Office Hours - EuroLLVM round table summary

At EuroLLVM, we had a round table on the topic of office hours.

The idea of office hours is for people with some experience in LLVM to make themselves available for chats with others. The hope is that it will help overcome some of the biggest barriers to higher engagement in the community and barriers to start to contribute to LLVM.
I’ve attached the slides of the lightning talk (1.6 MB) I did on the topic in attachment, which may help to give a bit more background.
We currently have half a dozen hosts already making themselves available for chats, as documented at Getting Involved — LLVM 15.0.0git documentation.

At the round table we came up with a range of great ideas to make office hours successful in overcoming barriers to higher engagement and starting to contribute.
The main issue with office hours right now is that it is poorly advertised, resulting in far too few people knowing about their existence. Which results in few conversations actually happening.
The ideas generated at the round table are the following:

  1. Ideas to reduce barriers for people to actually dial in to an office hours session.

    • Some people may find it intimidating to dial in to a video chat meeting directly. Maybe it would be less intimidating if a person dialing in for the first time could use text chat to double check with the host that it’s OK to dial in.
      After discussing a few potential ways to make this happen in practice, the best solution seemed to be to create an #office-hours channel on Discord.
      When a host opens their video chat, they can also type something like “I’m available for chats now for the next half hour at video chat URL. I’m looking forward to having conversations on the video chat or here in text”. A person who still feels a bit anxious can start out with chatting in text form.
      (github issue: Create office-hours Discord channel · Issue #55423 · llvm/llvm-project · GitHub)
    • Some people may find it intimidating that they may be expected to dial in to a meeting and need to start talking straight away.
    • For some hosts, it may work better to have a small group of hosts rather than a single host, e.g. team members, who rotate. In other words, every session there might be another host hosting. To overcome the issue of not knowing exactly who’s hosting, the use of Discord as suggested in the first bullet point could help; e.g. the host introducing themselves on Discord with “Hi, I’m X and I’m hosting today’s team name office hour. I’m available for the next half hour at video chat URL.”
    • Another idea that could help to reduce the barrier to “cold call” in to an office hour session would be to have head shots of the hosts next to the table listing all office hours.
      (github issue: Add head shots to office hours host table · Issue #55424 · llvm/llvm-project · GitHub)
    • In the table listing all current hosts, maybe we could find a way to link to a time zone converter so that it’s easy to translate the time/timezone a session is scheduled in to a different timezone?
      (github issue: Add timezone conversion capability to table documenting available hosts · Issue #55425 · llvm/llvm-project · GitHub)
    • We thought that if we’d end up with a really long list of office hours hosts, maybe having that long list could also be intimidating - which session do you choose to dial in to? We thought that we could explore potential remedies to this if/when we actually have a really long list.
  2. Ideas to improve advertising the existence of office hours.

    • We should have a public calendar showing all the office hours. Maybe we could also add the online sync-ups to this calendar so it would show all events happening where one can discuss LLVM topics online.
      A really simple way to make this scale and work in practice: create a new e.g. gmail account and ask organizers of online sync-ups and office hours to create a meeting invite in which they invite this new gmail account. Publishing a calendar then becomes as easy as publishing the calendar of this new gmail account.
      That calendar should be very easily findable. Maybe it should be linked from both the “Getting Involved” pages and the home page?
      (github issue: Have a public calendar showing all office hours · Issue #55426 · llvm/llvm-project · GitHub)
    • Other places that we thought the existence of office hours should be advertized are:
      i. The home page website
      ii. The “Getting started” page
      iii. Maybe this could be mentioned in some of the future community.o meetings, when it fits the topic?
      iv. On the LLVM github page.
      v. Maybe a pinned text in an appropriate place on Discord is possible?
      vi. Maybe mention the existence of office hours in LLVM Weekly.
      (github issue: Advertize the existence of office hours further · Issue #55427 · llvm/llvm-project · GitHub)
  3. Other ideas

These all seem great improvements that are relatively straightforward to implement.
I’ve created issues in the LLVM issue tracker for most of them, see links above. If you have suggestions or feedback on specific ideas, please comment on the issue or reply to this message here.
If you’d like to volunteer to implement one of the ideas, please assign the github issue to yourself.

I want to thank everyone again who participated at the round table or talked to me separately making suggestions for how to further improve the implementation of office hours.

PS. As an experiment, we tried to enable people to dial in remotely to the round table discussion. We used a speaker phone in the middle of the table and a Zoom video chat on a laptop. Feedback indicates that while it was not possible to hear everyone at the table, it still was a useful experience for the person who dialed in - being able to follow most of the conversation. If you’re thinking about organizing a round table at a future dev meeting and would consider enabling people who cannot travel to be able to join your round table, I’m happy to chat more sharing my experience, e.g. during one of my office hours :wink:

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