When the pandemic first struck, I put Brighton Java into hibernation. I expected the pandemic to be resolved after maybe six months, and thought I would wait it out. Since that’s not what has happened, it’s time to consider what a local Java User Group should be when we can’t meet together.
The obvious response to the situation is to move events online. Back in March I decided against this. My life already involved a lot of screens, and I couldn’t imagine many other people being excited about watching someone discuss programming on a videoconference call after doing a similar thing all day. For me, the attraction of the events are meeting people in person: it’s sharing of food before the talks, and the conversations afterwards. We’ve had some fantastic talks at Brighton Java, and I’m grateful to all of our speakers, but talks are only part of the reason for running these events.
I do think local user groups are valuable. They provide community at a scale wider than the individual companies in an area. They help companies, by exposing people to ideas and techniques that might not be encountered within a single company. For developers, the group provides a continuity beyond that of a single job.
Over the next few months we’re going to be restarting Brighton Java. Yes, virtual talks will be a part of this. But we’re going to work hard to make these relaxed and enjoyable. We’re going to take advantage of the virtualisation of other groups, and the rich programmes they’ve been running over the past few months. We’re also going to look into novel formats, particularly asynchronous ones.
As ever, we’re interested in hearing from any local developers who are interested in participating or running events. And some announcements from us will be coming soon.