Birds of a feather…dinners?

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James Adam

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Feb 14, 2013, 10:13:36 AM2/14/13
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Hi all,

We are trying a few new things this year, and with the slight increase in size, we also have a slightly larger amount of money available for this kind of experimentation.

Last year there was an effort to organise small groups of people interested in some specific thing -- what you might call "birds of a feather" -- to have lunch together and share ideas. We're really keen to support this kind of endeavour, and give them some semblance of being official, whilst also being very-much community-organised.

So, we thought that perhaps we could put some of the additional money into supporting those dinners. I guess we're imaging a few groups of 8-10 people self-organising and dealing with their own restaurant bookings, etc, but we'll offset a portion of the total cost of the dinner. A generous chunk of our fund will still go towards the bar tab after the "after-conference party" (i.e. the pub), but we're planning on releasing this in stages, so those who arrive later to the pub won't find all the free drinks have been, well, drunk.

What do you think? Are you interested in coordinating or organising a small post-conference pre-pub dinner to help Ruby Manor attendees meet others with similar interests?

I think it's pretty unlikely that we'll indescriminately hand out cash to anyone who says they want to organise a dinner, so we've got a bit of thinking to do about how to handle that side of things, but I wanted to gauge interest sooner rather than later.

Let us know what you think.

- James

glenn....@gmail.com

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Feb 14, 2013, 2:27:44 PM2/14/13
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I like the idea, I'm less thrilled about it being post
conference/dinner. There's something nice about descending en masse to
a venue to decompress and let the conversation develop organically. I
preferred the lunch option because the semi-structured nature seemed
more in keeping with tone at that point of the day. It's more like a
panel discussion as part of the conference, but you're eating lunch in
the middle of it.

Or it could be my imagination. I'm sure I'll enjoy it either way.
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James Adam

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Feb 14, 2013, 5:35:31 PM2/14/13
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On 14 Feb 2013, at 19:27, "glenn....@gmail.com" <glenn....@gmail.com> wrote:

> I like the idea, I'm less thrilled about it being post
> conference/dinner. There's something nice about descending en masse to
> a venue to decompress and let the conversation develop organically. I
> preferred the lunch option because the semi-structured nature seemed
> more in keeping with tone at that point of the day. It's more like a
> panel discussion as part of the conference, but you're eating lunch in
> the middle of it.
>
> Or it could be my imagination. I'm sure I'll enjoy it either way.

I'd imagined that people might prefer dinner as it could be a more relaxed atmosphere than worrying about getting back to the conference on time, but there's no reason why this couldn't happen at lunch. Or both, really.

Anyone else?

- James

Joel Chippindale

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Feb 15, 2013, 3:18:30 AM2/15/13
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At the last Ruby Manor the relatively short space of time for lunch and limited number of venues to eat nearby appeared to result in ad hoc meet ups for lunch. For example the nearby pub I went to for lunch was full of people from Ruby Manor all up for conversation.

Post Ruby Manor dinner was a slightly different affair with a much sparser crowd because most people appeared to head directly home after the conference, and there being much more time for people to disperse which resulted in far less in the way of serendipitous meet ups. If I recall about 50 people made it to the post Ruby Manor drink up.

If we want to encourage smaller birds of a feather meets I suspect that providing a framework (as part of vestibule?) for people to suggest topics/agree to book a table or two and sign up to go along is more important than providing money.

That said it might be simpler to just make the pub meet sooner after the end of the conference and use some of Ruby Manor's funds to lay on some food. Of course this gets much more difficult (in terms of finding a suitable space) if all 250 attendees decide they want to come along.

J.


- James

James Adam

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Feb 15, 2013, 6:02:38 AM2/15/13
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On 15 Feb 2013, at 08:18, Joel Chippindale <jo...@joelchippindale.com> wrote:

> At the last Ruby Manor the relatively short space of time for lunch and limited number of venues to eat nearby appeared to result in ad hoc meet ups for lunch. For example the nearby pub I went to for lunch was full of people from Ruby Manor all up for conversation.

Last time there was actually 90 minutes for lunch... It's one of our goals to maximise the amount of time people have to converse and socialise, but there's always a tension between that and fitting in the presentations. Are you saying you'd prefer longer this time? Anyone else have any thoughts about that?

There's unfortunately a hard limit on how long we can be in the venue, but one exciting change this year is that we also have use of a cafe/bistro directly connected to the venue, so if you'd prefer to carry on conversations there's a space on site that's perfect, and you can dip back into the presentations on your own schedule.

This cafe will also be serving food, though we'll confirm exactly what that means closer to the date and I would still highly recommend that you explore the great lunch options just a few minutes stroll from the door.

