March 16, 2014
This is one of the Kudo cards we, the organisers of I T.A.K.E. Unconference 2013 received at the end of the last day. Why is it so special?
For me it is special because last year I T.A.K.E. Unconference was the first time when I participated in an Open Space. Any unconference needs to plan some time for the audience to create its own program. These time slots when the members of the audience learn from each other are called Open Space. Some of the attendees of the event knew about this concept, others did not. I previously described the principles of the Open Space in our blog posts.
Let me tell you what happened and why the participants benefit so much from this event.
There were four parts of the Open Space: Opening, Building the schedule, Sessions and Closing.
Our trainer and coach Alexandru Bolboaca was this time the facilitator. He greeted us and briefly re-stated the purpose of I T.A.K.E. Unconference. He finished by reminding us the “self-organizing” process called Open Space: the law & 5 principles and the Market Place. After this quick opening we were all aligned with:
- The purpose of the I T.A.K.E. Unconference is raising the bar of the software industry by using the best known methods to develop software
- The law of 2 feet – whenever you feel you are not learning or sharing, use your two feet to go to another discussion
- The 5 principles:
– Whoever comes is the right people
– Whenever it starts, is the right time
– Wherever it happens is the right place
– Whatever happens is the only thing that could have
– When it’s over, it’s over
- Market Place – on the wall, visible to everyone, the schedule is made on the fly
Building the schedule
The Open Space track at I T.A.K.E. Unconference 2013 had no previous agenda. With the facilitator’s support, we made the schedule on the spot. We had several minutes to write down topics for discussion on post-its. There were persons with more than one post-it. There is no limit for the number of topics proposed. Each participant with a proposed topic chose a time slot and a corner for discussion. Then they sticked it on the Market Place wall. That was our Open Space agenda. The room had 3 corners marked with the colours: red, green, blue. “Other” is always the last column on the Market Place. It means that the sessions can take place anywhere: hotel lobby, bar, pool, sauna, etc.
Example – in the blue corner, the topics were about.
- Big Database Problems and Solutions
- Programming DNA
- Show me your Continuous Integration
When two people proposed two similar topics, Alex helped them merge their sessions. The owner for each topic spoke a bit about it before sticking it on the Market Place. Thus, we all made an idea and decided if it was for our interest or not.
The Market Place became the agenda of the day, made by us, as the participants. I established my own schedule and chose what discussions to attend. Everyone was free to choose his own schedule and this was a valuable advantage for our time.
The agenda was accessible for everybody and we decided what sessions are interesting for us.
Initially, I chose a topic and went to that corner where the topic was discussed. I listened and asked questions, I learnt from other’s experience and practice. All those for achieving my objective to find out how others programmers dealt with big databases, for example.
The law of two feet allowed us to go somewhere else when we lost interest in a breakout session. Or, on the contrary, when we accomplished and shared all that we could, we didn’t waste time and went to another session. In this way we maximize our own learning and contribution.
Using the five principles, some discussion groups moved in the lobby after the time allocated ended. So, the discussion ended when it ended and started when it started. There were free discussions with questions, answers, debates, code was written and shown live. The participants achieved their own purpose and that was the key of this unconference. We were together with European software professionals coming from different development environments because they wanted to learn, code and experiment. We made new connections and found out new tricks and tips, best practices and we shared knowledge.
For a better next day of the unconference, during the closing, the facilitator encouraged us to express our feedback.
We had the opportunity to write down on the sticky notes:
- the things we liked on the green post-its
- whatever we would like to improve on the orange post-its
- what we didn’t like on the red post-its
Some of the participants complained about the air conditioning, others appreciated the topics and felt they needed more practice, others appreciated the coding sessions. This was the opportunity for the Mozaic Works team, as organisers, to know what to improve for the next day or for the next edition – I T.A.K.E. 2014 Unconference.
The organisers used the feedback the next day for quick improvements. Some of the organisational things were fixed and there were many more practical examples in the sessions.
It is a unique unconference in Eastern Europe where all the speakers write code. The I T.A.K.E. Unconference 2013 participants can comment about this and about their Open Space experience. Some of them already registered to attend the second edition that will take place in late May, in Bucharest.
If you are interesting in learning, experimenting with code and sharing knowledge with European software professionals, come to I T.A.K.E. Unconference 2014 . For details about the discounts, program and keynotes, visit our website: http://2014.itakeunconf.com/
Some others Kudo cards from I T.A.K.E. Unconference 2013