normal job duties. Because providing these services was neither necessary nor traditional in the pre-computer world of business, most companies are reluctant to spend money now to keep their tech workers healthier unless someone can demonstrate that it will definitely save the company money to do so.

Traditional conferences have likewise not seen the need to spend money on health-related services for conference attendees, other than providing meals. And the meals have generally been the type of food that was easily provided by conference facilities, was acceptable to most attendees, and didn’t cost too much. Twenty or more years ago, conferences didn’t offer much in the way of alternative meals, and the nutritional value of the meal was not it’s most important attribute. Snacks were usually some type of cookie or dessert and soda or coffee.

Providing fresh, healthy good-tasting food choices for a wide variety of dietary needs for a medium to large group is challenging in terms of planning, logistics and costs. Even if cost is not an object, there are still the issues of (1) obtaining and coordinating the meal, beverage and snack choices of each person involved in an event, and (2) finding a vendor who can provide that wide variety of nutritious and good-tasting food when and where it’s needed.

Blog posts I’ve read about hackathons were part of the inspiration (in addition to my own experiences) for putting healthier events as an item on the “improvements needed” list. Two posts which were particularly explicit about health were from Brian Chang and Alex Bayley.

Brian said hackathons are physically unhealthy.

“…Hackathons span anywhere from a day to a week in duration…junk food is provided for sustenance. Coffee, pizza, and chips are the staple at hackathons. Occasionally, the organizers do a great job and offer healthier alternatives. But, these merely supplement instead of supplant the stereotypical programmer’s diet catered at these events…encourages sleep deprivation. In addition to all the provided stimulants, hackers are encouraged to work through the night. Sure there may be reminders that you should sleep when tired, but why a 24-hour event instead of a 12-hour one then…”

Alex likewise said typical hackathons have major shortcomings in health and nutrition.

“…I’ve been to a few of these events, and I’ve never yet felt like I didn’t come out of it less healthy than I went in. Speaking for myself, I like daylight, moving around, eating lots of veggies, and drinking lots of water. I work at a standing desk part of the day (looking out the window at trees and birds), take lots of breaks to clear my mind and move my body, and usually make lunch with homebaked bread and something from my garden. I also like getting a good night’s sleep…”

Another reason for focusing on health is I’ve been working with some people to develop a healthcare innovation unconference. And it seems to me that the last thing I’d want to do as an events wrangler would be to help put on a healthcare unconference that was unhealthy for the participants…

Options For Healthier Long Tech Events

Before I list some ideas for having a healthier long tech event, I’ll restate the overall goal for the #4 priority in improving long tech events:

healthier at end than start

Even if this isn’t exactly how you look, it’s how we want you to feel!

We want everyone involved in the event to feel healthier when they leave the event and head home than they did when they walked in the door at the start of the event.

I am in no way an expert, or even moderately knowledgeable, about nutrition and health, so the options listed below are just a few starting points. For the next long tech event I get involved with organizing, I plan to get people much more knowledgeable about relevant topics to help me find the most cost-effective way to provide a positively healthy event. Also, most of the items below focus on physical health rather than mental and emotional, although I realize good physical health contributes to mental and emotional health. More ideas for mental and emotional health are needed for this list.

[the list below will be updated as I get feedback and come up with additional items]

Focus on Physical Health

  1. t'ai chiMassage, shiatsu, yoga, t’ai chi, breathing workshop, scheduled group or individual walk times, other physical or physical-mental sessions or opportunities
  2. Nutrition and health improvement focus
    1. Information about food at event
    2. Nutritious sponsor meals, beverages, and snacks, including demos for healthier food and beverages, e.g. juicer, cast iron cookery
    3. Involve local organic food stores, CSAs, organic farmers
    4. Swag includes toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, healthy breath fresheners, organic lip gloss, antibacterial gel, organic hand cream, healthy soap
    5. Namaste greeting or fist bumps
    6. Air purifiers
    7. Face masks and healthy cough drops and whiskey-honey cough remedies
  3. Meals
    1. healthy foodVegan
    2. Vegetarian
    3. Gluten-free
    4. Highly nutritious regular meals, non-red meat, heavy on fresh fruits and veggies
    5. Nutritious salads, e.g. chef
  4. Snacks
    1. Nuts — cashews, almonds,
    2. Fruit — fresh and dried
    3. Cheese with Triscuits and other nutritious crackers and breads
    4. Popcorn
    5. Yogurt
    6. Date Bran muffins
  5. Beverages
    1. Water w/ lemon wedges and ice available
    2. Stainless water bottle swag item for everyone, with provisions for initial washing / cleaning
    3. Variety of high quality coffee and tea; suggest participants bring own caffeinated beverage if they want something other than tea or coffee
    4. Other non-stimulant “energy” or “refreshing” beverages (research the topic)
    5. Lemonade
    6. Coconut water, or similar water-alternatives
    7. 100% juices, incl V8, organic, POM, Orangina, etc
    8. Freshly-juiced juice
    9. Healthy non-US beverages
    10. Organic milk, soy milk, almond milk
    11. Fairlife (http://fairlife.com), created by a farmer who used a filtration technology to increase protein content, decrease sugar content and remove lactose from milk. It ultimately became a co-venture with Coca-Cola, who launched Fairline milk and milk products. They developed a drink that boosts the benefits of the milk (protein and vitamins), while removing the extra sugar and maintaining a great taste. (http://fairlife.com/contact/)
  6. Sleep
    1. Provide dark quiet areas for napping and sleeping
    2. Provide non-harmful sleep enhancers, e.g. white noise
    3. Help facilitate low-cost off-site sleeping options for those who want that
    4. Schedule evening small group activities off-site at a location where people can go to sleep when small group activity ends
    5. Allow marathon coding or working sessions, but minimize the “penalty” or negative impact on people who chose to get their normal amount of sleep

Focus on Mental and Emotional Health

  1. Guided group meditation sessions
  2. Provide simple to-do checklist for event
    1. Satisfaction of checking off a significant number of standard items so you see accomplishment and progress
  3. Pictures with new friends
  4. pine forestParts of event enhanced by music, sound, aromas (see “Take Two Hours of Pine Forest and Call Me in the Morning“)

I hope this incomplete list of health ideas will spark other ideas for your next long event. The three challenges to incorporating these into events will be (1) identifying the appropriate combination health contributors to use, (2) getting sponsors to cover the health contributor costs (in-kind or monetary donations), and (3) fitting into the schedule health contributors which will take time away from activities which would otherwise be squeezed into the schedule.

