New year, new season.
It’s a bright Monday, 2 January 2023 in Portland, Oregon, where the sunrise was off-the-charts.
Over the break I had a chance to meet up with a few friends I haven’t seen in a long time. A sort of Act II of the ongoing COVID pandemic: the last time I’d seen one person in particular was at an actual honest to god conference nearly three years ago in Milan, just before waves hands.
So we got to talking about conferences and both mourned the inexorable shift away from hybrid events to in-person. One big point to get out of the way first: hybrid events are better for attendees when the alternative is nothing at all. This isn’t to say that hybrid events are good, or that the experience of hybrid events is good. Or even, honestly, that the experience of remote events is that great either. Just that the difference between being able to do something – anything – is still better than not being able to participate at all.
What was sad and a surprise was the amount of inertia that even a 1+ year pandemic could not overcome. After the initial exuberant wave of remote event platforms both new and old, they kind of… fizzled. People would rather meet each other, which is fine for the people who would rather meet each other. I would rather meet each other too, under controlled circumstances with skilled drivers on a closed circuit!
But “better hybrid events” is not the thing that caught my attention, at least not for this episode. I’ll just make a passing reference to “did anyone try to start a business to drop-ship home-studios-in-pelican-cases” for better video production? Or things like “without any research, I still have a feeling that most coworking spaces have not set up bookable recording/filming rooms”.
No, in this episode the inevitable thing that came up about wanting the conference experience back was “I really just want to go to hallway tracks again”, or “I just miss hanging out in the hotel bar with a group of people I don’t see often enough”.
This hallway track keeps coming up again and again. It’s not to say that the sessions and keynotes aren’t interesting and relevant and useful, it’s that as much of the conference experience – for some people – is the unscheduled time.
Clearly you can’t exactly recreate the hallway track experience. But what are things that get close to it?
One thing I’ve noticed is – and I acknowledge I’m very likely weird an an outlier here – is the stupid number of Slacks I’m technically in. If I take a look at the application right now, I’m currently logged into eight Slacks, only one of which is for work. Every Slack I’m in contains a number of overlapping people, and if I were to think about it, then these social Slacks are definitely a bit Hallway-ish.
Some Slacks are definitely more Hallway-track than others. The Slack for the XOXO Festival has stuck around for multiple years and is genuinely, at this point, the online community for XOXO Festival attendees and as far as I can tell continues to have the critical mass to create new relationships and introductions between people.
This starts to feel dangerously like reintroducing circles as a concept in social software, which I’m particularly wary of (people have tried!). But what might make a good Hallway Slack?
Anyway. Getting from the Hallway Track to the Hallway Slack. That’s a thing that caught my attention.