Web Directions Code 2013: responding to your feedback

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  • Tweet: @maxine
  • February 26, 2014
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For some years now John and I have included working through the anonymous feedback as part of our “retro” after an event. Painful as it can sometimes be (we have feelings too, and no one likes to hear that their baby is ugly! :), there are always a number of themes that emerge that help us make sure the next event is even better.

This year for Web Directions Code we’ve decided to “open the kimono” and share our thinking with you. We want you to know that we take all feedback into consideration and really try hard to make each event we do even better than the last one.

So what I’ve done below is grab a few representative quotes from the actual feedback, and given my thoughts and ideas on how we will be responding to them.

A word of caution though: you know the old adage about seeing how sausages are made! But if you’ve got the ticker for seeing some of the inner workings of my mind, read on!

“It was cold in the hall at some times”

Getting the temperature right in any large space seems to be one of those problems that just won’t go away. It’s always either too hot or too cold. Last year what happened at Melbourne Town Hall was that through some mis-communication the doors to Collins St were often left open, resulting in a particularly sneaky draft chilling us to our bones, especially if you were sitting toward the back of the room. The people at the venue have assured me these doors will be kept closed for us this year, but just in case, I’ll be bringing along some of the famous Web Directions blankets so we can snuggle up.

patented Web Directions cold avoidance devices

“My eyes are pretty rooted, but I think the data projector was crap”

Join the club! My eyes aren’t what they used to be either (age shall weary us!), but I didn’t think this projector was so crash hot either, in particular when we are trying to follow code walk-throughs! I spoke to the AV guys immediately after the event last year, and they will be making sure we have a better projector installed this year, no one need upgrade their spectacles!

“I’m not a fan of the seating arrangement. Would prefer traditional rows.”

Only a few people made this comment (3 to be exact), and at the same time there were plenty of people who said how much they liked the seating arrangement as well. But I still think it’s worth noting, and looking for a compromise, as it is pretty critical to the overall experience.

Cabaret style seating (as we call the round table seating arrangement in the business) is way more conducive to getting to meet a few of your fellow conference attendees. It’s way too easy just to come and go and never make eye contact with, let alone say hi to, anyone when the room is set up theatre style, with rows of chairs. But connecting with other people who share your interests (ie, they love code too!), hard as it may be sometimes, is surely one of the reasons you pony up and come along to something like Web Directions Code in the first place. Trust me, I’m a shy person too and I totally feel jelly every single time I sit down at one of those tables with people I don’t know, but I do it anyways because I know the rewards are there.

Having said all that though, I do want everyone to be as relaxed and comfortable as possible, so this year we will be making sure there are a lot of extra chairs around the walls and in rows at the back of the room, so if you come in late, or just don’t feel up to being with other people on the day (I have those days too! :), then this option will always be there for you.

“Coffee machine was distracting”

We did in fact put quite a bit of thought into this. See what happens is, there are always queues at the coffee stand at the end of any break. So I thought that if we put the machine in the room, right up the back, at least those who were still queueing can still see the beginning of the presentation. And I thought that if we put it far enough back, in that big space, the incessant noise of beans being ground would not drive anyone to distraction. I probably made the wrong call on this, it really was a bit noisy, especially if you had come in late and were sitting in the rows of chairs mentioned above. This year I’m going to firstly see what the baristas say about having the coffee pre-ground (though I am sure they will turn their noses up at this), and if that doesn’t work out the coffee machine will have to be out in the foyer area, so you’ll just have to make conversation with me while you’re waiting for your brew :)

“Very small plates, unknown supply, and cold food made it feel like airplane food”

I should have been harder on the caterers about this at the time, and certainly noted it with them that as a pre-condition to us coming back this year, I needed their assurance that they were going to put more resources into getting this right. This year I’ll be making sure we have a menu that is appropriate to the way in which the food is being served, and also that pretty much all the food is set out at the beginning of the break, so those polite people who miss out in the initial rush to the buffet don’t have to wait for it to be replenished. This will fix the problem.

“Having no other beverage than tea, coffee or water at morning and afternoon tea was a little disappointing”

An oversight – we’ll be putting out soft drinks at all the breaks this time around, not just at lunch time.

“After party venue was overcrowded”

I was deeply disappointed in our treatment at Baroq House (the after party venue), and complained so bitterly that I think I got a $500 credit towards our next event, which if course will be “never” :). This year I’m on the lookout for something a litter bigger and a little less “bling”, I’m sure Melbourne can rise to the occasion!

“Accessible Wifi is a must. While it was claimed that ‘most of you use 3G’ for my part I only use 3G when there isn’t wifi, I don’t like paying for data!”

There’s a perception out there that somehow “wifi is free”, when really, it is not. Somewhere, somehow, someone is paying. Just like clean water. We made the call that we were going to spend money on our speaker line up (and looking after our speakers really well I might add), having an awesome, centrally located venue, and some rockin’ parties, and that in this context, asking people to use their 3/4G connections if they needed to, was ok. At another venue, where the infrastructure was better, we may have been able to provide a network, but the downside of the Olde Worlde Charme of Melbourne Town Hall is that the information superhighway hasn’t quite got there.

Whew! Thanks for bearing with me on this – if you got this far you are a real trooper!

2 responses to “Web Directions Code 2013: responding to your feedback”:

  1. Great post :) I remember being astounded at the lengths you had to go to with another venue, just to convince them that we might like water available at all times – not just lunch! Things we think are little details often aren’t, apparently ;)

  2. I just returned from a conference in the US, where they provided huge tubs of disgusting “coffee” with creamer. To add insult to injury, they only provided 3 stations for 1,800 people and they took them away during the breaks.

    So, don’t apologise for the barista service ;)