I attended RailsConf this year, as I did last year. Due to COVID-19 these events were virtual-only. Unlike last year, this year’s event included a live component for keynote speakers as well as a large number of Discord rooms so that attendees could live the hallway track as best a virtual even could provide.
Organizers reported attendees took part from 61 countries.
There were 5 keynotes, 60 talks (not including attendee lightening talks) and 11 workshops over 4 days. The talks were prerecorded so they could be viewed at anytime. This is a nice feature; as someone who has attended the in-person RailsConf in the past, it’s always hard to decide what talks to attend and sustain the energy to watch one during every time slot.
The keynotes and workshops were live and took place in the afternoon and late morning, respectively. This year live lightning talks, game show, sponsor talks and speaker Q&A were added and made the experience feel as close to in-person as possible.
The 60 session talks will be up on the Ruby Central Youtube channel with a month after the event. Lots of really great talks and tons to learn.
This format worked great but I do miss the in-person events when you can see old friends face-to-face, have good conversations and enjoy group dinners out. I hope next year there is an in-person component of RailsConf. It does appear RubyConf will offer both in-person and virtual attendance. This gives attendees options and likely means more people can attend since some would miss because they couldn’t get away.
I don’t know the numbers for previous RailsConf, but I would have to think attendance was not close to 61 countries.
We are seeing the future
As bad as COVID-19 was for so many, we may see some positive changes for the future.
Conferences were designed to be in-person, face-to-face meetups, bringing attendees from all over the world to a central location. COVID-19 has shown us there had to be a different way.
Organizers had embrace a new way of holding events or shutdown. Technologies like Zoom and Mux proved online video is a solid technology, capable of the demands of many users.
Events than can offer both an in-person and virtual experience, stand to gain the most. This opens up opportunities for both organizers and attendees. People who would not be able to attend a particular conference in-person would now not miss the event because they can watch in the comfort of their home or office. Organizers that had to limit attendance can now open up and allow so many more to take in the event. Win..win.
I’m looking forward to attend more conferences in 2021 than ever before. I will attend some in-person but will attend others virtually. The RailsConf organizers and folks at Ruby Central should be applauded for a great job.