> Post Ruby Manor dinner was a slightly different affair with a much sparser crowd because most people appeared to head directly home after the conference, and there being much more time for people to disperse which resulted in far less in the way of serendipitous meet ups. If I recall about 50 people made it to the post Ruby Manor drink up.

What we wanted to encourage was people taking the time to get some food, rather than heading straight to the pub and hitting the sauce.

There was definitely a lull as a result, and I think we *did* lose a few people, but I also believe that a lot of folk actually did find some dinner somewhere and then came back for drinks. I'm pretty sure we had quite a few more than 50 people in the pub by around 8pm :)

However, the lull did happen and it's something that I would be keen to avoid this year. Clearer and earlier communication is my current tactic, hence this thread :)

> If we want to encourage smaller birds of a feather meets I suspect that providing a framework (as part of vestibule?) for people to suggest topics/agree to book a table or two and sign up to go along is more important than providing money.
>
> That said it might be simpler to just make the pub meet sooner after the end of the conference and use some of Ruby Manor's funds to lay on some food. Of course this gets much more difficult (in terms of finding a suitable space) if all 250 attendees decide they want to come along.

Unfortunately I don't think us (the conference) laying on food is going to be workable, but for the best day I believe a bit of forward planning really helps. Having a mini-BOF-CFP and booking somewhere nearby for lunch or dinner in advance is one way to make sure you've plenty of time to set the Ruby world to rights.

Above all else, what we'd like to do is encourage people to stay around for as long as possible, and get the most out of Ruby Manor as they can, to the extent that we're throwing around ideas for the evening before the conference and the day after too. I am confident that we can really show the multi-hundred pound conferences that you don't need that kind of money to deliver an equivalent experience!

Ultimately it's going to come down to you (the attendees) whether or not you're interested in semi-organised food, and whether or not it happens. Or indeed any other peripheral activity -- if you have a completely different idea that you're interested in, let us know! Our goal is to support and promote a range of activities around the conference so that as many people get the best experience for them as possible.

Thanks for your thoughts Joel - they are really interested and definitely useful. I'm definitely sensing less interest in 'dinners' than I'd imagined, and that's really useful to know.

But what about you, reader?, I'm still really keen to hear what *you* think....

- James

Graham Ashton

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Feb 15, 2013, 6:30:08 AM2/15/13
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On 15 Feb 2013, at 11:02, James Adam <james...@gmail.com> wrote:

> I'm definitely sensing less interest in 'dinners' than I'd imagined, and that's really useful to know.
>
> But what about you, reader?, I'm still really keen to hear what *you* think....

In the past I've looked forward to the post conference pub mingling session. Quite apart from being ready for a pint by that point, I've had some interesting chats with people I wouldn't otherwise have met, and if I were to scoot off to a restaurant there'd be less chance for me to meet new people. The self-organising groups at lunch time seem to have worked fairly well in the past; could they be good candidates for BOFs (also serving as socialable gatherings to those who'd prefer it, as per last year)?

I see that a more directed conversation in the evening with a small number of people could throw up some very interesting discussion, but I suspect I'm more likely to grab a quick sandwich before propping up the bar...

And there's always the possibility of a late night "survivor's curry"!

--
Graham Ashton
Founder, Agile Planner
https://www.agileplannerapp.com | @agileplanner | @grahamashton

Tom Stuart

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Feb 15, 2013, 7:44:27 AM2/15/13
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On 14 February 2013 20:27, glenn....@gmail.com

<glenn....@gmail.com> wrote:
> There's something nice about descending en masse to
> a venue to decompress and let the conversation develop organically.

At the risk of being contrary, one of the things that annoys me most
about after-event drinks is the inevitable crush of people entering
the same place at the same time. Not only does it mean I'm going to
have to queue 3 times as long as usual to get the first drink, but I
can't imagine it makes the staff particularly happy. To be sure, it's
great to end up in the same place as everyone else eventually, and the
conversations do develop organically when that happens. But any
initiative which avoids a stampede of more than about 15 of us to the
same place at the exact time gets a big 'thumbs-up' from this humble
reader.

Murray Steele

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Feb 15, 2013, 9:13:42 AM2/15/13
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On 15 February 2013 11:02, James Adam <james...@gmail.com> wrote:
On 15 Feb 2013, at 08:18, Joel Chippindale <jo...@joelchippindale.com> wrote:

> At the last Ruby Manor the relatively short space of time for lunch and limited number of venues to eat nearby appeared to result in ad hoc meet ups for lunch. For example the nearby pub I went to for lunch was full of people from Ruby Manor all up for conversation.

Last time there was actually 90 minutes for lunch... It's one of our goals to maximise the amount of time people have to converse and socialise, but there's always a tension between that and fitting in the presentations. Are you saying you'd prefer longer this time? Anyone else have any thoughts about that?

