European Community Weekend 2015 - Followup

by Lachouette3 min read6th Jul 20157 comments

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Personal Blog

Seven months ago, the Berlin LW community announced the second European LessWrong Community Weekend. We wrote:

From June 12th to 14th awesome people from all across Europe are coming to Berlin to meet, exchange ideas and start projects. The focus is on forming new and strengthening existing ties between our local communities. In addition to being a vibrant social event, it’s also about sharing your world-improvement projects as well as about teaching and learning valuable skills.

After the success of the 2014 Community Weekend, we were aiming for an even better and larger 2015 event. Three weeks ago, 74 participants from 16 countries met up in Berlin for an extended weekend of talking, learning, playing and connecting.

Compared to the first event, we gave participants a lot more dedicated space and time for spontaneous activities or conversations by offering content in parallel sessions. This way, everyone could create their own weekend schedule based on the existing content offers or extend it by choosing to run activities or organizing something spontaneously. This was used by many participants and the schedule quickly filled with workout sessions, swimming in the nearby lake, construction of a large blanket fort, massages, telescope-aided stargazing and many more. Since this flexibility was received well, next year’s event will be planned similarly.

The main highlights of the event as planned were the keynote by Michael Valentine Smith, a four-hour workshop focused on CFAR-style debugging by Kaj Sotala and the premiere of the second of Daniel Böttger’s Seven Secular Sermons. This sparked the idea to record Sermon excerpts in song, e.g. to the melody of GoT’s “Rains of Castamere”. Additionally, professional facilitator Alisa Leube lead a session of relating games in which participants were guided through connection exercises to create a setting for mutual trust. Many participants reported that the games gave them a chance to be more open throughout the weekend and did their part in creating a warm, welcoming atmosphere.

To provide diverse topics as discussion starters and get as many people on stage as possible we reserved five hours for lightning talks, providing both reserved spots as well as spontaneous talks. This worked amazingly well and we got overwhelmingly positive feedback. The topics ranged from a case for loving kindness meditation and several talks about productivity techniques to instructions for giving good feedback. The longer, usually more technical talks like Vadim’s introduction to modern decision theory were also praised as insightful.

A good number of participants chose to stay in Berlin throughout the following week and we are grateful to everyone who offered beds and couches – no one had to book extra accommodation. This lead to several post-weekend activities such as bouldering practice, acrobatics in Berlin’s “Gardens of the world” and a rooftop party. Altogether these felt almost like a second event. Similar to last year, follow-up hangouts are being organised, this time with a focus on initiating 1-on-1-conversations to deepen or build personal connections.

We have been looking forward to this event for a long time and yet it surpassed our expectations. Many gave us feedback that they especially liked the other participants, and we fully agree. We think that this contributed to the “open, joyful, welcoming atmosphere”, as one participant described it, and we’re looking forward to seeing many of you again next year!

Alexander, Anne, Christian, John, Marcel and Matthias

Statistics

Age

average: 28.5 years
standard deviation: 6.3

Gender

male 72.6%
female 24.7%
other 2.7%

Country of residence

Germany, Denmark, France, Switzerland, Austria, Spain, Netherlands, UK, Ireland, Poland, Hungary, Croatia, Singapore, Israel, USA

Follow-up survey:

40 out of 74 participants took the survey.

“The amount of content was …”

way too little 0 0%
too little 2 5%
a bit too little 8 20%
just right 26 65%
a bit too much 4 10%
too much 0 0%
way too much 0 0%

“The amount of social activities was …”

way too little 0 0%
too little 0 0%
a bit too little 8 20%
just right 30 75%
a bit too much 2 5%
too much 0 0%
way too much 0 0%

“I felt (…) as part of the community at the LWCW2015”

completely integrated 17 42.5%
integrated 13 32.5%
ok 9 22.5%
slightly excluded 1 2.5%
excluded 0 0%

“Did you know other participants beforehand?”

no (0–1) 6
yes, but just a handful 11
yes, a lot of them (6–80) 23

[Many people from last year’s event signed up again, as did a handful of LWSH regulars.]

“I really liked …” (mentioned X times, cutoff after 4)

  • the other participants (13)
  • the lightning talks (13)
  • the location (10)
  • Val’s keynote (8)
  • relating games (8)
  • the atmosphere (8)
  • the blanket fort (6)
  • the name tags (6)
  • the flexibility of the scheduling (6)
  • cuddles/social touching/hugs (5)
  • the food quality (4)
  • Vadim’s talk on modern decision theory (4)
  • the overall organisation (4)
  • dancing on Saturday night (4)

“The event would have been even better if …” (mentioned X times, cutoff after 3)

  • it had been easier to tell which content was happening when and where. (7)
  • the name tags had been more durable/participants had worn them more consistently. (7)
  • the food quality had been better. (6)
  • there had been more snacks/more vegan snacks. (4)
  • the event had been longer. (4)
  • there had been a map of the location. (4)
  • there had been interactions for small groups/one-on-ones. (3)
  • there had been a central meeting point/room. (3)
  • the event had had more CFAR-like techniques or debugging. (3)

[This question especially yielded diverse answers and many suggestions which don’t fit a list format. The points on the list are paraphrased and don’t give a good impression of the types of answers given, just a rough direction. Some feedback was tongue-in-cheek: Someone wished “sad Eris wasn’t that desperately sad”, another person asked for “free owls”.]

If you have any questions about the feedback please send us an email to lwcw2015@gmail.com or comment below.

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7 comments, sorted by Highlighting new comments since Today at 9:50 PM
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In case you're wondering why there were only 74 participants: 80 people signed up, but 6 did not attend and didn't give notice, so the spaces could not be filled.

Clearly, this event needed many more owls.

We did have 6 owls, one eagle, a duck, an octopus and an angry bird, to count only the plush toys I remember right now. I think we were missing a six feet plush crocodile though. It was oddly bird-centered.

A 6ft crocodile is necessary at such events. I'm really not sure how you all managed without Mr. Scaly. :)

I find your lack of Italians disturbing... maybe it's time to launch an Italian LessWrong Community.

Do that. AND come to the next LWCW.

Heh, reminds me of that Rome LW meetup in 2012 where all four participants were foreigners.