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J and Beyond 2020 - Bridging the Corona Gap

june-jab

When our team kicked off organizing an international Joomla conference in May 2020, we had no idea that a global pandemic would ruin all our plans. However, as a community born in the online world, nothing seemed more obvious than turning our beloved family meeting into an online event, bringing people from around the globe together in these crazy times.

The plan for the online event was quite straightforward: we wanted to do a 24h nonstop live stream kicking off at May 30th 00:00 UTC and finishing at 23:59 UTC – and together with our great tech team, the sponsors, speakers and the audience we made it happen!

With 24 slots of 1 hour each, we were able to bring tremendous amounts of knowledge to the community. We enabled people to see some familiar faces, say “hello” to each other in the chat and most importantly catch some “positive vibes” around Joomla.

However, doing a 24 hour livestream had some challenges – some of them being technical, but most of them being more “human".

Having our headquarters in Cologne, Germany, starting at 00:00 UTC meant that we would kick off at 02:00 local time. With at least 3 team members being involved in the stream at any time, it became pretty obvious that we would have to work in shifts to make it through that streaming marathon – and that’s what we did: 2 teams of 4 members each worked in 4 shifts. The second shift, ending at 10:00 local time was the by far most ungrateful one, as the guys had to go to bed right after breakfast, giving them a 6 hour time window for a nap, before they had to show up for their next shift at 18:00. But thanks to plenty of caffeine and a highly motivated group, that worked out.

In order to provide a stable and scalable stream, that’s straightforward to use, we built a setup that utilized Google Meet and YouTube.

Google Meet was used for a video call with 3 participants: the “host”, moderating the stream and forward questions from the chat, the speaker and “the stream”, which was a separate machine which screen and sound output was captured and forwarded into our actual streaming setup. In that setup, we added a number of additional camera inputs (allowing us to provide live footage from the in- and outside of our headquarter), some music for the breaks and a nice frame. That result was then streamed to YouTube and also recorded locally, allowing us to upload the sessions after the event as the actual stream wasn’t recorded because it exceeded the 10 hour time limit set by YouTube.

That setup worked extremely stable and was easy to use for both speakers and attendees, as only a web browser was required to speak and attend. With at least two technicians being involved in the stream at any time, we could monitor the current live stream with one person while the second technician was already reaching out to the next speaker, to make sure that he or she is available and Google Meet is working fine for him or her.

The speakers did a fantastic job! Presenting to an audience that you can neither hear nor see is a pretty unusual and challenging situation and our speakers handled that challenge perfectly!

Following the posts being tagged with the #jab20 hashtag, it was really great to see Joomla folks from around the globe following the event in front of their screens. Even though such an online event can’t nearly replace an in-person experience, it really felt like some “J&Beyond spirit” was in the air!

In case you haven’t been able to attend the stream yourself, you can watch all session in the corresponding YouTube playlist – enjoy ;)

Last but not least, we want to thank all our team colleagues, speakers, our sponsor Plesk and of course the Joomla folks in front of the screens for their support. We enjoyed it so much to virtually hang out with you!

And because our first ever online-event worked so well, we’ll do another 24h stream later this year! So, safe the date: 14th of November 2020, 09:00 UTC!

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