It seems almost incredible, but UXcamp in Berlin exists for already 5 years now! Pidoco has been supporting the UXcamp from the very first days by initiating and growing the event. When we started back in 2008 we were curious to find about 200 people interested in gathering for a weekend in Berlin to share all kind of things about UX with each other. The 5th time now there were more than 500 people coming from all kinds of continents, which feels just incredible to us.
With growth comes always the question of how to maintain the quality of the camp for the next years. To me the main quality of UXcamp Europe is the Participant Experience, i.e. the reason why we can read statements like
- “The greatest week-end ever ! My 1st Time with You. And it was Perfect ! Thank You Team’s UXcamp
#uxce13 was an awesome PX (participant experience). Thanks to the organizers. Question to myself: Why hadn’t I been there in 2012, 2011, …” https://twitter.com/g16n/status/349074814390120448
- “Had a
#awesome #userexperience @UxCampEurope ! Thanks for organizing the #uxce13 ! very inspiring and motivating :-)” https://twitter.com/denkteich/status/349084391970070528
- “Had a blast at
#uxce13! Thank you @uxcampeurope for a great weekend experience! I wish lectures at uni would be more like a barcamp :)” https://twitter.com/MAddin_M/status/349103227792420864
When we started to design the first UXcamp we took all our own experience from previous BarCamps and tried to figure out what is key to such an experience. It resulted in a whole lot of small details that we tried to execute to perfection while at the same time allowing for enough flexibility to encourage spontaneous ideas and creativity of the participants.
Being the first time this year that I was able to just participate I was able to observe all those small details. Many of them still work well, but others are at risk to influence the overall participant experience. During several discussions, the big question was the size of the event and whether it might be too large already. It is difficult to say what the best size is, but I had the impression that it was a little too large this year. Especially during the session planning on Saturday, the Audimax was overcrowded with people leaving no space on the stairs and still standing at the doors. Since the opening session is really important to establish the intended experience, it is also important that everybody is able to fit into the room.
The second big thing is the ticketing. First, I often heard people saying that you don’t need a ticket to come to UXcamp Europe, which is just not true. Yes, we never put anybody at the entrance to reject those without a ticket, but this is also one of the key parts to establish an open environment during the weekend. Therefore, we definitely rely on everybody to be honest with the tickets. Whoever thinks he or she can just appear at our UXcamp without a ticket I have to tell you that by this you are putting the participant experience at risk since otherwise the organising team might feel forced to hire security guys for the doors.
Second, this year tickets were gone within a few minutes such that many many people ended up in a huge waiting list. We feel honoured to see so many people being interested in attending UXcamp Europe, but on the other hand there are also many people who grab a ticket in first place but don’t show up and don’t return the ticket early on such that others might have a chance to make use of those tickets. Returning the ticket just the day before the camp is not very helpful since people have to organise the trip a few weeks in advance by booking hotel and flights. What could be a solution? Selling the tickets for a low price is one. However, this would brake the original BarCamp rules and therefore, it is not easy to decide for such a solution. Another minor improvement might be to open just a few tickets a time such that people have several opportunities for getting one. Would this help much? I can’t say. Maybe this is a point where the shear number of interested people is just too big for our venue and we have to live with the fact that many can’t take part every year.
Another thing that is always a risk for the participant experience: with so many people there are always a lot that just consume. These have to be remembered that a BarCamp heavily relies on the participant’s contributions. This time I didn’t hear of many such “consumers”, but I know there are. There are always things that have to be done during the event where the participants should give a hand to the organising team. It also should not be the role of the very same volunteers every year to do these things. I’d be happy to see all those “long-time volunteers” to be able to enjoy the whole weekend next time because there are enough others that willingly show up to help at the different spots, like the coffee bar, the cloak room, the help desk, etc.
That said, let’s all together work on maintaining the participant experience of UXcamp Europe to be able to enjoy the same unique spirit also the next five years!