Remote? Online? Digital!

On the surface, conferences deal in talks and speakers. But ask any frequent conference goer what they like about them and most will mention the community, the hallway track, the chance to meet industry experts, and the discussions with other developers — some may forget to even mention the talks. This is a challenge for events that want to leave the physical world behind.

Why would they do that, though, and how can the challenges be overcome?

Climate and Corona

Accento first took place in 2019 and from the start we wanted to work towards alleviating the community's detrimental impact on the climate. Our first efforts were small: As closing keynote, we had the initiator of Karlsruhe's chapter of Parents for Future on stage to give us and the audience some ideas what we as developers could do to combat climate change, and Disy, the company powering Accento, offset the attendees' and speakers' travel emissions with atmosfair.

In 2020, we wanted to build on that with a comprehensive assessment of the conference's total emissions (travel, energy, food, amortized device production, etc.), once again followed by offsetting them. The big steps were envisioned for the coming years: A move to a new location would allow us to live-stream the talks and we were already gathering ideas on how to offer remote attendees an atmosphere that could ultimately rival the in-person experience.

Together with inviting far-away speakers to present from home, we thought we may turn Accento into a global, digital event that's grounded in Karlsruhe. Here, regional attendees, speakers, and sponsors would come together in person, yet be joined by developers and speakers from all around the world. We love the idea of eventually offering a world-class conference experience with considerably reduced CO2 emissions.

The operative word is eventually. Then Corona happened.

We doubt that it will be legal and prudent to hold a conference in Germany in September and so we decided to accelerate our plans: Instead of a brick-and-mortar conference in September, we're now organizing a digital conference in July. And make no mistake, it will be a conference, not just a video feed with a chat window next to it.

Digital Conference

Since conferences are made of talks, it makes sense for online events to focus on that. Unfortunately, it often stops there and ends up as just a video feed plus a chat window. There's nothing wrong with that in and of itself (in fact, one of us is an enthusiastic Twitch streamer, which is basically the same experience), but if, instead of seeing this remote-thing as a stopgap until society reopens, you have the long-term goal to make it rival physical conferences, then it's not enough.

As we described, that's where we want Accento Digital to go. We want it to be just as social and serendipitous as physical events — Corona doesn't force us to create a makeshift event; instead it hastens our plan to provide a different, yet just as valuable experience.

As we see it, the key ingredient to making that happen is communication. We want you to communicate — with us, with the speakers and panelists, but most importantly with one another. We want to give that unlikely encounter that can make a conference special a chance to happen.

That's why Accento Digital will give you plenty of opportunities to communicate:

  • talks and ensuing Q&As (obviously)
  • dedicated Q&A sessions where subject-matter specialists answer your questions
  • ignite talks that present an inspiring idea or a refreshing angle and then open the floor for a discussion where everybody can participate
  • panels where two to four experts rope you into a joined conversation on a hot topic
  • three rooms dedicated to general, cross-cutting topics (think "security" or "performance") where everything but the talks take place; they remain open all day long, so conversations never have to end and you can join ongoing discussions and find like-minded developers whenever you want
  • a few more rooms for you to hang out in and chat about anything that comes to mind

(Except for the hang-out rooms, a moderator will be present at all times to facilitate a good discussion and uphold the code of conduct. Also, platform permitting, you will be able to join discussions not just by chat but with audio and even video if like to do that.)

For all of us to get to know one another beforehand, we're organizing closed betas — regular meetings in the weeks leading up to the event where you and us get to meet a speaker or two for about an hour. We can hang out, learn a bit about one another, chat about the topic, and maybe get that one question answered that we always wanted to know.

Attendee or Participant?

All that takes some effort to put together and only works if you buy into the idea. And so we decided to ask you to literally do that: If you're content with thrilling talks by great speakers in a video+chat setting, then you can attend for free. But if you think the full digital conference experience is where it's at, you can buy a ticket to participate.

Either way, we can't wait to hear what you're thinking and will be very happy to see you on July 7th.

PS: If you already got your Attendee ticket and change your mind, you can upgrade at any time. On Eventbrite, simply return your free ticket and buy a Participant ticket.