Our Whiteboard Experiment at Backdrop Live

Posted on: Sunday, March 21, 2021
Posted by: Tim Erickson

During the recent instance of Backdrop Live, I did some experimenting with a Mural board as a tool to help engage participants in our virtual event. 

I wrote this short blog post in advance of Backdrop Live to outline my own thoughts about how a Mural board might help with Backdrop Live.

In my mind I envisioned the Mural board as a kind of interactive landing page where where event users could:
1. start to engage with the event prior to the initial launch
2. help shape the unconference schedule
3. find updates on what was happening during the event
4. post collective notes or lessons learned from the event
5. share information with other participants

In fact, many participants did visit the Mural board in advance of the launch. Many posted their location on a large map and several posted questions they had or topics they wished to discuss. 

While it was possible for participants to schedule unconference topics on the Mural board, no one used it for this purpose. However, the Mural board was also competing with a Google Doc and some users may have been confused about where the correct place to post new topics was. In fact, after two Backdrop Lives, I would say that the real problem was simply that users are still uncomfortable posting topics on the schedule and the problem was not with the tool, but with the communication.

In my view the Mural board was completely ineffective once the event started, but I would attribute this to a combination of the fact that once the event started, event organizers did not promote or encourage participation on the Mural board at all and the fact that we did not have sufficient plans for engaging users in the Mural board once the event started. 

I have thoughts on how a Mural board (or any White board tool) might be better used in future events. 

1) For live scheduling of event topics. We tried to build portions of the topic schedule in advance of the event and simply encouraged participants to add topics to the schedule during the event. However, we made both the Mural Board and a Google Doc available for scheduling topics. I think a Mural Board could be effective for this if it is the only tool and if there is additional facilitation planned to encourage users to use it. 

2) Use the mural during the opening sesion. Possibly to schedule sessions/topics or for some kind of group icebreaker activity. https://www.mural.co/blog/online-warm-ups-energizers

3) Maybe have some content that uses the Mural board. Offer a free t-shirt to 1-3 random users that add their name to the map or accompishes some other task. 

4) Set some goal for the event that is accomplished on the Mural Board. Examples might be
    1. Collect a list of D7 modules that users would like to see ported to Backdrop.
    2. Brainstorm ideas for promoting Backdrop CMS
    3. Ask participants to use the Mural board to post their job opportunities

5) Post a list of issues or volunteer tasks that need attention and ask participants to use the Mural board to volunteer for specific committees or tasks. Or to add new tasks that need attention to.