JoomlaDay USA 2021 - A retrospective on the first US-wide virtual event
On April 23 and 24, our ad hoc team* pulled off a JoomlaDay like no other, despite pandemic restrictions on travel and social gathering.
What You Missed
The event attracted 200+ registrations, and with 25 sessions in 4 simultaneous tracks, attendees are now returning to the https://jdayusa.com website to view sessions they could not fit in during the live event. (Head on over there and login if you are one of those attendees – all the videos are edited, and we fixed those that had transmission issues when live!)
Session presentations covered useful Joomla topics:
- Principles, including managing Joomla registration, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), social network integration, website accessibility, and volunteering
- Extending Joomla, including performance tuning, custom fields, Fabrik, etc.
- The Road to Joomla 4, including the path forward from Joomla 3.10, Joomla 4 workflow, customizing the Cassiopeia template, and how to get help; and
- Developer topics include building a Joomla template, Joomla deployment, Component Builder, Joomla 4 workflow, and Joomla as an alternative to SAAS.
Overall, of the 200 who registered, 163 attended sessions, 140 attended expo booths (not all of which were staffed continuously), 123 attended networking sessions, nearly 25 attended some part of Bugs & Fun, and 15 attended the Intro to Joomla class. In addition, we held one social event for speakers, and another was open to all attendees.
Highlights varied by attendees:
“The biggest part for me was the Bugs & Fun. It was really well run, and Olivier was so helpful in explaining things. I never thought I could do this but it got me started.”
“The networking was a blast. I spent most of the time talking with a couple of people. I talked to people I never got the chance to meet before.”
“It was really well organized. Hats off to you guys. The Best Website presentation gave me a lot of good tips. Also, Tobias’ presentation on the path forward. But I didn’t do the networking – I am too introverted. I plan to go watch the videos.”
(The numbers show that some people managed to fit in more than ten networking meetups – wow.)
“I don't see much you could have done better, except if you had influence on internet quality and stability in all countries of all speakers around the world ;-)”
“Even though it was virtual, it didn't feel virtual. The software used was great for getting to meet people, chat for sessions worked well. Glad I will be getting recordings –"
“I liked the quality of the presenters and the international aspect of the event.”
“I especially liked the Expo feature and got to chat with people in the booths.”
How We Did It
It took a village, as they say. We had a very active team of about 6 or 7 people plus others, so about ten overall, about five months of planning and preparation, and a month of follow up. It took more work to create and run this as an online and interactive event rather than a typical in-person event:
- Selecting, learning, and running the Hopin event platform and the Kumospace platform for social events
- Designing and building the jdayusa website to fill in the Hopin platform’s gaps – such as speaker bios, serving the videos after the event, etc.
- Arranging for swag that could be mailed and mailing it to attendees, including international attendees
- Conducting numerous training and testing events for speakers, booth sponsors, moderators, and presenters
- Configuring 30+ test servers for Bugs & Fun
- Providing a help booth and monitoring chat streams for various questions and issues
- Production of 25 session videos after the event, including improving some with quality issues during the live event
What We Learned
- We found great speakers and topics; every session was well attended.
- We learned a lot about the depth and breadth of the technical skills of our JdayUSA team. This is a fantastic group and fun to work with.
We could have expanded the event to more days if we had had the stamina.
- People appreciated the time between sessions but didn’t think we accommodated the West Coast time enough – start times were too early.
- Attendees said they would return to a similar online event; even though we missed in-person camaraderie, not everyone wants to or can travel.
- Kumospace worked well for social events. It was not difficult and will continue to improve.
- Hopin worked well and provided a “single browser experience” for attendees, rather than jumping between various Zoom sessions or other platforms. The Introduction to Joomla course was taught via Zoom, and so there were a few coordination glitches moving attendees over to it.
- Many attendees enjoyed Hopin’s Networking feature.
- Hopin was frustrating to us as features we have come to expect (e.g., from Joomla!) such as “unpublish” and being able to adjust styling with CSS were unavailable at our subscription level (if at all). We worked around its limitations and recommended numerous improvements.
- Several speakers used OBS to provide their video and slides as a single stream, as a workaround to Hopin’s video recording limitations.
- Hopin treats slides and video as two separate instances and records each at 50% of the screen, guaranteeing poor legibility in the recording. We managed to work around it, but it took more work to produce great event videos.
- OBS by and large worked well, but not all speakers were experienced with it.
- Despite our efforts, some sessions still experienced technical difficulties. Slides were pixelated or audio needed fixing – even for our closing keynote.
But overall, it was a resounding success.
A huge shout-out of thanks to the team and all the speakers and presenters. We will do it again sometime.
* JDAYUSA Team: Laura Gordon, leader; Robbie Adair; Olivier Buisard; Robin Clapp; Dave Crabill; Dorothy Firsching; Rod Martin; Joe Sonne; SD Williams; Todd Woodward.
Speakers and Presenters: Robbie Adair; Alex Andreae; Gary Barclay; Maarten Blokdijk; Carlos Cámara; Randy Carey; Robin Clapp; Marc Dechèvre; Nicholas Dionysopoulos; Yannick Gaultier; Mick Harner; Patrick Jackson; Johann Janssens; Parth Lawate; Jonathan Malone-McGrew; Peter Martin; Llewellyn van der Merwe; Brian Mitchell; Bob Nightingale; Eoin Oliver; Maciek Palmowski; Brian Teeman; Benjamin Trenkle; Phil Walton; Tobias Zulauf.