108: Running an Online-Only, Free Conference on Twitch with Kristian Freeman
In this episode, Kristian Freeman tells us about ByteConf: why he decided to start the conference, unique challenges of putting an online conference together, what he expects in terms of viewership and his hope for sponsors, and supporting speakers who haven’t recorded videos or maybe haven't ever even given a talk before.
In this episode, Kristian Freeman tells us about ByteConf React: why he decided to start the conference, unique challenges of putting an online conference together, what he expects in terms of viewership and his hope for sponsors, and supporting speakers who haven’t recorded videos or maybe haven't ever even given a talk before.
ByteConf will take place on Friday, August 31, 2018! Grab your ticket!
This show was produced by Mandy Moore, aka @therubyrep of DevReps, LLC.
ROBERT: Hello, everyone. Welcome to Episode #108 of The Frontside Podcast. I'm Robert De Luca, the president here at Frontside and I'll be your episode host. Today, we're going to be discussing ByteConf, which is an online stream conference with Kristian Freeman. Kristian is a developer at Product Hunt.
With me today as co-host is Wil Wilsman who is a software developer here at The Frontside. Before we jump into the discussion, I would like to make a little announcement. I'm going to be speaking at ByteConf and JSConf for BigTest. If you're interested in hearing about the next generation of UI testing for single page apps, you don't want to check that one out, I think. Without further ado, let's just jump into it.
Hey Kristian, how are you doing?
KRISTIAN: Hey. Thank you for having me. It's a pleasure to be here.
ROBERT: You recently just moved to Austin and you moved from LA. How's that thing going?
KRISTIAN: It's actually going really good. We packed all our stuff up and drove all the way across the US. I guess that's not really across the whole US but it was a good move. I've been here for about two weeks or so and I'm really happy with it so far. I have a full office and recording space now, so it's glorious. I can actually sprawl out and have mikes and all kinds of other gear out. I'm very excited.
WIL: Nice. Now, what is it you do at Product Hunt?
KRISTIAN: I'm a software developer there, kind of full stack engineer. Product Hunt is architected basically as a Rails app in the backend and then, a React app in the frontend, so I'm doing React obviously and GraphQL stuff and then Rails on the backend. It's been really cool. It's a really neat product and there's a really cool community there as well, so I'm been very happy with the transition. I've been there since the beginning of the year, so February or so.
ROBERT: That's awesome. Are those projects split so it's like the React app separate from the Rails apps or is it like a monolith?
KRISTIAN: It's a good question. I am not sure if it's planned to be split up eventually but as it stands right now, it's actually all one big application. We just have kind of that classic frontend folder where everything is dropped in and that's React related. We have some interesting stuff around server side rendering and things like that. All of that stuff was kind of there before I started working at Product Hunt but it's been really interesting coming from my previous gig where it was just very straightforward Ruby on Rails and then React like it's a totally separate thing, like they weren't really related at all as working on a couple of different projects.
Coming to this, it has been really interesting. It kind of gives me a better sense of what Rails projects might look like in 2018, if that makes sense.
ROBERT: Right, yeah. Are you using like the webpacker gem?
KRISTIAN: I don't. I mean, it's not old really, in terms of web projects overall than in terms of like a Rails app. It's still running on an older version. I think we're pretty homegrown set up. We're not using webpacker. We kind of set things up and run them as like two different processes and stuff like that. It's been really interesting. There is a bit of onboarding stuff that it took me a while because I came from doing, like I said, kind of standard Rail stuff and I would say that they are really kind of pushing what you can do with half Rails, half React set up. There's a bit of time of me kind of flailing around and figuring out what was going on but it's been really cool. I definitely feel like I leveled up in my understanding of how all that stuff can fit together over the last couple of months or so.
ROBERT: That's awesome. You're running a conference, right? You’re running an online-only conference for free and streamed on Twitch. That's pretty bold thing, right? That’s a new concept. How do that come together? I guess before we even discuss that, what is ByteConf?
It is primarily for gaming and in the last couple of years, they've started doing this separate section called the creative section, where there is non-gaming stuff. I've watched people paint. I've watched people play guitar or take song requests on the stream and all kinds of interesting stuff. What I can say is the idea for the conference wasn't a thing that I just came up with on the spot. I actually attended a really small conference that was streamed on Twitch. It was a game development conference.
I wish I could remember what it was called but it was really interesting. There wasn't too many people in the stream but I was impressed with the way that it was put together, especially for a topic like game development, which is I would say, I kind of took a stab at it last year and I found it to be pretty difficult to get into and fairly opaque in terms of understanding how to get started and then make that progression into a career.
