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XenProject Developer and Design Summit: Update in light of COVID-19

The past several weeks have been an uncertain time globally. In the spirit of transparency, I wanted to update our community on plans for our annual developer conference, The Xen Summit. The intention of the project is to hold XenProject Developer and Design Summit this year, one way or another.

Currently, the Xen Project Advisory Board is considering two approaches 

  1. Postponing the event until later in the year.
  2. Holding a virtual event during the same timeframe.  Additionally, if we hold a virtual event during the same timeframe, the Board wants to keep the option open of having a smaller, in-person event later in the year, if circumstances permit.

Because the University of Bucharest has been very flexible, there is no rush to make a decision.  As a result, the Advisory Board has recommended that we spend time looking into the options in detail and make a final decision around mid-April which is 6 weeks before the originally scheduled event.

Physical and Virtual

The XenSummit is an important event for our community.  Some visible things that happen include:

* To allow members of the community to communicate to everyone else what they’ve been working on in the previous year, and what they plan to work on in the future

* To allow people to hash out technical issues in design sessions

Just as critical, the XenSummit allows an innumerable number of small “hallway-track” conversations, as well as plain social interaction — filling out email addresses with faces and personalities, allowing the community to run much more smoothly during the rest of the year.

It is very clear that holding a virtual event will not be nearly as effective at those things as an in-person event.  However, given the current uncertainty, it’s not clear that the world will be ready for travel later in the Fall either.  And if it were, there’s a risk that many such postponed event will collide with other postponed events, reducing attendance.  Additionally, we would need to either coordinate with the University term time, or find another venue, which could be much more expensive.

Having a virtual Summit is much better than having no XenSummit at all.  So the decision to be made will be to weigh the lower effectiveness of having a virtual Summit against the risk that a postponed event will turn out not to be possible. In the event that we do a virtual event, there will be an opportunity for people who didn’t submit talks because of travel restrictions to submit talks again.  This may be by submitting talks via the “design discussions” system. More details to come as we get closer to making final decisions. 

In the meantime, we are brainstorming ways to try to get as much of the benefits of an in-person summit as possible.  If you have any thoughts or concrete suggestions along these lines — in particular, things that have been tried and worked well or poorly in other virtual events that you’ve participated in — then please let us know.

To be clear, there is no thought of continuing to hold virtual events after the current pandemic has passed.  We fully expect to have an in-person event in 2021.

As always, if you have any thoughts or suggestions, please feel free to share them with me.