search c[h]amps: striking a balance


I'm in the midst of another Search Champ meeting at Microsoft, and this one has taken a very different form from the first two. They listened to our feedback from the earlier meetings, in which we complained about (a) the fact that we were too diverse a group covering too many topics in too short a time, and (b) the highly structured, powerpoint driven, classroom style format.

This time we've got a small (nine people) group of blog-focused "champs," and a very unstructured day in a couch-filled room with a few key discussion topics. Seem like a winning formula.


It turns out that if you put a bunch of opinionated geeks in a room, they spend a lot of time talking over each other. And there's definitely a gender divide in this behavior. (Also a newcomer versus returnee divide--the people who haven't attended a search champ event before appear significantly less willing to shout to be heard.)

There's clearly a balance that needs to be struck, and it's one that I'm well familiar with from classroom settings. One-to-many, top-down, bullet-point-driven meetings are stultifying; free-for-all discussions end up marginalizing those unwilling to jump into the fray, and a lot of valuable things don't get said. (Plus I've got a killer headache from people who seem to share my 11-year-old's sense of what the appropriate decibel level for a small room is.)

All in all, I prefer the freewheeling to the overly structured, in large part because I'm one of those people willing to jump in, speak loudly, and demand attention when I feel I've got something important to say. But neither extreme is ideal, and my hope is that MSN will keep learning from these meetings, and find a happier medium for future meetings.


whack Robert over the head if he is talking over you :P

Heh. It wasn't always Robert, and I'm fine with talking over him (or whacking him on the head). The thing is, that doesn't work for people who are new to a social context, or who are naturally soft-spoken...

Did you not have a backchannel (projected or otherwise). The inherent parallelism undercuts the tyranny of the loud.

Kevin, I agree completely. But no, there was no backchannel because there was no Internet access for non-MSFT employees. (Getting that set up within the corporate intranet is a PITA that apparently wasn't considered a priority in this meeting; I'm going to strongly suggest that they reconsider that, and provide a backchannel that both MSFT and "champs" can use.

Not only does that undercut the tyranny, it provides a tangible record of the conversationt that's hard to replicate in "live" conversations.

Interesting. I wish I known that some Search Champs were in town (Brady, if you read this, I'm talking to you!)

Anyway, I'm glad to see they're trying some different approaches. I hope good things come of it :)

Brandon, don't blame Brady--he's in Peru. :) Blame Eytan. Or Sean. Or me! I should have thought to ping you...

No problem, I'm pretty busy these days anyway :)

I am trying to get our team to do one of these mini-Search Champs events to get some feedback on our next project.

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This page contains a single entry published on October 11, 2005 3:51 PM.

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