Public Lab Research note

2013 Barnraising evaluation summary

by Shannon | October 27, 2013 17:42 27 Oct 17:42 | #9649 | #9649

Becki and I spent Friday afternoon coding and summarizing the responses to the barnraising evaluation that was completed both on-site and post-event. We've put together a narrative summary of the responses that includes both quantitative and qualitative responses received. All numerical responses were out of 5.

Barnraisers gave an average rating of 4.70 on the question on feeling like they received adequate information prior to the barnraising. A couple people mentioned that although adequate, they would like it earlier next year.

Barnraisers, on average, gave us a 4.13 on expectations coming into the weekend. Some suggested that a bit more communication beforehand on who the participants were, etc would be appreciated, as well as general parameters on time dedicated to hacking/tools

Answers to the “most useful portion of the weekend” varied, including the below responses, but in general the networking that happened, the focus on tools and Working Groups and the focus on learning and creating together were the central themes. Overall, the barnraising was rated 4.32 for effectiveness.

  1. Concrete planning and coordinating for Working Groups;
  2. Meeting everyone and building relationships was mentioned by multiple people;
  3. Scott’s fieldtrip and Alex Kolker’s talk (basically, people were interested in having an understanding about the area);
  4. Getting to try out tools and the different tool sessions (hands-on construction and instruction);
  5. Discussions about community methodology and process;
  6. Informal conversations and open time;
  7. The balance between the amount of time spent doing and telling.

When asked what additional information from Public Lab would have been helpful for this gathering, people would have liked an overview of Public Lab and the general conference process (how to use etherpad, for example); read-ahead materials/suggested reading--more encouragement/dialogue ahead of time, especially as prep for the newbies; info on who will be attending, what their interests/specialties are--for example, this comment--”Ted asked me "are you interested in biohacking?" and I have no idea what it is so I didn't/don't know if I was/am interested.”

4.68 for food with lots of props for sorting it all out last minute. Request for more cheese and fruit and pickled tips.

Overall, attendees were very happy with Propeller, but the overwhelming response is that people want to be at LUMCON next time, if at all possible. If we do have it in NOLA, people would like more access to local groups using Public Lab tools and more organized access to cultural activities. UNO was a little bit removed from evening activities. December, non-storm season at LUMCON is what the 2014 thinking is.

In response to requesting additional comments on facilities and food, we hear that, besides cheese and fruit, there has been an expressed desire for pickled tips and we’re happy to hear that from a few of you, we received the “yummiest conference food ever” award. Again, based on your feedback, we’re happy to hear that across the board, accommodations and food were well received and we thank you all for your flexibility as the event was relocated. Waffle House will become a mandatory breakfast stop next year.

The 2013 barnraising was rated 4.81 for overall experience! Generally, peoples’ expectations were met, with some shift due to Tropical Storm Karen. Generally, people felt it was even better than last year’s event, with a lot of praise for connections made, all the time open for exploring tools, topics, and outdoors events (weather permitting); next year will be improved with a bit better time management of sessions, and offline time for one on one discussions.

We can’t wait to see you all back next year since we received a 100% positive and enthusiastic response that you would attend an event like the barnraising again. A couple people even gave the event 200% (or multiple +++ signs).

The majority response to if the barnraising was helpful for working on your own projects and approving your ability to collaborate with other Public Lab members was a resounding yes. When asked if it approved your technical prowess, about 80% of you felt that it improved your technical knowledge. Only 54% of you felt that the barnraising was useful for expanding work on environmental justice issues. Based on our in-person wrap-up, there was an expressed interest to continue to work on diversifying the participants next year. Here’s some follow-up questions for participants and non-participants alike:

  1. Would you participate in a tool/site specific barnraising during the Spring time such as “aerial mapping mountaintop removal” or “flare spectrometry at a refinery”?
  2. In general, what could be done to help address this outside of continuing to be aware of diversity in the Public Lab community and creating a specific event around an environmental health issue?

There were some great ideas to improve future barnraisings, largely revolving around the differing levels of experience of attendees. There was a noted call for Public Lab 101 (the org, tools and software) and open source/science 101 instructional sessions for newbies, which might happen outside/prior to barnraising to get everyone on the same page a bit more. Also, some interesting feedback on the idea of goal setting for next year (for example, “By the end of barnraising, everyone (or everyone that wants to) knows how to use a Public Lab spectrometer”). Some great ideas for future sessions include:

  1. Organizing with Public Lab tools, perhaps with a field visit to a local community;
  2. Interdisciplinary collaboration;
  3. Individual stories with Public Lab tools--presentation of case studies (but with more advanced notice for individuals to prep);
  4. More structured technical sessions.

Other suggested improvements were more logistical, and might be addressed by simply hosting the event at LUMCON rather than the the last minute shift to NOLA--like the shift of FOODCOM, for example, which took away from the organizers’ ability to attend sessions. Logistically, there was a great thought of going through the interactive session planning process online ahead of time so there is a bit more structure built into the schedule when folks arrive and we don’t need to spend time sorting it out. Logistically, we should be sure to have plenty of projectors and speakers available, especially as the conference continues to grow.

Our insightful folks said that they took away the following from the event:

  1. Collaborate, collaborate, collaborate;
  2. Anyone can get involved and contribute;
  3. Having physical events is very important for virtual organizations;
  4. Coastal hydrology via Scott and Alex;
  5. Collaborating with others to get started on research and site based projects;
  6. The need to re-read alot of basic science stuff;
  7. Richness and vastness of the Public Lab community, both on and offline;
  8. Donface.GIF;
  9. Financially interfacing with the Public Lab nonprofit;
  10. DIY tools can give individuals access to the type of science that is usually inaccessible;
  11. I can/should spend more time thinking about how my own non-science skills/connections can be of use to PLOTS (Shannon’s comment-- can be of use outside of Public Lab as well!);
  12. Better understanding of the participatory design process;
  13. The Public Lab community is a wealth of tech knowledge to help fill the gap in my knowledge;
  14. As a tech person, realizing that tech is a means to an end for others, not just “the end” as it is for me.

Overall, our brilliant Barnraisers had a great experience in New Orleans, and were wowed by the last minute flexibility of the organizers--as we were by their ability to adapt to unexpected (though very Gulf Coast!) circumstances. Everyone made great connections, learned a lot, and and is excited for Barnraising 2014--we can’t wait!!


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