Who Knows Where The Time Goes?

Posted on 24th July 2013

YAPC::NA 2013 - The Results Are Out

The YAPC::NA 2013 Conference Survey results are now online.

The number of responses was much lower than in previous years, which is a shame, but may in part be due to one comment I received, saying it was too long. Reviewing the survey, I'd have to agree, and I'll be removing some of the questions for future surveys. Some of the questions had good intentions originally, and did provide an insight to what people got out of the conference. However, there is now a degree of predictability about them, that doesn't warrant their inclusion. Such questions about holidays and speakers you missed really don't add anything any more. The latter has generated some interesting comments over the years, but typically the same names appear each year.

This year was also slightly different, as the organisers asked for a lot of additional questions. Particularly related to the Code of Conduct. I will be forwarding the results of these questions to the TPF in the next day or two. They may choose to make the results public, but for now they won't appear on the YAPC Survey site. Of the other questions they asked, most related specifically to YAPC::NA, and wouldn't be applicable to other conferences and workshops. These too will be reviewed for next year.

Interestingly, VM Brasseur has done some analysis of the survey data, particularly around the age of attendees, and the length of time people have been a Perl programmer. Although the survey includes the former, it doesn't really include the latter. We do ask what level people feel they are at, but it'll be an area I'll be reviewing for future surveys.

As both the surveys and VM's analysis shows, the Perl community (at least those answering the survey) is getting older. I've noticed this too when attending. There are new and younger people attending, but generally the audience has been getting older. In the UK, this was identified in an technical article I read a few years ago (sadly I don't have a link to the source), which highlighted a shift in the late 80s/early 90s away from writing computer games on Spectrums, Dragons and Beebs to just playing consoles. I suspect the age of attendees at other technical conferences are also seeing a shift.

As noted in a previous post, I'm going to be looking at the Conference Survey software over the summer, and hopefully integrate it more with the Act software. I'm hoping this may encourage more to respond. I'll also be reviewing the survey itself, and looking at better and more relevant questions to include. If you have ideas of how to improve the survey, please feel free to drop me an email.

Enjoy :)

File Under: conference / perl / survey / yapc

One Way Or Another

Posted on 1st July 2013

YAPC Conference Surveys Update

Last night I managed to get all the talk and tutorial feedback emails out to the speakers from YAPC::NA 2013. If you were a speaker at the event, and haven't received an email from me, first check your spam filters, and then contact me, and I can resend yours.

This year we had 351 talk evaluation responses, 29 course evaluation responses and 121 conference survey responses. Quite a few talks had no responses, which is a shame, as I'm sure the speakers had several attendees for all their talks. Talk and tutorial feedback is exceptionally useful to speakers, especially first time speakers, as it gives them the opportunity to see what the audience thinks they need to improve on. Often a first time speaker might think they didn't go over well, only to find the feedback very positive. Most feedback is rarely negative, and where areas of the talk can be improved, the critique is given in way to help the speaker for the future. If you didn't give any talk feedback this year, please consider doing so in the future.

The responses for the conference survey was quite low compared to previous years. I had one private email simply say it was too much, which in part I think is due to the extra section this year. There has been a lot of controversy about the Code of Conduct this year, and the organisers wanted to find a way to get thoughts about anonymously from the attendees, the survey being the ideal way to do this. I shall be sending the results and comments to TPF this coming week, for them to consider what improvements can be made. If you didn't complete the section in the survey, and want to air your views, please send your thoughts to admin<@>yapcna.org.

The remaining parts of the conference survey will be online in the next week or so.

In other news both survey results for the last London and German Perl Workshops are now online. Apologies for taking so long to sort these out. I've had rather more distracts this year than normal, and getting them finished took much longer than anticipated. However, there has been some work in the survey software, particularly with regards to formatting the results, to speed up the process. It also helped that I had someone with an interest in survey software that wanted to use the code base for their workplace. The fruits of the changes will finally be making it to GitHub and CPAN over the summer.

While making the improvements, and getting the YAPC::NA 2013 survey online, some problems came to light that could be improved somewhat by allowing the Act conference software to talk to the conference survey software, and not just the other way around. Currently, the survey software can talk to an Act instance and retrieve the list of paid attendees and talks. However, it currently doesn't get the list of registered attendees (applicable to free conferences such as London Perl Workshop), or the list of courses and course attendees for large events (such as YAPCs). The latter is a little tricky to do, due to the way courses are stored, but I believe it can be done. As such, over the next year, I aim to provide some patches to allow the survey software to expose a little more of this data.

For several years I have also been asked if there is a way to integrate the survey into Act, as people forget their links and lose emails. In addition, I always receive a regular complaint from one attendee that I send spam, with the 3 emails I (usually) send for the survey. As such, I'm looking at writing further patches to firstly provide the survey link to the Act instance the attendee has signed up for, and secondly to provide an unsubscribe link, so those not wishing to take part in the survey at all, can decline further email reminders. Again I'll be aiming to work on this for next year's round of YAPCs.

If you have suggestions for further improvements to the survey, please let me know. Once I get the source code packaged and released, I'll organise a more formal method for submit ideas and questions.


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