Thoughts about Online Conferences

Jan 7, 2021
Online conferences are not new. But the pandemic has seemed to increase the number. I don’t know if the trend will continue, but I love it.
I never really went to conferences all that much. Sometimes a employer would send me to something. I won a competition at my school and went to Game Developers Conference in San Francisco once, and at Austin numerous times.
Overall, while I really enjoyed them, a few things stood out.
  1. It is a big time commitment. The last conference I went too, I had to take vacation days to attend. And I ignored me email and slack, which is something I don’t get to do to often, as I am always on-call.
  1. They cost a lot. The few times I paid my own way, it was pretty expensive. Sometimes most of a paycheck for less days. But typically worth it because I was picky about the conferences I choose. Like Artifact Conf, always amazing.
  1. Travel sucks when it’s during a a rush. Any conference that is large, draws a crowd. This can eat up the hotel rooms and other resources, making it even harder to get access too.
Now I have been fortunate, I have this access if I wanted it. I typically do not use it. But many do not. Conferences of note typically focus on larger cities, and more 1st world countries. This really impacts access. From rural learners, to entrepreneurs in the developing world, it just isn’t exclusive.

Online Conferences

Now online conferences are not new. But this pandemic has made them the norm. For example Next.js held a conference recently. And while they have allowed remote viewing in the past, they had a small audience in comparison to this year, and less speakers. This year it was huge, requiring four stages. And it was awesome.
There were 46 sessions created overall, including the keynote. I have watched 26 of them. And it has been wonderful to watch, while I work. I don’t need to give my full attention, as It is fairly easy to identify when something unique or profound is happening. And this gives me exposure to less manicured speakers, and lesser items.
Overall I really enjoy this approach. After all, I don’t really care to network. I just don’t need to visitor sponsor booths or look for a job. I don’t need more swag, I have a collection of t-shirts going back 10+ years, many I won’t wear.
What I want, is learning. I want to see something profound. I want good ideas and debate to happen. I want to see the world move forward and I want to make sure I am moving with it. Clearly this works for me. But someone younger, newer to the industry, it may not be.
I am curious, if and when the world gets back to “Normal”, if we see these free online conferences go away. I think it would be a mistake. But people do want experiences.