Why Attend xAPI Camp Amazon – An interview with Aaron Silvers
With the second xAPI Camp around the corner on July 21st in Seattle, WA, we wanted to share how and why it came into being. In this first of a two-part series on the Connections Forum xAPI Camp at Amazon, I speak with Aaron Silvers, co-founder and partner of Making Better, a consultancy focused on continuously improving the tools and practices for learning and performance professionals and their organizations. Aaron along with Megan Bowe, Making Better’s co-founder, organize and plan xAPI Camps, which is no small feat. The event has gained quick attention and is near capacity. Aaron shares his thoughts on how this was possible in the interview below.
For those unfamiliar with the event, xAPI Camp is a one-day event showcasing all that is possible with xAPI. The goal of the event is to connect participants to answers they can act upon and a community that will help make an impact.
RISC, Inc continues to be a strong supporter of xAPI Camp and other xAPI-focused events as an early adopter of the specification with our LMS, the Virtual Training Assistant.
Art Werkenthin refers to you as the “Godfather of xAPI.” Briefly share why there was a need to develop xAPI and how you came to be its champion.
As long as it’s like James Brown is the “Godfather of Soul” I’m good with being the “Godfather of xAPI.” 🙂
There are many reasons why xAPI was needed. One reason is that we needed to get people thinking differently about how we learn and work, and that catalyst certainly wasn’t coming from the learning technology vendors or the standards groups. There were practical reasons like having a lightweight means to track what people could do with content that wasn’t launched in an LMS. This is one of those questions that I can go on forever about.
To your question about how I became its champion is simply that I was there at the very beginning. I was despondent about the way I was forced into working inside the constraints of digital/online environments that I couldn’t change. I saw this was true not just for me as a learning technology professional — it was true for EVERYBODY who works in any field, does their networking and collaboration on services like Google and Facebook. Freeing my own data, having some sense of agency and autonomy in the digital world was something that I needed, and I believed that helping people realize their own sense of freedom is what I was put on this earth to do. Over time I got better at articulating this idea in different ways. I didn’t own this idea alone; I was simply best suited of many to articulate it with the stamina to stay the course and steer a movement once momentum — and pressure — built.
My being a champion for xAPI was enabled by a strong team that fought hard fights above me and beside me at ADL. Had Paul Jesukiewicz and Angelo Panar not brought us in, we couldn’t have done it as we did. Had Dr. Kristy Murray and Dr. Frank DiGiovanni not given the green light for the Broad Agency Announcement (BAA), it wouldn’t have happened when it did. Had Mike Hruska, Andy Johnson, Shane Gallagher, Aaron Perrin, Nik Hruska and Jason Haag not run interference on any number of distractions which could’ve steered us off-course, we’d never have gotten as far as we did. Had we not had such a great relationship on the BAA with Mike Rustici and Tim Martin, who got Megan Bowe to work with me on this and set up early successes with first adopters, arrange events and information campaigns that went beyond the resources ADL could provide…we’d not have attracted the talents of Art, Russell Duhon, Ben Betts and countless others to propel this into a real community.
I’m its champion because a lot of people have put me in this spot and a few people have sweated and sacrificed much to help me stay here, not least of which is Megan. 🙂
The first xAPI Camp was held in the spring of 2015 and now two more are scheduled. What prompted the creation of xAPI Camp and what were your goals for the first one?
We wanted to create a time and space for people to actually have conversations they wanted (needed) to have about xAPI. We wanted to design that space so that wasn’t just about eLearning.
This was a mission given to us at Up to All of Us 2014. Megan and I have run several larger events that stray from a traditional conference model. Between the two of us, we’ve run Barcamps, Unconferences, Town Halls, Retreats, Hackathons… we needed to design an experience that situated anyone in the room in seriously awesome case studies, the big ideas people are chasing that the big challenges they’re facing, as well as their lessons learned from the trenches — all around xAPI.
It’s not just about the events. It’s about recognizing that there’s a new practice, maybe new professions, emerging where design and human development and technology meet.
There are so many places a search engine will take people who look for information about xAPI, so we wanted to curate resources of what we find particularly exciting and help catalyze the kind of industry — and especially help define a type of practice we want to be part of for the rest of our careers. I think people recognize that Megan and I really care about some goals that are bigger than all of us, and so we hope this lends some trust that what we’re putting together is high quality, and since we’ve been so involved in so many volunteer and
Our goals are pretty simple: we want to surface what’s really happening in terms of xAPI adoption and practice for the world to recognize. We’re going to encourage more adoption of xAPI. We are going to help fringe ideas that push boundaries grow by providing credible expertise to be freely available to anyone in “the room” (more on that in a bit). Most importantly, we want to give folks a different kind of experience where anyone can get real insights without being pitched to. We’ve been successful at this and we intend to keep going further in this direction.
The 2nd xAPI Camp is being hosted by Amazon – Mark Oehlert, Learning Technology Manager, with Amazon, is one of the presenters. The 3rd xAPI Camp is co-located with DevLearn and partnered with the eLearning Guild. Did you envision this kind of interest and growth for xAPI Camp? What do you think fueled it?
Did we envision this kind of interest and growth for xAPI? Absolutely. We’ve banked our careers — hell, our lives on it. xAPI Camp is just a means to step on the gas.
Did we think we’d already have so many events on the books for 2016 with even more about to be announced? That’s been a bit of surprise for us. Being a small firm, Megan and I recognize that this is something we need to be doing, and so we’re really happy and lucky that we have so many people we can pull together to help support this and keep it going and growing.
Honestly, I think what’s fueling the interest in the camps is the interest in xAPI, and a real desire to get a handle on how it can help folks. xAPI is very general. There are quite a few people who have challenges grasping that while this is complex stuff, it’s actually xAPI’s greatest strength is that it can be used in so many applications, and that it can help to bridge these different contextual uses.
We’re making it as easy as we can for people to get a fuller view of what xAPI can really do, told by the folks who are actually doing stuff with it. We’re bringing the community to different localities and different types of groups, curating ideas and examples out of the multitude to help folks get actionable next steps that make sense in their own work.
Recognizing that there are different audiences for xAPI, and they need their own inroad.. that one size doesn’t fit all — that’s probably why xAPI Camps are taking off. We hope that’s the message everyone walks away with about xAPI — one size doesn’t have to fit all anymore.
What are your plans for 2016 xAPI Camps?
On the books so far we have an xAPI Camp happening before three different eLearning Guild events: Learning Solutions in March 2016, mLearnCon in June 2016 and DevLearn in the fall. We are in talks to have an xAPI Camp in the San Francisco area in February 2016, in the EU possibly in the summer of 2016. We should probably do one closer to home in the East Coast and/or the Midwest. 😉
We’re hoping to have at least one xAPI Camp on Internet of Things in 2016, possibly another focused directly on HR systems and xAPI… maybe even one focused directly on Medical applications. We have a lot of interest, and these are becoming pretty easy to pull together with the infrastructure we’ve been building up.
Where can people go for more information on xAPI Camp and/or to find case studies on xAPI integration?
Everyone can find more information about xAPI Camps, case studies on xAPI and information on a new service we’re launching with our friends at Duce Enterprises and Intellectus Learning called LearnxAPI at connectionsforum.com
The next part of this series highlights the xAPI Camp presenters and speakers, as they offer insights on why they participate and what they’re looking forward to most. Be sure to follow RISC on Twitter and LinkedIn to be the first to learn when it posts!