Like many people I had a conference to attend this summer. I was very much looking forward to the Dyalog 20 APL User Meeting which was set be hosted in Portugal. What’s not to love? The possibility of meeting many people in the APL community and the average temperature of Portugal during the time of the conference is 22 degrees which is another bonus.
Unfortunately, it was not to be. Understandably the conference has been cancelled and in its place a series of online presentations will be exhibited. While this is strictly better than having no user meeting at all, my first response was sadness over not being able to attend the conference in person, however after thinking it over I could definitely see some pros to the virtual experience. As such I will list a few of my thoughts and the possibilities allowed by hosting a conference online.
What are the pros?
No Travel times
I think the first obvious pro is that there is no need for long flights, nor the cost involved with them. People who attend this user meeting live all over the world and while there might be some people who live a reasonable distance from the location, most people will usually have to take a flight.
Less time restrictions and more flexibility
One of the large benefits to having online presentations is that you will be freer to do other activities throughout the day. If you were at a venue you would usually be confined there in between presentations, this year you do not have to be in a specific physical location. If you have a decent phone/ laptop/ tablet etc. and a reliable internet connection, then the world is your oyster.
What are the cons?
Less social interaction
The opportunity to meet face to face with others in the community is a vital part of what makes the user meetings so enjoyable. While everyone can talk over the internet it is often less engaging than conversing face to face. Add to this, the chance to meet and engage with new people groups of like-minded people who might otherwise not normally be talking together can be very enjoyable.
Potential technical difficulties
When using technology there is always the possibility of some issue occurring. Whether it be a dodgy Wi-Fi connection or screen sharing not working there are a multitude of issues that could arise. Not to say that they will necessarily, however it is worth keeping in mind. Hopefully the current practice of presenting webinars for Dyalog and the British APL Association will pay off and lead to a smooth show.
To my knowledge the only thing Dyalog has announced so far is that there will be “a few days of online presentations” sometime during October. Whilst this might not be the only thing that they have planned I would like to suggest a few ideas that might already have been considered and will add a bit more of a community feel.
The Workshops that run each user meeting are a large draw and a good way to learn about the new features being introduced or products that others in the community have been creating. An online workshop could be a fun way of actively learning and using the new features that Dyalog 18 has introduced.
Another thought would be to have a dedicated meeting room for people to meet and chat about the presentations in between the sessions. Video conferencing products have skyrocketed in popularity during quarantine and provide a space for people to discuss their ideas and thoughts.
With all this said I am very excited for the Dyalog APL 2020 User Meeting and am looking forwards to the great content that Dyalog are known to provide.
Apprentice APL Developer
Sam is an apprentice APL Developer at Optima Systems. He has had a keen interest in computers since he was a child who loved playing video games on his family’s computer. After taking Maths, Further Maths and Computing during A-levels he attended the University of Sheffield doing Computer Science for two years. More about Sam.
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