Joining in the community, remotely and in person.



Tech communities are awesome. This is a something I have been shouting out loud and proud to anyone who will listen throughout my entire career.

The last few months, all of us have had to cancel plans and there has been a swathe of cancellations, postponements and more. Though it may appear to be trickier with COVID-19, social distancing staying at home and more - you can still get involved in your local and wider tech community thanks to a lot of innovation.

This week I recorded a talk for some Nottingham University students exploring how they can get involved in the Nottingham Tech scene both during this time of social isolation/distancing and when everything is back to normality. This recording can be found on my YouTube channel.

In this blog I will expand on all the points in the talk.

Tech Socialising in the time of Corona Virus

Moving to virtual events

Conferences, meetups, hackathons and more have moved to become online events. There are a range of tools available and being used for the events including the following:

These tools can also be used for socialising for your own purposes. Chat to friends. Have a pub quiz. Watch a film together. Just because they are conferencing tools doesn’t mean you can’t have some fun with them.

Alongside these conference tools there are also multiple active Slack groups you can take part in. This is a great option if you prefer to dip in to type and chat, rather than actively listen and take part. Some of the Slack groups available include:

Etiquette of being online

There are some bits of equipment you will need to get set up at home for these events, and there are somethings you can do to make the events more enjoyable for all involved. These are just some of the tips I have to offer.

  • Life happens, so be sympathetic.

As we’ve all learnt from recent months, life can be a little out of our control. People have families, pets, housemates and more - which can sometimes lead to some entertaining situations on a call. I recently had to dip out of a meetup as a kind neighbour offered to help us with shopping. I’m immunosuppressed so limiting going outside, and this opportunity to stock up I leapt at! Be patient, respectful and forgiving of other peoples circumstances.

  • Headphones reduce echo.

When you aren’t muted, wearing some kind of headphone is really useful to anyone speaking. If you do not wear headphones it will cause an echo on the call which can be extremely off putting if you are trying to speak or listen.

  • Muting yourself.

Especially in the case where you don’t have headphones (in which case, mute yourself any time you aren’t talking). But muting yourself, particularly during talks helps avoid any background noise etc.

  • Where you feel comfortable, switch your camera on.

Some people rely on social cues, and as a meetup speaker it’s nicer to see a screen of faces (happy or otherwise) to react to. I know not all bandwidths can cope with video, in which case request to not show video, and not everyone feels comfortable on film - but if you are happy to do it, please do.

  • Using the chat window.

There is now two tracks of interaction. Along with video and audio, there is the chat window. Use this to ask questions, make comments, say hello to the other attendees!

Meetups

Now you are all set up, one of your options for taking part is remote meetups. These come in many forms and though there is now free pizza they are still excellent.

Lunches, after work drinks, and chit chat.

There are organised meetups with speakers, but also social gatherings where you can have lunch and chat with fellow nerds. I recommend following Dylan Beattie and signing up to London .NET User Group to hear about some great lunch and evening chit chats.

Digital Lincoln also hosts Virtual Cafes which are similarly fantastic for catching up, meetup people and chatting about things.

If you are looking to chat to people working in UX, there are lots of virtual coffees being hosted on the UX Notts Slack as well.

Meetup events with presenters.

There are a lot of meetups which have moved from the physical to the virtual space. They are hosting speakers who can present to you while you stay safe at home. A great opportunity to learn and enjoy.

There are a number of events from the East Midlands that I am currently aware of taking part in this, and I will be missing quite a few, but here is a list to start off with

There is also a list of .NET events available here collated by Jon Hilton

Conferences

Some conferences have cancelled or postponed, but there are a number that have shifted to virtual events. This is a great opportunity to take part in events at a reduced cost, and that you otherwise might not have been able to travel to.

Some examples of online conferences coming up include:

Search for any conferences you might be interested in and support them in this difficult time for event organisation.

