I love a good conference. In 2019, we probably ran into each other at the hallway track of Open Source Summit Europe, LF Member Summit or FOSS4G-NA. I’ve also been a speaker, knocked back unwise amounts of Red Bull for long days on booth duty and haven’t missed an after-hours party.

That said, every time I get an email with a cancelled event six months from now, I’m strangely relieved. Open source communities need contributions more than they need conferences full of sales pitches. We are all more productive with asynchronous communication on mailing lists or using IRC (yes, I said it) but the conference industry has clouded that vision, probably with all that awful coffee.

My prediction is that we’ll see an uptick in code contributions and meaningful conversations that wouldn’t be possible if the conference circuit was still active. This could be a great year to boost the ranks of 1.3 million first-time contributors to open source, taking advantage of the shelter-in-place effect that has placed more behinds on chairs in front of computer screens than ever.

What about conferences moving online? Most, if not all, of the big open-source events have staged some virtual version this season, from the Red Hat Summit to OSCON to Kubecon. I’ll admit, the first hurdle is carving out the time. The main problem, however, is that we’ve got ways to go before online conferences are more than glitchy avatars of the live versions.

Of those that I’ve attended during lockdown, all have suffered the kind of technical lags that make you impatiently mouse over for another screen or tab, none have found a way to successfully replicate the “hey, how are you?” networking effect or provide unintrusive or effective ways to interact with speakers if you have questions or comments. And maybe it’s just me, but it’s a hard gin up enthusiasm for technical talks sitting at the kitchen table or home office, knowing there’s no free finger food and drinks to look forward to at the end.

Read the full post over at Open Source Insider and let me know what your experiences have been in the comments.

Photo by Samuel Pereira on Unsplash

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