2017 was a transformative year for XTC. I can say it’s the year we definitively stepped up from “not quite dead” to “vibrant and engaged”. I can lay the credit on this to a couple of changes we made to the format at the start of 2017:
- Reduce occurence from weekly to fortnightly
- Ensure that there is a defined topic every meetup
These changes (plus some early visits from Kent Beck) helped focus the XTC community, and help recall past glories. However, we’re always looking to improve…
On Tuesday, 12th December 2017, XTC held a retrospective. Using a simple sad/mad/glad format, mixed in with beer and pizza, we produced the following:
We grouped all the stickies by themes, and proposed some actions for improvement in 2018.
XTC has been held at The City Pride since April 2016. These points were raised about this venue:
- Only pizza available (sad)
- Beer is a bit meh (sad)
- Limited disabled access (sad)
- “old man’s pub” (sad)
- (not actually raised as a card, but we did discuss this in relation to diversity)
- Pizza is gr8! (glad)
- Quiet room (glad)
The topic of the next meetup is decided at the previous meetup. At some time during the meetup, an organiser will ask people to propose topics. After all the proposals have been collated, attendees will then vote on the proposals. The proposal with the most votes will become the topic of the next meetup, and the person who proposed the topic is expected to help run the session. These points were raised about topics:
- Imperative absolutes (mad)
- “How you should do things”
- The community drives and runs the topics (glad)
- “Conversation” format (glad)
- Different viewpoints! (glad)
- Debate! (glad)
- More people, topics, discussions (since 2016) (glad)
My take: don’t tell people what to do. Talk about what you’ve done, and what you’ve learned.
The format was relatively undefined in 2017. Instructions to topic hosts were loosely “do whatever you want”. Facilitation was very light.
- I don’t like structured discussion (sad)
- Some sessions lacked a clear start and end and were worse for it (sad)
- Ambiguity in facilitation (mad)
- In depth discussion I can hear. (glad)
- Variety of format (glad)
- Open debate (glad)
- Smaller groups means I can remember names (glad)
- Opportunity for community?
- XTC Clinic?
My take: general style of format OK, but we can tighted up on facilitation
Attendance was one of the big success stories for 2017. Changing from weekly meetups in 2016 to fortnightly meetups in 2017 seemed to provide a sense of scarcity and urgency, and people really responded to the topics. Mid-way through the year we experimented with “old-style” events (no set topic). There was a definite drop-off in interest and sign-ups.
- Not a very diverse crowd (sad)
- Lack of diversity (sad)
- Physical abilities
- Way more attendance (glad)
We did discuss the “diversity” topic once. Happily, we did get a much more diverse attendance that night. However, on average the points raised reflect issues with the general attendance.
We had trouble putting these points into other themes or categories:
- Why didn’t I start coming again sooner? (written as a mad, but actually a glad)
- Passion and enthusiasm of everyone (glad)
- Coming to XTC again! (glad)
- XTC is still going (glad)
- Joe Schmetzer (glad)
Here are some changes we agreed to trail/experiment with in 2018:
Defined Host each Event
a.k.a Who’s going to be the “Joe” tonight?
We need to ensure that every event always has someone who understands the format, ensures that everything happens as it should, and can help facilitate talks, etc. It can’t be “Joe” every event 🙂
Playbook / Checklists
We want to make sure that things aren’t missed, and there’s some sort of predictability about the events. The playbook needs to consider at least the following:
- Pre event:
- Selecting a host
- Working with the topic proposer to add an event description
- Promoting the event on Meetup, Twitter (anywhere else?)
- Getting materials for the event (e.g. pens, stickies)
- During each event:
- Setting up the room
- Welcoming attendees
- Ordering pizzas
- Introducing the topic vote
- Introducing the speaker
- Facilitating talk, as required
- Taking the vote for the next topic
- Paying for pizzas
- Post event:
- Claiming expenses
- Posting photos to Meetup
- Blog post
Currently, there are 6 organisers for XTC: myself (Joe), Nader, Nigel (a.k.a. sleepyfox), Tom, Samir and Jeff.
I’d ask the existing organisers to review their availability and commitments (Over 2016, I hosted the bulk of the meetups, with a scattering of support from Nigel, Tom and Samir. Nader has a conflicting meetup, Nigel has moved out of London, which makes it hard for them both to participate in the future).
We’d be interested in finding new organisers who would be willing to help out. Ideally, we’d like to get a more diverse group of organisers.
Code of Conduct
As discussed in our “diversity” topic, we’d like to introduce a code of conduct. More to come on this topic.
Even though we have a chosen topic each meetup, we’d like to explicitly welcome those who don’t care to talk about anything in particular (or just the topic at hand).
We’d like to provide more guidance to people introducing topics at XTC. A set of guidelines that reflects the essence of XTC (for example, we value stories about experiences over absolutes). More to come on this topic.
Explore Alternative Venues
I think most people are generally happy with our current venue, but we recognise that we are excluding groups of people who might otherwise come. We’re keen to introduce some extra events outside of the normal pub location, if only to see what sort of response there is. #XTCXtra
Some changes are coming to XTC in 2018. Most of relatively minor.
What do you think? Please add some notes to the comments.
5 thoughts on “Extreme Tuesday Club: 2017 Retrospective”
I wasn’t there so can’t vouch for its accuracy but this looks like a very honest and useful evaluation of XTC in 2017. I think the idea of writing down how the magic happens is a great idea and can start to build a community of organisers. It’s much less intimidating if there is a guide to explain what to do! We did this for the SPA conference some years ago and it was really useful to transcribe the oral history.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Thanks Joe! – well double thanks, thanks for rebooting XTC and thanks for the retro.
Not a lot to add really, I suppose I was a member of a previous generation of XTC’ers and while I come (very) occasionally I think XTC has moved on – i.e. I’d love to have the old XTC back but it was of a time and a place.
Perhaps that’s why I’d like to see the alternatives corner where one can just stumble on a topic and talk.
But I can also see that having a topic is key to the new rebooted XTC, perhaps thats a sign that the club is no longer in uncharted territory.
– some alternative to pizza please
– old man’s pub: how would I know? I am an old man, I tend to think a modern trendy pub might offer less opportunity to talk (without music)
– diversity: how do you know the real diversity? Some diverse people don’t look diverse
Looking back when we planned changes at the start of the year your ah-ha was the most interesting part: “XTC is the group of people who look beyond the canned answers in software development. We see “solutions” as a limiting goal. We are the people who are always questioning the established wisdom.” It seems a missed opportunity that we didn’t discuss that in the retrospective. How did we do in 2017? How can we keep it true in 2018?
Thanks for pulling that up! I’ve been thinking about this for a few weeks – that’s how long it normally take me to respond 🙂
This is a personal take, but I take that statement as aspirational. I don’t feel we collectively challenged established wisdom in 2017. Rather, I felt the discussions that occurred were more novices exploring an unfamiliar topic, with some more seasoned experts through in the mix. I learned a lot over the year, and felt I was able to help others, which makes me feel good personally.
I’m now trying to square that with other changes we’re making. Can we be more challenging? Should we?