We’ve been organizing Fedora release parties for the Czech community since Fedora 15 (normally in Prague and Brno, once in Košice, Slovakia), but in those coronavirus times it seemed like we were out of luck. Not quite. We’ve decided to organize a virtual release party everyone can join from the comfort (and safety) of their homes.
Originally I was planning to use Jitsi.org with streaming to Youtube. Speakers would join the call on Jitsi.org and attendees would watch it on Youtube and comment under the Youtube stream or in our Telegram chat. But the stream was one minute delayed behind the call which didn’t promise an interactive event.
In the end we were offered a solution from Czech Technical University (BigBlueButton running on powerful physical hardware and with a really good connectivity) and went for it which turned out to be a great decision. I have never had a better video call experience. It was the first time I could fully utilize my FullHD webcam, there were virtually no delays and BBB could hold 8 webcam streams in parallel and 40 participants in total without a hiccup. Afterwards people told me that when I was demoing GNOME 3.36 the GNOME Shell effects looked almost as smooth as performed on the local machine.
We put together a program of 4 talks on Fedora topics and had an open discussion afterwards. Most people used the integrated chat to comment and ask questions, a few besides the speakers used their voice which is something I expected because most people feel too intimidated to speak in front of strangers who they can’t even see.
The event lasted for 3 hours and would have probably continued if I hadn’t had to stop it because I had to put kids to bed. The kids were the biggest challenge for me. Our offices were closed, so were public universities, so I couldn’t find any quiet private space to join the call from. So I was moderating the event and delivering my talk with my kids constantly crying in the background or demanding my attention. But I somehow managed and it was not a complete disaster.
What was originally an improvised solution turned out to be a pretty good experience. Participants said they would like to do it again or perhaps combine it with the physical release parties. Although the virtual event can’t deliver the same experience as in-person one, it brings some sense of equal opportunity. No matter if you’re stuck home with small kids, or with disability, or if you’re a young student living in countryside far away from a big city, you can join. In-person events are pretty selective in this.
We also have a recording from the event in case you’re interested (it’s in Czech).
If you can’t organize the traditional Fedora release party for your local community, don’t hesitate and organize a virtual one!