Experience Reports

The purpose of an Experience Report is to describe an experience that you had first hand that relates to the Theme of the workshop. We want to leverage your experience to energize facilitated conversation among the other experts we’ve invited to the Workshop. We encourage each person attending a workshop to prepare an Experience Report, but do not require it.

Experience Reports are not conference talks. They should not include summary and outward generalization, though the discussions that follow them may. They should include plenty of specific detail for the group to reason about together.

Each presenter informally presents an Experience Report to the rest of the participants, who discuss it for as long as there are questions which are pertinent to the majority. Experience Reports can take anywhere from a half-hour to a half-day (or longer) depending on the interest of the group, as expressed by the amount of discussion generated. The facilitator allows only clarifying questions during the presentation. After the presentation, it is open season: the facilitator allows any comments and questions which are pertinent. Not all attendees present, because a workshop session will run out of time. In keeping with the informal nature of the proceedings, projectors are mainly used to display related graphics and data. If a presenter wishes to demonstrate software or show test results on-line, most participants bring their own laptops.

Experience Report presentations are delivered in the first person (i.e. “I did this…”, “I saw that…”) It is understood that you may not know everything about the project, but we ask that you only speak of what you did and saw. You will be asked to answer detailed questions about your experience from experts like yourself, who are the audience for your presentation. The Experience Report describes the aspects of the experience that are relevant to the learning, such as:

•   details of the product or system

•   technologies involved

•   business environment

•   people and their attributes

•   equipment and tools

•   data collection, results and analysis

•   sequences of events

•   relationship to the rest of the project

•   decisions made, why and when

This level of detail helps other people receive enough information to evaluate your experience, compare it meaningfully with their own experience(s), and discuss alternative choices that could have been made in that situation.  Even successful projects have challenges. Sometimes, our contexts force us to do make choices under pressure, that we wouldn’t make today, and/or we didn’t/don’t agree with. Reviewing these choices and what you learned from them has value for the workshop.

A report describing how you deftly solved each problem as it arose, how the project went on to be completed successfully on time and under budget, and how your team was richly rewarded for their hard work would not only be a dubious piece of fiction, it would also be an uninteresting Experience Report. The Workshop exists so that we can learn from each other, and our experiences.

We prefer oral presentations presented informally, as opposed to a PowerPoint presentation. However, if you have supporting data such as graphs, diagrams, or photographs, you can project them if you like, preferably in native formats so they can be manipulated during discussion. If you must use a slide deck, please try to avoid slides with bulleted text; we find that they distract people from the experience and increases the time needed to communicate the same content. In the end, format questions are less important then your ability to tell a story, framing the situation and choices as you saw them, for the group to review together.

At one point, we asked for a paper about the experience and takeaways from an Experience Report. We don’t ask for this anymore, but you are welcome to provide one if the preparation of your Experience Report results in one, and we would be happy to post your paper (or presentation) to our papers page.

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