We did something very different for last night’s Web Analytics Wednesday Toronto. Out with the invite was a strongly worded request to produce three bullet points on one sheet.
The hypothesis was that if you give analysts a platform for sharing some work with others, they will take it.
The expected outcome was lower turnout with a higher intensity of participation, and a higher perception of value.
Six sheets were presented by: Martin Ostrovsky (Repustate), Brian Cugelman (Alterspark), Kevin Richard, Heather Roxby, Greg Araujo, and myself (Syncapse). They were excellent and sparked very active debate.
Fifteen people in total came out, including web analysts (Mark Vernon, @web_analyst), creative (@mimc03), data miners (Gar et al), developers (@chrismendis et al), managers, directors (Linton), and measurement scientists (a portion of the team).
Specific feedback so far has included:
- “This is by far the best Web Analytics Wednesday I’ve ever been to”
- “It would have been nice if more sheets were on Web Analytic data”
- “You should ask for a list of 10 people to pull together one sheeters. You’ll get more people out.”
- “The sheets should have focused more on financial measures”
- “I don’t think most people want to come out and talk about analysis after analyzing all day”
- “I learned something”
By the numbers, turnout was down 25% from what is normal in November. I know that some people stayed away because they didn’t feel comfortable putting something together and talking to it. Or procrastinated on it until it was too late. Others simply couldn’t make it which is normal and expected.
If we were going to do a straight trade-off analysis, the quality of the night was high. Conversation focused on outputs and even bled out into a challenge to survey everybody in the bar downstairs. (Until everything degenerated into a debate about survey methodology!) That was the flavor of the night, and, at least, it took on a much more real flavor. And it should be noted that people walked away with something in hand.
The quality of the discussion, which is usually very high, was excellent. There were concrete points made based on concrete data. On this criterion, it’s a success.
Some advice to other organizers of Web Analytics Wednesday in other cities:
- Do a call for papers and check how many people will commit to putting a one-sheeter together. You can run a very successful event on 5 papers.
- Announce Web Analytics Wednesday and specify the time period that the one-sheeters will be presented. Include a call for additional one-sheeters so that it’s democratic.
- Allow time for people to roll in and grab a beer and clump into their normal groupings. (Don’t fight it.)
- If attendance exceeds 25, get everybody up on their feet and get people to circulate into their normal groups. Even at 15 people, groups of 6 will form. Keep it organic (ie. disorganized).
- As the organizer, you will have to moderate and grease things along.
A few variants that might be worth trying:
- Including a link to a given dataset and suggesting that a few people might want to take slants on that.
- Enabling multiple people to author a single sheet (teamwork).
- Publishing a communal data table and asking everybody to write three bullet points for the event.
In sum, it’s a design pattern worth repeating, with modification.
Thank you to those who took the plunge and contributed and those that came out and added to the conversation.
The next WAWTO will be at some date in January, following the holiday season. There may be a call for papers forthcoming from that.