Last month Tom Johnson of the I'd Rather be Writing blog interviewed me about why I started TC Camp. He wanted to know why I started something that was so obviously energy and resource intensive?
It's true that I have a lot of things going on. Single-Sourcing Solutions is 11 years old this year. I sit on the board of 3 non-profit, community-based, educational organizations: TC Camp (4 years), the SF Bay ACM (17 years) and I just volunteered to be the Program Chair for the East Bay STC chapter. And I started the TC Dojo, the community-driven webinar series (4 years) and TPC Affinity Groups (going on it's 2nd).
Occasionally, I get the question: Why would you do this to yourself? The answer is simple. I thrive on two things:
First, I have discovered that I derive an intense satisfaction when I am able to improve the capabilities of the people in my community. This should come as no surprise to any of our customers. This ethic is in everything we do and how we approach the work we do. Customers learn when they work with us. Rather than growing increasingly dependent on us, they grow into competent, fully independent and self-sufficient practitioners. We function like a part of their team strengthening everyone in the process. It's amazing.
Second, having a wide variety of experiences helps me make connections. This is where the experimenting comes into the picture. With TC Camp, I took a model that worked for Silicon Valley programmers and moved it to the techcomm venue. The result? Something none of us expected. TC Camp has grown 20-30% in attendance every year since we started it. We're bursting at the seems and it's always, always different.
The TC Dojo webinars were another experiment. We took the standard webinar format but gave it a Camp influence by asking people to vote on the webinar topics. The result was a webinar that asks the audience what they want to learn, rather than single-mindedly pursuing a marketing plan that tells people why they should grow and learn (and buy a particular product). And the icing on the top is that it has been a lot of fun to highlight other professionals, other companies, when we solicit experts to be the ones teaching the topics the community has asked for.
Don't even get me started on the TPC Affinity Groups. That has taken things to a whole different level!
Where else do you get that?
Why does it work? Well, because I am willing try different things out. Because we're a small company with a strong community service streak, we have the flexibility to do things like TC Camp and TC Dojo.
You never know what results an experiment will bring. That's why we do them. That's why UI/UX professionals run user experience trials (those are just controlled, observed experiments). It's why Marketers run campaigns and do A/B testing.
You should be experimenting whenever you can. If you're always doing the same old thing, how do know you're doing the best thing you can? Technology changes. Experience levels change. Your users grow up (or get younger and have totally different starting levels than those docs that were first conceived 12 years ago).
In most cases, if something doesn't work, you can always do an update or change it in the next round. Not a lot of harm done. If it does...there's usually an award, promotion, or recognition around the corner.