NDC 2020 – Smashing the virtual barrier

The world has changed

With social distancing our new norm, and working from home, people have had to learn new ways to connect. Sadly for now large events are a thing of the past. For 25 years I have travelled to America for conferences without missing a year, until Coronavirus hit.

I also travelled to Europe most of those years, and it is no secret that NDC Oslo is my favourite developers conference in the world. It’s like attending a rock concert for developers, where you get to ride wave after wave of epic developer talks, interact with great people and socialise with ‘your tribe’.  Jakob Bradford and his Norwegian team have created something truly special, and SSW look forward to it every year.

Figure: Looks more like a rock concert than a developer’s conference. Nothing compares to it in the world. I was so happy when they brought it to Sydney!
Figure: Reminiscing about NDC 2018 – remember when we could stand this close together in a room!

Maintaining the vibe

With COVID-19, events have had to move online. Even SSW’s training courses are now being delivered via Microsoft Teams and Zoom. But with increasing screen fatigue, how do you move a large, weeklong conference online and still maintain the rock concert vibe that NDC is famous for?

Here are some of the things that made NDC Sydney a great virtual experience:

  • A Rockstar MC – one advantage of being virtual, is that NDC still had awesome international guests. Dylan Beattie was an absolute rock star (literally, he often cracked out the guitar)… despite the time difference and running on chocolate. Dylan brought a great vibe and made it fun to attend online.  
  • Great Talks – NDC only picks the best speakers and topics, and this didn’t change. We were lucky enough to represent SSW at NDC with with Jason Taylor, William Liebenberg, and Jernej Kavka (JK) all delivering great talks and workshops. Awesome job guys.
  • Community – Using Slack for communication really tied everything together nicely and gave the conference a community feel. I loved seeing everyone catching up in the NDC Slack Channel. It was almost like being there, almost (I did miss my German pretzel and unlimited coffee…). I hope they use Slack next year, it was a great way to connect and find out what was going on!
  • Virtual Booths – SSW always grab a booth at NDC Sydney, and we love socialising with other developers and giving away swag. Having the Partner’s Virtual Booth in the Slack Channel was a great idea. There was so much going on every day. It really broke up the talks for attendees and allowed the corridor conversations to still happen. It also allowed us to still give swag in the form of prizes. This year we shipped 20x Mi Bands, keep cups with a digital temperature reading and Superpowers training tickets.
  • Keynote & Virtual Party – Dylan brought the rock concert vibe again with his awesome online party. It was just a pity that I couldn’t taste the virtual beer… I know it must have been really hard for Dylan with the UK in lockdown to be so upbeat from his cold dark room and we all appreciate the effort he went to.
Figure: Dylan’s Keynote https://youtu.be/KzJBm4nIKpA
Figure: Virtual Party https://youtu.be/otmiGlZRL1E

The SSW TV Track – live from our Sydney office!

SSW used the SSW Chapel in Sydney to film the Ask Me Anything sessions with a bunch of NDC Speakers. I thought it would be cool to invite some of the Sydney based speakers to present live from SSW and I chatted to them before and after their sessions. It meant they could focus on their session, and the SSW TV guys could look after all their AV requirements. We didn’t want to leave anyone out, so we also had some presenters join in live via Microsoft Teams.

We were so lucky to have some great presenters, it was a fun few days. Keep your eyes peeled for the following AMA’s on SSW TV which will go live over the next few weeks:

Figure: Welcome to SSW – the fist bump hello
Figure: NDC Speakers Rahul & Tarun arrive at SSW Sydney to present their talk “Cloud-Native Kubernetes Workflows on AKS with Argo”.
Figure: Raj (pictured) and the SSW Crew did an amazing job of the studio, taking away the stress of setting up a good camera, lights, audio and other AV requirements that stress out presenters. Good job guys.
Figure: I interviewed one of my own. Microsoft MVP in AI, Jernej Kavka (JK) joined us live from Brisbane
Figure: SSW Solution Architect Matt Wicks interviewing Yaser Adel Mehraben who joined us virtually from Melbourne. Hard to believe, but I know there is room for one more sticker!
Figure: NDC was streaming everywhere in our office. This is Aaron Powell chatting to Andreas during his AMA
Figure: I had a great time interviewing Adam Stephensen and Duncan Hunter following their talk “Serverless Azure In The Enterprise”.
Figure: I was lucky to have a chat with Microsoft MVP Arafat Tehsin. He also had a great talk ‘A deep dive into Conversational AI with Microsoft Bot Framework’.
Figure: It was a pleasure having Liam Elliott back at our office for a chat. It was his first time speaking at NDC and he smashed it with his talk ‘Eating an Elephant: Conquering big projects one bite at a time’.

While I had a great time at this years’ online conference, I truly hope that our favourite Norwegians are able to visit in person next year. It was the best virtual experience I’ve had, but nothing beats the real thing! Hope to see you there in 2021.

Figure: Some of the awesome NDC Crew with myself and William Liebenberg in Sydney. I can’t wait to see them again!