Why did the Fedora Design Team hold this event?
At our January 2015 FAD, one of the major themes of things we wanted to do as a team was outreach, to both help teach Fedora and the FLOSS creative tools set as a platform for would-be future designers, as well as to bring more designers into our team. We planned to do a badges workshop at some future point to try to achieve that goal, and this workshop (which was part of a longer Design FAD event I’ll detail in another post) was it. We collectively feel that designing artwork for badges is a great “gateway contribution” for Fedora contributors because:
- The badges artwork standards and process is extremely well-documented.
- The artwork for a badge is a small, atomic unit of contribution that does not take up too much of a contributor’s time to create.
- Badges individually touch on varying areas of the Fedora project, so by making a single badge you could learn (in a rather gentle way) how a particular aspect of how the Fedora project works (as a first step towards learning more about Fedora.)
- The process of creating badge artwork and submitting it from start to finish is achievable during a one-day event, and being able to walk away from such an event having submitted your first open source contribution is pretty motivating!
This is the first event of this kind the Fedora Design team has held, and perhaps any Fedora group? We aimed for a general, local community audience rather than attaching this event to a larger technology-focused conference event or release party. We explicitly wanted to bring folks not currently affiliated with Fedora or even the open source community into our world with this event.
Preparing for the event
Marketing (AKA getting people to show up!)
We wanted to outreach to folks in the general area of Red Hat’s Westford Office. Originally, we had wanted to have the event located closer to Boston and partner with a university, but for various reasons we needed to have this event in the summer – a poor time for recruiting university students. Red Hat Westford graciously offered us space for free, but without something like a university community, we weren’t sure how to go about advertising the event to get people to sign up.
Here’s what we ended up doing:
- We created an event page on EventBrite (free to use for free events.) That gave us a bit of marketing exposure – we got 2 signups from on Event Brite referrals. The site also helped us with event logistics (see next section for more on that.)
- We advertised the event on Red Hat’s Westford employee list – Red Hat has local office mailing lists for each office, so we advertised the event on there asking area employees to spread the word about the event to friends and family. We got many referrals this way.
- We advertised the event on a public Westford community Facebook page – I don’t know about other areas, but in the Boston area, many of the individual towns have public town bulletin boards set up as Facebook groups, and event listings are allowed and even encouraged on many of these sites. I was able to get access to one of the more popular Westford groups and posted about our event there – first about a month out, then a reminder the week before. We received a number of referrals this way as well.
We had to formally reserve the space, and also figure out how many people were coming so we knew how much and what kinds of food to order – among many other little logistical things. Here’s how we tackled that:
- Booking the space – I filed a ticket with Red Hat’s Global Workplace Services group to book the space. We decided to open up 30 slots for the workshop, which required booking two conference rooms on the first floor of the office (generally considered the space we offer for public events) and also requesting those rooms be set up classroom-style with a partition opened up between them to make one large classroom. The GWS team was easy to work with and a huge help in making things run smoothly.
- Managing headcount – As mentioned earlier, we set up an EventBrite page for the event, which allowed us to set up the 30 slots and allow people to sign up to reserve a slot in the class. This was extremely helpful in the days leading up to the event, because it provided me a final head count for ordering food and also a way to communicate with attendees before the event (as registration requires providing an email address.) We had a last-minute cancellation of two slots, and we were able to push out information to the three channels we’d marketed the event to and get those slots filled the day before the event so we had a full house day of.
- Ordering food – I called the day before the event to order the food. We went with a local Italian place that did delivery and ordered pizzas and soda for the guests and sandwiches / salads for the instructors (I gathered instructor orders right before making the call.) We had a couple of attendees who had special dietary needs, so I made sure to order from a place that could accommodate.
- Session video recording – During the event, we used BlueJeans to wirelessly project our slides to the projectors. Consequentially, this also resulted in recordings being taken of the sessions. On my to-do list is to edit those down to just the useful bits and post them, sending the link to attendees.
- Surveying attendees – After the event, Event Brite helpfully allowed us to send out a survey (via Survey Monkey) to the attendees to see how it went.
- Making slides available – Several attendees asked for us to send out the slides we used (I just sent them out this afternoon, and have provided them here as well!)
