Couch sessions or The secret of our community

September 26, 2013

Category: Community
Author: gina steiner
Keywords: community, barcamp, typo3camp

For more than 10 years people keep telling me how wonderful and unique the TYPO3 community is, how enthusiastic. Do you know why? I do.

It's about the people, about the so called personal itch, the passion and of course the bazaar.


So what has this to do with a couch?

On TYPO3camp Mallorca Antje Möller, Riona Kuthe and myself came up with a personal itch: Why are the female attendees on camps and conferences often too shy to do talks/sessions. I mean... finding your place in a male-dominated area is not always easy and if you made it, why do you remain silent?

To shed some light on this we offered a discussion called "Encouraging females into sessions" on the first day of the camp and we held this session at the pool ;-).

It was a very interesting discussion and besides the facts on usual statistic characteristics of females and males we recognized that all women would love to have more informal sessions - we found out that this could remove some of the reasons why women seem to stay shy. I'm not going to tell you the reasons, I’ll tell you the outcome of this discussion.

The idea is simple: interact, communicate, share thoughts, get on the couch to talk and discuss. No overhead projector, no preparation, you don’t even need to know anything about the issue you want to discuss. Simply come up with a subject  at the opening session in the morning. So we invented the "couch session".

The next day we rededicated one session to a couch session and relocated it a to a huge couch next to the reception. The couch session was so popular that I think we could have done two of them.

Believe it or not, we had the nice side effect we aimed for: an increase of female sessions of 100%.

So for me it's not only about encouraging women, it's also about a personal itch I have had for years. One of the reasons I kept the T3DD08, 09 and 10 small and hand-made in Elmshorn: It's about coming back to the roots, touching the base and personalize, about taking care the situation does not get impersonal. And the couch sessions are a good way to keep it personal and everybody in interaction. The people on the camp loved it - it is definitely the spirit of a barcamp and of our community.

We should foster flexibility, spontaneity and improvisation since this is one of the main forces driving our community - let's go for at least one couch session per camp!

Cheers Gina

P.S. I want to thank Ben for his effort in getting more women and diversity into the community, Antje for her insight into female psychology, Riona for her wisdom and my boss Sven Ditz for supporting us from the very beginning.

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