2012/Outreach Events: My Triumphs, My Mistakes

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We all love sprinting with other experts, but how do you design an event effectively to reach out to and train newbies? It takes more work than you might think (publicity, prep, structure, and followup), but here’s how.

Speakers: Sumana Harihareswara, Asheesh Laroia

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Contributed notes

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An intended structure: 25ish minutes: Talk about things 15ish minutes: workshop with the audience on improving/assessing their events Structure:

  • Self-introductions
    • Preferably with photos of events
    • "Hi, I'm Asheesh Laroia. I work for OpenHatch, a non-profit that runs outreach events and maintains web tools to help people join free software projects. We also work with programming user groups to make their meetings more newcomer-friendly and diverse."
    • We should explain in some depth the events we've put on, so that people know exactly our background
      • "I helped found the Boston Python Workshop for women and their friends, which has pushed the gender ratio in the Boston Python user group from 2% to about 20%. I also helped organize a Scala Crash Course for women and their friends, and through OpenHatch I organize an event called open source comes to campus. (Explain it.) I've also
  • Be slightly populist and ask the audience some questions
    • Who wants to run outreach events!!??
    • Who has done so successfully? Yaay!!
  • Then Sumana and Asheesh discuss a variety of topics about outreach events. Those topics:
  • Goal-setting (AL), including getting buy-in from other people that outreach is a good idea (AL, SH)
  • Should you stick to your own city? (AL, SH) (A: at first, yes. reduce the number of dimensions of uncertainty.)
  • Choosing and building on-ramp (AL)
  • Tricking people into writing tutorial documentation (SH)
    • Interview devs
    • Playtest tutorials / have a guinea pig try to follow docs
    • Take furious notes of everything that goes wrong with your guinea pig / at the event
  • Expert-to-newbie ratio (AL, SH)
    • 1:6 - 1:3, depending
    • Not all "experts" need to be familiar w. curriculum (TAs, floating helper people)
    • How do you check in with newbies without being patronizing or interrupty?
      • Practice makes perfect.
  • Whom do you let in? How do you check? (AL, SH)
    • "Sort by enthusiasm" (AL)
    • India... (SH)
    • Boston Python Workshop newbieness (AL)
  • Publicity for events -- getting attendees, and working within communities (AL)
  • Experts we stole ideas from (AL, SH)
    • Railsbridge, Stumptown, OpenHatch, Wikimedia
* http://stumptownsyndicate.org/wiki/event_planning_handbook
* http://lists.openhatch.org/ -- Events -- join it, and say hi, and get everyone's help with outreach events (recent post: diversity outreach in Python in New Zealand)
    • Plug the events list
  • Structure vs. adhocracy (AL, SH) (A: unconferences aren't great for this, you need structure)
    • Prepping content
    • Prepping your helpers
  • What do you need to capture so you don't fall down on the followup (AL, SH)
  • Getting the event funded (AL)
    • Corporate sponsorship
    • Universities
    • Python Software Foundation grants / other software foundation grants
  • (if there's time) Getting others to run similar events

Asheesh's personal notes

Boston Python Workshop

  • laptop setup


  • building Firefox
  • telling helpers what to do


  • Python @ noisebridge

OpenHatch sprints

  • + ask people what they like to do
  • dev setup fail

Scala Crash Course

  • Organize what you know


Lots from https://twitter.com/demew . Including "First mediawiki developer meeting @brainwane did was a mess but she took lots of notes and learned a ton. #osb12"