To your health — Live long and prosper!

—————

Posts in this “Improving Long Tech Events” series:

Making Long Tech Events Better
Improving Long Tech Events: Priorities
Improving Long Tech Events: #1 Priority
Improving Long Tech Events: #2 Priority
Improving Long Tech Events: #3 Priority
Improving Long Tech Events: #4 Priority
Improving Long Tech Events: #5 Priority
#6 Priority: Follow-Up For Greater Impact
Priority #7: Storytelling & Documentation
Improving Long Tech Events: Priorities #8 – #13

*****

Improving Long Tech Events: #3 Priority

#3 Priority; Effective Event Facilitation

Is effective facilitation important?

facilitationIn the article “The Role of a Facilitator” the author says, “good facilitation can make the difference between success and failure.”

Although I positioned effective event facilitation as the #3 priority for making long tech events more successful, the need for better facilitation is dependent on the event.

Event facilitation is unlikely to be a glaring problem area for traditional conferences organized by an event management company or long-running tech events which have a seasoned core team of organizers and a proven recipe for success. However, participant-driven events, especially if a first-of-a-kind event or if led by a first-time team or a core team with too few members, have a tendency to have one or several avoidable glitches in the event. Lack of skilled facilitation can result in issues that make the event less enjoyable or worthwhile, or maybe even problems that cause people to leave the event or publicly voice their negative opinions.

Open Space Technology Events

open space technology

Open Space Technology Event

Unconferences using the Open Space Technology (OST) process , or some participant-driven derivative of OST, to manage the gathering are especially likely to need improved event facilitation. Because many (most?) people at OST events are unfamiliar with the process, the lack of one or more facilitators skilled in OST techniques can cause rough starts at that style of unconference.

 

Session leaders at OST events who give traditional-conference PowerPoint one-to-many presentations may eliminate much of what was potentially the most valuable part of their session — insightful contributions from the other participants in the session and the opportunity for a highly engaging and informative group discussion on the session topic. Unconference participants who don’t understand that they need to be active “participants” rather than passive “attendees” may be disappointed with the lack of structure or or may feel uncomfortable about using the Law of Two Feet, consequently remaining seated in a session that’s not a good fit for their interests rather than moving to a different session where they can learn or contribute. Or they may fail to initiate an impromptu small group session when they connect with a group of other participants (whom they are unlikely to meet face-to-face again in the near future) who have very closely aligned passions and areas of expertise.

When I read blog posts slamming unconferences as a waste of the author’s time, I first think of effectively managing expectations, the #1 priority for improving long tech events. The organizers of the time-wasting unconference may not have done an adequate job of communicating what an unconference is and how it is run. Expectations for an unconference are crucial for both session leaders and for session participants. For both session leaders and participants, lack of understanding of their roles and the goal of sessions to be guided conversations, exploring a topic of high interest to everyone in the session, will generally lead to an unsatisfying experience.

My next thought is that possibly the organizers managed expectations well, but the event facilitation was less skilled than it needed to be. My experience has been that most unconference “facilitators” have not been trained in, and do not have much experience with, the OST process. They may be good facilitators for corporate meetings who have minimal familiarity with OST, or they may just be someone with little, if any, experience facilitating meetings or large events who has read about OST on the internet.It’s improbable that a typical tech geek excited about hanging out with a bunch of other geeks who also have less-than-optimal social skills will be a highly effective first-time facilitator for an unconference.

Because the facilitator has huge impact on the success of a true unconference, it’s my goal to get an experienced and effective OST facilitator at every unconference in which I’m involved as an events wrangler. If it’s not possible to arrange for that hard-to-find facilitator, my fallback position is to find a skilled facilitator who will take the time to research and understand OST

Good Start And Facilitation Issues

good startThe opening session of an unconference or hackathon is “spotlight” time for the facilitator. Because many participants may be unsure of how the event will be run, or will have misconceptions based on differently-run events they’ve been at, the facilitator needs to do an outstanding job of:

  1. Setting the stage for a successful event
  2. Covering the ground rules (then, later, making sure they’re followed)
  3. Explaining how the day or days will unfold
  4. Clarifying what each person’s role is
  5. Identifying who to contact if you have questions or need help
  6. Helping everyone look forward to enjoying and being part of the rest of the event

For any long tech event, it’s important to gracefully work through the inevitable challenges that pop up, while also being alert and quick-acting so they prevent avoidable issues from happening. The most important trait of this troubleshooting duty is to be able to spot the bumps in the road as you’re approaching them, rather than trying to fix things after you hit the bump. Be on the lookout for disturbances in the force or a tear in the Matrix, then adjust accordingly to head off annoyances or major problems.

The facilitator should be talking with people during the event to find out what is going well and where changes or adjustments are needed. They also need to have the rest of the event team listening for that type of feedback.

code of conductBe especially aware of Code of Conduct issues. There should be a designated point of contact for the event’s Code of Conduct, other than the lead facilitator, but because the facilitator is soliciting feedback and has their finger on the pulse of the event, they may notice inappropriate behavior as it first pops up. Get the designated Code of Conduct person involved right away and keep the event safe and enjoyable for everyone.

