First, we committed to eventually bringing face to face events to you but meanwhile… our journey to YOW! Online.
The global pandemic hit YOW! early as the pandemic’s arrival in Europe signalled major travel problems with bringing international speakers to Australia and then forcing the cancellation of YOW! Data and Lambda Jam in early March. At first, we thought “Perhaps September will be OK and surely December will be better”; then came the realization that we would be unable to offer any face to face events in 2020. We quickly went through our limited options. Some conferences simply went virtual, but our own experience with distributed and online-learning as well as feedback from others cautioned us – Virtual is not easy, and it is not the same in either delivery or economics.
Our first and most important question was how can an online event be better in any way than a face to face event? Our team spent March, April and early May attending virtual conferences, talking to other conference organizers, and hosting some virtual local meetups. My conversation with Gene Kim following his great post Love Letter to a Conference, was particularly valuable and much appreciated. Most importantly we learned the significant benefits of online versus face to face.
- We are now able to provide expert speakers virtually, who are unable to come to Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, and Hong Kong due to their family, employer, or other personal obligations.
- We can provide increased interaction with speakers through twenty-five to thirty minutes of text Q&A. Each speaker has a dedicated channel. Anyone can ask a question, and speakers can provide extensive answers including references etc. Speakers can jump in a day or two later to provide further information. The Q&A summary is provided to attendees after the event.
- YOW! Online includes many expert attendees, including other speakers. They can jump in and share their knowledge on the topics being discussed. These discussions can continue past an event with members helping other members.
- Online enables members to see what they want when they want it. It allows busy professionals to keep up during their personal time even if they are unable to attend the live event. It enables developers who live outside a YOW! city to participate in our events.
- Members can engage in direct discussions, learn about a partner’s product and services, and enter to win swag simply by engaging in the partner’s channel.
- Networking, hallway discussions, lunch together – we are not there yet! However, using easily created interest focused breakout rooms small groups can participate in, what amounts to an Online Open Space. They can vote with their feet and jump to another group way faster than you can walk across the room. In addition, we use designated hallway channels to provide a place for those open often humorous discussions. Once again asynchronous text provides fast equal access to everyone.
- Online content can be delivered much more cost effectively than face to face content. The substantial expenses associated with venues, catering, hotels, and travel can be significantly reduced.
Clearly there are unique benefits to face to face events which Online cannot provide, hence we will continue our face to face events as soon as that is possible.
YOW! Online is a series of online events which include quarterly conferences; workshops; monthly events with our great speaker network. In May we emailed speakers to ask for their support of the YOW!Online concept. We were overwhelmed with the number of speakers who generously offered their support. YOW!Online is a subscription service which is priced attractively for both individuals and corporations.
Each month members receive three events:
1) YOW! 90 Minutes: a talk from an expert YOW! speaker, followed by thirty minutes of Slack based Q&A;
2) YOW! Tube: a fast-paced discussion with one or two speakers and a YOW Moderator; and
3) YOW! Tooling Up: a presentation/demo of a new tool or best practice.
In addition, there are four Online conferences per year and Online Workshops every six to eight weeks. Members have access to all streamed live and recorded content immediately following the events. They also participate in the member Slack channel with discussions on topics of interest. YOW!Online is moderated and subject to the YOW! Policies for an enjoyable online experience for everyone.
We hope to see you Online! We look forward to your feedback.
Dave (for Team YOW!)