The Difficult Second Album?

This was originally posted on the News page of the LAST Conference website on 14 Feb 2013.


We are back

We’re back for 2013. The date for your diaries is Friday 2 August.

We’ll be building on the successes of 2012, and trying to make year two just as good, or even better. So, I don’t think we will have the second album jitters.

What was last year like?

If you want an idea of what last year’s event was like, here’s Chris Chan’s notes, and if you want to go more in-depth, go and have a look at LAST 2012’s Lanyrd page.

We have just set up the Lanyrd page for 2013, too.

Dates for session submissions

Craig will be leading on the schedule for the day, so keep an eye out here and on our Twitter account for updates for that.

You can also join our mailing list.

Start thinking what you would like to teach the community, and what you could learn from the community! Rememeber, there are no attendees at LAST, we’re ALL contributors.

Sponsors please

We need financial support from companies, in order to keep the event low cost, so if your organisation would like to sponsor us, please let me know, via our contact form, or by the other, usual means.



LAST Conference wrapup

The image below was generated from the comments that Craig received in response to the survey that he sent to LAST Conference participants. He wrote about it on his site, and you can see the full responses, there. I think that it shows that the feedback was highly positive. You can also see that people had some suggestions about how we can improve if we do it again.

Grassroots Conference Lessons Learned*

After my Agile Tour experience in December, Craig and I formed a vision which was basically, to put together something with similarities to that event, that we would want to go to ourselves. As I wrote about previously, and in the FAQs on the website, the day was aimed at people who have experience, and wanted to extend their knowledge. We wanted people to go away thinking that they had done something a little different, and to take some inspiration back to their day jobs. We wanted to keep it low cost, and grassroots.

We then tested the vision, by talking to other members of the Melbourne community. There was an element of the unknown, such as, “Would we get enough good content to fill up a day of sessions?” (in the end we got more than enough), and “How many people would think this was a good idea, and come along?” (all registrations were filled with a week and a half to go”

*Borrowed from Eric Ries’ Startup Lessons Learned blog. I like to think that we organised the event using some of the ideas talked about in The Lean Startup.

Getting the word out


The first step was a website. I decided on Google Sites, as I wanted to keep it as simple as possible. WordPress (which I use on this site) was too complicated, and something like, was too simple. I also thought that Google Sites kept the grassroots feel to the event.

I then sent what I’d put together out to some trusted advisors; former colleagues in the UK and US, and asked these questions:

  • Is it easy to “get” what it’s about?
  • If you could attend, would it grab your interest and make you want to register?
  • If you registered, does it have the information you need? Anything missing?
  • Anything else…
The feedback received was along the lines of “make it clearer who the event is for”, “is there lunch?”.  I definitely made a lot of effort writing the Frequently Asked Questions pages, and other information on the website, to try to make things as clear as possible for people, as early as possible.

Session Ideas

After toying with Google Moderator, I decided to use UserVoice to collect the “ideas for sessions”. I deliberately didn’t name it a “call for papers”, to try and instil the sense of interactivity I wanted in the sessions, from the start. UserVoice allowed us to collect ideas, and also allows for the community to vote on the ideas, so we got a sense of what people thought would be valuable.

Registration, Schedule, Social

I asked my former colleagues who run the jQuery UK, and All Your Base conferences, if they would recommend EventBrite. The response was unequivocal, so EventBrite it was. The only down side is that AmEx and Diners aren’t catered for, but because the cost was low, people instead paid, and then claimed it back on expenses.

I chose Lanyrd mainly because I’ve used it for a few years, as an event goer. It sprang out of the geek community I was a part of when I lived in Oxford, in the UK. The founders are a husband and wife team who put it together while they were on honeymoon. It also offered a good way of organising the schedule, facilitator details, and the followup coverage (blog posts, slides, videos). It is also well integrated with Twitter, and we had started Tweeting quite regularly about our progress. Another bonus was that I thought the Lanyrd mobile site, and apps would be a good way for participants to schedule their day.


To keep things as simple as possible, I didn’t want to have too much guff, like squeezy, foam light globes. In the end, we didn’t have lanyards either. I went with the adhesive name tags that you wrote your name on, instead of having to contend with a name badge swinging around a lot.

