Attending the virtual CppCon 2020

published at 22.09.2020 12:04 by Jens Weller

Here is my virtual trip report about attending CppCon 2020 in remo. Thanks to all volunteers, speakers and attendees of this years virtual edition for making this event possible.

A few weeks ago I wrote how many of the C++ community organizers converged on the same platform for running community events: remo. Last week that was then put to the test for a full week with CppCon 2020 and this week the first Meeting C++ online conference will be held in remo too. Here are my impressions from CppCon.

Virtual conference

Remo has a little learning curve at its beginning, and so it took a while to get used to the software for many. My take away for the future for this is, that all events will also have an introduction to remo at the beginning. And so I just recorded a quick introduction into remo for you. In remo you sit in small, virtual video conferencing rooms dressed as tables in a conference like background as a website. You don't need to install any software, but having second webcam handy is a good idea.

These small groups sitting on tables is a nice feature to have small conversations about the conference, C++ and other topics. It is a core feature of enabling our online events to be more then just watching videos. Which is the other activity that happens in Remo, when an event enters presentation mode, you are still on your table, but now the UI changes and you see the speaker and slides coming up. On the sidebar there is tabs for the general chat and one for asking Q&A. Which also has a feature that lets other attendees upvote someone elses question.

During talks many questions in the general chat were answered by the community, while the Q&A Questions got answered by the speakers mostly after the talk or in an AMA section later. Though its a new thing, and at the end of the week you clearly could see more activity then at the beginning.

Talks

It was easier to hop between talks then it would be in a conference in the real world. Some talks embraced the new online format, David Sankel even prerecorded his complete talk and chose a little bit of a different format then the usual Speaker + Slides. And the audience clearly loved it! Being able to go back in time and watch certain parts again was also a nice feature of the new format. I do think though, if you spent too much time in the Talks, you did something wrong. I enjoyed attending the hallway track and having conversations very much too. And I think this is what lots of folks value in conferences, the ability to have these conversations and seeing folks in small conversations.

Talks I'd like to highlight:

Keynotes

I did not see the keynote on wednesday, as I decided to rather have dinner with a friend that day. From what I heard it was a great talk, and I will watch the recordings on youtube later. The conference started with Bjarne Stroustrup giving a bit of a different talk, about how he is right now implementing a specific library with C++20 with his team. I enjoyed this very much. Tuesday offered a C++20 keynote by Marc Gregoire, it was a great overview of the new features. I looked forward to seeing Lisa Lippincotts keynote, as her talks are always a bit special and make you think about general and yet very specific properties of our programs.

But all these keynotes were no competition for the closing keynote of CppCon 2020 by Herb Sutter. Herb presented a dense and challenging set of ideas for a long term vision of C++ being both back ward compatible, but also a largely simplified and automated C++. Its a must watch.

Lightning talks

CppCon had lightning talks, usually a set on the beginning and at the end of a day. I presented a lightning talk on C++ community surveys, mostly focusing on the Meeting C++ community survey and a few of its results. 5 Minutes is just too short for the topic to go into depth. Over all the lightning talks went very well, and were once again greatly moderated by Michael Caisse.

After CppCon I recorded a longer version of my lightning talk. As far as I understand, the lightning talks from CppCon will be available after video editing has separated them into single videos.

My Impression

CppCon 2020 showed that virtual events are feasible and add value to the C++ community. It also showed that we're just at the start of this also, there is still lots to learn and to improve. Switching between the different tracks is an issue, and its clearly not what you know from real world conferences. I saw that AMA as a format works great online, I'm thinking about adding a few of these to Meeting C++ 2020 too.

Overall it was a great experience. It was nice to see so many new and known faces, and be able to have conversation. One thing you should do when attending in remo, is to jump between tables. Once a table is full, think about moving to a different conversation every now and then, it will make your conference experience better.

One thing that did not work as good, is the booths. Its for most virtual platforms the weak point, and those platforms being better at this are more sales focused and got into existence prior 2020 for lead generation. Our conferences are not really centered around doing business, and often these platforms lack the social features we need for our community to come to gether. Meeting C++ 2020 will have additional features for sponsors to address this weakpoint and enable a better interaction between sponsors and the C++ community online.

 

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