Thursday, February 05, 2015

Retrospective Dialogue Sheets updates and changes

When I say changes, I’m not saying anything about changes to the sheets themselves. I mean I’ve been thinking about how I make the sheets available and I’m going to make two changes.

Firstly, I’m going to remove the print-on-demand service for the sheets. Second, I’m going to remove the need to register before downloading a sheet. You can still find all the sheets at just now they will be a little harder to get and a little easier to get.

Now I’d like to explain why I’m making these changes.

I’ve always felt I needed to offer people the option to get printed sheets, hence the print on demand service. However, not many people use the service. I might have once thought I could make a little money off the service but I long ago gave up any dreams, it doesn’t get used enough to make me rich!

It seems most people either have large printers or get the sheets printed by their local print shop - I use Kall-Kwik myself.

To complicate matters, when it does make me a little money, the company which provides the service (Mimeo) send me a cheque. Or rather a check, against a US bank in US dollars. Since the sums are small the cheques cost more to cash then they are worth. This is a shame because when Lulu or LeanPub send me money - in dollars - they use PayPal which I can access easily.

Add to this the complexities of keeping the print-on-demand shop up to date and its just not worth it.

Second, the need to register.

When I first made the sheets available I really wanted feedback on who was using them, how they found them and so on. In the early days I would e-mail people and ask “What was your experience?”

That was like getting blood out of a stone. Very few people replied. Those who did gave me very useful feedback which allowed me to adjust the sheets and made me feel good.

I stopped this about the time InfoQ published my piece on Dialogue Sheets - three years ago, wow how time flies.

Since then there have been too many downloads to go ask for feedback - O, I could mail a few people but that requires work. Right now there have been over 1,300 registration in the last two years, and I known there were several thousand before then.

In the meantime a few people considered my request to register an imposition, I’ve had a couple of people tell me to my face. All I wanted was feedback but this put people off. I have on occasions given dialogue sheets away - they are part of the package when you buy a course of me but I also regularly give spare sheets away after conference presentations. When I do so I ask - no beg - people to send me feedback, but they rarely - no never - do.

I remember a man from the BBC who took a spare sheet at Agile Cambridge. He promised to send me feedback on what his team thought. I never heard from him again. I guess it went in the bin.

Maybe I’m a little bitter but actually, the point I’m trying to make is: its hard to get feedback!

I once planned to send a newsletter to everyone. But I never got around to it.

I once hoped a mailing list would take off, but it never did.

Probably if I had put more effort into any of those things they would have done better but as it is I think Dialogue Sheets are a success.

Thousands of downloads are a successes.

Popular articles in InfoQ and elsewhere are a success.

Conference sessions using the sheets are always well received - and I’m doing one again at DevWeek next month in London.

I sometimes meet people who know of me because of the sheets, that is a success.

And I get occasional e-mails telling me the sheets are being used and they are good.

Anyway, you have not tried them yet, give Dialogue Sheets a go in your next retrospective.

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