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Building a better LibrePlanet: What we learned from the conference surveys

by Zak Rogoff Contributions Published on Jun 21, 2016 12:59 PM
For the last three years, we've surveyed attendees of the LibrePlanet conference about their experience, and applied that feedback to the next conference. We'd like to share what we've learned from the results of the past few surveys, and from the process of designing them.
LibrePlanet 2016

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Our samples are usually about sixty to seventy respondents, and self-selecting -- from their responses, we can say with confidence that LibrePlanet attendees feel we're doing a decent job organizing the conference. The questions "How much did you enjoy the sessions you attended, compared to those at other conferences you have attended?" and "How likely is it that you will return to LibrePlanet next year?" received an average of about 3.5 out of 4 each of the last three years.

Here are some more takeaways:

  • Many LibrePlaneters want a quieter space where they can socialize and hack after the conference programming ends for the day. We organize parties after sessions wrap up, and will continue to do so, but parties aren't everyone's cup of tea. We're exploring ways to provide a comfortable, after-hours space in future years.

  • Our community tends to prefer that the sessions start at 9:45, not earlier. 9:45 is a little on the late side for a conference, but many attendees like to stay up late hacking, and need their sleep.

  • We have many newcomers each year at LibrePlanet -- about half of survey respondents say they are attending for the first time. Newcomers seems to have a good experience. About two-thirds of respondents answer yes to "If you are a beginner or intermediate hacker, did you find enough activities to match your skill level?" This is encouraging: one of the conference's core purposes is to provide a welcoming stepping-stone to our community.

  • It's important to have more coffee than we think we need. In years when we run out early, we hear about it on the survey.

Designing a good survey takes practice and, yes, people to give feedback on the survey's design. Though we keep a few core questions the same year-to-year, we adjust each survey based on things we've learned, like:

  • Don't use two-part or "double-barreled" questions. For example, one year, we tried to refine the question "If you are a beginner or intermediate hacker, did you find enough activities to match your skill level?" by rephrasing it as "Are you a newcomer to the free software community? If so, did you find enough sessions that were accessible and engaging for you?" Some people responded to the first part of that compound question, and some responded to the second part, making the results not very useful.

  • The survey has a subtler, secondary purpose: It shows attendees that we care about the LibrePlanet experience, and gives them a space to reflect on it. Easy access to the survey -- online and on paper -- helps achieve this.

It's important to us to make LibrePlanet better every year, and we appreciate your help. The community doesn't just provide feedback -- we do the planning, but you supply presentations, hallway conversations, and new projects to discuss each year.

We are working to finalize the dates for LibrePlanet 2017. Join the LibrePlanet announcements list on the conference site to receive updates. In the meantime, you can:

We hope to see you at LibrePlanet 2017!

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