Like a lot of technical meetup groups, the Philadelphia Google Developer Group that I help manage has been holding its monthly meetings virtually for the last year and a half using Google Meet and (more recently) Bevy. I am really grateful to the community and especially our regulars who are open to attending another video meeting after a day of many others. That said, our attendance is definitely lower than when we used to do in-person meetups. Here are my three top theories why:
- Zoom fatigue: No secret here.
- Marketing: Like most developers, we suck at marketing, and it is likely that a lot of people don’t know about our event.
- Focus: GDG events span a diverse array of technologies, from Android (where we started), to Firebase, Flutter, Google Cloud and Web technologies. It’s hard to build a cohesive community around a diverse set like this. One option might be to have a series of sub-groups under GDG, like GDG-Cloud which exists but also GDG-Flutter, GDG-Android etc. We’ll see.
2021 has seen the explosion of new voice-only social platforms, starting with Clubhouse and including things like Twitter Spaces, Spotify Greenroom, etc. I have to say I have enjoyed participating in a few of these sessions – there is something less stressful about not having to worry about being on camera or feeling less social by keeping your camera off during an event.
So, in the spirit of exploration, we tried our first GDG meeting as a Twitter Spaces event last month, and I think it went well, though I did learn a few things I hadn’t really thought about before. Below are some learnings from my experience:
Not everyone has Twitter accounts
I pretty much live on Twitter so I didn’t even realize that not all of our members had active Twitter accounts, though in the end, those who didn’t did have inactive accounts that they could resuscitate. I wish Spaces had a guest mode but I guess that would be against the whole reason Twitter has this feature anyway.
It is not an online meeting
Unlike our video conferencing systems like Zoom or Meet which allow for 100 or more simultaneous speakers, Spaces only allows for 10. Spaces isn’t so much about collaboration, more a “narrowcast”: You can have a panel of speakers but most people are supposed to be listening. You can swap speakers in and out as people wish to speak but it’s a very different model than a fully democratic online meeting.
Tooling is pretty good
The management features are pretty good and I was able to mute, boot, and swap speakers as needed but it definitely was some effort on my part.
Sharing information is hard
It is also hard to share links or show something off on your screen. One trick someone mentioned towards the end of the event was to share a Twitter thread with the audience that they can add to share something. It’s a bit of a hack but it works. This is also how I have heard Clubhouse panels share information: on their individual Twitter profiles.
Overall I really enjoyed our first Twitter Spaces event (what is the verb for this?) though it definitely had a bit of a learning curve. And by being a very public event, we did have a few folks join the event that had never attended a GDG event before, which was my primary motivation for the event. We are planning our next Spaces event now, so if you are interested, follow me or the GDG Philadelphia Twitter account for the announcement.