Goldfish Bowl Discussion

What is a Goldfish Bowl discussion

In a Goldfish Bowl discussion, you arrange several chairs in the middle of the room facing inwards. Around the edge of the inner chairs you arrange as many chairs as needed for your group.

Only people sat on the inner chairs may speak, but you must always leave an empty chair in the middle section. If someone from the rest of the group wishes to contribute they jump in the empty chair, then another speaker must move to one of the outer seats to leave an empty space.

If you want more information on the fish bowl format, the Wikipedia article is here.

Why I wanted to try it

Recently we have been looking at ways to promote code re-use between teams.
I wanted to try this format in our monthly discipline meeting as I hoped it would it would spark some conversation and pool together everyones ideas/opinion on the matter.

How it went

I think it went pretty well. We got a load of ideas and thoughts that I definitely wouldn't have come up with by myself.

Some really interesting questions came up on the area of code re-use. It felt like the topic of code re-use may have been a little broad to get tangible actions from just one discussion, but we drilled down in to some possible future topics where specific actions may be possible.

Here are some of the topics that came out for future possible discussions;

  • What are the bottlenecks, where are we having to re-write code?
  • Would it be better to re-use architecture rather than re-use code?
  • What benefits would we gain from code re-use and what are the possible drawbacks?
  • Would shared microservices be a good way of promoting code re-use?

I think these are all great questions that we should review, in the format of another goldfish bowl discussion or in other ways.

Feedback for future discussions

After the actual discussion we reviewed if the format worked well and how it could be improved if we did it again.

Again, everyone had really good ideas that I would like to try out. These included;

  • A hotseat chair - where you could jump in ask a question and jump back out without having to wait for someone to take your place
  • Holding team based discussions on the topic before the main discussion - to give people a chance to clarify their opinions and ask questions in a more comfortable setting first
  • Splitting the discussion up in to smaller groups

These ideas would be great to try, anything that will promote discussion and make people more comfortable to get involved can only be a good thing.