Look for and take advantage of opportunities to foster excitement and enable more engagement for participants. If someone is looking confused or bored, find out why. Maybe you can connect them with someone at the event who has similar specific interests, or possibly you can help them figure out an aspect of the event that’s unclear. Maybe they have a problem unrelated to the conference. By taking the time to listen to them, you may be able to help them out, maybe even help them resolve their problem so they can once again enjoy the event.

The facilitator needs to monitor the flow of the event, and minimize distractions, heading off any major kerfluffles that threaten to negatively impact a large number of people or the whole event. They should keep the agenda on schedule, with reasonable accommodations that make sense for specific events or sessions. If one or a couple sessions are running over schedule but continuing the sessions is felt to have high value, help find a different session area for that group that was planning to use the over-schedule session area.

See The Big Picture

In addition to being the person responsible for the #3 priority on my list for having highly successful long tech events, the facilitator needs to be aware of issues related to #4 through #13 priorities on that list. If some aspects of those lower priorities are being neglected or inappropriately handled, the facilitator must address that situation with the person or people responsible for that topic.

big pictureFacilitator should both be mindful of significant event situations as they are occurring and should be taking a 30,000 foot view of the event and be thinking about what’s important to a successful wrap-up and what future actions should result from the event. They need to either keep track of commitments made and follow-up items generated during the event or appoint someone else to handle that responsibility.

The above discussion about effective event facilitation is summed up nicely in the post “Mastering Facilitation for Improved Results.”

“…Many business professionals know the meaning of facilitation, but few are skilled at performing the duties of a facilitator or appreciate the true benefits of a process, project or important event that is masterfully facilitated…”

A first-time facilitator could be overwhelmed by all the things that must be done in order to be able to say an event was a resounding success that makes everyone want to be a part of the next event managed by that facilitator. That’s why it is so important for the lead facilitator to:

  1. Understand what goes into making an event successful
  2. Have experience helping plan and run events before they lead one
  3. Have an appropriate-size core team with all the necessary skills and commitment
  4. Prepare well for the event
  5. Delegate responsibility so they have time to deal with the most important issues
  6. Enjoy the event and the opportunity to be a key player in making it successful
  7. Learn from each event experience to make the next one better

May all your events have effective facilitators!

—————

Posts in this “Improving Long Tech Events” series:

Making Long Tech Events Better
Improving Long Tech Events: Priorities
Improving Long Tech Events: #1 Priority
Improving Long Tech Events: #2 Priority
Improving Long Tech Events: #3 Priority
Improving Long Tech Events: #4 Priority
Improving Long Tech Events: #5 Priority
#6 Priority: Follow-Up For Greater Impact
Priority #7: Storytelling & Documentation
Improving Long Tech Events: Priorities #8 – #13

*****

Improving Long Tech Events: #2 Priority

#2 Priority: Participant And Speaker Diversity

[Fair Warning: The verbiage of this post will likely be revised over the next week to be more accurate and sensitive to the issues, which is different, I hope, than just trying to be politically correct. My apologies in advance for all misleading statements, poorly worded opinions or misinformed viewpoints about a topic that is a hot button for many people, especially those who have been harmed by unfair industry practices or discriminatory social prejudices.]

diverse groupA wide variety of participant and speakers at an event is generally a good thing. That wide variety is often called diversity.

Improving diversity in the USA has traditionally focused on including people from more ethnic backgrounds and women. Although ethnic background still has significant attention, there has been an especially strong focus on “gender equality” in tech for the past couple years. I’m not sure that gender equality is the best or correct term to use at the moment, both in terms of what the specific goal is and what’s politically correct. But the concept is that the best opportunities, jobs, recognition and pay in the computer technology field in the US for the past fifty years or so have been given primarily to white males. And most academic, industry or community tech gatherings were composed primarily of white males.

Gender equality includes issues related to sexual orientations other than heterosexual males and females.

Diversity: More Than Just Gender And Ethnic Group

wheelchair by stepsIn addition to gender and race or ethnic group, participant and speaker diversity criteria include age, nationality, native and secondary languages, physical disability, economic status, work and education backgrounds, and a whole lot more as broken down on Ashe Dryden’s blog post “Increasing Diversity At Your Conference.” Two more blog posts that are good starting points for increasing the diversity at your events are “How To Create A More Diverse Tech Conference” and “How to attract more women to tech conferences.” Google can fetch scads more thought-provoking ideas on this topic. Although many “diversity at tech events” will focus on gender issues, you can often replace the word “women” with the other diversity criteria such as “age” or “ethnic group” and the strategies for attracting a diverse group to the event will work across the whole spectrum of classifications.

Today’s blog post doesn’t attempt to tell you tactics for how to ensure a diverse group of people at your event. The goal of the post is to emphasize the importance of having that diverse group. When an events wrangler wants to make a step change in the diversity of their next event, they should Google for specific diversity issues they’ve prioritized for improvement. Pertinent hits from that Google search will point you at specific ways to address those priority diversity demographics.

In addition to knowing what should be done to attract a diverse population to an event, it helps tremendously to have representatives of the various groups on the event planning team. Trying to be empathetic and imagine yourself in someone else’s shoes helps you see another person’s point of view. But if you fit into one or many of the diversity criteria listed above (not a young, heterosexual, male, white American), you’ll more clearly understand how to attract a more diverse group to an event. If you want more women at an event, have women help plan and promote the event. The same goes for other diversity factors.

