ILXO/workshops/How to jam


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ILXO: How to Run A Jam

July 9, 2008
online workshop/discussion


Please excuse the wonky times --- my computer clock was set to the wrong time, so this actually began around 3 pm CST.

(10:01:09 AM) nlee: all right, lets get this party started

(10:01:15 AM) nlee: andreatl: nicely done...

(10:01:23 AM) andreatl: nlee: oops, failboat?

(10:02:03 AM) ben_r [] entered the room.

(10:02:39 AM) nlee: so, what do people want to discuss?

(10:02:50 AM) nlee: there are a lot of things that go into making a successful jam

(10:02:51 AM) nlee: :)

(10:04:59 AM) mchua: Question: Why is everyone in here interested in learning about running a Jam?

(10:05:52 AM) mchua: I can go through the topics on How To Run A Jam that haven't yet been fleshed out, if folks think it would be a good outline.

(10:06:08 AM) ***mchua has been a slacker at filling that in

(10:10:23 AM) ***cjl mumbles something about adding categories under his breath. . .

(10:12:00 AM) ***mchua adds categories

(10:12:13 AM) ***mchua finds that cjl has beaten to the punch

(10:13:34 AM) ***cjl lights candles AND curses darkness

(10:18:10 AM) ***ben_r test?

(10:18:36 AM) ***ben_r watches tumble weed travel across chat room

(10:19:02 AM) ***cjl listens to peaceful chirp of crickets

(10:19:32 AM) nlee: hi guys (10:19:42 AM) ben_r: nlee: hi

(10:19:58 AM) nlee: we dont seem to have a lot of questions here

(10:20:00 AM) nlee: ;)

(10:20:27 AM) cjl: Are there others physically present in ilxo or is it only in this channel?

(10:20:56 AM) nlee: cjl: just in this channel

(10:21:02 AM) cjl: Ohhh

(10:21:24 AM) cjl: well I'll be happy ask some questions then.

(10:21:29 AM) nlee: hahaha

(10:21:52 AM) ***cjl was trying to be polite thinking room was busy. . .

(10:22:03 AM) mchua: cjl: fire away. :)

(10:22:03 AM) ccarrick: shoot

(10:22:20 AM) nlee: cjl: you have more than earned the right to monopolize our attention

(10:22:24 AM) mchua: otherwise I'll start rambling on about the topics on the wiki guide, which may not actually be useful to other people to know.

(10:22:43 AM) cjl: What do you guiys think about events tha are not necessarily physical, but are more extended on-line "happenings"

(10:23:10 AM) nlee: like GrassCon?

(10:23:16 AM) cjl: See teh rather poorly named User:Cjl/SandboxGlossary for an idea

(10:23:55 AM) cjl: I reused the page before I had sysop. I have to get around to fixing that.

(10:24:49 AM) cjl: Been thinking about trying to harvest more pre-localized spanish health content for a variety of reasons (half-mil deployed XO's being among them)

(10:25:34 AM) ben_r: mchua: is game jam still this weekend?

(10:25:40 AM) cjl: I've never really had much luck getting others to chip in on things I've started on hte wiki (mchua and Children's books being the possible exception). So I was looking for ideas.

(10:26:23 AM) mchua: ben_r: that's going to be in early august, at IMSA.

(10:26:27 AM) mchua: nlee: ^^

(10:26:54 AM) ben_r: mchua: i get back the 18th...

(10:27:04 AM) nlee: we moved Game Jam based on good timing for IMSA people

(10:27:13 AM) mchua: (because IMSA is hosting)

(10:27:35 AM) mchua: cjl: re: extended on-line happenings - I think regularly scheduled, sprinty on-line happenings tend to work well.

(10:27:46 AM) mchua: (trying to clarify and rephrase that...)

(10:28:17 AM) mchua: So the objective of all of these events, jams, whatever you want to call them that we're discussing - the point of them is to Get Things Done.

(10:28:28 AM) mchua: To get things done, to get people excited (so they'll get things done), to get them resources (so they can get things done), etc.