The name labels, free drink tokens, and little stickers were done by I love Moo’s stuff, and have been using them for about 5 years. I use them for my business cards, and even used them for my wedding “Save the Date”, RSVP, and thank you cards. I would suspect that they use a lot of agile, and lean (startup) sensibilities in the product management of their business. It’s always a delight to receive an order from them. If you use the link above, you can get a 10% discount 🙂

FAQs, Catering, Directions and Conference Handbook

As I mentioned earlier, I put a lot of effort into the FAQs on the website. The same could be said for the two lead-up emails which went out 2 weeks before, and in the week leading up to the 27th July. I hope that they had all that one needed to know about, how to get to LAST, and what to expect once you were there. Something I borrowed from the Agile Tour, was the detailed photo directions on the Swinburne Campus, which were linked to in the conference handbook.

I made a point of emailing everyone who had told us about their special dietary requirements, a couple of days beforehand, about what would be served to them. I personally thought that the catering team were particularly dedicated to make plunger coffee for us!


Craig and I definitely put a lot of thought into how to make the day go smoothly, and how to keep everyone as happy as possible. I think that we did achieve that. Of course,  it’s hard to keep everyone 100% happy.

For example, on one hand, someone said:

More advanced topics, a lot were aimed at Agile beginners or new Agile adopters.

on the other:

A lot of the material was geared to people already heavily invested in the agile process, which is something we have yet to adopt. The marketing material wasn’t explicit in this regard so a lot of the programs were over our heads.

The ironic thing about the event is, although we planned a day we would want to go to ourselves, we didn’t get much of a chance to get to many sessions! Luckily, quite a few of them were videoed, so at least we will get a chance to review them. I’m working through them, slowly!

Finally thanks to Craig, the session facilitators, and participants. The guys from Rally and IBM helped us out with morning registration, as well as buying drinks and the like. Readify supported us from the start, and also sent along Brett Maytom, who did a well received session about Scrum. Finally, Swinburne IT’s Paul Dealy, and his team, helped us to setup and clean up, as well as taking care of the video cameras.

What next?

The simple answer is, “We don’t know”. The best way to keep in touch with our plans, is to sign up for our email list. We will send out occasional messages, when we decide what to do next.

Following us on Twitter is also a good idea. @LAST_conf , @littlehleper , @brown_note, as is checking in on this site, and

I’ve got to go and make some money now. If you know anyone who wants some coaching or training, then please let me know!


LAST Conference. Videos, slides, and other coverage

View and add coverage

The best way to see all of the coverage about sessions at LAST Conference is to go an look at our Lanyrd page, where you can view the session pages, and see the aggregated coverage; slides, videos, visual notes, write ups, photos, etc.

Lanyrd is crowd sourced, so don’t forget to add your coverage to the relevant session.


Most of my day on 27 July, was spent running around from room to room. Checking that everyone was OK, checking that the catering was going as planned, and so on. I also co-lead a session. I did get the chance to sit in on a couple of sessions, at least for short periods, but didn’t get to see a lot of stuff that sounded really great. So I have been looking forward to catching up on some videos of things that I missed. Craig’s been in charge of getting videos of sessions edited, and now he’s announced that they are all uploaded.

We videoed as many of the sessions  at LAST Conference, as we could. Two of the rooms we were running were lecture theatres, which had in built A/V capabilities, with the ability to put the video of the session leader on top of any presentation slides they had. In the other rooms, we simply had cameras mounted on tripods, pointed at the front of the room.

Some sessions didn’t lend themselves to being videoed, or the video didn’t turn out well, so not all sessions have one. However, there are 25 of them, so that should keep you/me busy for a while!

Visual Collaboration

I’ve not started watching the vids yet, except for the one that I have embedded above, and also a bit of Brett Maytom’s session. Lynne Cazaly‘s session about Visual Collaboration. seemed very well received, which I’m really pleased about.

I came across Lynne at a Trampoline Day, where she ran a session, which was quite similar to that in the video. I instantly thought that this was the type of thing that would be great for LAST. You may have noticed that I’m an advocate of UX techniques, and of incorporating more visual collaboration in general, in projects.

The other consideration was that the session was fun, with lots of engaging content, and laughter, as well as being useful. An added bonus…no Powerpoint!

She mentions James Wood’s Systems Thinking session, and she’s put the  visual notes she made up on Flickr. This was done using the Brushes iPad app, and puts my attempts at visual notes to shame. Must try harder!

Lynne also mentions Dan Roam’s book, The Back of the Napkin. I’d recommend this book, also.