On Friday October 2nd 2020 Glenn, Tobias, Kerry and myself organized the fifth edition of the XamExpertDay (also known as Expert Day for Xamarin). Because of COVID, just like any other event we were forced to do it online. In this post you will read a bit about the history and this specific instalment.
TL;DR: The XamExpertDay 2020 was fully online and we had awesome speakers and great sessions. You can rewatch them all on the playlist below.
History of XamExpertDay
In 2017 the aforementioned people got together and wanted to host a single day (free!) event full of deep-dive content. To be fair, at that time Kerry wasn’t there and we were joined by Thomas (who bakes some mean croissants btw). We specifically opted for “expert” content, to go beyond the intro talks.
For some reason I can’t remember, but probably because two of our team are German, we chose the Microsoft office in Cologne as our venue. The first time we were blessed by having Laurent Bugnion over for the keynote. If I recall correctly we had less than 50 people as attendees, 1 track, but jinkies! Did we have a good time. We recorded a couple of sessions, rewatch them here.
The content was _so_ good. And even better was the interaction. During and in-between the sessions everyone socialized as if we all had known each other for years. The night before some people came together and had something to eat, afterwards there were drinks, just amazing.
Rinse and Repeat
From there, we decided to do that again! Again in Cologne, again in October, again great croissants from Thomas. We had more people, about 80 this time. The event pretty much organized itself. We barely announced or the speakers were already lined up. This year, we had a marvellous keynote by no less than Jim Bennett.
Kerry reached out to us asking us if he could use our experience and “formula” to host one in Munich. We were excited that our little community day was delighting people so much that they would want to host one themselves!
And so it was done. The year of 2019 had two XamExpertDay events. One in June in Munich with abour 85 attendees and one in October in Cologne as usual. Well, not really as usual.
We professionalized a bit. One community member, Almir, was so kind to develop a logo for us. We had more sponsors than before, 3 tracks and we even had some budget left to get everyone some swag. I’d say not bad for a free event. We opened an actual Call for Speakers and even before we got to announce those speakers we filled the maximum capacity of the Microsoft Cologne office which was a little more than a 100 people(!!!). We even had to open up a waiting list.
In addition, James Montemagno decided to do a little tour through Europe and we were one of the lucky ones to be able to book him.
Fast-Forward to XamExpertDay 2020
We were just about to start planning the 2020 edition when COVID hit. That was in February-March. So still a long time until October. We decided to see what would happen and push back our decisions on anything. I had put in a reservation with the Cologne office again, but some time in the future we learned that it was not going to happen. During planning we always had a plan to switch to online. Whether that would be partially by just streaming the whole thing from the in-person one, or go fully online.
The restrictions loosened and tightened back up again, and eventually we decided that we were not going to be the ones that wanted to put people at risk. This year had to be virtual, just like a lot of other events.
I’ll spare you all the details about how it went down. We got another Call for Speakers which quickly contained sessions from both awesome Microsofties as well as community members. This time not just locally, but from all around the world!
The thing I do want to share is that at some point I almost didn’t want to do it. I was tired of all the online content. If we couldn’t have the in-person socializing, I felt a big part of our magic was lost and I was just about to give up. The other team members cheered me on, and were very understanding! They wanted to do it, even without me. Which was great. Together we pulled through and made it work, in retrospect, I am very thankful for that.
During the day, I got pretty excited. Even before we started the stream there were a good number of people watching. Then we launched, James Clancey kicked us off with a deep-dive into .NET MAUI and the numbers never dipped very much.
In the chat there was nothing but good conversation among friends. This is something I really like. I feel one of the big powers of the XamExpertDay was the “hallway track”. The breaks and in-between sessions were people get to hang out, eat, drink and laugh. To tell you why I think this is so important, let me tell you a little something about the 2019 Cologne edition.
The speakers alone (12) came from 10(!) different countries. When we factor in the attendees it will probably be more, but we don’t have any data on that. Since the event is free entrance, we did not have any budget to reimburse speakers, so they all covered the costs on their own. That means: taking a day of, take care of travel, hotel and we had a great diner the evening before the event.
That alone tells me how great this community this is and that it’s not just about another +1 on their speaker itinerary, but people actually come because they like it so much.
To be honest, I don’t know. Of course, Xamarin is going to evolve into .NET MAUI so at the very least we would have to change our name 😀
It also very much depends on what will happen in the world. Both with .NET MAUI and Xamarin as well as COVID. I will prefer an in-person event over an online one any day, but I must admit, our little online event was pretty cool so who knows…
Did you watch it? How did you like it? Do you think we should do it again?