Feedback and recipes

Whenever I can, I pass out recipe cards—you know, 3″x5″ index cards—after I give a talk, teach a class, or facilitate for a group. I ask for candid feedback, so that I can do a better job the next time, or recipes. Including contact information is entirely optional—I like to be able to follow-up on suggestions and sometimes I find it helpful to ask some questions about a comment, but if someone feels more willing to tell me what I did wrong anonymously, then that’s fine with me, too.

The reason I ask for recipes is that some people don’t feel comfortable giving feedback, but being asked for a recipe is just goofy enough that many people will write one down! And any recipe that someone can write down from memory is something you know they make a lot and it’s got to be good. You’ll see what I mean.

To make it clear just how much I value feedback, and to keep myself honest in taking that feedback seriously, I reproduce it here, verbatim, whether it’s good, bad, or otherwise. Out of respect for people’s privacy, I strip off the contact information and I enter the comments in random order. Recipes are alphabetized by food name.


Event: LA JMP Users’ Group, “JSL: From Basics to OMG” (a 90 minute introduction to JSL, 15 June 2010)

  • Thanks.
  • Interested in discussing outsourcing a Monte Carlo simulation “template.” Thank you.
  • Easier to follow code for interface when the interface is also on the screen.
  • Presentation was good.
  • Good presentation. Thanks. Please send the script.
  • Thanks for the presentation. Good job.
  • I enjoyed the talk and I would appreciate if you could send me the code. Thank you.

Event: Minnesota JMP Users’ Group, “JSL: From Basics to Uff Da” (a three hour talk on JSL, 7 June 2010)

At this talk, I asked people to rate their JSL skills on a scale of 0 (“Scared of JSL”) to 10 (“Scary good at JSL”) in addition to giving their feedback. My talk ranged from introductory basics to an advanced script to several way-out-there topics (“uff da” is a polite Scandinavian-American expletive that approximates “oy vey” or “heavens to Betsy”). I also invited the audience to interrupt at any moment with questions and to feel free to derail me from my prepared presentation, since if you don’t understand something at the beginning, it can be really hard to follow the rest, and because the Q&A are so often the most valuable part of a session like this. Of course, the risk of taking questions and going down some detours is that the talk will get harder to follow, especially for beginners. Because of that and the extreme range from basic to advanced material, I wanted to know how well the talk served audience members at differing levels of JSL experience. The scores they gave themselves are shown at the beginning of each comment.

(0-10 self-rating of JSL experience, 0=beginner, 10=expert).

  • (5-6) I love the advanced topics and learned lots of good tips. Thank you.
  • (5) Good class. Debug examples were very helpful.
  • (0) Session was very beneficial, a lot of very useful hints on how to keep self out of trouble.
  • (5) The Show Properties tip is useful. It is helpful that you were willing to abandon your prepared presentation in favor of topics relevant to the audience.
  • (0.5) I am a scripting novice so I would have liked a bit more on the why you might create a script and how to do this with a sample data set. Know it is hard to cover basics to uff da and keep everyone happy…. You were very willing to answer all questions! Very helpful!
  • (5)
  • (5) Would like to spend more time in depth on specific topics. Woul dlike to have an intro to JSL talk. Thanks.
  • (2) Great info, too much—seriously you could fill a week seminar! I would pay for this. Practical! You are funny.
  • (4-5) JSL experience 2-3 years. My scripts are mostly self-taught. I’ve always felt that I missed the first day of class when it comes to scripting. I wish there was a “For Dummies” book for folks with little programming background. The JSL Scripting Guide assumes a level of sophistication that some folks don’t have.
  • (3) Push user questions to th eend, the attempt to answer in the middle is not part of your prepared talk and usually goes into a trial & error mode. The script breakdown was the best part but was abbreviated due to early questions.
  • 10+ year JMP user. Great job on such a difficult topic as JSL! I feel like I’m in a JSL “master” class only I don’t have a computer wiht JMP so I can write script as you teach. A lot of good info! Thank you. P.S. I will learn more about associative arrays.
  • (3) More scripts examples. Less tangent info. Examples are best.
  • (2) Good tips / tricks. Thanks for sample script.
  • (0) I want to write a script to compile historical data to compare against current a ta new job. This was worthwhile for me but I have a long way to go—I’ll start with chapter 2.
  • (2)
  • (4)
  • (5) Informative session.
  • (6) Would have been better to stick with an example and then allow questions at the end (would be less disjointed). Tips and tricks was good!
  • (1) A little too advanced for a beginner, though interesting to see what is possible. Thank you.
  • Session was good. One single suggestion: there were a couple of occasions (the evaluation of embedded “substitute expressions”) when it would have been good to move on and ask us to work it out back at work.
  • (2-3) I am a serial example person. Working through a complex example from beginning to end is always best for me. Detours along the way are perfectly acceptable. More time of Uff Da example…
  • (7) Thank you! This was best JMP scripting tutorial/class I’ve been to.
  • (2) Very informative; teaching GUI creation is very practical.

Event: two-day facilitation & moderation for ENLASO’s “Localization Thought Leader Forum” (December 2006, 2007, 2008)

Beginning in 2006, ENLASO ( has hosted an almost-annual two-day forum, invitation-only, creating an opportunity for localization managers from several dozen of its customer organizations (past, present, and prospective) to network, learn from each other, and discuss localization issues common across industries and non-profit organizations. From the beginning, ENLASO invited me to moderate the forum and facilitate discussions after each presentation, and they courageously allowed me and the participants free rein to shape the event any way we wanted. They agreed that ENLASO staff would participate only as technical resources or when their perspectives were explicitly sought by the attendees—in other words, no commercials and no sales activities! So that discussions could be as candid and useful as possible, we stipulated ground rules about confidentiality, in particular that any discussion of other vendors would be done without naming the vendors, nobody would discuss pricing or other private contractual details with any vendor, and each participating organization’s confidential information would not be shared outside the forum.

