A few weeks ago one of our developers was poking around on the internet and noticed that there was a virtual .NET conference (videos available on YouTube here) on 4/25 and 4/26. Of course, as most developers know we do not have the time to sit and watch videos all day while we are at work… unless the videos are of animals doing something funny, then all bets are off. I knew that the videos would be posted on YouTube and I finally finished up the video sessions a few days ago and it really got me thinking about the benefits/drawbacks of the virtual conferences.
One of the most obvious benefits of a virtual conference is the cost is usually much less for the organizer and attendees than that of an onsite conference. I would also throw in the fact that the sessions are almost always available after the conference is closed as well in video format versus the PowerPoint format that we generally see available after the typical onsite conference. I love the fact that any level of developer can attend virtual conferences and get real value out of it. If something seems confusing you always have the ability to pause, do some research, and come back to the video an hour later or two weeks later.
With all that being said, I don’t know if the virtual conference can ever replace the “community” feeling that I get when I attend conferences in person. There is a sort of “geeked” out feeling that I get when I go to a conference that rekindles my love for learning and development every time. We are all busy and virtual conferences are great and I hope that they continue to gain momentum but I think most developers need to “recharge” their batteries a couple times a year at a conference.