What is needed to run a VoCamp?
It's still early days, so we're not totally sure yet :), but after the first event we needed the following:
- a room where people can work together easily (therefore a flexible layout is important)
- flip-chart pads and pens for modelling
- laptops for coding-up the vocabularies (ideally participants bring their own)
- plenty of extension cords for powering laptops
- wireless internet access for people to publish their vocabularies to the Web
- food and drinks (this could be laid on by the organisers or people could bring their own - your choice - but a steady availability of tea, coffee and water is pretty essential)
- somewhere for people to meet in the evening for food/drink if you're planning a multi-day event (this could be as simple as a spacious local pub with a chip shop next door)
- somewhere for people to stay if you're planning a multi-day event (this could be as cheap and easy as a local backpacker hostel)
The VoCamp Format
This is a first attempt to capture some of what we learned at VoCampOxford2008 about how to run a VoCamp.
The VoCamps in Oxford and Galway were both two-day events, which provided a good amount of time for people to get to know each other, learn something, and turn this into practical outputs (i.e. published vocabularies), but without demanding too much time out of people's busy schedules. However, this length of event is not set in stone. Depending on the circumstances there may be value in having shorter or longer events. My (TomHeath) hunch however is that anything less than one day would be too short for people to get together and achieve something concrete.
Number of Participants
VoCampOxford2008 was limited to 20 participants by available accommodation. VoCampGalway2008 will have up to 30 participants, which we think may be a reasonable upper limit - larger groups may affect the cohesion of/communication within the group. If possible we will test this assumption at future events, interest and facilities allowing.
- Try to gather and share as much information before the event about the topics people are planning to work on. The best way to do this is probably via a wiki page here at the VoCamp wiki. You may want to use the BlankVoCampWikiPage template for your wiki page.
- Allow some dedicated time at the start of the event for introductions, to enable everyone to get to know each other.
- Provide some structure to the event, but leave plenty of time for people to hack on vocabularies.
- Understand your attendees' existing skill level and arrange for tutorial sessions at the start of the event if necessary, but ensure there is always time for creating and publishing vocabularies.
- Provide a session at the start of the event for people to pitch the topics they wish to work on, and find others interested in the same topic.
- Spend at least half of the event on hands-on practical work.
- Have regular group sessions where people can feedback on progress, raise issues they're having, share practices and design/modelling patterns, and stay in touch with what other people are working on.
- Have a debriefing session mid-way through the event to check that people are getting what they need from the event, and plan how the remaining time will be used.
- Actively encourage everyone to participate in the feedback and debriefing sessions; getting everyone to participate will help ensure a more interactive and collaborative event.
- Add useful tools and best practices to the VoCamp wiki.
- Allow plenty of time for breaks and socialising. The community is one of goals of the event.
Things to emphasise at a VoCamp
- Practical outputs from the event
- Working in whatever group-size works for people present
- (GrahamKlyne) An online workspace to allow ideas generated during the VoCamp to be developed? I'm reminded of a (very lightweight) process that was thrashed out at a SWAD-Europe calendaring workshop - see http://www.w3.org/2001/sw/Europe/reports/dev_workshop_report_2/Overview.html
- At this event, I distantly recall that there was also a suggestion that all proposed changes/additions to a vocabulary should be accompanied by some example data showing a concrete use of the proposed change.