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Re: DebConf21 to be held online

On Saturday, April 3, 2021, Antonio Terceiro <terceiro@debian.org> wrote:

We need a team to make DebConf21 happen. We built some basic
infrastructure for online DebConfs last year, but surely we can do more
this year. If you want to make DebConf special, or just want to help
make it happen, please volunteer and propose your ideas to the
debconf-team@lists.debian.org mailing list.

happy to do that.

there have been two online conferences that i attended which were both stunningly well put together and engaging in a way that i have never experienced in any real-world conference:

* xdc 2020
* fosdem 2021

by contrast, openpower NA 2020 and one other, both of which used nonfree "chat", were deeply problematic not even from a point of forcing registration on proprietary services, they just weren't ubiquitous enough (required specific browsers) to actually work and include everyone.

of course, as a "minority" (Libre Developer) the organisers regarded my "problems" *even as a speaker* to be "unimportant" (it works for everyone else, you are a minority, go take a hike was the summary. really shocking: they even ignored that it is discrimination).

XDC and FOSDEM on the other hand went out of their way to select technology that would "just work".

* XDC2020 used IRC for chat (freenode), set up a jitsi server instance, and backended it into youtube live.

there is a report online about how this was set up.  also i have to say that Intel was amazing.  when i mentioned that i have a mobile broadband LTE connection they offered sponsorship money to upgrade to better internet.

using plain IRC meant that there were no login or "web" incompatibilities to deal with.

yes youtube live is not the best thing: i would not recommend it for debian as it's "out of your direct control".

* FOSDEM2021 really went to town.  chat.fosdem.org is likely still up (in full, due to GDPR issues) so can be tried out.

they got some help / sponsorship from matrix to set it up, and despite some niggles with the load on the servers it worked really well.

examples: the matrix team customised some notifications into the backend for them which looked for speakers and checked automatically that they had joined the "backstage" room, so that they would be present for Q&A. the plugin escalated its notifications to make sure someone could be found.

anyone was (still is) allowed to create informal chat rooms which can be used for live conf calls, and plugins can be added by room event organisers.  event rooms were all set up with IRC bridges to freenode so that nobody was left out.

many people reported that they could not use jitsi with element on android, however i installed both through F-Droid and had no problems participating even as a speaker.  i did however also log in via the online web version of element, just to have a backup: no issues occurred.

overall it was extremely sophisticated, and highly effective and engaging.

the main lessons here were that the technology chosen by the team reflected the ethos of that team.  those people that cared about being inclusive to all selected ubiquitous technology.

behind both successes though was jitsi.


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