If you've been on the fence about whether a virtual conference is worthwhile - or perhaps you've already registered and just want to find out more - this post is for you!
In fact, we've tried to give you many compelling reasons to join us this year - not least because, for the price of a one day workshop last year, you get two days of, mix-n-match, workshops plus an extra long conference day (and lightning talks the night before)!
But, especially for those of us that have been to conferences before, one of the thing we miss the most from a physical venue is actually being there, along with other attendees and, of course, the speakers. Those serendipitous discussions you chance upon in the hallway, that chance to meet a well known figure in the community, the opportunity to catch up with old friends - and make new ones!
Last year Remo gave us back some of that experience. Compared to what we had before it was a revolution! But it still fell short of the real experience - and didn't work as well for everyone.
So this year we're really exited to use Gather (also known as Gather Town, after the URL, gather.town)!
At first Gather seems like it might just be a gimmick - something that may even get in the way of getting to the important thing - the talks! Actually the talks and workshops will be run in Zoom, and you can get to those without using Gather at all.
But that would be a mistake!
Gather is where the community will be. It's where all those things we miss can be found again. And it really does succeed at being immersive and experiential. When you meet and interact with others in Gather it is far closer to the real-world experience than anything else we've seen. Even to the point that you gradually start to see and hear people as you get closer to them. You can pass by a group and hear what they are talking about before deciding whether to join (or lurk).
But as well as the social interactions, Gather gives us a map to explore. Gather maps are completely customisable - so no one event will be like another! And these maps contain interactive objects, from whiteboards to pianos - from the practical to the entertaining.
We've taken advantage of all this to embed C++ themed games and puzzles within the map - some with real prizes! if you're not interested in them they don't get in the way, of course - but they give you another fun thing to do.
Sponsors will also be planting their exhibits around the space, and providing more interesting things to do, to look at, and to talk about.
Although the talks are not in Gather, itself, we will be holding Q&A sessions with the speakers in dedicated rooms in Gather, right after the sessions. So if you didn't get a question in during a talk, or just want to follow up, just go into the Q&A room and interact there. Of course, just like at an in-person event, this may spawn spin-off discussions that you might want to join, too.
So Gather will host the, so-called, "Hallway Track" this year. The talks will be in Zoom (Webinar), and chat across all these systems will be on a dedicated Discord server, which includes many bots and integrations to make your experience smoother and more engaging.
If that sounds complicated - don't worry! We have a single "lobby" page to show you what's going on - and take you directly to every part of the system. It even has Discord and Twitter built right in (although you can use Discord in its own app, too).
So don't delay. Get your tickets now for a next generation virtual conferencing experience! See you there.