Let’s Jam!

*** Originally posted on the IT @ Intel blog in 2007. Bringing it over to Communities site for the benefit of those who are developing professional communities of their own. ***

Last time I talked about how we were  building communities within IT, more specifically, how I had built a technical  community by using various social media tools like blogs, wiki’s, and forums.

Near the end of the article I mentioned that we were about to try something different -  a Web Jam. This concept is not new, and is something that IBM has been doing for years,  but we wanted to see if it was something we could do at Intel.

Even here, it’s not completely brand new - our Sales and Marketing Group had already done two web  jams for the entire organization, with great success - so I wanted to see if we could do  it at a community level. I had excellent help from Jeff Moriarty (another corporate blogger), and our other partner  in crime, Barbara McAllister. We put together tons of communications and we facilitated  the jam November 13-15.(Note that as of this current reposting, we have now done jams at multiple levels of the company, including an IT-wide web jam at the end of 2008.)

Here are some of the actions, results, interesting learnings, and thoughts for next time.

Pre-Work

  • Heavy communications on the blogs, forums, newsletters, and email distribution lists. We made sure our reach was as broad as possible, even having an article posted on our employee intranet home-page, and a jam home page on the wiki. We wanted people to participate even if they were not formal members of the technical community.
  • Created the forum shell. The web jam exists on the forum environment, so we created a  new “Web Jam” forum, seeded it with some questions/topics, and then left it inactive until we were ready to start the jam.
  • Created a kickoff announcement. I made a 5 minute audio announcement and one-slide  presentation that I replayed over and over again during the first hour of the jam. That  allowed people to call into the audio meeting at any time during the hour and hear the  message.
  • Enlist a sponsor/senior manager who will commit to participation - the more, the better
  • Develop a short list of Goals for the Jam. No more than 2-3 things you want to get  out of the session, and make sure people know about them.
  • Running the Jam

    jam_stock1.jpg

  • Do not get frustrated if participation starts out slowly. Encourage where you can,  and pre-stock the forum with a few questions to get the discussion going. It will pick  up.
  • Don’t try to run a jam for a small group of people. You need size to be effective  for a jam. The collective wisdom of hundreds of people will get broader and deeper  discussion on the topics that you’re interested in.
  • Make sure you have the senior manager / sponsor actively participating. It’s not enough  to sponsor, they have to add questions, answer questions, and encourage usage.
  • Make sure questions don’t sit unanswered. If people start to see a question is being  ignored, they will be hesitant to ask more. Find someone who can answer it and send them  an offline email, point them to the forum to answer.
  • Keep it going around the clock. Make sure participants from all geographies are  participating - but remember there may be cultural barriers to this type of public  question/answer.
  • Keep the communications going during the jam. We did ours for 48 hours, and it’s  important to use your distribution lists to keep people interested and engaged the whole  time. Summarize interesting messages from each day to show you are actively  reading.
  • Wrap it up well. Warn people when the Jam is about to close - set a deadline for  getting their questions posted so people have time to answer before you lock it  down.
  • Lock it down. Once the jam period is over, stop new posts. You need to be able to  look at metrics from the session and if people are still posting, the integrity can be  harmed. Take the forum offline temporarily and let people know that it will be back in  read-only status once you pull your reports.
  • Post-Jam

  • Run your reports fast, and get the forum back online in read-only format. This way,  people can look through the discussion if they could not keep up with it during the jam,  and if there are interesting topics left open, they can start new discussions in your  normal forums, or contact people directly with questions.
  • Run reports on views, posts, users, comments, anything you can depending upon what  your forum environment provides. If you don’t have access to do it yourself, make sure  you are working with an administrator to do it for you. This data will be valuable for  your report-out.
  • Build a summary - highlight the most viewed posts/topics, and recognize the most  visible users.
  • Create a post-jam survey. Make sure people have an opportunity to provide feedback  on the value they received from participation - and what they would like to see changed  for the next time.
  • Measure yourself against your goals. Did you achieve what you wanted to achieve?  Were there any barriers? How will you solve those for the next time?
  • Some of our results

    jam_stock2.jpg

  • Total Topics Posted: 35
  • Total Comments across all topics: 219
  • Active Participants (posted at least 1 item): 74 (of ~330 target)
  • Approximate Total Views: 6296
  • Average Views per Topic: 251
  • 52% Actively Participated, 43% only Viewed, remainder did not participate
  • Geo Participation: 94% Americas, 2% Asia Pacific, 4% Europe and Middle East
  • 98% of participants felt it was worth their time and 96% said they would participate  again
  • Reasons for not actively participating: Inability to post anonymously, concerns  about using a public forum to ask questions, concerns about possible impact to career  and job security, concerned about whether answers would be honest
  • What people found to be most valuable from their participation

  • Sense of team
  • Ability to have discussions about concerns, and a chance to ask questions to senior  managers
  • Realization that management is out of touch
  • Like the hard questions being asked and the honesty of the answers
  • Seeing dialogue on priorities, roadmap, senior management insight
  • Helped create positive energy within disparate teams
  • Great place to ask technical questions and get detailed answers
  • Creates documented responses from senior managers and technical representatives
  • Watching senior management address very tough questions in a public forum
  • What do people want to see changed for next time?

  • Make sure unanswered questions get answers
  • People want to see more involvement from all levels of management
  • Create an opens list from the previous Jam, and use that to start the next one
  • Be able to post anonymously - this may be a limitation of your forum  environment
  • Kickoff should come from senior sponsor
  • Make it very easy for people to find links to the forum and how to get help
  • Use the jam to let people get to know each other - post job titles, locations,  background, experience - use it for social networking
  • Publish FAQs based on the learnings from the Jam
  • Use podcast (video) technology to create a summary message from the senior sponsor  about they evaluation of the jam
  • Recognize the most active participants
  • So what are we doing now? Coming off a very successful IT-wide jam at the end of 2008, we're wondering how soon it will be before we follow in the footsteps of IBM for a company-wide jam. It's not unheard of, and it's not unmanageable, but it's harder to focus on a small number of topics when you have a potential audience of 80,000+ people. We'll see where it goes, but for now doing these at the division and department, and even program level, is having a great value to our teams - in fact I'm setting up a finance department web jam for later next week.

    If you have any questions about the process or want more detail, please add a comment  and I’ll try to provide it!
    Cheers!