I watched it and I enjoyed the format of the conference but I didn't really get learned too much from it because it was just too kind of complicated, I think unless you already were in the field. I started thinking about that and I thought it was a really interesting model and I felt like web development in particular, would be a really neat way to approach that format because web development has, I think a reputation if you want to get into programming. I don't know if I would say, entirely approachable. There's still a learning curve and there is a lot of work that you have to put into it too to get like junior dev role somewhere but I thought it was really interesting. I thought it would be interesting to take that format and apply it.
My background, besides doing straightforward full stack engineering, I've done some courses for Pluralsight. I've done some in-person technical training, so I had a background in teaching and I felt like it would be an interesting just to try it and see what would happen. So far, we're a couple of weeks out from the conference and honestly it's been pretty wild how many people are excited about the conference. I don't think I've ever done a project on my own, like a side project that has had people that just tweeting about it without me prompting it or anything like that.
I saw something on YouTube today like a Spanish YouTuber who does tech news and he was talking about the conference. I don't know Spanish. I was curious and wanted to see what he's talking about but I couldn't really understand what he's saying but I saw the logo and I was like, "What? This is crazy." I'm really excited about it and I'm sure we'll kind of get into this but there's some really interesting implications and ways that this format, I think it will be a different approach to the usual tech conference format. I'm really excited about it and I think it's going to be really neat.
ROBERT: It's awesome that it's free and available for anybody at any time.
KRISTIAN: Right and a part of that, I think when I started thinking about it like, "Can I make it free? What are the implications of that?" I think that the main thing is that when it comes to running a conference, getting the location or whatever, I would say is probably by far, the most expensive component of that. For me, I'm a remote developer and there's a lot of people that I talk to day-to-day. I think a lot of kind of my audience and people that I know online are also working remotely, so for the conference to just be online, it wasn't too crazy of an idea for me because most of the interactions I've done in development stuff like that have been through the context of remote work.
But also, for people who aren't remote workers, who are getting into the field or even just have a small interest in web development, I think it removes some barriers of being able to access this kind of stuff. You know, if we can look back at the future and say, "This sounds very ambitious," but kind of a democratizing force of anyone can view this content and get access to it regardless of their skill level or economic level or things like that.
WIL: I frequent trips sometimes and I know this is obviously, a free conference but are you expecting any donations?
KRISTIAN: That's a good question. That's kind of one of those things I haven't really figured out the best way to do yet. In Twitch, I think there's the concept like 'Bits.' Is that what they're called? They’re like microdonations. I genuinely don't know how that's going to work out. I know the plan is to take the talks after the fact and get any kind of additional slides and stuff like that. We're doing a couple of pre-conference events that I can talk about. I guess I should plug those as well before we wrap up but the way that that's going to work, I am not quite sure because I would like to sell the packages after the fact and actually, being able to pay the speakers. But in terms of little of bits and stuff like that, I'm not actually sure. I'm genuinely curious how that's going to work out. I don't know if people will do that. I guess it just kind of depends on the audience.
ROBERT: – In my talk now.
KRISTIAN: Yeah, give me Bits please.
ROBERT: "I intended to write, don't move to the next slide."
KRISTIAN: Yeah. I use Twitch every once in a while. I said, I generally just watch like one game on Twitch but I don't watch Twitch all day, every day. I think it'll be interesting to see because this is probably a different audience than, say the average Twitch user. It'll be really interesting to see how that shakes out. I don't really have a great answer for you there.
WIL: Do you have any guests like a number of people that are going to be attending? I see on the ByteConf site, there are 1500 subscribers.
KRISTIAN: That's a good question. I guess I can talk about this stuff that we have planned before the conference. We've been building an audience for really, it hasn't been that long. It's been like four or five months since I announced it. We're using kind of dogfooding a thing that I've worked on a Project Hunt, which is this Ship product, which is for collecting emails and sending out newsletters and stuff like that.
ROBERT: I saw that get announced not too long ago.
KRISTIAN: Yeah, it's really cool. I'm really happy with the product and they have some built-in promotional tools on the site, which is pretty neat. But we have, I think like 1500 people on the mailing list. I think, we have, the last I checked, about like 4200 followers on Twitter. It's hard to convert that like how many people are actually going to attend. What we are doing and this is like A, because I think it be interesting and B, to kind of gauge this, hopefully as best we can. We're going to be doing some preconference like 'Ask me anything' interviews with some of the speakers and I'm hoping I can get a better sense of how many people will actually start attending any of the events that happen.
The way the Twitch works is you can follow and subscribe. You'll get a notification when a channel goes live. The first time that we go live will be tomorrow, actually and so, we'll see how many people will turn out and it should be interesting. But in terms of actual numbers, I genuinely am not sure. I would hope that a lot of people who are on the mailing list will be there but it's been pretty neat. I've already been hearing of people who are trying to setup like in-person events, viewing parties and stuff like that. I've tried to help coordinate that as best I can without taking over the limited amount of time I have before the conference actually happens.
