Thursday, October 2, 2014

UX Speakeasy Enlists Big Data & Qualitative Research to Explore its Growth

Data Data Data

San Diego UX Speakeasy has a problem. We are popular. Yes, that is a problem. Sort of. We find ourselves in a growth spurt reminiscent of adolescence when things ache because they are being stretched beyond the current physical boundaries.

Such it is with us. Last night's Meetup about "Big Data & Qualitative Research" hosted by Mitchell International maxed out at close to 90 attendees and we had a wait list almost as long. Our seemingly unstoppable growth in popularity is a topic we have been discussing in Board meetings for a while. In a mere three years we have grown from a dozen crazy UXers who knew, just knew, that there were others like them in San Diego and wanted to do some community building to prove it, to hundreds of diverse and crazy UXers who just love to hang out, socialize and learn.  We have built a community. How do we manage our growth without taking ourselves far too seriously?

This all sounds suspiciously like a Startup Problem. However, no IPOs will ever be involved, no stock shall be issued. (We incorporated as a Non Profit at the beginning of this year in case you wanted to know. Primarily to make our lives easier at tax time).

Last night was perhaps one of the best of our meetups I have attended in the past three years. We decided to harness the enthusiasm and commitment of attendees in an analysis of The Problem. After all, we are all about inclusion, and we don't like having to say No to people. Yet, we want to keep the informal, interactive get-to-know-you mission that clearly works so well.

It just so happens we have some awesome members who have accumulated oodles of statistics about attendance at events. We also have some awesome members well versed in how to look beyond the numbers. Hence, the attendees were divided into groups and tasked with taking either a quantitative or qualitative look at The Question.

Somehow I missed hearing just exactly what The Question was. No one I randomly asked seemed to know exactly what it was either.  But it was not a representative sampling. Perhaps like me they spent critical moments during the Introduction drooling over the melted Brie with jam stuffed into it and fresh raspberries placed on top. I thought this absence excusable because I work in qualitative research almost daily; besides I wanted to check out the cheese. Qualitatively. With random sampling to ensure self-selection bias was not overly present.

No matter. Everyone set to work exploring the data about UX Speakeasy. For example, we have 405 members who have never (ever!) attended a Meetup. These are Lurkers and they have no clue what they are missing. But stats can be misleading. Because we don't know why they didn't attend do we? Is it because they wanted to but couldn't get in? Is it because they gave up in despair - if so, those people do have an inkling what they are missing.

We also could see from the brightly colored graphs that attending a Medium Sized event is more likely to result in someone becoming a Regular Attendee. Regular attendees are those who have attended 3 meetups. Being Wait Listed for a Medium Sized event decreases the chances of a person becoming an Active Member more than being Wait Listed for a Large Event, although any sort of Wait List decreases persistence. And then there are those Dabblers - those who have attended 1-3 meetups.

Why might that be? What can you conclude? Theories were flying. For example:

"More engaged people come to smaller events" 

or perhaps 

"Smaller events lead to more engaged people" ?

The quantitative groups were playing madly with the data and making insightful discoveries.

Oh *that* meetup [Name Withheld To Protect the Innocent] produced all sorts of Dabblers and a high overall attrition rate. But *that* meetup [Name Withheld For Equity Purposes] clearly blew the socks off the local community because attendees came back and back and back and back. 

The qualitative groups delved into things such as how they feel about coming to a meetup before, during and afterwards. What factors affect last minute changes of mind? Long day at the office? Tired....grumpy.... Commuting through traffic? Seriously depressed.... Awesome food and beverages? Happy Happy So Happy to have braved the traffic! When they reported back to the larger group they used words such as "guilt" "regret" "happy" "anxiety" "pumped!"
Experience Mapping

The really interesting thing was that in the greater group sharing it became quite apparent to everyone why both qualitative and quantitative data have something to offer. One group would spur a question that the other group was able to answer. Back and forth. So it went.

People were so engaged last night - everyone had the opportunity to contribute to the UX Speakeasy community. Lots of new people were there mingling with long time attendees. For 80+ people it felt like a much smaller crowd.

At the end of the evening they had to practically throw everyone out of the building. People wanted to keep talking and discussing the future of UX Speakeasy. People wanted to know what more they could do. A member of the Board explained that we are in the process of instituting several measures to accommodate more members while keeping the warm and fuzzy feeling we have all grown to deeply appreciate.

These initiatives include adding additional activities each month  (UX Karaoke? someone did suggest that really). We have another conference in the works (save the date November 8) and more. For all of which Volunteers will be needed!

Seriously, at least as seriously as we ever get, the networking and job announcements and socializing and Random Acts of Education will continue. As we grow.