Learning patterns/Documenting your event experience
What problem does this solve?
Events and conferences are usually wonderful experiences, when you learn new skills, meet new people and get new ideas. But most often, these events are really intense in all these things, which makes it hard to remember everything when you get back home. The risk of focusing too much on note taking during the event is that it may disturb your event experience and thus the system needs to be really lightweight. This method is useful for events with several scheduled sessions and scales well to those with several tracks over multiple days (like Wikimania) but can also be utilized on smaller events.
What is the solution?
The idea is to make a schedule on your user page for the event wiki, or a subpage to your user page if the event does not have it's own wiki, and start with this even before the event begins. This has three advantages:
- You get prepared before the conference and take your time to carefully plan what sessions you want to prioritize. It also makes it possible to get clarification from the organizer if a session is right for you before you enter the room.
- People who are interested in talking with you during the conference will know where to find you. It is also useful if you are a small group of people attending a large event, by helping plan your coverage to get the most out of it. It can also give ideas to other people attending on what to go to as well as give a hint to the organizer of which sessions are popular.
- You are already a long way on your documentation.
Use a simple bullet point list, it will be quick to edit, but if you feel comfortable, you can also use a table.
During the event, update the schedule as you make new priorities, so you can use it as your personal schedule. During, or after, each session add interesting links (like the session's Etherpad, mentioned tools, users you want to learn more about), note any interesting conversations you had with whom about what and add any new ideas you get immediately even if it's just a word or a short sentence. If there are any action points for yourself, e.g. to make contact with someone, it helps to highlight that in some way, perhaps with bold text. Don't forget to take a few photos, which can help you in reporting but also help out in the general documentation of the event which then will make the organizers thankful. At the end of each day, look over your schedule, expand or clarify where needed, both for the day(s) past as well as for the day(s) ahead.
When you get back home, take a look at your schedule again and fill in any new thoughts that may have come to you. Read the links you have added now that you have time and see if that gives you even further ideas. Think about how you could share your learnings with your local community. Maybe write something on your Village pump, write a blog post with a Wikimedia affiliate of choice, write a learning pattern or make a podcast or short vlog. Even if you don't actually end up doing any of these follow-up actions, it is worth thinking about whether and how to do them, because it will help you reflect on your event experience in a different way that will most likely enrich it and perhaps give you new ideas.
Things to consider
- Let others know about your schedule, e.g. by tweeting about it under the event's hashtag.
- When sessions take notes collaboratively, contribute there and add a link to these notes from your schedule or from the session's description.
- Don't hesitate to do updates continuously: as soon as you take a new decision, change your schedule.
- If you copy information from the individual sessions to your own schedule, keep in mind that things like the room, the starting time or the order of presenters might change there afterwards.
- If you bump into someone between sessions without much time but with a wish to "talk later", you can invite them to set a suitable time by simply editing your user page and filling an open slot in your schedule.
When to use
- This method is useful for events with several scheduled sessions and scales well to those with several tracks over multiple days (like Wikimania) but can also be utilized on smaller events, for remote participation or even just for going through a set of online materials systematically.
- Sessions involving a lot of personal interaction are hard to document this way, so try to take a few pictures, video clips or sound bites as time permits, and help document whatever has been produced during the session.
- The availability of sufficient numbers of power outlets is still a problem at some events, which may prevent you from documenting some parts of them.
- Example user page from Wikimania 2015
- Example user page from Wikimania 2017
- Example user page from Wikimania 2018
- Example user page from Wikimania 2019