What do you want to learn in 2016?

As we’ve mentioned in earlier posts, we read all the comments on the evaluations attendees submit, both those on the conference evaluation and those on evaluations for individual sessions. As you’d expect, we look especially hard for themes, multiple people mentioning the same issue. Usually, when that happens, they’re on the same side of the issue.

For example, a few years ago, tons of people commented about poor WiFi service in the hotel and conference center. We used those comments to encourage the hotel to improve their offerings and that’s made a big difference.

Sometimes, though, all we can do is shake our heads because commenters want exactly opposite changes. For example, one of this year’s attendees indicated a preference for a keynote session that “will preferably get the crowd interacting” while another requested “Anything that does NOT involve audience participation.”

This year, fewer of you mentioned issues around the temperature in the session rooms. That may be because we worked with the conference center staff to find a temperature that seemed appropriate, and avoided resetting thermostats during the conference. It was also probably helped by the weather being a little cooler than we usually encounter. Nonetheless, there were still plenty of comments on the topic, but as usual some complained that session rooms were too warm while others found them too cool.

One theme that was new this year was people having trouble finding sessions in every slot, along with some comments about sessions being overcrowded. No doubt this was partly due to the fact that we had fewer VFP speakers and topics this year.

As speakers, we actually love it when a room is full. A crowded room generally has a lot more energy, and we feed on that as we present.

But we know that for attendees, getting to the session you want to hear and finding that all the chairs are filled is a bummer. So is looking at the list of topics in a given time slot and finding nothing that seems applicable to your needs. (In fact, we saw a reflection of this in some session evaluations, too, where the speaker was rated highly, but the ratings for “Session provided valuable information” and “Session topic was relevant” were much lower. In some cases, there was a comment along the lines of “This session was well done, but was a schedule filler for me. I don’t expect to use this.”

As we start planning for 2016 (yes, we actually started on the day that the 2015 conferences ended), we don’t yet know how many speakers we’ll be inviting. It’s likely that we’ll do something like we did this year, and pick a core group first, and then add speakers if early registrations warrant.

Beyond the possibility of offering more simultaneous sessions, we’ll try to do a better job of picking sessions that you want to hear. That’s where we can use your help right now, whether or not you attended this year’s conference.

We asked for topic suggestions on the conference evaluation and quite a few people offered ideas. They’re listed below. We ask that you comment on this post (or send us an email) both to tell us what you think of these ideas and to tell us what else you’d like included. We’ll include the list of potential topics in the Call for Speakers that will be released sometime in February.

Here’s the (long) list of ideas from the evaluations:

  • User Interfaces
  • VFP in the cloud
  • REST API with VFP
  • Disaster recovery
  • Case studies
  • Business development, marketing, sales, customer service
  • More non-VFP technologies such as Python
  • SQL Server
  • Web technologies (Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced)
  • Client side web development (JavaScript,JQuery, Angular, JSON, etc.)
  • Web services
  • .NET technologies (Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced)
  • Mobile technologies (Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced)
  • More on Thor
  • 64-bit compiler
  • Building applications to run as a service and building complimentary UI based apps to interact with and/or control that service’s behavior.
  • Specific things I can do in xBase++ that will complement my suite of VFP applications
  • Lessons Learning Upsizing Data
  • Hosting VFP Apps in the Cloud
  • Building CXP apps for VFP developers
  • Alaska open panel: What features do you want? What direction do you want to head?
  • Cathy Pountney on Reporting topics
  • Rick Borup with an advanced session on branching and merging in version control as a half-day pre-con, especially if we could actually work through examples on our own systems

Some of you may notice that we have offered some of those topics before. Please tell us whether you’d welcome (updated) repeats of any of those sessions; we know that some of our prospective speakers are more likely to submit topics if they can recycle something they’ve presented previously.

Finally, we’ve had some suggestions for workshop-style sessions, where the speaker would would actually walk attendees through a topic, as they try it on their own machines. Obviously, such sessions would cover less material than a lecture-style, but you’d leave having actually tried the relevant technique or technology. Let us know what you think about this idea.

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9 Comments

1
Monday 7 December 2015 - 4:04 am

Recorded sessions that could be purchased by those who want to come to the conference but either can’t afford it or cannot make the time commitment being too far away.