My charter was to do whatever it took to encourage active participation of all the attendees. We scheduled thirty-minute presentations followed by thirty-minute discussion periods, plus several open discussion periods, and several open sessions for me to lead the group in ice-breakers, improvisation games, and other activities designed to foster trustful, open discussion in a fun setting.

  • Pros: good pacing! Good control of agenda. Not intrusive but supportive of speakers. Cons: “what did you learn?” questions [to open discussions] not always relevant.
  • Great facilitation—Thanks for keeping us on track. Good icebreaker games. Suggestion: [name withheld] had a lot of questions—good. But I think he monopolized a couple of the Q&A sessions. Not a problem unless others lost their opportunity to ask questions. Suggestion: for ice breaker, use different categories: no Linus/Snoopy :-)
  • You were awesome!
  • More games. Love the facilitation!
  • Excellent moderator!
  • As the past two other forums, your facilitiation is a great addition to the meeting. Thank you for help pulling people together to contribute while keeping the presenters on track.
  • Erin, great facilitation skills. Thanks for keeping us on track.
  • Excellent moderator!

Event: two-day facilitation for a Fortune 500 electronics company, interdepartmental task force for a major website redesign.

A major video security systems manufacturer had recently been acquired by a huge European electronics conglomerate and was undergoing major organizational changes at the same time as a major website redesign. I facilitated a two-day meeting with over 40 participants representing just about every department in the organization. Their new website needed to serve a huge number of constituencies, each bringing different technical requirements and priorities to the table. Before the meeting, each participant had held team meetings to list objectives; by the end of the meeting, the team had agreed on priorities, written a time-line, and assigned ownership for each of the major items on the timeline.

The ultimate compliment came when I was chatting after the final session with the executive who had brought me in and a director reporting to that executive. The executive commented that we had accomplished in six meeting hours (two mornings) more than they thought they could have accomplished in six weeks of weekly three-hour meetings without a facilitator. The director did some quick arithmetic and determined that they had saved five times my fee in hourly wages alone, to say nothing of the opportunity costs of not meeting their objectives for at least six more weeks. They also felt that the organizational costs of proceeding without group agreement and commitment would have been devastating.

  • Good facilitation!
  • Awesome work – beginning to end! I wish you well in your process [of starting a consultancy]. Check out Toastmasters.
  • It’s amazing how much we accomplished in such short time. You helped make this meeting a success. Can you come to all of our meetings?! Thanks.
  • Great Job! We could never have accomplished so much without you.
  • Thank you for keeping time like a good drummer… You provided the “beat” to keep us on point.
  • Great job at keeping team focused. Team felt equal as a result of format. Cost savings with focused group. Took less time to reach common goal with facilitator. Fun and productive. We met our criteria with this format: save $, make $, save time, acces, sticky
  • Nice job keeping everyone on track.
  • Erin’s facilitation kept our meeting on track and within the allotted time. Without her, our meeting could have gone on for days!
  • There were a lot of side-bars, but overall, the focus of the meeting was well-kept. Great job!
  • I see more business opportunities for you at [our company]. Very productive meeting that would not have been accomplished without you.
  • You need a table for your supplies. This was a fabulous interactive process. I have no suggestions for improvement beyond keeping up the excellent work.
  • Great meeting. Way to go when it came to keeping us on topic and focused on our goals. Come back again.
  • We probably should have affinitized these issues into bigger categories. There is a difference between “how” the site is constructed & what should be up there. Great job… Thank You.
  • Good control of group on first day. Needs to carry over to entire session duration. Activities helpful to cultivate open discussions (good icebreakers).
  • Thank you for facilitating. I don’t think we would have accomplished our objectives without you!!


Chili Cream Cheese Dip

  • 1 package 8oz cream cheese
  • 1 can chili (with or without meat)

In a double boiler, melt cheese. Add chili until well mixed and hot. Add to bread bowl and eat with bread, chips, or pita.

Pan-fried Gnocchi with Chard

  • 1 package pre-made gnocchi
  • knob of butter
  • couple slices of bacon
  • bunch of chard (any variety)
  • béchamel sauce
  • peas

Melt butter in pan and throw in gnocchi. Resist temptations to shake pan until gnocchi are nice crispy and brown. Flip to the other side and repeat.

Meanwhile, boil salted water. Cut center tough vein from chard and throw in boiling water for two minutes. Drain.

Crisp and crumble bacon. Add béchamel sauce to gnocchi in pan with bacon and frozen peas, béchamel, and Swiss chard.

Serve with good sausages.

Portuguese Cod

Sauté cod in 2 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons olive oil.

Pumpkin Bread Pudding

  • 1 C whipping cream
  • 1/4 C milk
  • 2 eggs + 1 egg yolk
  • 1 can pumpkin
  • 1 C sugar
  • 1C brown sugar
  • 1 t cardamom
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • raisins or currants
  • 6 C dried bread pieces
  • 4 T butter

Pour cream and milk over bread and let sit. Butter a large casserole dish. In a double boiler, combine all other ingredients and heat slowly until sugar is dissolved. Pou over bread and fold in. Bake at 350˚ for about 50 minutes or until set.

Radish with Anchovy Butter

Mix butter and anchovy, spread on radishes. Serve with sauvignon blanc.