The one year anniversary of the "never-ending" March has just passed. One year ago, my co-organisers and I were in limbo on whether the events we were running would happen in person or not. That week I was helping to run a London CSS and an IndieWebCamp. Both events were moved to fully online at the last minute.
I always feel anxious when running events, especially when it was London CSS. The IndieWebCamp crowd is smaller and more familiar to me so I always felt more comfortable - which is why I took on two big events on the same week.
As both events happened before official lockdowns, we didn't know more than what the official authorities were saying. I remember our exchanges with the venues, writing up and drafting guidances as best as we knew and trying to update our attendees. We didn't know if the venues would pull last minute. Even if the events went ahead, we were concerned and terrified that someone could get ill from attending. Since I was running two events, I was having quick lessons and sharing as much information as possible.
For both events, at that point, we all knew we had to be safe than sorry. Sending the emails to move to online-only was, to me, really bittersweet, but also gut-wrenching as we knew that some people had made travel arrangements to come to London.
While IndieWebCamps usually have an online stream by default, that wasn't the case with London CSS - yet. Kevin did a lot of work, just a few days before the event, to set-up everything so that our online-only event would go through. For IndieWebCamp, I bought a second-hand camera lens worth £600 for £79! I was over the moon with that find! Never got to use it...
Both events went really well. It was a brand new flashy thing! We were all excited! Little did we know that it would definitely last more than two weeks.
There are lessons to be learned though. As I gave some nerve-wracking intros in London CSS, I tried to give emphasis on how hard it is to be welcoming online. When we all meet online, there's a good chance we're meeting with people we already know and it is really hard to include people who are just joining from behind a screen. I tried to explain, maybe with an odd choice of words, that in community events, we should leave private jokes behind to welcome everyone. I was somewhat speaking from experience. It is already hard enough in person to get courage and ask to join a group in the social bit of a conference/meet-up, let alone online where everyone is typing faster than you or you're just too afraid to interrupt a video call to say "hello".
While hosting the Homebrew Website Club, I've been trying different ways to prompt someone new who joined our video call. Some people prefer to watch and don't say much. Others will present themselves. Others would prefer if the host prompts them for an introduction. We're all trying our best.
During this last year. there were lots of lessons on moderation. Lessons on how to use tools to apply the code of conduct online instead of in-person. But also, lots of opportunities to connect with people who wouldn't be able to join in-person. Not only people from other countries or cities but also parents or caregivers. There's still work to be done here: many parents of little ones, still need to work around dinner and bedtimes. Maybe we can push further and explore other timings for events that are not immediately after working hours.
Since March, I attended and bought a few tickets to other conferences. However, I didn't necessarily attend all of them. Knowing that the videos are there to re-watch anytime I want, mean that I have postponed that task. I've been drained and exhausted from being online, at home, all the time. I wonder if this is a trend among organisers.
As of this year, knowing that London CSS is in excellent hands, I decided to leave the organisation team and I don't personally plan on organising another IndieWebCamp. I may be biased, but I really recommend those events. I'm still around for Homebrew Website Club every two weeks (unless cancelled).
And while we don't meet in person, if you're an event organiser, spend some time and learn how you can make your future events safer.
Stay safe friends!