Question time with Dan

[Note: this was written way back on the 5th of December but has been stuck in perpetual draft status till I could find a decent picture. Oh well, I couldn’t. So here it is :-)]

So yesterday was a long day indeed. But it was quite worthwhile and I’ve managed to glean a few tips, tricks and directions to go with for our Confluence install. Yesterday was the Atlassian User Group Workshop down in London town. Mike Nolan and myself made trip down courtesy of Virgin Trains, arriving just in time for a spot of lunch and then to the Bonnington on Bloomsbury Square.

The event started with the usual meet and greet where I got the opportunity to match a few faces to the names and websites that I’ve been conversing with on Twitter, JIRA and and mining for knowledge on wiki adoption. Emma Wallace from Social8 made an immediate impression on me, talking briefly about asking users the right questions and about getting the user to see that this knew way of working (on a wiki) is going to be beneficial for them, so encouraging their uptake. I received a very knowing look when I said we were working on the implementation first, and thinking more about user uptake afterwards.. this is a common mistake, a situation we hope to rectify.

I also got a chance to chat to Boo Armstrong from Get Well UK who was looking to implement Confluence, she was after peoples opinions, pitfalls and views. When I was asked what my favourite bit of Confluence was, I thought for just a moment, and then it hit me – WebDav. In a project where your taking the unwieldy jungle of a shared network drive and trying to convert people to the wonders of wiki collaboration and benefits of sexy search, giving them the ability to drag and drop their existing file structure into the wiki and build around it is a very nice feature indeed. It was also nice to chat to the Adaptavist folks since they’re only from down the road from us and they’re who we bought our Confluence from.

After the meet and greet first up was Josh Wold from Atlassian who gave a full run down of the past 6 months progress of the company and where their products where going in the future. It was quite an interesting round up and well presented.

Next was Alex Lotoczko from NYK Europe who talked about the use of their wiki’s particularly when working with the BBC on “The Box” project. My main interest was admittedly the box.. I feel more detail could have been gotten into regarding the usage of the wiki, perhaps some statistics and screenshots from the wiki itself. I got more from Stewart Mader‘s post on the subject of NYK’s Confluence intranet project.

The people and personalities using the wiki are the most important aspect. Without getting them on board it’s all pointless really. Emma Wallace talked to us in great detail about people and the right questions to ask them. Are you asking the right questions? I most certainly wasn’t, but I hope to in the future. You need ask people the right questions to help them learn and understand that (hopefully) the ways of the wiki and collaboration is good for them, will enable them to work more efficiently, and win the lottery. Well maybe not the last bit, but you get the point.

Next up was what I found the most useful, and so named my blog post such! Question time with Dan was effectively what it was. It was meant to be a more open discussion, customer to customer, user to user I believe but by and large it was an open floor to ask Dan questions and tap his knowledge. I’d had a question or two answered during the meet and great about reporting and stats which I was greatly interested in so I didn’t really actively take part in this session. I was being a sponge and soaking up all the knowledge that flowed over me. There were some interesting questions being asked and some even more in the spirit of the session were asked openly to the group. All 70-80ish of us where sat around the outer edges of the room. I don’t really feel this was all that ideal and left some people not asking questions that they might have asked in a more cosy environment. The open talking was good, I just think some nice 20 people round tables would have been more conducive to open chatter about our problems and triumphs with the software.

All in all it was quite a good day and I’ll be improving our Confluence install and uptake because of it, and would definitely recommend any Atlassian products users to go along in the future.

I’ll quickly add a thank you to Oleg from Cisco who introduced me to Asahi beer after the conference.. thanks! Also that we missed the last Liverpool – London train home due to trusting the more sensibly sounding directions of a couple of local southern boys and walking quite a way away from Euston before realising in our peril we were about 250 yards from it when we asked! Getting home at 2:10 am, and into work at 8:50 show’s my dedication to the job 😉

Steve Daniels