Benefits Of Diversity

There are many reasons to have a diverse group of participants and speakers. Those reasons include:

  • benefits of diversityDifferent perspectives as formed by educational background, work experiences, countries/cities/neighborhoods where they’ve lived, social circles in which they grew up, and a whole host of other factors. The different perspectives can help see hidden opportunities, non-obvious solutions to problems and can help you see things in a different light.
  • Varying abilities to relate to and communicate well with certain people or groups.
  • Significantly different people bring more resources and a broader knowledge base to the group.
  • There are very few true Renaissance people; usually people are most effective in one or a few areas and seldom bring deep knowledge and advanced skills in all topics of relevance to the event in which they are participating.
  • Discussions and group projects less likely to have echo chamber effect with diverse participants.
  • Monocultures are detrimental to themselves and to the world around them.

One last suggestion for today is for events wranglers to look at conferences that attract significant numbers of the types of people you want to attract to your event. Conferences that attract many women might have planning, marketing and messaging components you can use to improve your event and attract more women to it (likewise for ethnic group, age groups, etc). Examples of this to consider are WisCon, Open Source Bridge, All Things Open, ORD Camp and FlowCon.

Put extra effort into pulling together as diverse a group of participants and speakers as possible. You might find that extra diversity is one of the keys to your best event ever!

—————

Posts in this “Improving Long Tech Events” series:

Making Long Tech Events Better
Improving Long Tech Events: Priorities
Improving Long Tech Events: #1 Priority
Improving Long Tech Events: #2 Priority
Improving Long Tech Events: #3 Priority
Improving Long Tech Events: #4 Priority
Improving Long Tech Events: #5 Priority
#6 Priority: Follow-Up For Greater Impact
Priority #7: Storytelling & Documentation
Improving Long Tech Events: Priorities #8 – #13

*****

Improving Long Tech Events: #1 Priority

#1 Priority: Effectively Managing Expectations

priority 1Although “Expectations” may seem like a topic you didn’t expect to be the #1 priority for driving better long tech events, I put it at the top of the list of ways to improve long tech events.

Just about any event will be enjoyed by the people involved in it if they know ahead of time what to expect.If they’re not interested in what will be happening, they won’t register or show up. The people who do show up for an event that has established and communicated clear expectations will not be disappointed.

Everyone involved with an event needs to know what the expectations are. This includes speakers, participants/attendees, sponsors, vendors and media. If someone in any of these groups is unclear about expectations for the event, it will likely make the event less worthwhile for them and for people they interact with there. So don’t just make your expectations clear to the speakers, make it clear to all the groups.

There are several facets of expectations that need to be addressed. These are:

  1. Realistic
  2. Communicate
  3. Accountable
  4. Feedback

Create Realistic Expectations

realisticThe first step in managing expectations is to define what the event will be like from the point of view of each group involved with it. The expectations need to be realistic. Don’t tell your sponsors you’ll have 2000 attendees at an event the sponsors are funding when you have no way of knowing how many people will show up. Publicize who the speakers will be only after they’ve committed to doing the event. Let everyone know what they can expect if they get involved with the event.

Brian Chang suggests one way to have better expectations for hackathons: “…Currently hackathons are serving too many conflicting interests. A great way to start fixing this is creating specialized hackathons to separate out these concerns…What’s particularly alluring about this taxonomy is that everyone would have reasonable expectations for attending the events…”

Karen Rustad Tölva also feels hackathons have unrealistic expectations: “…although they may be fun, since nearly all hackathon projects are abandoned after the event is over they’re no good for creating startups, real useful products, or social change. All they might be good for is networking. Thus, these events are oversold. I think there is a point here, but I don’t think you can conclude from it that hackathons aren’t worthwhile to run or attend. Rather, attendees and observers should modify their expectations…”

David Sasaki point out how unrealistic it is for people to create solutions to complex problems in two or three days, especially if the people working to solve those problems don’t fully understand the problem: “…Evgeny criticizes the rise of ‘solutionism,’ which he defines by quoting Michael Dobbins: “Solutionism presumes rather than investigates the problem it is trying to solve, reaching for the answer before the questions have been fully asked.” Nowhere, it seems to me, is solutionism in fuller force than at hackathons and app contests. Without contemplating the origins, causes, and effects of the social problems they seek to remedy, these two- or three-day events bring together designers and software developers to “hack” together elegant solutions to complex problems….”

Clearly and Comprehensively Communicate

communicationIf you’re an events wrangler who has helped develop realistic expectations for an event, you need to make sure those expectations are clearly and effectively communicated to all those connected with the event. When speakers or session leaders are invited, let them know what the attendees want to hear and make sure they know all the logistics for their talk. All the marketing and publicity created to get people to register for and attend needs to have the right message and get to the right target audience.

Gus Andrews received this feedback which made it clear he did a good job on clearly communicating expectations: “…I am so impressed with everything you and your org has done regarding messaging to make non-techies, especially those who are women, welcome at your event. I am dying to go! And it’s torture because I’d signed up but am unable to…”

Mitch Joel points out that some long tech event organizers might choose to use deceptive marketing: “…This past month, I’ve seen a handful of events that are billing themselves as unconferences when, in reality, they’re just very shabby and cheap events…It saddens me to see how many people start with the right spirit of an unconference but quickly get stuck in all of the trappings of what they think will create a great event…”

Hold Everyone Accountable

accountableOnce you’ve established realistic expectations and communicated them, there needs to be follow-up to hold people accountable for those expectations. For speakers or session leaders, there needs to be a process prior to the event which helps them be adequately prepared. If vendors agree to provide necessary arrangements for a successful conference, steps need to be taken to get those t-shirts printed and delivered on time, the meals have to be tasty and served on time, and the WiFi and projectors have to perform correctly for everyone from start to finish.

