[python-uk] London Dojo Idea: Module of the Month / Lightning Talks

David Neil pyuk at getaroundtoit.co.uk
Mon Mar 19 23:15:41 CET 2012

On 20/03/12 03:16, James Broadhead wrote:
> On 19 March 2012 14:08, Jonathan Hartley<tartley at tartley.com>  wrote:
>> On 19/03/2012 13:17, James Broadhead wrote:
>>> Perhaps a "no interactive demos" rule would be good, as these always
>>> take more time than you'd imagine.
>> But I *like* interactive / live-coding demos! I'd rather make sure the
>> speakers know they **will** be cut-off in mid-stride if they overrun than
>> attempting to govern duration by the fairly indirect proxy of talk format.
> So do I, but in my experience they're the easiest way for the
> presenter to completely lose track of time. If we were talking about
> two 7.5 minute talks, yes. For a 5-minute talk though ...
> I quite liked the semi-interactive (pseudo-interactive?) presentation
> shell from last time's default argument talk, in that it managed to
> replace slides with alternating printed code examples and running code
> (without the presenter touching the keyboard). {Was a link to that
> shared around?}

Why place limits?
Is there such a glut of speakers that some can be turned-away?
(ok, there are some people who become over-enthusiastic about their 
'latest' or with an inflated idea of their own import - or that of their 
arcane subject, but what has been our experience of such within the group?)

Obvious comments:
- every speaker is a volunteer (treat with respect)
- few are skilled at public speaking (help along and offer forgiveness)
- most shrink from the idea of standing in-front (encourage not discourage)

I too enjoy (and probably learn more from) a well-delivered presentation 
(eg font size is legible), especially live-demos. However I suggest that 
just the length of the necessary set-up and break-down times preclude 
most them from the realm of a 'lightning talk'. Thus it seems reasonable 
to ask the victim, um, volunteer how long (s)he reasonably needs (and 
then add for a number of factors - not least the idea that unless 
practised, most have no idea of 'how long'! Then add for our old friend 
Murphy and other contingency time!) Accordingly I wouldn't (normally) 
consider a "demo" as a "lightning talk" - although I do consider demos 
"valuable contributions".

- what is the purpose of a "Lightning Talk"?
- is it easier to find ppl who will talk for five minutes or those who 
can manage 45?
- are Lightning talks a valid component of the Dojo format?
(listening = theory cf Dojo = practice? - perhaps!)

As an organiser of meetings I see Lightning Talks as a way of 
encouraging someone mindful of the above three "Obvious Comments" - 
(s)he only has to cover a few points, and quickly. There is no long 
lead-up, no need to be previously internationally-acclaimed, and no 
expectation of skilfully-inserted humorous quips or other 'polish'.

However this also means that some can be truly dreadful. OTOH as someone 
who has been trained to 'speak' I have attended talks where I have been 
cringing (both for myself and for the speaker) and yet some in the 
audience have become fired-up by the topic and the event has taken on a 
life of its own. Each to his own!

As a speaker, it is a way of showing what I've been doing/learning or 
something that I have produced recently. As such that makes me a 
'student' or a 'producer'. Neither of these terms is a synonym for 
'dynamic speaker' (necessarily). Accordingly, I may not be equipped with 
super whiz-bang presentation tools, and may be relying upon a few 
scribbled notes and my portable (or indeed, a white-board marker). 
However I have something to say that may interest my peers - and all for 
the better if it helps me find someone else who is willing to tinker 
with my project or to improve my understanding (even a neophyte asking 
me to explain how I did 'it' is likely to improve my understanding too).

The fact remains: some topics (and some people) are BORING and keeping 
to time/project plans is not something for which techs are famous (add 
obligatory Douglas Adams quote about deadlines). On the other hand, some 
presentations generate a huge interest/number of questions from the 
audience. The task of deciding whether the 'time limit' should be 
applied falls to the meeting chair-person. This is where the skill (and 
luck?) should lie - not with the speakers! There are some 
topics/speakers which are best shut-down early. Some seem to be 
well-received but only by a narrow sub-section of those present - and 
thus can be stopped 'for time' but with the promise that they will 
resume in the pub afterwards... Conversely to stop something that has 
'burst into flame', purely on the basis of a fairly arbitrary 
round-number time-limit, would be a clear negative (IMHO).

If people leave the meeting talking about 'that great talk' then the 
meeting is a ***success*** (as long as those who came to the meeting 
expecting the advertised content are also leaving satisfied)! Oh yes, 
chairing a meeting is a juggling act too!

Guideline or law?
Zero tolerance or sensible management?
Encourage contribution or become moribund?


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