PLoP conferences are typically made of a set of activities that altogether promote a friendly and effective environment to share expertise, give and get feedback:
Writers' workshops are used by the pattern community to improve our patterns. These workshops are the primary focus of our time at PLoP and in them we discuss accepted papers.
The format of Writers' Workshops has been adopted from poetry review. Each writers' workshop contains 5 to 8 papers, which authors must read before the conference to be able to give each other feedback on their work in a peer review session of around one hour per paper.
In each session, the authors of the paper under discussion remain silent while the others discuss it and explain additional insights and views they have about it. From these sessions, authors get a lot of feedback and suggestions from fellow authors and others about how they can improve their work.
Non-authors are free to choose the writers' workshop they want, but are supposed to stay with their workshop over the entire conference, to benefit more from it. Paper assignments to workshops will be posted well before the conference.
A fruitful participation in a Writers' Workshop requires to read its papers in advance and, if possible, to take some notes on what you liked about the papers and what you think needs improvement. Since there's no reading time during the Writers' Workshops and experience shows that chatting with others or meeting people is much more fun than being alone reading papers, do yourself a favor and read the papers of your Writers' Workshop in advance.
To know more about Writers' Workshops you can read an excellent introduction by Doug Schmidt. Jim Coplien has also prepared a pattern language for Writers' Workshops that offers insight into the reasons behind the process we use.
Writing groups aim at providing authors the opportunity to work on their patterns in an interactive session mentored by an experienced author specifically assigned to each group.
Papers on the writing groups are typically papers that, at the end of the shepherding process, were considered that would profit more from an interactive session to work on the paper than from a writers workshop. After the work done in the writing group, some papers will be selected to be discussed in the final session of a Writer's Workshop.
Focus groups are free-format discussion groups or workshops aimed at bringing together people interested in a hot topic related to patterns or proven practices, for a period of about two hours.
These sessions might focus on very different topics and issues related to patterns, ranging from writing to using, organising, or adopting patterns. Focus group are usually of free admittance at the conference, but some may require preparation or submission before the conference. Interdisciplinary topics and topics from other domains than software development are common and encouraged. Focus group leaders write a report that is included in the final conference proceedings.
'Birds of a Feather' is a shortening of the proverb "Birds of a feather flock together.", meaning that people (birds) of the same kind or interest (of a common feather) enjoy spending time (flocking) together.
BoF sessions are informal meetings, usually scheduled and organized on site, where people group together based on a shared interest and carry out discussions without any pre-planned agenda. Everyone may propose a BOF session to the conference chairs, on or before the conference.
The BootCamp is a pre-conference tutorial that provides something different, but needed, in the patterns community — a "bootcamp" for newcomers.
The session will provide an introduction to patterns — a training, mentoring, experiencing activity, where participants will be immersed in patterns and emerge with an enlarged perspective, their first pattern, and an ability to get more out of all PLoP conferences.
Games are a well-established activity at PLoP. So far, George Platts has been helping us with this matter. Some games have become 'traditions', while others will be surprises.
Games reflect one of the unique features of the PLoP™ series of conferences, which is the emphasis placed on non-technical activities that try to create an environment that let us know each other, activate the right halfs of our brains, and build up a community of trust.
Come with an open mind and prepare to engage in some fun time with your fellow PLoPers. Unforgetable!
If someone gives you something ... pass it on
Gifting is a custom of many societies of giving visitors and friends small tokens of friendship. This custom began with PLoP'97. PLoP attendees should bring about 20 small gifts that represent themselves, their work, or their companies. Suggested gifts range from hats to T-shirts, from toys to trinkets, from pens to pencils, from abaci to zirconium.
Over the course of the conference these gifts should be presented to other attendees. Whenever the giver feels moved to make a gift. Getting started might be a little awkward, as we each determine when to give what to who. After the first few gifts, it will become less so. And it will likely feel risky, "is my gift good enough?", "what if they don't have anything to give me?", "what if I receive something from someone that I don't want to give anything to?" This also will reduce after the first few.
The benefits of deepening our connections to the other pattern folks at PLoP, and the wisdom into the them and ourselves will greatly exceed our discomfort at getting started. Expect to receive some insight into your fellow attendees, from who gifts you and with what; as well as insight into yourself when you receive a gift.
PLoP 2012 will be an exciting time for many pattern authors. We may encourage outside activites on an ad hoc basis. More information will be revealed at the conference or shortly beforehand.