These are the tech conferences I most enjoyed this year, and that I would definitely attend if they are held virtually (or with siginificant virtual elements) in the future.
MagnoliaJS 2020 was the first ever tech conference I attended, and looking back now, I still think it was one of the best. There were a lot of very interesting talks, and I learned about using CSS variables to build themes, a concept I have applied to my personal website. It also had lunch hour Zoom meeting sessions where you could just chat with other attendees. This was the thing I think was missing from a lot of the conferences I haven't highlighted, it really enhances the feeling of being part of an event rather than just watching a stream.
The conference suffered from its share of technical problems, but everyone was still working out how to do virtual events back in April, it was exciting and it didn't really matter if there were a few hitches.
Microsoft Build had a slick and polished feel about it, the streams were so professionally produced they could have been mainstream television. As a developer who develops on a Windows machine, I also learned about the new Windows Terminal and Windows Subsystem for Linux, tools that I have been using on a regular basis ever since. Windows Terminal especially is such an improvement over any other terminal I've tried. The were some good workshops, too, and everything was free, which is amazing.
Distributed Camp was very different from the previous conferences, but equally enjoyable. It was small, most interactions were on Discord (though Zoom meetings also featured), and the sessions were half-day and took an in-depth look at a particular distributed computing technology. I got involved as a volunteer, helping with the logo design and Discord moderation. The nice thing about a small conference is that you get to interact directly with speakers in a way that just doesn't happen when there are thousands of attendees, and I made valuable connections there.
Blockdown was a blockchain and cryptocurrency focused conference held in a 3D virtual world. There were speakers from several projects in the space that I admire, and the 3D virtual world was exciting to explore, even if it did mean getting prepared a while before a talk started so I could load the world and get to the auditorium. There was also a fun games room among the scenes to explore.
I had watched the livestream of the Codeland conference in 2019, but it felt really great to get the full experience in the distributed ediion in 2020. Highlights of this conference were the affordable $25 workshop ticket option (this was one of the few conferences I actually paid for and well worth the money) and the opportunity to get real physical swag at a virtual conference. The necessary steps to secure swag also prompted me to setup a profile readme on Github, which I had been intending to do for ages and just not got around to.
Ournetworks was a fascinating mixture of disciplines related to concepts of decentralised technology, but stretching right across from core tech to art and literature. There were lots of really fun and experimental talks and workshops (I stayed up til 1am one night, so it must have been good!). Some of the platforms used were not as slick as at other events, but it had a wonderful feeling of being on the edge of new frontiers that totally made up for that.
These are the regular virtual events I have been attending through the year where I have found interesting discussion, supportive community and continuing conversation in Slack or Discord communities. These have been the real highlights of my 2020.
I have been attending Virtual Coffee pretty much every week since May 14, and have learned a lot from a lot of people in the community. Through community initiatives such as the VC Hacktoberfest Initiative and the December monthly challenge I have made the jump into serious open source contributions and had opportunities to learn new skills while doing something real with them, which is my preferred way to learn. In addition to the regular meetups there are also brownbag sessions and office hours, which provide excellent support for me to grow my skills and experience. There is also lots of fun at Virtual Coffee, such as sharing fun facts at the regular meetups, and community members getting together to play games or read books.
Interintellect salons are amazing three hour events where people from a wide range of intellectual and professional backgrounds come together for fun and intellectually stimulating conversation across disciplinary boundaries, and share a wide range of personal and professional experiences. In addition to the main salons, there are also book clubs, talks, game nights and various fun activities in Discord. The II has provided an unrivaled opportunity to bridge the gap between my tech and non-tech interests.