#DayNotes – 2019 – #ukgc19

This is the 2nd working week in 2019 that I’ve published day notes for. You can read episodes 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10 individually if you like.

This special episode is dedicated to the United Kingdom Government Camp (UKGovcamp) that took place yesterday at the Ministry in Justice in London. I’ve been its delivery manager or lead organiser for a number of years.

But Fridays episode 10 day notes where pretty empty. Mainly because I felt disconnected from UKGovCamp, not only this week, but for some time.

I think it started in August 2018 when David Pearson died. His death wasn’t expected and it hit many of us very hard. David was a long standing member of the GovCamp community and worked in Defra, in the same building and floor as me. We’d often had ridiculous chats about ridiculous topics, and occasionally worked on something together exposing me see his depth of knowledge and generous nature.

On reflection, when David died, part of my connection of GovCamp died as well. This showed in how little of myself I put into leading GovCamp this time. Normally it’s a highlight of my year, but this time I barely felt any excitement until the actually day of the event. Which as it turned out was too late.

My job as delivery manager of the event was to make sure my fellow organisers are engaged, have what they need to delivery their part of the event and are working as 1 team. This year we never once all met up in person until the actual day of the event and attendance of our regular video conference calls wasn’t consistent.

I really don’t want to be negative about myself and anyone around me. But more importantly I need to be honest and objective about what happened in the run up to and execution of UKGovCamp 2019, AKA ukgc19.

Because we weren’t communicating properly in the months that ran up to the event, knowledge wasn’t transferred properly, some things didn’t get done and others got done out of sequence. This resulted in a lot of stress for organisers in the last few weeks and days before the event.

Because ukgc18 went so well, we swapped roles for ukgc19 on the proviso that people would shadow each other. An example of this is the person in charge of catering handed over to someone who hadn’t done it before. The new person then left it too late to get the order right and ended up having to take unnecessary steps to get the food to the venue. The food also arrived too early and we didn’t have any refrigeration to store it. Fortunately it was very cold on the day and we were able to put the sandwiches outside in a courtyard where no one would touch them.

There were also interpersonal problems that needn’t have occurred if I’d got everyone communicating better. 1 organiser in particular was noticeably frustrated which made others frustrated with them.

I could go on, but this’ll hopefully all come out in the retrospective meeting.

It wasn’t all bad

I’ve often said that so long as we have the venue and the people, everything else is optional. And this year we had another good split of newbies to regulars, thanks in part to the lottery system for tickets I introduced several years ago.

Many, many good conversations took place this year. People were fed and watered. There was lots of clapping and cheering in the intros and outros. And social media posts show that people left inspired.

New things to try

At the same time ukgc19 was going on, Kevin Lewis was running a conference across town for young developers. I noticed in their menu that all the food was vegan and gluten free. This would be something I’d welcome at #ukgc20. Not only would it make life simpler for everyone, but it might also change a few peoples perception.

When I introduced the online session grid and collaborative session documents, I’d done no user research to prove they were needed. Each session requires 2 camp makers to fill the collaborative docs with useful notes. It’s worth seeing if people really use them and if not, maybe ditching them in #ukgc20, which would require fewer camp makers and therefore fewer organisers.

If you do anyway with the session docs, then you can do away with the friendly uniform resource locations (FURLs) required for each sessions, eg j.mp/ukgc19s1r8 and maybe even do away with the hashtags, eg #ukgc19s1r8 – although part of the reason they were setup was as a backup incase of extreme spamming of the main GovCamp hashtag.

There are a lot of separate processes that are required to make GovCamp happen, eg finding a venue, confirming the venue, advertising the event, sourcing sponsors, explaining benefits to sponsors, collecting money from sponsors, creation of lottery application form, promotion of lottery, selection of lottery winners, emailing of both successful and unsuccessfully applicants, ticketing, reminder emails to attendees, dealing with cancelled tickets, recycling of free tickets to more attendees, sending final attendee list to the venue, ordering food based on attendees needs, etc, etc. I’m not alone when I think a lot of this could be automated and the resulting source code and/or services shared with similar events to GovCamp.

Although, my time as lead organiser for UKGovCamp has now passed, I can still contribute by editing the unconference in a box so that future organisers lives will be a little bit easier.

I’m not sure what else to type except that I wish I’d dealt with Davids death better.

ukgc19 was a success. It just could have been better if I’d been better.

I have lots of faith that new lead organiser Amanda will bring a fresh pair of eyes and get us back to where we were in 2018. Stefan Czerniawski’s post ukgc18 blog post put it best:

Govcamp looks effortlessly relaxed. That is of course an illusion. It takes an extraordinary amount of grinding hard work to pull off that illusion and we luxuriated in the care of an organising team at the top of their game. The fact that so many smart people saw that as a worthwhile thing to do makes a huge contribution to the virtuous circle of becoming even more worthwhile.

That’s where I know Amanda can take ukgc20, and beyond.

This blog post took 40 minutes to type over 2 days.




Geek. @JanetHughes' husband ❤️ #JobSharing delivery manager with @JenOliver_Jen in @Justice_Digital. Agile delivery community organiser, including @DeliverConUK

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James Arthur Cattell

James Arthur Cattell

Geek. @JanetHughes' husband ❤️ #JobSharing delivery manager with @JenOliver_Jen in @Justice_Digital. Agile delivery community organiser, including @DeliverConUK

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