There's unfortunately a hard limit on how long we can be in the venue, but one exciting change this year is that we also have use of a cafe/bistro directly connected to the venue, so if you'd prefer to carry on conversations there's a space on site that's perfect, and you can dip back into the presentations on your own schedule.

This cafe will also be serving food, though we'll confirm exactly what that means closer to the date and I would still highly recommend that you explore the great lunch options just a few minutes stroll from the door.

We haven't explored the schedule yet, but the hard limit on when we have to be out of the venue + wanting to make sure we have as many of the great proposals we've got means we may have to give you only an hour for lunch.  The onsite cafe will mitigate this somewhat as for some of you it'll only be a 2 minute walk to & from lunch.  There's also a pub across the road and a pizza express right next door (and plenty of other places within a 10 minute walk), so you should all be able to get fed and watered if we have to condense lunch.
 
> Post Ruby Manor dinner was a slightly different affair with a much sparser crowd because most people appeared to head directly home after the conference, and there being much more time for people to disperse which resulted in far less in the way of serendipitous meet ups. If I recall about 50 people made it to the post Ruby Manor drink up.

What we wanted to encourage was people taking the time to get some food, rather than heading straight to the pub and hitting the sauce.

It's also worth mentioning that the current front-runner for post-conf pub doesn't serve food in the evenings.  So if you do want dinner, you can't rely on the pub serving you something other than crisps.  That's one of the main motivations for suggesting BoF dinners.

There was definitely a lull as a result, and I think we *did* lose a few people, but I also believe that a lot of folk actually did find some dinner somewhere and then came back for drinks. I'm pretty sure we had quite a few more than 50 people in the pub by around 8pm :)

However, the lull did happen and it's something that I would be keen to avoid this year. Clearer and earlier communication is my current tactic, hence this thread :)

We hope that our plan to:

 a) go to the pub immediately with money behind the bar, 
 b) provide money for BoF dinners, 
 c) release pub money in timed stages

means that everyone will get something out of the post-conf experience and not feel like they are missing out on the pub if they get some food.

Muz

David Baker

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Feb 18, 2013, 5:13:37 AM2/18/13
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As someone staying in London on the night of the conference, getting some form of dinner before hitting the sauce would be important to me, but whether that's an organized effort as part of Ruby Manor itself or just grabbing a bite with some new acquaintances I don't mind.  Plus I need to check in at my accommodation (thankfully close) so rushing off to the pub immediately after might be a problem

We hope that our plan to:
 a) go to the pub immediately with money behind the bar, 
 b) provide money for BoF dinners, 
 c) release pub money in timed stages
means that everyone will get something out of the post-conf experience and not feel like they are missing out on the pub if they get some food.

This plan sounds pretty good to me as it pretty much caters to those who want to get right to the bar, and those who may need a short break after the conference itself to eat / sort other stuff out.

Chris Lowis

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Feb 19, 2013, 6:47:37 AM2/19/13
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After attempting to organise the BOF lunches at last year's manor, I'd say the lunch time format worked fairly well. What worked less well was getting people to sign up for lunches and propose topics. Probably because I did a poor explanation of what the concept was.

It'd be good to have sign-up sheets (virtual, perhaps?) and proposers of topics, with a limit on the number of people. That would make it easier to book a table for close to the venue. We could organise that in advance so that people know when are where to meet. We spent quite a lot of time last year wandering around Soho looking for somewhere that had room for 15 or so. I think heading straight to a pub or restaurant and having 90 minutes would be fine.  

Personally, I think I'd prefer lunch to dinner for BOF. It feels more that you're in "work mode", and gives you a chance to decompress after the event at the pub. 

Also, I've noticed that when the speakers head for dinner on Mondays post-LRUG it means that people who have to leave early don't get a chance to grab them for questions or a chat. This might be less of an issue on the Saturday after Ruby Manor though. 

Would love to hear other people's thoughts, and I'd be happy to help organise this section of the day too.

Cheers! 

Chris




James Adam

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Feb 19, 2013, 9:03:58 AM2/19/13
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On 19 Feb 2013, at 11:47, Chris Lowis <chris...@gmail.com> wrote:

> After attempting to organise the BOF lunches at last year's manor, I'd say the lunch time format worked fairly well. What worked less well was getting people to sign up for lunches and propose topics. Probably because I did a poor explanation of what the concept was.
>
> It'd be good to have sign-up sheets (virtual, perhaps?) and proposers of topics, with a limit on the number of people. That would make it easier to book a table for close to the venue. We could organise that in advance so that people know when are where to meet. We spent quite a lot of time last year wandering around Soho looking for somewhere that had room for 15 or so. I think heading straight to a pub or restaurant and having 90 minutes would be fine.

