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OpenHackPHX 002, A Postmortem

July 26, 2013

Last night was the second OpenHackPHX, and once again, it was a pretty successful event. I guess it's hard to have a failed OpenHack, since the guidelines are so loose, but I digress. Without further ado, let's dive in to the details!

The Format

There weren't nearly as many people that came to this OpenHack most attendees had introduced themselves before we got started. This made the introductions a little redundant, but it did give everyone a chance to say what they were working on. It also acted as a signal to "start doing stuff" and not just stand around talking the whole time. And, once again, after the intros, the event was mostly hands off.

One of the attendees was working through the Code School course on HTML and CSS and he managed to get some help with that, both from me and from another attendee. I'd still like to see more pairing and impromptu projects come of OpenHack, but the group was small this time, so I'm not surprised that it didn't happen.

Attendance

Including myself, we had 8 people there. 2 of the attendees were from the Game CoLab, with the other 6 dropping by for OpenHack. I expected a little more, but a few people backed out last minute.

While this was not even a third of the people we had show up to the first one, I'm still okay with the turnout. It took me entirely too long to find a location, so the CoLab and I only had about a week to get the word out, which is pretty short notice. Some people complained about the city being too far for them to go, but while I think that's a valid reason, I suspect that the late scheduling was the bigger issue. I'll definitely try it again at that location, and we'll see if some more advanced notice makes a difference.

Attendance Management and Communication

Since the first OpenHack, I had set up an announcement mailing list to let people who didn't follow Twitter closely know about the event, where I managed to get 13 subscribers (now 16). That worked out pretty well for getting the word out, and I will definitely keep plugging that going forward.

The guys over at NextPlex also set me up an account for Phoenix, which gave me a place to collect RSVPs. I think people generally weren't too interested in creating an account there just to RSVP, but there are currently 12 people signed up there since the event was announced with the RVSP link. Half of those people RSVPed for OpenHack #002, and half of them showed up (the other half had last minute stuff come up). I'll continue to maintain NextPlex as I think it's a useful resource even outside of OpenHack, but may or may not use the RSVP system there.

Location

I really like the Game CoLab. There's a bunch of large, Burning Man-ready vehicles and metal structures as you walk in (all belonging to another inhabitant of the building), and the CoLab itself is very larger, with plenty of table space and seating. There's also a few arcade games (one fully custom built) and a corner in which they have a couch, TV and a pile of consoles and games to play. It's a great atmosphere to just hang out in and get things done, or take a break when you need one.

I think the physical location could be better, as getting in to the city can be a pain. They are also really close to Chase Stadium, which I'm told made parking a little painful for some of the later arrivals since there was a game there yesterday. But, it's decently close to the expressways and I think the space is worth the trip, and again, I didn't get the impression that the location kept too many people from attending.

I do wish more people had made it out though, I would have loved to expose even more people to the CoLab.

Sponsorship

Since everything happened so last-minute, I didn't find a sponsor for food and drinks. I have a feeling that going forward, I probably won't really bother trying to chase down sponsors again. It's an extra bit of work that I just don't have to time to make happen. Perhaps once OpenHackPHX is more established, I'll have a pool of interested sponsors to pull from, but until then, I think we'll have to forgo free feed, sadly.

Despite not having an official sponsor, David from desarrollo did stop by with a couple of pizzas and some beer, which was really cool of him. Of course, that went over quite well with everyone there.

Time

Again, I posted the start time as 6:30pm, and a lot of people didn't come by until 7:00pm, which is about when we did introductions. That's a format that's working, and I'll continue to uphold.

Getting Things Done

People seemed a lot more production this time around, which was cool. We still had some friendly conversations, but everyone seemed pretty interested in getting stuff done. At about 9:00pm it became pretty much entirely a social event, but that 2 hour window seemed pretty productive and useful to everyone.

Other Thoughts

OpenHack #003 is already scheduled for Gangplank Chandler, and #004 will most likely happen at desarrollo, also in Chandler.

For now, I plan to have it in a new space every month, with the goal of including as many people as possible and exposing them to as many cool places in the valley as possible. Some other locations I like to have an OpenHack at, assuming I can make them happen, include:

  • AREA48 in Tempe
  • Axosoft in Scottsdale (the only place I know up northing, the only contact I had hasn't gotten back to me)
  • CoHoots in Phoenix (this may not be feasible)

I'm hearing some rumblings of other available spaces too, so that list may get added to. If you can help me host at any of these places, have a contact at any of them that you can share, or know of another cool space we can use, please email me.

Conclusion

Two OpenHacks down, another already scheduled and another in the works. And all the feedback I've gotten has been really positive, which is encouraging.

As always, if you're interested in helping out, know of a space we could use for future OpenHacks or would like to be a sponsor, don't be afraid to reach out.


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