My first Jamstack Conf

Screenshot of Jamstackconf.com/virtual

Normally, April and May would have been conference months for me with things like GopherCon EU and previously WriteTheDocs NA usually taking place during the spring. With COVID-19 GopherCon EU has been postponed into June and WriteTheDocs NA even into August. In April I stumbled upon another conference that was originally slated for May but then decided to move the event online while keeping the same time slot: Jamstack Conf, moving from London to Virtual.

As I wrote last month, I planned to attend and did so yesterday for the main track, skipping the workshops today. So how was my first virtual live-conference?

Structure

Let me first write something about how the event and the platform it was running on was structured. Hopin provided a simple UI with a navigation bar on the left side, a main content area for the session video streams in the middle and an optional chat panel on the right:

The navigation allowed access to the following areas:

  1. The main stage moderated by Phil Hawksworth. Here all the scheduled talks where also presented.
  2. Sessions: At the end of the first day there were a handful of break-out sessions held in parallel for specific topics.
  3. Networking was the place where you could hang out with specific people to chat.
  4. Expo hall: This was the place where sponsors could hold their own presentations, interact with attendees and also hand out things like vouchers.

There was pretty much everything there I’d expect from a conference. I especially liked the way the expo part was implemented with live-chats with the sponsors and them also being able to hand out vouchers etc. for interested participants.

The chat was present all the time with a main-channel and, if you were in a specific session or expo “booth”, a session-specific one. Anybody remember those days when we had IRC channels with all conference attendees going on in the background? Remember how great that was? It still is and the implementation in hopin simulated that experience quite well 🙂

Regarding the video streams: Most of the talks were pre-recorded in order to allow the speakers to mingle with the other attendees and answers “live” instead of having to wait for a Q&A session (which was also possible in the break after every talk). With nearly 3000 attendees being online during most of the talks I was quite pleased how the platform performed. With a few bufferings every hour everything worked quite smoothly! Only once did the connection completely break but that might also have been a problem on my end.

As for the content: While the overall quality of the talks was quite high, so was the level of abstraction. Only rarely did a talk really go into the details of an implementation outside of “we use Netlify, hosted service A and B…”. Being sponsored by Netlify everything was also a bit too focused on Netlify-based implementations. In fact pretty much every talk was about someone saying that they use Netlify. I was kind of missing talks from people just using Jenkins/GitHub Actions/GitLab CI/… to build the markup and then using their own services to add custom functionality. I was still able to learn about quite a few interesting projects and products I might look into more detail in the future!

That being said, there was one talk everyone should see IMO: “The COVID Tracking Project” presented by Erin Kissane. A great overview of what went on to get a US-wide statistics aggregator up and running from the organisational and technical side!

By now you can find all talks on YouTube, but if you want a quick overview, I’ve also uploaded my notes to the talks here: 1, 2, 3. Please note that these were live-notes and therefore may or may not be correct!

Anyway: I really enjoyed the experience and might also attend future (non-free) JamstackConf events.

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