What we (as the organisers) would really like to do is bolster getting more people involved; I think last time we relied a bit too much on people discovering that it was happening on the day. I'm not sure this necessarily means building any technology, but could just mean a sustained level of communication about it via the blog, twitter and whatever, so that people are anticipating finding their birds-of-a-feather on the day.

I also suspect that a bit of advance organisation would really help too; if a bit closer to the date a group of like-minded people can coalesce, it's much more practical for them to book a suitable table and make the most of the time over the lunch break. It might be sensible to book a table with a few spare seats, but I expect that most of the success of these BOF sessions will be predicated on organisation prior to the conference. We want to support that as much as we can.


> Personally, I think I'd prefer lunch to dinner for BOF. It feels more that you're in "work mode", and gives you a chance to decompress after the event at the pub.

I think I've been appropriately steered away from dinners and back towards lunch.

Our offer of financial assistance still stands, of course. The principal motivation for offering a bit of money is to encourage a few people to "take the lead" raising awareness and encouraging people to get involved (with our support wherever possible, of course).

Perhaps the conference is a bit too distant to start doing that now, but I wanted to start people at least thinking about it sooner rather than later.

Thanks!

- James

Chris Lowis

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Feb 19, 2013, 10:40:29 AM2/19/13
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What we (as the organisers) would really like to do is bolster getting more people involved; I think last time we relied a bit too much on people discovering that it was happening on the day. I'm not sure this necessarily means building any technology, but could just mean a sustained level of communication about it via the blog, twitter and whatever, so that people are anticipating finding their birds-of-a-feather on the day.

I wouldn't want to over engineer anything, but I wonder if Vestibule, as it is, could be used to propose BOF lunches, vote them up, and track who's interested? At least that would give them visibility alongside everything else, and make them "first class citizens" of Ruby Manor. 

I think having some kind of scarcity (e.g. pre-booked tables of 10 people) would help with take-up before the event.
 
Thanks!

Thanks for raising the idea again, I'm glad that last year's worked well enough to at least reconsider them this year. 
 
Cheers, 

Chris 

James Adam

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Feb 19, 2013, 10:48:47 AM2/19/13
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On 19 Feb 2013, at 15:40, Chris Lowis <chris...@gmail.com> wrote:
What we (as the organisers) would really like to do is bolster getting more people involved; I think last time we relied a bit too much on people discovering that it was happening on the day. I'm not sure this necessarily means building any technology, but could just mean a sustained level of communication about it via the blog, twitter and whatever, so that people are anticipating finding their birds-of-a-feather on the day.

I wouldn't want to over engineer anything, but I wonder if Vestibule, as it is, could be used to propose BOF lunches, vote them up, and track who's interested? At least that would give them visibility alongside everything else, and make them "first class citizens" of Ruby Manor.

I'd really like to keep the proposal aspect of vestibule relatively pure; it's already slightly muddied with some "proposals" actually being "can someone talk about X please?", and this is going to bite us when it comes to voting on them -- if everyone votes for something that isn't actually a concrete proposal, we have a problem!

If we need to add something programmatic then we definitely can, but I wonder if even something as simple as this mailing list, or a blog post per BOF with people commenting to indicate their attendance might work just as well?

I think having some kind of scarcity (e.g. pre-booked tables of 10 people) would help with take-up before the event.

That's an interesting idea. Do you imagine that's something the conference (i.e. the organisers) would do, or could be done by volunteers stepping forward?

- James

David Baker

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Feb 19, 2013, 12:53:16 PM2/19/13
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Just a suggestion, but could volunteers just create a new post in this group, which the mods can then sticky so they float to the top.  

People interested in attending the lunch reply to the thread and the organiser could tot up numbers and book a table if required.

Tagging the threads with [BOF] could quickly id them to group admins

We may as well try out existing tools, but not pollute the proposal system.

Obviously the whole sticky topic thing only applies if people use google's ui to view the list.  If you're relying on email, the tag in the subject should help.


Chris Lowis

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Feb 23, 2013, 3:44:11 AM2/23/13
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On Tuesday, February 19, 2013 5:53:16 PM UTC, David Baker wrote:
Just a suggestion, but could volunteers just create a new post in this group, which the mods can then sticky so they float to the top.  

That sounds good to me - I'd be in favour of that. Maybe we could get a link back to this list from Vestibule when it comes to voting time? 

Cheers, 

Chris 

James Adam

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Mar 15, 2013, 10:09:47 AM3/15/13
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Hey all,

This is just a nudge; if you'd like to help organise BOF lunches, you'll do well to get some preparation done before the actual day.

We'd really love to support this effort in whatever way we can - tweeting, emailing, grabbing people by the collars and staring wild-eyed, whatever it takes... but it's going to need some of you to take point with the logistics.

So... nudge.

- James
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