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Lessons from my first experience of hosting a #PKMChat

It has been 3 hours now that the inaugural #PKMChat took place. Judging from the enthousiam and the messages I received it has been a success. Fun fact I didn’t get the stats yet. My priority as it is still fresh is to do like an After Action Review of the processs. I adhere to the idea of transparency advocated by Buffer. I think what I learned could be used by others or spark a discussion.

What went well

Shout out to invite participants.

  • Obviously by the number of participants this went well.
  • It is the participants which are the major key of success of a chat.
  • Key asset here was to have a network with a nice group of nice people built while attending chats during the last year 1/2. Also important was remember who comes with whom. When you are invited to an event and the other names on the invite sound familiar you are encouraged to come and share the invite.
  • Attaching a picture takes extra space in the tweet but is worth it. I started with Canva but gave up quickly because most models are too complex. Also I wanted to be able to change the text for questions. I wrote a small picture generator using svg, PhamtomJS and node.
  • I planned to start a day before but procrastinated :). @ChristinKardos gave me the top start signal after #JVMChat. It has been manual but quite stimulating to assemble the tweets. several interactions took place on this occasion, lots of engagement.

Tweeting questions and reminders

  • Questions have been sent flawlessly but behind the scene it was quite different. I asked on Twitter how my peers were doing. @mne90 @iSocialFanz @JayVig @VinceSkolny @millernicole @sprout_sarah and @JakeW12401 shared details with me. Half are scheduling, half not. I also asked on Facebook’s #OrganikChat group.
  • I didn’t felt like I could do everything live so I went for scheduling. 3 options : @buffer but the UI is not really done for that. Another scheduler but I would have to learn yet another system, or tweetdeck scheduler. Unsatisfied with the choice I tried to reuse the small program I wrote last yeat for #XAPI Join Venture. Combined with the image generator that was perfect. But Murphy stroke ! An hour before the chat I gave up. So I end up copying everything on TweetDeck. On Windows the usability is all but good and I made several errors.
    • Buffer is still a good option if you have an automated way to load the questions and rearrange them quickly. Other benefit is that it will run the show even if you are disconnected.
    • Low tech TweetDeck can serve as a good backup but load the questions long before even if you end up not using it or changing the questions.
    • Low low tech keep the text file with the questions handy and a browser open on the host account.
    • I will complete my small app but send the questions to Buffer, keep a text file with the questions and links to pictures for manual backup. The App will update the questions on Buffer transparently whenever they change.
  • Reminders were planned to be combined with shoutout and pictures. Didn’t do it eventually because it was not ready but it was enough as-is.

Blog, Facebook groups

  • A lot of background work being done there. The Blog PKMChat had to integrate with kneaver.com , The posts showing up nicely on the main page moving automatically from future chats to past chats section. I wrote a few shortcodes inside wp-kneaver plugin freely accessible to the community.
  • Readibility can be enhanced but I took great care to have links to add the event to your calendar, display times across the globe. That was a smart move since we had people from Australia, New Zealand, Europe, US and Canada.
  • Why not having many topics in advance and cocreating the topic, the links, the questions. There will always be more tweeps participating then writing the questions.
  • Finding the links for the prereading so as to cover all aspects of the topic is very time consuming. I think of doing a call for prereading material once future topics are known.
  • Afterall a chat is nothing else than a large piece of knowledge being written collectively in the same time. The design of the chat can be collective as well.
  • The Facebook group is not yet very active. Time will tell if this is the best option for such a chat. G+ don’t seem to be be a better alternative. Comments on the blog may be the best option now that we ave Disqus in place.

What didn’t go as well as I imagined

Facilitating the chat

  • Very quickly I realized that reading everything and welcoming everyone was a real competency. Reading quickly, typing even faster. I didn’t want to delegate this since I knew most the participants. Murphy stroke again as my favorite tool for chating @Kneaver didn’t work well. I ended up jumping between browsers and Tweetdeck. The good thing is that it went unnoticed. For me it was just normal to handle the chat just by myself as I saw @mne90 @SamHosenkamp or @sprout_sarah  doing. I have to admit I’m not Sam or Sarah or Martha.
    • I should have reached out for help from the start. I will do now that I learned. Also a community is now established and it will be easier to facilitate it further.
    • Once the chat starts one should be focused on facilitating interactions more than the functioning of the system or participating.
    • I was surprised to hear that some chats are handled by a group of tweeps. I admit now that unless you are among the above mentionned you better be 2 or 3.
  • Beat Murphy. Common strategy in IT.
    • Two computers, both with the questions and hints. Both with Tweetdeck open, all accounts enabled.
    • 3G thetering backup on top of the landline.
    • A check list on paper
    • A clock.
  • I’m really lacking a global view of the chats, something specific for hosts. My dream: List of attendees, ability to tweet across accounts safely, hashtags being attached automatically, reply to several tweeps, typeahead with attending participants handles.

Questions

  • This looked so easy from the distance. When I registered @PKMChat back in July it was just in case. I opened a folder and started to collect ideas. 10 days ago I wrote them and submitted to @JohnWLewis  who is running #Innochat on a regular basis. That’s were I realized that what was clear for me was not for others. I had to rewrite the questions several times.
  • During the chat some tweeps wondered where were the questions. I should have repeated the URI several times. Pictures with questions really helps to locate them quickly.
  • Some questions gave me a hard time to write them. Specialists expressed surprise. The Knowledge gap I exposed in Learning shows that such a chat breaking silos of speciality chats is beneficial.
  • Writing short meaningful questions is an art. It must be practiced.  Questions have to be read loud again and again.
  • #NoteToSelf I should write more and practice writing at a better level.
  • Vetting the questions collectively seeems to me a perfect process for such a chat.

Recap

  • Being a provider of Instant Recaps I was surprised by the apparent pleasure chat hosts were showing to make recaps using Storify. I realized that running a chat is such an experience that one wants to debrief it as I do now. One wants also to review the tweets to see if something escaped during the chat. A request, a suggestion, a brilliant remark. For the host the chat is not just the event but it is also the preparation, looking forward the experience. So debriefing, building a recap is a reward.
    • I will think about it and how Kneaver could help.