Emma Arbogast says she left her long tech event early when it didn’t meet expectations: “I signed up for the Community Leadership Summit hoping to get some insight into how to build online (and offline) community…The conference was not what I hoped. I ended up coming home early because it was really draining…In both my morning sessions, the people who organized the session didn’t bring anything to present. They showed up and said, “I didn’t really prepare anything, I just wanted to see what everyone thought about the topic…” (But she also said, “…Of the unconferences I’ve attended in the past year, I would give WordCamp an A, Barcamp a B, and this conference a C…”

Get Feedback Regarding Expectations

feedbackFeedback is essential to make sure goals are met. Everyone sees things differently, so the events wrangler need feedback about the event to know whether expectations were well-communicated and met. Feedback doesn’t mean a ten or fifteen point online or paper survey asking whether the room temperature was acceptable and how you would rate the speakers on a scale of one to ten. Useful feedback is the only thing that will help you deliver top quality events and make each one better than the one before it.

It’s challenging to create and deliver on expectations. Especially when there are 87 other action items you’ve got to get done or some part of your event won’t work right. Expectations are a checklist item easy to overlook, but it’s critical to do a great job on them.

It’s the only way you’ll get the right people in the right place at the right time.

—————

Posts in this “Improving Long Tech Events” series:

Making Long Tech Events Better
Improving Long Tech Events: Priorities
Improving Long Tech Events: #1 Priority
Improving Long Tech Events: #2 Priority
Improving Long Tech Events: #3 Priority
Improving Long Tech Events: #4 Priority
Improving Long Tech Events: #5 Priority
#6 Priority: Follow-Up For Greater Impact
Priority #7: Storytelling & Documentation
Improving Long Tech Events: Priorities #8 – #13

*****

BarCampMilwaukee 2016: Beginnings

BarCampMilwaukee # 11

barcamp milwaukeeThe event planning has started for BarCampMilwaukee 2016, aka BCMke 2016.

The previous two posts on this blog were about improving the experience at day-long or multi-day tech events. BCMke will be a great opportunity to use some of the ideas and action items I’ll be discussing in future posts in the “Improving Long Tech Events” series.

If you’re not familiar with BarCamps, they are technology unconferences. Click on the BarCamp and unconference links to read about them. If intrigued by what Wikipedia tells you regarding those two concepts, use Google to learn lots more about them.

The 10th annual BCMke was held on October 3 – 4, 2015. It was an outstanding gathering of tech people, wrangled by lead organizer Dan Walters. In 2016 I’d like to participate in the 11th edition of what has been, in my limited experience at 20+ BarCamps, the truest clone of the original 2005 BarCamp in concept and execution.

Dan recently told me he won’t be able to be an organizer for this year’s tech unconference, so I offered to help round up a few people to plan and put on the 2016 event. I don’t have as many contacts in the Milwaukee metro area as I once did, but I’m sure I can connect with new people to help make this technology meetup worthwhile for all who participate.

lakefront breweryAs a first note regarding the event schedule, Steve Restless felt we should do the Friday social meetup at the Lakefront Brewery like we did a few years ago, so that will be part of BCMke 2016. They have a wonderful Friday fish fry and a fun tour of the brewery that’s family-friendly. Last time I took the tour, there was Lakefront Root Beer for young people and those of us who didn’t want beer…

Today Dan linked me to a person at a Milwaukee-area company which may be interested in providing a venue or supporting the BarCamp in other ways. I emailed them to see if they want to discuss supporting BCMke or other Wisconsin tech events. We’ll be contacting lots of other partners and sponsors in upcoming months who can help us provide a fantastic experience for all the participants.

Early Stage Events Wrangler Checklist

Over the next couple months, my goals will be to:

  • Build a core team of BCMke organizers
  • Start contacting companies about supporting BCMke
  • Identify dates of other events that should be avoided when scheduling BCMke 2016
  • Develop list of people to help publicize BCMke
  • Develop a targeted list of potential participants to personally invite to BCMke

milwaukee on wisc mapThe Milwaukee metro area has slightly over 1.5 million people. In addition to people from the immediate area, last year’s participants included people from Chicago, Madison, Appleton and a few other cities outside Milwaukee and its immediate suburbs. If we do an effective job of publicizing BCMke and extending personal invitations to people we think would enjoy BarCamping, we should easily be able to get 150 people registered by the cutoff date for getting a free BCMke 2016 t-shirt.

If you’re in the Milwaukee area and are a BarCamp enthusiast, or like the concept of BarCamps based on what a little research has shown you, and you want to help organize this event, please contact Bob Waldron, bwaldron (att) gmail [dot] com.

If you’re with an organization who wants to discuss supporting BarCampMilwaukee 2016, please contact me at the above email address.

If you don’t live in the Milwaukee area, but want to help organize the event, please email me.

Finally, if you think BCMke is your type of event, come back to this blog or to barcampmilwaukee.org for more information. And when the BarCamp registration opens up on Eventbrite, be one of the first people to get your name on the list.

See you at BarCampMilwaukee 2016!

bcmke group shot

Group shot from a past BarCampMilwaukee

*****

Improving Long Tech Events: Priorities

Intentional Improvement

kaizenEvery events wrangler wants to put on fantastic events people find so worthwhile, engaging and amazing that they talk about them for years. But achieving this level of quality and impact can only be done through intentional improvement. Managing the next event in essentially the same way as the last event, making only minor changes, is unlikely to take you to the next level.

The purpose of yesterday’s post on this blog was to get you thinking about specific ways we can make long tech events the best experience possible for participants, speakers and sponsors.

Today’s post is an attempt at listing the top priority areas on which many or most long tech events wranglers should focus (in addition to their standard checklists). This post will be somewhat of a living document, getting updates as my experience, reading and conversations lead me to revise the order of items on the list, add or remove items from the list, or edit the post content in small ways to help it clearly and concisely convey my understanding on this subject.

hackathon logoA couple of the improvement areas relate primarily to hackathons, but many of the items on this list are relevant to most long tech events.