(10:28:56 AM) mchua: The reason in-person Jams work really well for this is that you have a concrete place, date, time, and objective of Thing To Get Done, with clear start and stop time limits.

(10:29:16 AM) mchua: It's something very specific to go to, to shoot for, something really easy to bracket out time for because you know exactly when your involvement will begin and end.

(10:29:31 AM) mchua: Being physically together in one location makes it easy to bounce ideas off each other, and get excited by other people interested in the same thing.

(10:29:47 AM) cjl: drive-by traffic on the wiki obviously doesn't attract a lot of drop-ins.

(10:29:47 AM) mchua: It also makes for a good excuse to create resources, since they'll be simultaneously utilized by many people at once.

(10:30:26 AM) mchua: You can go "maybe someday someone will use my 2d physics engine," but it's more motivating to think "Oh! In a month, 30 coders will NEED to use my physics engine to make their games. Better code... better write docs!"

(10:30:35 AM) mchua: cjl: Yeah, drive-by traffic on the wiki doesn't.

(10:30:42 AM) mchua: It's more nebulous and harder to grasp.

(10:30:50 AM) mchua: What needs to be done? What is this chunk I'm biting off?

(10:30:56 AM) mchua: How much of my life will it suck?

(10:30:59 AM) mchua: Can I even do it?

(10:31:13 AM) mchua: Getting projects to the point where other people can contribute is a hard (and alas, usually a thankless) job.

(10:32:06 AM) cjl: true dat

(10:32:19 AM) mchua: One of the big drivers of a Jam, whether it's in-person or virtual, is that suddenly that work is recognized and utilized.

(10:32:26 AM) mchua: In other words, "organizers matter."

(10:32:48 AM) mchua: It's a big motivation for people who want others to work on their projects to make it really easy for newcomers to work on those projects, because they're *going to get* newcomers.

(10:33:03 AM) mchua: So they're guaranteed that whatever "project management/structuring" work they put in will be fruitful.

(10:33:07 AM) mchua: Which means it gets done.

(10:33:31 AM) mchua: (For an example of the kinds of things that need to be set up for people to be able to jump in and contribute to projects, see

(10:34:22 AM) mchua: And more than that, the organizers know that the project-org work they're doing is going to be seen and used by people who will actually contribute something *useful* to their project.

(10:34:39 AM) mchua: Because I've seen the following happen way too often:

(10:34:51 AM) mchua: Project organizer: I'm working on ProjectFoo! It's awesome! I need help!

(10:35:02 AM) mchua: n00b: Shiny! Can you show me how to get started?

(10:35:18 AM) mchua: Project organizer: *spends several hours crafting introductory guides, documentation, tutorials, explanations on how to get started on projectfoo*

(10:35:27 AM) mchua: n00b: thanks! *walks away and is never seen again*

(10:35:35 AM) mchua: Project organizer: but-but-but....

(10:36:09 AM) mchua: ...on the other hand, the fact that people have invested time (and usually gasoline, or at least electricity) in devoting themselves to coming to a jam makes them more committed towards doing something real.

(10:36:28 AM) cjl: hmmm, sounds a little Ponzi via Machiavelli :-)

(10:39:55 AM) ***mchua grins

(10:40:22 AM) mchua: so to come back to the original question, I think that extended online happenings can be powerful in a different way than physical jams

(10:40:44 AM) mchua: extended online happenings have the advantage of being asynchronous - needing little realtime coordination between parties, but things can still move forwards

(10:40:48 AM) mchua: s/forwards/forward

(10:41:06 AM) cjl: You've made good points in favor of F2F

(10:41:20 AM) mchua: jams have higher overhead, but higher excitement levels, higher commitment levels, and definite "we will do X within Y time frame, and along the way produce/use Z resources"

(10:41:38 AM) mchua: cjl: another plus for f2f is that drop-ins and drop-outs are less frequent and less disruptive

(10:42:23 AM) mchua: new people coming into a project incur overhead - you have to explain things, get them up to speed, etc. - but if everyone knows that there's an intro session 10am saturday, they just come to that, you do it once

(10:42:40 AM) mchua: (and then for the latecomers who missed it, you get the people who did come to catch them up on it)

(10:42:47 AM) mchua: (so you don't have to ;)

(10:43:01 AM) mchua: minuses for f2f: lack of paper trail.

