November 10th crowd brainstorming workshop was set as a continuation for our efforts to reinvigorate once thriving tech community of the Hudson Valley, NY.
At our first one we were able to define core Purpose-Principles-Participants-Practices we’d like to see. For the second one we decided to play with another Liberating Structure frequently used to facilitate innovative brainstormings.
The TRIZ exercise allows participants to brainstorm what are the things that we can do badly or cause our efforts to fail. This creates a light-hearted way to look at success and failure factors for a project. We applied this exercise to holding technology events (formerly HVTech; new name TBD)
The first question we asked our participants was “What are the ways that we can work together or separately to make sure that Hudson Valley Tech Meetup fails?” We received multiple answers including, no agenda, no refreshments, having topics completely irrelevant to the participants, holding events in an uncomfortable location (no chairs), no socialization between participants, sell attendees data, having a political agenda, Argue, Intimidate others, really confusing speakers, set up people to be adversarial to each other, form non-inclusive groups, be overly critical, blatantly use the group for personal gain, and hold public shaming sessions. These suggestions were discussed with good hilarity and humor. We found that the participants gathered steam and ran out of time before running out of ideas.
The next question we asked was “Which ones are happening now?” Answers included not adapting to changes resulting from COVID, be inflexible about trying different event structures, no community guidelines, have no clear organizational structure, no Q&As, hold meetings in places where it is difficult to attend, and too many sales presentations. This discussion helped the participants discover that their worst practices are sometimes in play. Knowing this helps us to avoid those destructive practices into the future.
The last question we asked was “What are the first steps you can take, either individually or as a group, to prevent steps that will undermine Hudson Valley Tech Meetup?” Answers included: Happy hour for remote workers, meet local tech workers and hear about the cool things that they are working on, come up with meeting ideas that will likely engage people, have multiple chairs, collaborative projects, be open-minded, and provide feedback. At this point the discussion really devolved into traveling down the rabbit holes of some of these ideas. Our take on the entire evening was that it was useful to air these ideas and engage potential participants and organizers. We do feel that this was a “mission accomplished.” Others of us felt that we did not get deep enough into the topics to make a difference and that in order to make a difference we needed to drill down into some of these ideas further.
We circulated a quick survey asking about preferences for location for meetings (evenly distributed between Poughkeepsie, Newburgh, and Kingston), frequency of meetings (50% wanted monthly), interests to be covered (most people were interested in networking, followed by special tech topics, specific speakers, and finding out about new businesses), format of meetings (60% wanted both remote and in-person and 40% wanted physical), and lastly, what topics/companies/technologies of interest (machine learning, cybersecurity, education, broadband, design, game development, scripting languages, web development, data analytics, no code/low code, and emerging technologies especially locally to the Hudson Valley. Participants suggested some emphasis on socializing and networking to ensure attendance and enjoyment for continued attendance.