- Getting permission – I knew we were going to be writing up an event report like this, so I did get the permission/consent of everyone in the room before taking pictures and hitting record on the BlueJeans session.
- Parking / Access – I realized too late that we probably should have provided parking information up front to attendees, but luckily it was pretty straightforward and we had plenty of spots up front. Radhika helpfully stood by the front entrance as attendees arrived to allow them in the front door and escort them to the classroom.
- Audio/Video training – Red Hat somewhat recently got a new A/V system I wasn’t familiar with, and there are specific things you need to know about getting the two projectors in the two rooms in sync when the partition is open, so I was lucky to book a meeting with one of Red Hat’s extremely helpful media folks to meet with me the day before and teach me how to run the A/V system.
Inkscape / Badges Prep Work
We also needed to prepare for the sessions themselves, of course:
- Working out an agenda – We talked about the agenda for the event on our mailing list as well as during team meetings, but the rough agenda was basically to offer an Inkscape install fest followed by a basic Inkscape class (mizmo), run through an Inkscape tutorial (gnokii), and then do a badges workshop (riecatnor & mleonova.) We’ll talk about how well this worked later in this post. 🙂
- Prepare slides / talking points – riecatnor, mleonova, and myself prepped some slides for our sessions; gnokii prepared a tutorial.
- Prepare handouts – You can see in one of the photos above that we provided attendees with handouts. There were two keyboard shortcut printouts – one for basic / most frequently used ones, the other a more extended / full list we found provided by Michael van der Nest. We also provided a help sheet on how to install Inkscape. We printed them the morning of and distributed them at each seat in the classroom.
- Prepare badges – riecatnor and mleonova very carefully combed through open badge requests in need of artwork and put together a list of those most appropriate for newbies, filling in ideas for artwork concepts and tips/hints for the would-be badgers who’d pick up the tickets at the event. They also provided the list of ticket numbers for these badges on the whiteboard at the event.
The Agenda / Materials
Here’s a rough outline of our agenda, with planned and actual times:
- Inkscape install fest + FAS account creation – planned 1 hr / actual 40 min
- Inkscape for Beginners Bootcamp – planned 30 min / actual 2 hours
- Inkscape Button Tutorial – planned 30 min / actual 1 hr
- Badges Workshop – planned 1 hr / actual 45 min
Here’s the materials we used:
- Handout: Downloading and Installing Inkscape
- Handout: Inkscape Keyboard Cheatsheet
- Handout: Inkscape Cheatsheet (Credit: Michael van der Nest)
- Slides: Inkscape for Beginners Bootcamp
- Video: Inkscape Button Tutorial
As mentioned elsewhere in this post, we did record the sessions, but I’ve got to go through the recordings to see how usable they are and edit them down if they are. I’ll do another post if that’s the case with links to the videos.
How did the event go?
Unfortunately, despite our best efforts (and a massive amount of prep work,) I don’t think any of us would qualify the event as a home run. We ran into a number of challenges, some of our own (um, mine, actually!) making, some out of our control. That being said, thus far our survey results have been very positive – basically attendees agreed with our self-analysis and felt it was a good-to-very good, useful event that could have been even better with a few tweaks.
- Generally attendees enjoyed the sessions and found them useful. As you can see in the chart above, of 8 survey respondents, 2 thought it was excellent, 3 thought it was very good, and 3 thought it was good. I’ll talk more about the survey results later on, but enjoy this respondent’s quote: “I’m an Adobe person and I’ve never used other design softwares, so I’m happy I learned about a free open source software that will help me become more of an asset when I finish college and begin looking for a career.”
- The event was sold out – interest in what we had to say and teach is high!. We had all 30 slots filled over a week before the event; when we had 2 last-minute dropouts, we were able to quickly re-fill those slots. I don’t know if every single person who signed up attended, but we weren’t left with any extra seats in the room at the peak of attendance.
- The A/V system worked well. We had a couple of mysterious drops from BlueJeans that lead some some furious reconnecting to continue the presentation, but overall, our A/V setup worked well. I
- The food was good. There was something to eat for everyone, and it all arrived on time. For close to 40 people, it cost $190. This included 11 pizzas (9 large, 2 medium gluten free), 4 salads, 2 sandwiches, and 5 2-liter bottles of soda. (Roughly $5.30/person.) Maybe a silly point to make, but food is important too, especially since the event ran right through lunch (10 AM – 3 PM.)