Hackathons

If you are trying to find something fun and productive to do while stuck at home, how about joining in on a hackathon. Coding challenges for a myriad of issues and subjects are now available online. There is a list of these hackathons on Eventbrite and again they often publicise on twitter, or you can Google for a hackathon in your interest area - just keep in time time differences if it is a remotely located hackathon.

Podcasts

There are a multitude of tech (and non-tech) podcasts that you can enjoy both in, and out, of isolation. You can find them on any of your preferred services, but below I have listed a few recorded by people local to the East Midlands. I’ve linked to Spotify but they are available on other providers (just give them a google)

  • Side Hustle Success Podcast

    This podcast is recorded by Derby local Stephen Haunts, who also runs Derbyshire Developers Meetup. This podcast talks about peoples side projects, from businesses to events. It interviews those involved and is a great listen for budding entrepreneurs.

  • The Sideman Designer

    Run by Nottingham legend Tom Jepson., this podcast has everything from book recommendations, talking about process and creativity, and self improvement.

  • Agile Engineering Podcast

    The panel of Pete, Louise, Mica, Jon ,Liam, plus the occasional guest, cover topics including DevOps, Development, Agile, Cloud and more.

  • Rizamblings

    Rizamblings has no fixed subject or pattern. Sometimes it includes and interview, sometimes it’s an exploration of whatever Riz wants to discuss when she’s recording. This podcast is a warm hug. It feels like you are listening to a friend (which in my case I am).

Let me know if you find any great podcasts!


When we are back out…

All these events and activities will be available when we are back socialising in person again. The format and feel will be different, and there may be more remote options available.

If you are local to Nottingham, use nottingham.digital to find out about meetups in the area.

In terms of what is different, there tends to be more available at the in person events - workshops, food, activities and more - but this does not take away from the quality of online events at all. They are just very different.


How to get involved

Now you know some of the ways in which you can get involved in the tech community.

  • Attending

    Probably the most accessible and obvious, but take part in these events as an attendee. In terms of podcasts, you can offer to participate as well as listening. Help these events by sharing that you are attending and encouraging others to do so on social media.

  • Speaking

    There are numerous advantages to speaking. It encourages you to learn something to the level that you can answer questions. It helps you practice skills you will use at work including explaining complex subjects at a level many people can understand and speaking to groups of people. If you want to learn more about preparing a talk, check out the the DDD East Midlands How To Talk blogs.

  • Volunteering

    Harder for online communities, but volunteering is a great way to get involved in events. It teaches you a number of key skills which you will use in life and work and helps these events run. You can read more about my experiences volunteering at NDC Oslo and NDC London.

  • Organise

    If you think there is something missing that people will benefit from, you can organise an event! There are a lot of resources out there and people willing to give you advice.


Why should you do any of this?

Taking part and enjoying all that the tech community has to offer provides a lot of great benefits.

  • Awesome support network and friends I’ve made some of my closest friends just by taking part in the tech community. It’s been great throughout isolation as well as the people I’ve met (virtually and physically) have been supporting each other, providing resources and more.

  • Make memories Even online we can make great memories, have fun and enjoy all these events.

  • Find out about companies Companies offer a lot of support to these events, so it’s a great way to find out about local companies and if they are hiring. If you are interviewing for jobs, or considering doing so, you can learn a lot about companies through talking to people who have worked there or are working there. Find out if the culture and work is right for you before you commit.

  • Learn If you attending, speaking or hanging out; there are multiple opportunities to learn. This might be from speakers, from the experience of running an event or from the attendees you speak to. It could be that you learn a topic ready to present it. Maybe at a hackathon you learn a new language to code in, or how to manage process and work in a team under time pressure. There is a lot of opportunity.

  • Get more opportunities Talking of opportunities, these events will promote a lot of opportunities that you can take part in. Great experiences and great for your career.


Hopefully I have now convinced you to keep taking part in your tech community from the safety of your own home. There is a lot more you can do as well including watching past conferences, taking part in online courses etc.

Drop me a tweet, message or email with any events I’ve missed and might be interested in.

Jess


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