We're not ready to announce all the details, yet, but since we promised an update in January, we wanted to let you know what we're currently thinking.
Towards the end of last November, as vaccines were being approved, and the new variants we're now struggling with were not yet in our consciousness, there was some guarded optimism for the possibility of an in-person component to this year's event.
But at this point that optimism is all but dashed. There is still plenty to be optimistic about in general - but in terms of planning for an international conference, indoors, as close as this summer, that doesn't seem to be realistic at this point.
Like most people, we're really looking forward to being able to meet with everyone again, in person, as soon as we can safely do so!
But in the meantime we still want to bring people together for learning, socialising and growing. Right now that means an online event.
While we, as a community, have been learning more about how to put on engaging virtual events, and are honing the experience - we also appreciate that some are tiring of the format. We think that online components to many conferences are going to be around for some time to come - and are valuable in their own right. But having every physical event move online may not scale the same way.
So this year we want to do something slightly different!
Here are some of the things that have worked well (sometimes even better) in an online format:
What hasn't (in my opinion) worked as well is lots of short-form (60 mins or so) talks. Great up to a point, but people's attention spans for such things is reduced - and the temptation to work or do other tasks concurrently is strong.
Everyone will have a different take, of course, but if you think the above is even close to correct, it does suggest a format that favours more workshop content, and less (but not zero) "traditional" content.
So our plan is to hold a three day event in the summer (June or July). One day will be a "classic" conference day of talks (including the ever popular lightning talks), and two days will be workshops. Rather than just one or two day workshops, however, we'll also offer half day classes. Standard tickets will be for the whole three days, allowing you to mix-and-match workshop content. We'll also offer one-day conference tickets and single workshop tickets for those that are particularly time or price sensitive.
We're not the first to go in this direction. I'm personally aware of NDC TechTown trying something very similar last year - and I'm sure there are others. Of course we'll be doing it with our own twist.
We're still working out the details and will post more soon - as well as opening the call for speakers and instructors. But in the meantime we're also keen to hear any feedback you may have on this idea.