The most social conference that I have attended since COVID started in 2020 has been the MoodleMoots, specifically MoodleMoot Global 2020 and MoodleMoot U.S. 2020. What makes virtual MoodleMoots humanized conferences?
Like many virtual conferences, they include multiple concurrent sessions in various tracks of interest. They include vendor booths where you can interact and see product demos. But what makes MoodleMoot conferences special is the effort they invest to include many interactive and social activities such as a 24 hour/day virtual café where you can actually sit around tables interacting with other participants using individual text messaging, group audio and video. there are about a couple of dozen tables in a room and several floors offering spaces to meet. I often find myself informally face-to-face with up to 10 people from around the world not only discussing and showcasing each others Moodle projects and discussing Moodle development challenges and implementation strategies, but discussing politics, learning about each others cultures, countries and challenges. I love these and much prefer them, especially for Q&A sessions after my presentations. They are like open space meetings within a Moot. Several times during any Moot, you may even drop by a table to find me helping people out, troubleshooting their #moodle issues using the built-in screen sharing feature available at each table.
Who do I meet? Anyone and everyone willing to say hello. While I always look forward to chatting with Moodle CEO Martin Dougiamas and staff from Moodle HQ, I also love to meet CEOs, event organizers, managers, teachers, administrators, Moodle developers, other presenters, students, fans of my FilterCodes, Contact Form and EmailTest plugins, Moodle partners, people just getting started and people who have been using Moodle for many years. I have never really counted but I am sure that I meet at least 40-60 people at each MoodleMoot. If you attend even just a couple of these global events per year, people start to remember you and even seek you out -- like old friends, especially if you've been outgoing and interactive. And yes, I have even ended up with some new clients, tried to recruit some Moodle developers and even made some new friends.
In addition to the Virtual Café, virtual MoodleMoots have included a host of social activities including a fun night of interactive games, entertainment and even dancing (I came in the top 3 using antenna as a virtual guitar). These virtual moots include educational sessions, group meditation and more. There was even a fun team scavenger hunt where you had to search the world for answers given clues.
Is it better or worse than an in-person conferences? Neither. It is simply different. Lead by Moodle event manager Diego Fabra, the team at Moodle HQ have really done a fabulous job of humanizing virtual MoodleMoot conferences and each one is better than the last. I highly recommend them and gratefully acknowledge their efforts in playing full out during these challenging times of isolation around the world.
Sure I miss seeing people in person, sitting down and talking over a meal with them, giving friends hugs, the t-shirts and swag bags. But, I think that in many ways, it is has a lot of advantages too. For one thing, they are less expensive which means I can afford to attend multiple conferences instead of just one per year. Because they are not all during core business hours, I have the flexibility of working my regular hours and attending the conference in real-time with minimal schedule conflicts. Because all the sessions are recorded, I also don't feel as much pressure to end social interactions. I can give people my full focus and attention while rest assured that I can just watch session recordings later.
The real down side? I wish that they could find a way to deliver meals to my door. 😉
Hope to see you at the next Global or America #moodlemoot!
Moodle Developer and Implementation Specialist