- We didn’t frighten newbies away (at least, not right away.) About half of the attendees came with Inkscape preinstalled, half didn’t. We divided them into different halves of the room. The non-preinstallers (who we classified as “newbies,”) stayed until a little past lunch, which I consider a victory – they were able to follow at least the first long session, stayed for food, and completed most of gnokii’s tutorial.
- Inkscape worked great, even cross-platform. Inkscape worked like a champ – there were no catastrophic crashes and generally people seemed to enjoy using it. We had everyone installed by about 20 minutes into the first session – one OS X laptop had some issues due to some settings in the OS X control panel relating to XQuartz, but we were able to solve them. Everyone left the event with a working copy of Inkscape on their system! I would guesstimate we had about 1/3 OS X, 1/3 Windows, and 1/3 Linux machines (the latter RH employees + family mostly. 🙂 )
- No hardware issues. We instructed attendees to bring their own hardware and all did, with the exception of one attendee who contacted me ahead of time – I was able to arrange to provide a loaner laptop for her. Some folks forgot to bring a computer mouse and I had enough available to lend.
- We ran too long. We originally planned the workshop to last from 10 AM to 2 PM. We actually ran until about 4 PM; although we officially ended at 3 PM with everyone in the room’s consent around 1:30. This is almost entirely my fault; I covered the Inkscape Bootcamp slides too slowly. We had a range of skill levels in the room, and while I was able to keep the newbies on board during my session, the more advanced folks were bored until gnokii ran his (much more advanced) tutorial. The survey results also provided evidence for this, as folks felt the event ran too long and some respondents felt it moved too slow, others too fast.
- We covered too much material. Going hand-in-hand with running too long, we also tried to do too much. We tried to provide instruction for everyone from the absolute beginner, to Adobe convert, to more experienced attendee, and lost folks along the way as the pacing and level of detail needed for each different audience is too different to pull off successfully in one event. In our post-event session, the Fedora Design Team members running the event agreed we should cut a lot of the basic Inkscape instruction and instead focus on badges as the conduit for more (perhaps one-on-one lab session style) Inkscape instruction to better focus the event.
- We lost people after lunch. We lost about half of our attendees not long after lunch. I believe this is for a number of reasons, not the least of which we covered so much material to start, they simply needed to go decompress (one survey respondent: “I ended up having to leave before the badges part because my brain hurt from the button tutorial. Maybe don’t do quite so many things next time?”) Another interesting thing to note is the half of the room that was less experienced (they didn’t come with Inkscape pre-installed and along the way tended to need more instructor help,) is the half that pretty much cleared out, while the more experienced half of the room was still full by the official end of the event. This helps support the notion that the newbies were overwhelmed and the more experienced folks hungry for more information.
- FAS account creation was painful. We should have given the Fedora admins a heads up that we’d be signing 30 folks up for FAS accounts all at the same time – we didn’t, oops! Luckily we got in touch via IRC, so folks were finally able to sign up for accounts without being blocked due to getting flagged as potential spammers. The general workflow for FAS account signup (as we all know) is really clunky and definitely made things more difficult than it needed to be.
- We should have been more clear about the agenda / had slides available. This one came up multiple times on the survey – folks wanted a local copy of the slides / agenda at the event so when they got lost they could try to help themselves. We were surprised by unwilling folks seemed to be to ask for help, despite our attempts to set a laid back, audience-participation heavy environment. In chatting with some of the attendees over lunch and after the event, both newbie and experienced folks expressed a desire to avoid ‘slowing everybody else down’ by asking a question and wanting to try to ‘figure it out myself first.’
- No OSD keypress guides. We forgot to run an app that showed our keypresses while we demoed stuff, which would have made our instructions easier to follow. One of the survey respondents pointed this one out.
- We didn’t have name badges Another survey comment – we weren’t wearing name badges and our names weren’t written anywhere, so some folks forgot our names and didn’t know how to call for us.
- We weren’t super-organized on assisting folks around the room. We should have set a game plan before starting and assigned some of the other staff to stand in particular corners of the room and kind of assign them that area to help people one-on-one. This would have helped because as just mentioned, people were reluctant to ask for help. Pacing behind them as they worked and taking note of their screens when they seemed stuck and offering help worked well.