YMMV. Your experience may be that the long events you’ve been involved with in the past did great at all or most of my “excellence opportunities.” If so, you’ve been very lucky. Everyone has different reasons for participating in a long tech event and different expectations for what the experience will be. Those reasons and expectations will influence whether you agree with the list below or see things quite differently.

Prioritized Excellence Opportunities

With the above caveats, here is *my* prioritized list of how we can upgrade long tech events:

  1. Expectations
  2. Participant and speaker diversity
  3. Event facilitation
  4. Health
  5. Relationship building
  6. Follow-up
  7. Storytelling & Documentation
  8. Learning
  9. Levels of Commitment
  10. Ongoing projects
  11. Participant contributions
  12. Fair competition
  13. “Flow” for coders

Upcoming posts will individually explore the top seven priorities, followed by a combined post presenting a few points about the remaining six items. (Although I might also get carried away and write a separate post for each of the thirteen items listed.)

Your Input Is Requested

helpBecause I haven’t been a full time, or paid, events wrangler, there are likely aspects of this whole “improving long tech events” topic on which I have a skewed or incomplete perspective. Please take the time and energy to share your thoughts about the topic and the priorities by emailing Bob Waldron, bwaldron (att) gmail [dot] com.

I hope to present as balanced a view of these issues as is possible, with the ultimate goal being many future long tech events that people find totally worthwhile, exceeding all their expectations and previous experiences. I look forward to your help in making that happen!

——————-

Posts in this “Improving Long Tech Events” series:

Making Long Tech Events Better
Improving Long Tech Events: Priorities
Improving Long Tech Events: #1 Priority
Improving Long Tech Events: #2 Priority
Improving Long Tech Events: #3 Priority
Improving Long Tech Events: #4 Priority
Improving Long Tech Events: #5 Priority
#6 Priority: Follow-Up For Greater Impact
Priority #7: Storytelling & Documentation
Improving Long Tech Events: Priorities #8 – #13

*****

Making Long Tech Events Better

hackathonThis is the first in a series of posts about ways to make long events better, especially ones that focus on technology and coding.

Examples of long technology events are hackathons, conferences, unconferences and workshops. Hackathons have probably received a disproportionate amount of negative feedback, and some of the issues discussed in this series of posts apply solely to hackathons. But many of the areas for improvement highlighted apply to daylong or multi-day events that are not hackathons.

My first post about making long tech events better is the beginning of a conversation (that started shortly after the first long tech event and will, no doubt, continue long into the mist-shrouded future of technology…). I’m writing this post series from a dual perspective; that of someone who has applied for the position of Automattic Events Wrangler (AEW) and that of someone who enjoys organizing and putting on a variety of event for the TIME community (Tech, Innovators, Makers, Entrepreneurs).

“Long Tech Event” Deficiencies Seen By Others

To kick off this conversation, below are excerpts from three posts written to highlight significant deficiencies in hackathons. Some issues apply primarily to hackathon, but a few apply also to unconferences and a variety of other long-format events

Hackathon Be Gone

“Last weekend I attended the MHacks: Refactor hackathon on behalf of my MHackscompany…the more of these events I attend, the more disgusted I become with the process…Here are my reasons for why hackathons as they exist today need to be banished:

  • physically unhealthy…

    • junk food is provided for sustenance…Occasionally, the organizers do a great job and offer healthier alternatives. But, these merely supplement instead of supplant the stereotypical programmer’s diet catered at these events.
    • poor hygiene in close quarters.
    • encourages sleep deprivation…
  • unrewarding…

    • many projects begin well before the hackathon. There are a lot of teams who bring their existing projects to the party. This is unfair to newcomers who aren’t well calibrated to understand what can be accomplished in a given amount of time…
    • salesmanship is rewarded. The rewards are given strictly based on the presentation…often times the winners are those who put together the most polished presentation irrespective of actual execution.
  • too commercialized. Any grassroots efforts to learn, network, and have a great time have now been stifled by corporate involvement. Companies offer prizes for best use of their API or their product. Essentially, if you don’t use a companies offerings, you aren’t going to win a prize…”

Why I don’t like hackathons, by Alex Bayley aged 39 ½

They’re too much commitment..
They’re usually a whole weekend of focused work…hackathon 1

They exclude people with lives and responsibilities
…I have other things going on in my life: errands to run, friends to see, a veggie garden to keep watered, and other community events and commitments to schedule around. Attending a weekend-long event means massively rearranging my life…

That exclusion is not evenly distributed
I see fathers of kids at hackathons pretty often, perhaps because their wives are looking after the kids. I see mothers far less often…It’s well documented that diverse teams have more creative ideas. So why exclude entire categories of people by holding an event that is hard for them to participate in?

They’re unhealthy
I’ve been to a few of these events, and I’ve never yet felt like I didn’t come out of it less healthy than I went in…

Why can’t I work on an existing project?
Every hackathon I’ve been to has required that you come up with a new idea to hack on…I spend most of my time working on projects that I think are important and worthwhile. My head is full of them, I know my way around my toolkit and the codebase, and I have endless ideas for improvements and new features I want to work on…

And then they’re gone.
People say that hackathon projects are just prototypes, and that great things can later emerge from them. However, hackathon projects seldom survive beyond the weekend of the hack…”

Hackathons and Minimum Viable Prototypes

“There’s been some prominent blog posts recently questioning the usefulness of hackathon events. Some focus on the cultural issues associated with many prototypehackathons–that by default they appeal to a very homogeneous subset of tech workers (aka young white male coders who enjoy subsisting on beer and pizza). This can be mitigated by thoughtful event organizers–advertising your event in places where a diverse crowd will see it, explicitly inviting beginning developers and non-developers (designers, product managers, community members), having a code of conduct, providing child care, serving real food, etc…