(10:43:07 AM) ben_r: <-noob, f2f?

(10:43:11 AM) mchua: ben_r: face to face

(10:43:13 AM) ben_r: k

(10:43:39 AM) mchua: having a closed group working together on something builds great teams and friendships for the folks that are involved (10:43:44 AM) mchua: but it excludes the people who aren't

(10:44:13 AM) mchua: and when you're in the middle of hacking fast and furious, you often can't pull out to transcribe your conversations in a way that will make sense to others - that ruins the flow of your group

(10:44:38 AM) mchua: so in a way, you make yourself into a temporary black-box and emerge out the other side with a team and a finished product, but not much (usually) about how that product was produced

(10:44:57 AM) mchua: so you have to decide whether that's something you want for your project.

(10:45:04 AM) cjl: Well, do you think you ahve any good ideas for the sugar users manual tha it looks like is4 is going to get involved in? This is looking like a "calling all hands" operation.

(10:45:40 AM) mchua: cjl: gimme a sec to skim the thread

(10:45:42 AM) cjl: If you want to say RTFM, it helps to have a FM

(10:45:57 AM) mchua: cjl: +1

(10:46:00 AM) cjl: also new mail from addam hold to support gang

(10:46:11 AM) cjl: Adam Holt

(10:46:20 AM) cjl: call tomorrow

(10:46:28 AM) mchua: reading through thread: the "put people in a room and things will happen!" thing is a common fallacy, imo :)

(10:47:06 AM) ***cjl realizes mumble-phonic is not mchua's favorite channel

(10:47:09 AM) mchua: cjl: whoa, at the costs they're discussing for flying people in, I'm not sure if the cost-benefit breakdown helps

(10:47:27 AM) mchua: cjl: yes, I'm a regular on #whatdidtheyjustsayicouldnthearoverthephone

(10:47:53 AM) cjl: Looks like is4 will be getting himself in the middle of it :-)

(10:48:40 AM) cjl: getting hte floss manuals people involved seems like a good move

(10:48:56 AM) mchua: cjl: is4 likes to be in the middle of everything :)

(10:49:20 AM) mchua: cjl: the challenge with flossmanuals is that they've done much of their work in a vacuum so far - they haven't really gotten into working with the "community at large," as nebulous as that may sound

(10:49:48 AM) mchua: awesome people doing fantastic work, though - I wish we could get them more in tune with the grassroots community, but I know that takes time that anne and adam don't have

(10:50:09 AM) mchua: cjl: and after reading the thread, i agree with christoph that "As ever so often too much time is spent discussing things instead of actually getting anything done..."

(10:51:02 AM) cjl: If there wer a better collection of wiki pages, it would be more an anthology editors job than a manual writing gig.

(10:52:21 AM) cjl: Anyway, I can realize that it is important and that the best thing I can personally do is steer clear of it.

(10:52:53 AM) mchua: cjl: personally, i'm not going to get involved in the event, but I'll probably end up writing docs anyway

(10:54:02 AM) cjl: But I do wonder if they could use some input/advice from experienced organizers. . .

(10:54:24 AM) cjl: Not that they would follow it

(10:56:31 AM) mchua: cjl: ^^^

(10:56:37 AM) mchua: cjl: ;-)

(10:56:51 AM) cjl: :-) :-(

(10:56:56 AM) mchua: (also, there are "experienced organizers" in that discussion - gregdek, for one)

(10:57:27 AM) mchua: (and seth has been to 2 jams by now, although he's only been to smallish ones)

(10:57:47 AM) mchua: boston and taipei were explosively awesome - seattle and nyc were reasonably all right

(10:59:43 AM) cjl: I see you already have a transcriber lined up. .

(4:09:51 PM) mchua: :D

(4:10:06 PM) nlee left the room (quit: "poof").

(4:10:30 PM) ben_r: P-)

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