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Notes from the 2020 Evergreen International Online Conference

By Andrea Buntz Neiman, Project Manager for Software Development at Equinox

In March of this year, the Evergreen Conference Committee made the heartbreaking but necessary decision to cancel the in-person Evergreen International Conference, slated to be held in Atlanta, Georgia and hosted by PINES. It marked the first cancellation since the Conference’s inception in 2009.

However, one of the greatest strengths of open source communities is our flexibility. At Equinox, we have experienced this first hand. The collaboration and collegiality of our open source communities has given us all the flexibility to adapt and respond – and it was no different with the Evergreen Conference.

With the blessing of the Evergreen Board and the Conference Committee, the Evergreen Outreach Committee took the reins for the first-ever Evergreen International Online Conference. The Outreach Committee decided early on that the online format presented an opportunity to easily record and caption all sessions, and make them available to a wider audience. (All presentations and session recordings will be posted on the community webpage and YouTube channel.)

The in-person conference had 36 scheduled sessions, roundtables, and interest groups; 24 of these presentation groups agreed to adapt their talks for an online format. Online sessions were scheduled for the afternoon (Eastern Time) to allow our West Coast community members to more easily attend.

Four community organizations generously offered in-kind sponsorship in the form of Zoom licenses and staff time for hosting – Bibliomation, Evergreen Indiana, MOBIUS, and NC Cardinal – and Equinox sponsored live closed-captioning for all sessions. Thanks to the sponsors and the lower overhead of an online event, the conference was able to be offered for free to all attendees.

Keynote speaker John Rempel was enthusiastic from the beginning about delivering his talk remotely. John, who works at the Center for Inclusive Design and Innovation at Georgia Tech, gave an overview of accessibility standards and the ways they have (or haven’t) interacted with technology over the years. He urged us to consider accessibility from the very earliest stages of design, and to involve people actually using accessible design elements as we work to improve Evergreen’s accessibility.

Another standout talk was Chris Sharp’s perennially popular Evergreen Reports session, which this year has the distinction of being the only session to max out a Zoom license with 100 attendees. Elizabeth Thomsen of NOBLE gave a presentation entitled “Batches, Baskets, Buckets, and Bookbags” that was also very well-received.

Equinox staff, either on their own or as part of a group, participated in 8 of the 24 presentations. Of note was Galen Charlton and Mike Rylander’s presentation “Making Perl Work for You in Evergreen”, which used the new Curbside Pickup feature as an example case; and myself and Rogan Hamby’s panel “Making it Rain: How to Talk About Open Source Value,” presented with Lynn Floyd of Evergreen Indiana and Meg Stroup of SCLENDS.

Overall, the Online Conference went incredibly well thanks to the efforts of our community. Preliminary results from a feedback survey indicate that almost 75% of respondents are interested in future online community events, so stay tuned for more online events!

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