I had the pleasure of spending the last two full days in one of the most superb online conference experiences I've experienced. Impressions below, or you can find my notes for day one and two nearby.)
CascadiaFest has been going on in the Pacific Northwest since as early as 2012, and I've been attending since the event took place at the Semiahmoo resort (near the US/Can border not far from where I live). This is officially my fourth Cascadia!
This event has always been special to me. What's set Cascadia apart from other conferences is the focus on community and inclusivity. While I had gone to a handful of other conferences before this one, Cascadia was where I first made some real friends. Some of my longest connections in the larger js ecosystem were formed at Cascadia. While it's sad that the event couldn't go on in person this year, I'm extremely grateful that an online event could still go on.
And I had a lot of fun today! The event was really great. Organizers put a lot of effort in taking the "online conference" to a level beyond just "streaming some talks". Specific spaces were created on slack and two additional platforms to enable folks to connect: during lunch and breaks I had multiple opportunities to talk with other real people. I sometimes feel like I connect with people even better during events like this because I'm already so adapted to chat/video communications.
While the talks were going on, questions and supplementary commentary was also being shared in real time. There was at least one community link resource going around. Being at my own computer meant I took great notes, but the community discussion meant everyone had access to some of the best of everyone's notes.
There are definitely limitations to using a platform like this, and I certainly would have liked to be able to see many of these faces in person. I don't think digital events should replace all real ones entirely (especially one as magical as Cascadia is). However, I do think these online platforms are raising the bar for how we can engage distributed folks.
At the end of the afternoon, after the discussion and main event networking space had closed for the afternoon, I found myself beaming for the experience. For a short while I truly forgot some of the harsh realities, or that most folks are still so far away.
The warmth of CascadiaFest continues to shine through even a digital experience.