Also, people in Europe and vastly in different time zones are actually kind of grilling me about, "When can I watch this? Will you do every broadcast so I can actually attend this because I don't want to see the conference at two in the morning," and I'm like, "Yeah, I know. I understand that." We're kind of figuring out those details as well. Like I said, I very much consider this like the MVP of a longer term event series so I'm excited. I think it will end up building something that a lot of people will attend multiple times and hopefully, we can expose people to new stuff as that happens.
ROBERT: You mentioned that somebody in Europe like wanting to know like, "When I can watch this?" which actually makes me wonder like that's one of the unique challenges that you have for an online-only conference because no one's going to be asking that question if the conference is in… I don't know, LA, right? Everybody knows where it's going to be because it's all co-located, so what are some other unique challenges that come with running an online conference?
KRISTIAN: That's a great question. We don't have the explicit location and time that it starts to kind of point people to. In some ways, it's a positive thing. We have a lot of people who can attend that normally wouldn't be able to. They're excluded by price, location and stuff like that but there are some things that you, I think kind of give up when you do the online format instead. One of those is just being there at the conference and running into people that may be you know or having sponsors with booths set up, where you can make a connection in that way.
Some of that, we're trying to solve by building an active community. We have a Discord server that we started a couple of weeks ago, where people are chatting about this kind of stuff. I really think of it as like there's probably many ways to solve this problem and I'm trying a couple of different ways to see what sticks. Building a community where people can continue to talk before the conference, obviously they already are doing that and then continue after the fact and build the kind of connections and relationships and community that would maybe happen organically or at least, have a chance to happen organically in an actual physical conference. Some of the stuff, I genuinely still trying to figure it out like how best to give people the sense that they are welcomed and I guess, kind of feel like they're part of a community of developers.
I remember when I started the conference, one of the first things I thought about was when I first went to a conference in San Francisco that Heroku put on and I remember being there, I was very, very junior as a developer and I remember sitting there being like, "Whoa. This is probably the first time I've ever been in a room with a bunch of other hundreds and hundreds of developers," and it was real interesting. It's one of the first times that I was like, "I actually am for real, doing this. This is pretty cool."
I'm trying to figure and imagine and we'll iterate on this in the future like how best to give people that experience. Maybe that means doing a couple of physical ByteConf events. I'm thinking about that definitely but also, how do we keep the original idea of the format but also, how people feel like they're part of a community. It's very much a work in progress.
WIL: I could see a future where you have a physical, smaller conference but you still stream it on Twitch and everybody could still attend.
KRISTIAN: Exactly, yeah. I think that's probably the format.
ROBERT: That'd be rad.
KRISTIAN: One of the things that I thought would be interesting would be to do some kind of and actually, I think about this before when I moved out to Austin, like doing some kind of West Coast tour where we go up the West Coast and do events, maybe every a couple of nights in a really small format. The same kind of conferencing they have people from that area, come and give a talk but still stream that on Twitch. It's kind of a hybrid approach that the people who are already part of the community can still attend but for people who want that physical experience, they can do that as well.
ROBERT: That's awesome and if you did that, then you wouldn't necessarily lose the whole way track. One of the things that I really love about attending conference is like the talks are great but I usually always find those online afterwards. But what I can't find online afterwards is the communication and the talk that I have with people that are there.
That's an interesting challenge to have, maybe you could have… I don't know, like not to tell you how or what to do, maybe like a channel in the Discord for a Hallway Track channel or something that encourages conversation, maybe outside of but in connection with the talk. But I would just say, maybe that's just one of the tradeoffs that you're willing to have for an online-only conference.
There are a plethora of things that you just shed by not having it out at a physical location, like a bunch of cost for one and AV setup and worrying about people connecting and getting and presenting properly –
KRISTIAN: Via conference Wi-Fi. If they have problems, that will be their house Wi-Fi.
ROBERT: Yeah, exactly.
KRISTIAN: I totally agree. I think it's not the worst problem to have because we're in a lot of ways kind of simplifying and really, it's the kind of thing that we can iterate on over time. When I was talking about the European time zone thing, I may be sounded like I was bothered by people reaching out or whatever. It's actually quite the opposite. It's really exciting and I have actively kind of sought feedback out and been like, "How can I do this better? How can I communicate this decision or that decision?" or even help me make this decision so that it's best that I do whatever works best for the community and I expect that will, as the community grows, just be more and more a factor.
I think that's the kind of thing that tying up like the Hallway Track or something like that. I'm confident that people will have opinions on that and they'll say like, "This is what would work for me best to feel like I'm part of this community," and we're going to definitely try those things and iterate on them. It's not the worst problem to have because there is really nowhere to go but up, in terms of how we do it well and stuff like that.
ROBERT: Good problems to have.
KRISTIAN: Yeah, exactly.