One solution to this is to prepay the conference money for recorded sessions which would finance the making of the recordings in advance. The recordings don’t need to be edited, simply vanilla recordings of the sessions.

Nobody wants anything for nothing but you would have a much larger attendance (albeit virtual) which can only benefit the event and also generate additional income.

2
Monday 7 December 2015 - 12:42 pm

Just a few thoughts about audience interaction and interactive ‘training’. I can tell you from experience at this year’s Web Connection workshop that this can be rather difficult to get right. As part of the workshop I had set up a section for using Chocolatey, setting up Git and pulling down a Git Repository and then getting a pre-configured project up and running. Only about a third of the attendees actually tried it (and just about all of them had a laptop) and of those that did only 1 ended up getting the final result up and running. Some were having problems with their connection, others had OS issues (ancient versions of Windows) and a couple of issues had to do with the application setup and previous installation settings (and missing a step or two :-) )

My point is – be careful what you wish for. For interactive stuff to work you have to wait for people to complete steps and if you have one problem it can very easily throw everything off of pace. Interactive ‘workshop’ style teaching can be great, but is very difficult to work with in anything that is time constrained. A half-day workshop with very focused scope perhaps, but for anything less definitely it’s not such a great idea.

3
Tuesday 8 December 2015 - 11:21 am

I second Rick’s excellent point; I am not even sure a half day interactive seminar will necessarily be productive. One simple connection problem or a problem with some users duplicating the environment can waste a significant portion of the time.

I would suggest that type of session be a full day pre-con. A full day allows for adjusting time as the session goes.

4
Wednesday 9 December 2015 - 7:55 am

I think if you do an interactive session, using a cloud hosted ide like Cloud 9 or Visual Studio would help avoid a lot of the setup problems inherent with differing machines, configurations, etc.

5
Sunday 13 December 2015 - 3:24 am

Maybe you could get Barry Mavin with his Lianja on board for some sessions. Not only is his longstanding RECITAL a very successful VFP implementation on those BigIron boxes, but if you read his vision here http://www.lianja.com/resources/the-lianja-vision , you’ll see a lot of similarities.

6
Doug Hennig
Monday 14 December 2015 - 1:37 pm

Hi wOOdy.

We’ve tried for years to get Barry to come to no avail, unfortunately.

Doug

7
Thursday 17 December 2015 - 1:09 am

Interactive sessions are quite disruptive compared to ‘traditional’ sessions (Tuvia and I gave a FoxInCloud post-conference training/workshop after SWfox’15).

Benefits:
(1) participants get an experience which impress memory more than a lecture, however excellent it may be.
(2) participants can work in team during and after the session — generally speaking the level interaction among participants is higher, which reinforces point (1)
(3) based on their own experience, it’s easier for participants to build a work plan to continue on their own

Drawbacks:
(1) Speaker needs to adapt to varying situations within the initial session plan, including a part of uncertainty
(2) Speaker needs ‘assistants’ to help participants on shop floor
(3) Furniture: tables are necessary, preferably round to stimulate team work
(4) More after session follow-up because to answer the questions raised

8
Saturday 26 December 2015 - 5:43 pm

“Business development, marketing, sales, customer service”

This jumps out for me. Phil’s previous sessions on Getting Things Done and this year’s basic marketing were really helpful.

Other things in this topic: Facebook Ads, Ad Words, pricing your product/service, MailChimp.

And I’d attend a session called “Watch Tamar Work”, where Tamar just works, we watch, and learn little tricks.

9
Crystal Bartlett
Thursday 21 January 2016 - 8:23 am

Reviewed your list with my co-worker who will be joining me this year for the first time and we’re super excited!

Being relative newbies pretty much anything is great but we picked our favorites from your list (stared) and added a couple of our own.

*User Interfaces
*Business development, marketing, sales, customer service
*Client side web development (JavaScript,JQuery, Angular, JSON, etc.)
*Mobile technologies (Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced)
*Building applications to run as a service and building complimentary UI based apps to interact with and/or control that service’s behavior.
*Hosting VFP Apps in the Cloud
Rick Strahl on any west wind products (possibly precon full/half day)
more on version control
project management
documentation – that clients will want to read!

Recycling old sessions and updating sounds great to me (I’ve only been twice so they’d likely be new to me)



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