Wondering What Everyone Knows

Posted on 26th September 2014

The YAPC::Europe 2014 survey results are now online.

YAPC::Europe Survey

Although we appear to have had an increased response this year, 42% up from 36%, there were only 74 actual responses, down from 122 last year. Sadly it was a smaller audience in total, and perhaps that's partly due to the previously core attendees not wishing to travel further. However, that said, as we are attempting to increase attendance at conferences, it was hoped that more first time attendees from South Eastern Europe would attend. Unfortunately, it would seem the opposite was the case, with only 4 responses from people who came from Bulgaria itself. I am willing to accept that many of the non-respondees are non-native English speakers, and found it difficult to complete the survey, but that would be true across a lot of Europe too. Those responding were not just the usual attendees either, there were many first and second time attendees there too.

I think part of this lack of reponse from previous years, is also down to the lack of promotion of the surveys. As I'm not able to attend in person at the moment, I have to hope that the organisers advertise the surveys, but it would be nice to have the speakers themselves mention them too. It is obvious that several speakers value the feedback they get, both publicly and privately, so it would be nice to see that encouraged after each talk. My hope is that the knock-on effect is that respondees also complete the main survey too.

Looking at both the demographics and the questions around Perl knowledge and experience, it would still seem we have an attendance that is on a upward curve for all aspects. Although attendance is perhaps getting older and wiser, that's not necessarily true of Perl programmers in general, particularly outside the traditional group of people who get involved in the community. It would be great to see how we can change that in the future. After all, Perl's future relies on those coming to the language in their teens and early twenties. If you're interested in helping, reading Daisuke Maki's post about what do you want your YAPC to be?, is very worthwhile. YAPC::Asia has helped to change attitudes, but that has only happened because the organisers set themselves goals of what they want to achieve. With YAPC::Europe, we haven't had this, partly due to the organisers changing each year, but also because there doesn't appear to be any long term goals.

From the responses of this year's attendees, we can see that we have a lot of people who are involved with the community in several ways. However, what about those who aren't involved. Is it just this conference is their first exposure to the Perl community, did those people not respond to the survey, or is it that they weren't there? YAPC::Asia's decision to be inclusive to other languages and technologies has been a benefit, not just to Perl, but to the whole OpenSource community in Japan. Couldn't we do the same in Europe or North America?

This year the conference schedule was largely handled by a small remote group of interested volunteers, who stepped up when Marian asked for help. I believed it worked, and if the same group, perhaps with input from next year's local organisers for what they would like, this might be a step to help improve the schedule. Using the same team for YAPC::Asia has worked, so why not elsewhere. It is always difficult to get to know about good speakers, particularly if the speakers was previously unknown to schedule organisers. The missing speakers are not too surprising, but it is always nice to see some unexpected suggestions, and it is useful for schedule organisers to get these hints so that they can try and reduce clashes. I would also encourage attendees to make use of the star system in Act, as this too can be used by the schedule organisers to identify popular talks, and ensure that in future they are in appropriately sized rooms.

I would also suggest that speakers and organisers take note of the topic suggestions. These are subjects people are asking to hear, and if they are returning attendees, may well be your future attendees at your next talk. The beginner track is also a great one, and would be worth looking at for the future. I know it was attempted for several years, but seems to have died off, which is a shame. Those new to Perl wanting to get more involved, can and want to learn a lot from the rest of us. It's why they come. It would be great to have them return to their bosses afterwards full of ideas, which may then enable them and/or their colleagues to return in the future.

Talk Evaluations

In an organisers mailing list, it was asked whether the talk evaluation surveys should be partly public, and exposed to the organisers. For anyone worried about that, I have said no. One reason being that I don't think that the results can or should be compared. Every attendee has a different opinion and a different scale to anyone else. We also have a wide variety of attendees to talks. Trying to compare a talk with 100 attendees to one with 10 doesn't make any sense. My second reason is that I think speakers or respondees should not be publicly compared. In private, one bad review could be taken into consideration and either disregarded, or help the speaker improve next time. Making that public is likely to have two effects; firstly a request from speakers to not be part of the evaluations, and secondly judgements made against the speaker for past work, when they have learnt and improved. They deserve our support, not rejection.

I have also been asked about providing talk evaluations for the video streams. Initially I was against this, partly because of a couple of people launching a torrent of abuse at me for not doing them already! However, a couple of people who have been more rational have asked about doing them. As such, I've started to look at what is involved. I expect these talk evaluations to be different, if only because the listener is not in the room, and the rapport and presentation will have a different feel during the stream. I may look to introduce this for YAPC::NA 2015, if I can get the rest of my plans for the surveys implemented, together with the changes to Act in time.

Future Surveys

I have several plans to write about the future of the surveys, and I'll be writing a few more blog posts about them in the months to come. If you have suggestions for improvements, please let me know. The software is now on CPAN and GitHub, so you are welcome to contribute changes, to help move things along. If you would like your event, workshop or conference, to have a survey, please get in touch and I'll see what I can set up for you.


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