Well Dreadtober 2016 has come and gone, but I want to take a moment and look back at what happened during the event and my thoughts from running it.
As some of my readers have gathered from my lack of posts the last two weeks, Dreadtober wore me out both on the hobby front as well as the blogging. While I have no regrets doing it, I needed some time to step away and paint a few models for fun.
For those who missed it, or didn’t follow the full journey, Dreadtober was a challenge to build and paint a Dreadnought-like model during October. Greg started it last year and I ran this year’s event.
I ran it a bit different this year by breaking it down into six weekly challenges and using email to communicate with the participants.
Starting at the end of September, I challenged each member to plan out their project and state their commitment. It then continued into building, painting, finishing, and photographing the miniature.
The results of each week were posted on Saturday’s showcase so everyone could follow along.
To officially sign up for the event I requested everyone provide me with their email. This way I could send everything out at once and gather the progress in my inbox.
By the time Dreadtober had completed, I had 116 people sign up, 72 provide some sort of update, and 50 complete their models by the final showcase. This doesn’t include the other 11 participants that Rory hosted on his site who all completed the challenge.
While those numbers are incredible, what was even more awesome was to see so many levels of hobbyist work on the projects together and create such a diverse set of models.
Even though there were 49 Space Marine Dreadnoughts finished (with 8 of the Deathwatch), they all had their own story and look.
Last week I sent a survey to all the participants, asking how they felt the event went and what could be improved for next year.
What They Liked
By far the largest response on what everyone liked about the event was the community nature of sharing status updates on social media and the weekly showcase. Many enjoyed that everyone was working on a similar project which created a sort of comradery.
There were also fans of the weekly updates as it helped keep them motivated and make steady progress.
And of course, Dreadnoughts!
What They Didn’t Like
While no one likes to hear negative feedback, I welcomed it for this event so we can find ways to improve for next year.
- A few that wished the event was even bigger! One of the points of feedback was to include multiple organizers/hosts which I will touch on below.
- Not enough interaction between participants. Part of this was that some users were on Twitter and many found Dreadtober from other platforms. It also seems there was some disappointment in not getting more comments on people’s projects.
- There was confusion on the fact that if a participant didn’t send in an update, I just copied it from the week before.
- Falling behind and not being able to finish their project.
Every week I had intended to turn my Dreadtober project into a tutorial for that week. I got about halfway through before falling too far behind and the last two tutorials were actually just a huge list of other tutorials on the web.
When asked if they were helpful, 35% said they were very helpful, 57% thought they were somewhat helpful, and and 8% said they weren’t helpful at all. The comments were interesting in that many found the tutorials to be interesting but had variations on “I like my way.”
Many responses, as clear from the chart above, enjoyed the tutorials as part of the challenge. This was great to hear as an important part of the event for me was to have everyone try something new.
Overall most people thought the six weeks was about right, if not slightly long. Some liked the extra ‘cheat’ week that was focusing on photography, others thought it took away from the formal October 31st end date.
It was also great to see that so many people felt comfortable asking questions to the community. As one response put it: “Sharing, teaching and learning are all part of the community.”
It was also interesting to see where everybody found out about Dreadtober this year. While I know a number of members participated last year, or at least followed it, there was clearly a lot of movement from Twitter and word of mouth.
My thoughts on running it
Running Dreadtober was a mixture of high endurance stress and awe induced honor.
Much of the stress was my own self doing by putting together the weekly challenges, tutorials, and showcase articles. Had I been able to get them all written in September as originally planned it would have been better.
On the flip side, I was able to witness 116 hobbyist on their journey from ‘I guess I’ll do this model’ to ‘hey! I completed it!’ And when I jumped on Twitter I saw a bunch of the participants helping each other out.
I got so into it that I was truly bummed when a few members emailed with reasons they wouldn’t be able to finish. Things like life, spoiled primer, and cancer got in the way for some, others I think lost interest. Nothing wrong with any of that (except for that stupid cancer) but I wish I could have done something more to help everyone succeed.
Ideas for the future
The big question is: would I run something like this in the future? Oh yeah!
But I do have some thoughts on what I would change, both for Dreadtober, but also other events that I am thinking about doing as well.
1. Don’t Go it Alone
One of the biggest mistakes I made was attempting to run the event by myself. I think Greg had attempted to warn me about this when we talked, but I clearly wasn’t listening.
For an event of this size, it should really be ran by a team. It would be easy to split up the work between factions, regions, or roll of the dice. But having a couple of people running it would reduce the work and allow each of us to get more into the community aspect.
2. Allow for Users to Post
By far the biggest overhead was to copy and paste each user’s update from email to the page. I would then have to download the image from the email and upload to WordPress. And then format everything.
To simplify this I want to find a way for each user to post their own updates. One option is to move it to a Facebook group. It would have the added benefit of allowing everyone to post comments directly to the user as well. The downside is that not everyone uses Facebook and it wouldn’t organize the updates like the showcases do.
If anyone has a good suggestion on a solution for this, please leave it in the comments!
3. More Focus on Community
Not only did I spend a good deal of time with copy-paste, but I was focusing on getting all the posts completed, emails out, and only then would I try to squeeze in some commenting and social replies.
Between the two changes above, I would want to take that extra time to really building the community interaction. Going way above just ‘liking’ and re-sharing posts, I think it’s important that everyone get’s support and encouragement. I think a few more participants would have finished if they had felt involved.
4. Keep the Weekly Cadence But Simplify
Overall the participants liked the weekly cadence for challenges and requests for updates. If we solve for #2 above, this would be easy to implement and prepare ahead of the event. The email tool I am using even allows for scheduling out the emails, so it could have been ready to go day 1.
What I would change for Dreadtober is focus it around the actual start and end of October rather than the Saturdays near it. I think the prep week and photography week were good ideas, but took away from the main theme.
So instead, I would change it so October 1st everyone posts what they pledge to do, and on October 31st they post their final results. The weekly challenges would fit within these two dates and help each member make progress that week.
5. Prize and/or Sponsor Support
While Dreadtober has never been a competition, there was a suggestion to add some sort of prize incentives. For those not on the Dreadtober email, Secret Weapon Miniatures gave Greg a coupon code to share last year and agree to support the event this year. It was a nice little surprise and generous of Mister Justin.
For next year, it would be interesting to see what sort of prizes and sponsors we could get. Current the idea would be prizes for everyone who finishes on time and maybe smaller prizes to everyone who completes the challenge of the week.
Until Next Year
Well this wraps up my thoughts on Dreadtober 2016. It was an awesome event, and thank you again to everyone who participated – from those who finished to those who got distracted along the way.
I’m sure sometime in September 2017, Greg and I will wake up and go “oh yeah, we should work on this!” and figure out the plan.