My previous post was «reporting», and in contrast please consider this one pure opinion.
A summary of what I observed is «There are many options for showing things, voice narration is appreciated by many, few complain about not seeing faces in real time». Note that scaling voice, especially if you ask everyone to mute-unless-speaking, is unbelievably simpler than multi-way video.
Another guess is «whatever you do, audience questions will end up being a text chat». Colleagues here in the university share that they would prefer the students to speak instead of asking via chat but have no idea how to achieve that!
That’s one of the nicest aspects of conferences in my opinion; having random encounters that happen by overhearing somebody say something. But also seems hard to reproduce online.
I completely agree.
Looking around at how various tools are used, I believe this can be achieved, if it is specifically targeted and there is enough time.
Preparations would need the following to play out, and some of the steps needs wallclock/calendar time as well as ability to reach a wider community efficiently. I actually think Nix* community has better ability to have wide opinion polls than Lisp community, and planning 4+ months ahead directly an online event leaves us some luxuries not available when mid-February the situation changes for an end-of-April conference (with significant amount of work done for physical organisation which probably also needed to be rolled back…)
First, we would need to decide on preferences.
- What number/size of voice minigroups do we want? Any willingness to spend any kind of resources on anything multi-participant video?
- Whatever we do, voice requires more precise human synchronisation and more «let’s all gather» overhead than text chat, so I guess the first thing to have is first-class procedure for text-chat-based random encounters?
- Here we have the nice question of priorities: do we prefer these to be logged or unlogged?
- What features we want? I guess some form of webchat, are there any other feature preferences?
- Do we want any kind of integration of chat and presentations, or can these be two separate platforms, or do we just want them to agree to being iframes on the event page?
- We probably need some kind of accounts for sending messages, what kind of accounts do we want to integrate with? Say, existing Freenode accounts? Existing GitHub accounts?
- There is for sure quite a bit more stuff…
Note that preference collection requires calendar time, and community reach, and it cannot be done faster by simply working harder.
On the fly creation of spontaneous breakout rooms is not that rare; it happenned all the time in Nix* IRC before a more or less accepted decision was made to have a bounded number of rooms with clear-ish topics and a designated official general offtopic room. Same can happen in more or less most chat solutions.
Twitch chat is annoying in the following way, by the way: small failures require a reload to get the stream reception working again, and of course this loses the recent chat history.
Second, with preferences clear, we can actually evaluate the options and pick a few which provide the best support for the prioritised features.
Third, I guess someone would play with test deployments, and then there will be proposed procedures for no-experience users, like we now have the default step-by-step-ish recommended procedure for backporting commits. The idea is not just to describe how to use the platform, but also to establish a protocol that allows all that room-switching to happen with less friction and better understanding of other participants’ intentions.
Finally, there is spreading the instructions, and maybe final bikeshedding between a few competing drafts.
This step is also un-acceleratable, as we want everyone to hear about the proposed protocol and have time to read it!