A deeper criticism of hackathons is that, although they may be fun, since nearly all hackathon projects are abandoned after the event is over, they’re no good for creating startups, real useful products, or social change. All they might be good for is networking. Thus, these events are oversold. I think there is a point here, but I don’t think you can conclude from it that hackathons aren’t worthwhile to run or attend. Rather, attendees and observers should modify their expectations…”

Tentative Titles For Post Series

The above excerpts set the tone for this series of posts I’m publishing. I read these types of “negative” experiences as great opportunities to correct deficiencies in the long tech events, to make sure the events don’t try to be everything to everyone, and to do the best possible job of communicating what the events offer and what types of people are target participants or attendees.

Currently-planned topics for upcoming posts in this series are:

  1. Identify and prioritize opportunities for improving long tech events
  2. Deeper look at Number 1 Improvement Opportunity
  3. Deeper look at Number 2 Improvement Opportunity
  4. Deeper look at Number 3 Improvement Opportunity
  5. Overview of Number 4 – n Improvement Opportunities
  6. Automattic Events Improvement Opportunities

Additional Links: Deficiencies of Long Tech Events

linksAs an organic outcome of my events wrangler activities over the years, I’ve captured information about how people wanted unconferences, hackathons and other long tech events improved. My “Unconferences and Hackathon” Google Doc is a repository for that information and is continually updated. Improvement ideas I learn or develop as a result of publishing this series of posts will be incorporated into the Gdoc to help organize and run more engaging, enjoyable and effective events in the future. For events wranglers or event participants who are highly interested in this topic, I pulled from my Gdoc the following eleven links to additional posts and articles which mention or infer improvements needed for long tech events.

Unconferences: The Good, the Bad, and the Utterly Boring

The Death Of The Unconference

The Diabetes UnConference

Who’s (Not) Welcome at Hackathons?

Finding Childcare for the UX Sprint

Ten Protips on Avoiding Hackathon Fail

‘Hackathon’ Events: Do They Really Help Anyone?

On Hackathons and Solutionism

The Hackathon Is On: Pitching and Programming the Next Killer App

Why Hackathons Suck (and don’t have to)

Why I don’t like unconferences

Please check out the links above and come back to Events Wrangling tomorrow or in the near future for more about the issue of seriously improving long tech events. I hope you’ll join in this discussion by emailing me or otherwise generating online or in-person conversations relevant to this post series.

If you’ve written a post about this subject or have read worthwhile posts and articles on the topic, please send a link to it to me at bwaldron (att) gmail [dott] com.

———-

Posts in this “Improving Long Tech Events” series:

Making Long Tech Events Better
Improving Long Tech Events: Priorities
Improving Long Tech Events: #1 Priority
Improving Long Tech Events: #2 Priority
Improving Long Tech Events: #3 Priority
Improving Long Tech Events: #4 Priority
Improving Long Tech Events: #5 Priority
#6 Priority: Follow-Up For Greater Impact
Priority #7: Storytelling & Documentation
Improving Long Tech Events: Priorities #8 – #13

*****

100…150…200 Consecutive Days

When I was in Arcata, California in 2014, I published a blog focused on the region’s electronics and microcontroller community. When I launched the blog, I set and later met a goal of publishing posts for at least 100 consecutive days after launch.200

When the civic hacker community in NE Wisconsin got connected in 2015, I created a civic hacking blog for which I published posts for more than 150 consecutive days.

After applying for the position of Events Wrangler at Automattic in early April of 2016, I decided to start an “events wrangling” blog, using WordPress.com, with a next-level target of posts for 200+ consecutive days. My expectations in doing this were as follows:

  1. Be a more impactful Automattic Events Wrangler (AEW) due to increased knowledge of, and skill with, WordPress.com features
  2. Become a more effective events wrangler through researching, discussing and writing about the world of events wrangling.
  3. Become an increasingly effective author of a quality blog
  4. Demonstrate commitment and ability to follow-through
  5. Expand and improve my personal and professional network
  6. Identify and promote upcoming events, and develop proposals for new worthwhile events

More Impactful Automattic Events Wrangler

Knowing more about WordPress.com tools and features and being able to skillfully use those will allow me to have more impact on people I talk with and on people who read my blog. The primary responsibilities for an AEW don’t mention knowledge of and skill with WordPress and other Automatic products. However, having a good general background in more impactthat area will help me better relate to speakers, event attendees, coworkers and others I interact with who are familiar with the tech ecosystem in which Automattic is immersed. My impact on event speakers, sponsors and attendees is likely to be much greater if they can see that their primary reason for being at the event (WordPress or other Automattic products, and the people who use them) is a topic with which I am conversant.

An AEW can coordinate all the logistics for a WordCamp without ever having published a WordPress blog, but doing the blog will increase my enjoyment of the event and may create opportunities for me that would otherwise not have existed.

Working hard on the Events Wrangling blog will be self-reinforcing. I hope to learn a little bit more on each blog post, and make each one a little better in some way. As the blog becomes better, more people will read it, or more people will get something out of it. Some of those readers may begin to publish a WordPress blog, or they may use tips and tricks I’ve written about. Reading my blog may convince people to speak at an event who would not have done so if they hadn’t read it. Similarly, a few blog readers may attend an event they would not otherwise have gone to. Ergo, I start having more impact as an AEW.

More Effective Events Wrangler By Knowing More About Events Wrangling

the more things that you readThe primary subject of my blog is events wrangling. I will write about everything under the sun relevant to this topic. As a result of being an events wrangler for more than 10 years, I will write the content of many blog posts based on my own experiences. However, some of the content I present and discuss will be based on research I do online, while other parts of the posts will come from discussions I have with people involved in events, or from future events that I help wrangle or in which I participate.