Survey results so far
Thus far we’ve had 8 respondents out of the 30 attendees, which is actually not an awful response rate. Here’s a quick rundown of the results:
- How likely is it that you would recommend the event to a friend or colleague? 2 detractors, 3 passives, 2 promoters; net promoter score 0 (eek)
- Overall, how would you rate the event? Excellent (2), Very Good (3), Good (3), Fair (0), Poor (o)
- What did you like about the event? This was a freeform text field. Some responses:
- “I think the individuals running the event did a great job catering to the inexperience of some of the audience members. The guy that ran the button making lab was incredibly knowledgeable and he helped me learn a lot of new tools in a software I’ve never used before that I may not have found on my own.”
- “The first Inkscape walk through of short cut keys and their use. Presenter was confident, well prepared and easy to follow. Everyone was very helpful later as we tried “Evil Computer” mods with assistance from knowledgeable artists.”
- “I enjoyed learning about Inkscape. Once I understood all the basic commands it made it very easy to render cool-looking logos.”
- “It was a good learning experience. It taught me some things about graphics that I did not know.”
- What did you dislike about the event? This was a freeform text field. Some responses:
- “I wish there was more of an agenda that went out. I tried installing Inkscape at my home before going, but I ran into some issues so I went to the office early to get help. Then I found out that the first hour of the workshop was actually designed to help people instal it. It also went much later than originally indicated and although it didn’t bother me, many people left at the time it was supposed to end, therefore not being able to see how to be an open source contributor.”
- “The button explanation was very fast and confusing. I’m hoping the video helps because I can pause it and looking away for a moment won’t mean I miss something important.”
- “Hard to follow directions, too fast paced”
- “The pace was sometimes too slow.”
- “While the pace felt good, it can be hard to follow what specific keypresses/mouse movements produced an effect on the projector. When it’s time to do it yourself, you may have forgotten or just get confused. A handout outlining the steps for each assignment would have been helpful.”
- How organized was the event? Extremely organized (0), Very organized (5), Somewhat organized (3), Not so organized (0), Not at all organized (0)
- How friendly was the staff? Extremely friendly (4), Very friendly (4), Somewhat friendly (0), Not so friendly (0), Not at all friendly (0)
- How helpful was the staff? Extremely helpful (2), Very helpful (3), Somewhat helpful (3), not so helpful (0), not at all helpful (0).
- How much of the information you were hoping to get from this event did you walk away with? All of the information (4), most of the information (2), some of the information (2), a little of the information (0), none of the information (0)
- Was the event length too long, too short, or about right? Much too long (0), somewhat too long (3), slightly too long (3), about right (2), slightly too short (0), somewhat too short (0), much too short (0).
- Freeform Feedback: Some example things people wrote:
- “I’m an Adobe person and I’ve never used other design softwares, so I’m happy I learned about a free open source software that will help me become more of an asset when I finish college and begin looking for a career.”
- “Overall fantastic event. I hope I’m able to find out if another workshop like this is ever held because I’d definitely go.”
- “If you are willing to make the slides available and focus on tool flow it would help as I am still looking for how BADGE is obtained and distributed.”
Despite some of the hiccups, it is clear attendees got a lot out of the event and enjoyed it. There are a lot of recommendations / suggestions documented in this post for improving the next event, should one of us decide to run another one.
In general, in our post-event discussion we agreed that future events should have a tighter experience level pre-requisite; for example, absolute beginners tended to like the Inkscape bootcamp material, so maybe have a separate Inkscape bootcamp event for them. The more experienced users enjoyed gnokii’s project-style, fast-paced tutorial and the badges workshop, so having an event that included just that material and had a pre-requisite (perhaps you must be able to install Inkscape on your own and be at least a little comfortable using it) would probably work well.
Setting a time limit of 3-4 hours and sticking to it, with check-ins, would be ideal. I think an event like this with this many attendees needs 2-3 people minimum running it to work smoothly. If there were 2-3 Fedorans co-located and comfortable with the material, it could be run fairly cheaply; if the facility is free, you could do it for around $200 if you provide food.
Anyway I hope this event summary is useful, and helps folks run events like this in the future! A big thanks to the Fedora Council for funding the Fedora Design Team FAD and this event!