The Most Accessible Deserted Island Conference Ever

How many virtual conferences and events have you attended recently? Now compare that to the amount of time you’ve spent playing video games during the past few months. Not giving too much away, Patrick and I would probably agree that we’ve spent more time on the latter. With screen time dominating our lives and in-person gatherings largely on hold, how can we rise to the challenge of bringing communities together in accessible, refreshing, and fun ways? 

In this episode of Community Signal, principal developer advocate Austin Parker shares how he used tools like Twitch, OBS, Discord, and yes, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, to throw a deserted island conference like no other. Austin doesn’t expect every conference from here on out to be hosted in the video game, but he does hope that the pandemic and his experience with Deserted Island DevOps encourages all of us to think outside of the box when it comes to creating experiences for our communities. In his words: “You don’t have to be an expert, you don’t have to be a master event planner. You don’t need $10,000 to go rent a ballroom at the Sheraton. You can make something that’s engaging, and creative, that people like, and people will come and listen to it. You can share knowledge and you can build a community using stuff that is either free or fairly inexpensive.”

Austin and Patrick also talk about:

  • Pros and cons of in-person and virtual events
  • The moderation tools, volunteers, and code of conduct that helped make Deserted Island DevOps happen nearly seamlessly
  • How Austin grinded to get enough bells to pull off the conference

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Big Quotes

How has the pandemic changed work for developer advocates? (2:30): “[Because of COVID-19], we’re in a world where there’s this antipathy or bias against large-scale events for the foreseeable future. And maybe not even on a month’s time scale, on a multi-year timescale, we really have to rethink what does it mean to be part of a developer community? … How do you build events and get people interested in events that don’t take you out of your normal routine?” –@austinlparker

Going virtual with attention to accessibility and inclusivity (7:53): “Virtual events as a longer-term strategy are actually really good. It’s very accessible. There’s a ton of people due to whatever reason, because of where they are in the world, because of a disability or because it’s unsafe, or due to their gender or sexuality, in-person events aren’t welcoming. A virtual event can be much safer for people to attend and much more accessible and egalitarian than these $5,000 hotel and plane and then $2,000 ticket [conferences].” –@austinlparker

Moderation as a continual practice (23:36): “Moderation is never going to be 100%. It’s never going to work 100%. [There will always be] the fallibility of technology and of people. Getting close enough is the goal and just fixing any mistakes we find along the way.” –@patrickokeefe

A few tools and a little creativity can go a long way towards creating memorable experiences (34:44): “The future I see [for virtual events] is one where people are using very easy-to-access prosumer tools in order to create unique experiences and build communities around those. It’s less [about using Animal Crossing like I did] and more you don’t have to be an expert, you don’t have to be a master event planner. You don’t need $10,000 or $20,000 to go rent a ballroom at the Sheraton. You can make something that’s engaging, creative, and that people like, and people will come and listen to it. You can share knowledge and you can build a community using stuff that is either free or fairly inexpensive.” –@austinlparker

About Austin Parker

Austin Parker has been solving –– and creating –– problems with computers and technology for most of his life. He is the principal developer advocate at Lightstep and maintainer on the OpenTracing and OpenTelemetry projects. Austin is the host of On-Call Me Maybe and co-author of Distributed Tracing in Practice, published by O’Reilly Media.

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