Organizing my thoughts about an event topic will help me manage that topic better during the next event. Researching the general topic of event wrangling will make me aware of event aspects I hadn’t thought about before, or will show me how another wrangler approaches things differently than I do.

Researching an event-related post topic with which I am unfamiliar will give me new perspectives or new skills, or at least a broader knowledge base from which to make decisions about improving events. It’s been said that the best way to learn a subject is to teach it. By writing a blog post about an unfamiliar topic involved in event wrangling, I myself will learn and benefit as much as the reader of the post, possibly more.

Conversations I have with knowledgeable event wranglers, sponsors, speakers and attendees will give me valuable insights into what makes an event successful or less-than-successful. Looking at things from the perspectives of those four demographics will help me to consider everyone’s point of view when working on future conferences, workshops or meetups.

Increasingly Effective Author Of Quality Blog

I truly want (and sincerely need) to become a more effective author of acceptable quality blog posts. For me, effectiveness involves quite a few criteria or metrics, some of which are:

  • Writing content with increased reader engagement and valuemore effective
  • Writing productivity, target 30 – 60 minutes for typing and publishing one post (next year that should drop to 20 – 40 minutes per post)
  • Improved succinctness (less wordy)
  • Inventory of 5 – 10 reserve posts
  • Interview published every 2 – 6 weeks
  • Guest post published every 3 – 6 weeks
  • SEO impact of blog effectively measured and continually improved
  • Improved portfolio and online resources for blog post photos and graphics

A plan needs to be developed and worked on to achieve those authoring goals. None of them will be easy, but all are worth pursuing.

Demonstrate Commitment And Follow-Through

You may think I’m foolish for setting a goal of blog posts on 200 consecutive days. Having done 100 day and 150 day goals, I know it won’t be easy. Or you may think there’s no challenge to publishing reasonable-quality posts on 200, or even 500, consecutive days. Try it and see…

When I hit day 200 for the Events Wrangling blog, it will feel great! The personal satisfaction will last long past Day 200, and my 200 blog posts viewable online will demonstrate my ability to follow through on a challenging commitment.

Expand / Improve My Network

Building and maintaining relationships is a topic that generates enough content to fill book after book and thousands of blog posts. For this post, I am just mentioning several categories of people with whom relationships may be established or strengthened because of the Event Wrangling blog. Those categories are:

  • Authors of online content and event-relevant people identified as a result of publishing the blog
  • People whom I interview as the subject of a post.
  • People who contact me as a result of seeing the blog.
  • New relationships that are initiated by bridge contacts as a result of me publishing the blog.

Promote Future Events, Develop New Events

“Events Wrangling” gives me a platform to promote future events that seem worthwhile for various reasons. My blog post’s marketing impact on the event will be negligible, but every little bit helps. And the post will give me an opportunity to take a deeper look at some aspect of wrangling that event. The different categories of events are:

  • WordPress and other Automattic events
  • Non-Automattic events in which I am involved
  • Other events with relevance to Automattic and to events wranglers

Once again, my blog post is longer than it seems like it should be, and it definitely took much more time to write than the goal mentioned above. Every “next” post is another chance to do better…

*****

Pages On WordPress.com Websites

Websites, Not Events

add pagesToday’s post isn’t about Events Wranglers or events. Instead, this post is about WordPress.com websites.

Many amateur WordPress.com websites (ones made by people who don’t build websites to earn money) are blogs or simple website that just have the default blog format and the About page. Often, those amateur website builders don’t even realize you can add Pages to the default WordPress.com websites. So it seemed worthwhile to write a post explaining a little about Pages to encourage more people to use this website component.

The typical “Page” component or feature of WordPress.com websites is static.

WordPress.com Support Webpages

As the official support webpage explains, the term “static” means “that the information displayed on a page doesn’t change, or doesn’t change often. A great example of a page would be the About or Contact Us section of a website.”

In addition to explaining how to add a Page, the above support webpage explains how to specify which Page is the “front” page on your website and talks a bit about creating Sub-Pages. The front page is the one visitors will see first when they come to your website. Sub-Pages are explained more thoroughly on the Page Options support webpage.

WordPress Codex

After you read through the official support webpages, you should also check out the Codex, “the online manual for WordPress and a living repository for WordPress information and documentation.”

The WordPress Codex is a good starting point for information on how to build or modify your WordPress website. The Pages section in the Codex has a more detailed discussion than the “support” page, so it’s worth reading both resources.

As an example, here’s what the Codex says about Static Home Pages:

By default, WordPress shows your most recent posts in reverse chronological order on the front page of your site. Many WordPress users want a static front page or splash page as the front page instead. This “static front page” look is common for users desiring static or welcoming information on the front page of the site.

Google Search For WordPress Resources

google WP Pages searchHere are a few more top search results from Google for WordPress Pages.

  1. WordPress TV, the official WordPress video resource from Automattic
  2. Lynda.com training courses for WordPress (Lynda is an excellent educational resource, although you’ll have to pay for access if you don’t belong to an organization that provides access, such as the Brown County Library in Wisconsin.)
  3. WP Beginner’s Guide from Tuts+, an Australian educational resource
  4. Stellar Blue Technologies (Had to include this one – Stellar Blue is located near me in Wisconsin, but I didn’t realize they were a training resource for WordPress)

I hope the above information prompts you to add Pages to your WordPress.com website if you don’t already use that feature. And if you already know the basics of Pages, try some of the more advanced uses of Pages, such as Sub-Pages or Dynamic Front Pages.

As Bob Seeger once sang, “Turn the Page.”

*****