ROBERT: All the talks are prerecorded, right? What have you done or have you done anything to help support people who haven't recorded a video for speakers? What are you doing to kind of ease speakers into this new style?
KRISTIAN: Yeah, it's interesting because in terms of a speaking lineup, there is clearly, some people who have experience both as conference speakers, also in particular in this format. It's basically recording like a Screencast. It's more or less the same thing. It's slightly a different format, maybe condensed to a shorter, like an hour talk. There are some people: Kentcdodds, Tracy Lee, they're two of our keynote speakers, I guess you could say. They have a ton of experience. They're pretty much giving talks regularly all the time, so for them, this is this is no biggie.
But there are a couple of people I've tried to, like in terms of once we got our CFP, our call-for-paper, we were accepting talks submissions and also getting information about the speakers themselves like, "What is your experience of speaking at conferences? Do you have any experience speaking at conferences?" What I thought would be in the spirit of the conference itself and kind of our ideals and even, I would say like the ethics of how we think about this kind of stuff, I do actually think about it in that term. We want to have speakers that represent that. You know, bringing anyone from any experience level, in any location and stuff like that and having them be able to attend the conference and also speak at the conference.
There’s a couple people that just don't have a ton of experience speaking at conferences or even keep doing this kind of Screencast format and so, for those people like kind of the silly one, I've just been reaching out to them like, "If you need any help on the stuff, let me know. I've done this a couple of times, at least the Screencast part of it, I have a ton of experience with them, so if you need help, let me know of that."
Also, if someone needed it, we bought them a mike and a webcam and we sent it to them and be like, "Don't need to worry about that because that's potentially –"
ROBERT: Woah, that's awesome.
KRISTIAN: Yeah. That can be like an economic kind of thing to make people feel uncomfortable, like maybe, you can't afford a mike or something like that but we will cover you and no strings attached. That kind of stuff, I think is really important.
I think, the kind of the main thing is we just want people to feel comfortable. There is no reason that because someone hasn't given a talk at a conference before, there's no reason they can't start. Everyone has something interesting to say, I think and everyone's experiences is really interesting and brings a perspective. Especially in the conference format, I think it will bring a perspective that you're not used to seeing at a conference. Not to say that the kind of perspective of people who are super experienced and things like that. As a developer, as a conference speaker, that's obviously really useful but it's also useful to see things from the perspective of someone who is just getting into the industry.
I think that being able to amplify those voices is really interesting and exciting to me. I'm sure there's probably ways that we could do this better in the future but for now, it's been just kind of like supporting them whenever they need it and trying to be encouraging and then any kind of small things like buying a make or something, we can provide that.
ROBERT: That's awesome. There are some tradeoffs you could make always with anything but it's almost, I want to say better, to give your first conference talk or one of your first conference talk in this way. I know I was really excited about it when I first heard about it because I get pretty nervous getting up in front of people. At JSConf, I don't know how many people. It kind of gives me anxiety but with ByteConf, it's pre-recorded so I have the ability to go back and polish everything that I want and I can remove those odds and things like, "Oh, wait. That didn't quite slow right. Let me fix that real quick," or, "I didn't really like what I said there. I can go back and fix it." It does come with the added complexity of like, "Now, I have to go and cut it together and make sure that there's this whole post-production aspect of it," but it makes me feel a lot better because I feel that I can deliver something that I feel really good about and I know because I've watched it six times and gone over it with a fine-tooth comb, you know?
KRISTIAN: Right. One of the things that I am hoping that we can do in the future is in terms of the editing and stuff like that. If someone feels comfortable like really fine-tuning their talk and stuff like that and giving almost a finished product to us, we're happy to obviously accept that but for people who just don't have that ability or needs some help in refining, I don't want to say the quality of their talk but just kind of the delivery of it, we can definitely help with that.
In terms of refining, say you're going to give the talk again in your case, I think it's really interesting also. We're trying to coordinate as with as many of the speakers as we can, kind of like time zone permitting and things like that, having them in the 'attending the conference,' or 'viewing the conference,' and also being available in the Twitch chat and not necessarily having an interview there but maybe, if something comes up or someone is like, "I don't get what this slide means," or something like that and that's both an opportunity for, we're not going to like pause the talk or anything but the speaker can be there to clarify and add that additional, I guess dimension of understanding of what's going on in the talk. I think it's actually really interesting. I'm really curious to see how it turned out.
WIL: Yeah, I'm curious too because I [inaudible] with Twitch sometimes and most videos, like you mentioned before, you want like some small conference and it was a very small chat and a lot of Twitch, for me is interacting with the person that I'm watching, through the chat. It's interesting to me that it'll be pre-recorded but the speakers are still going to be interacting through the chat, so it's going to be real cool to see.
KRISTIAN: Yeah, I'm trying to –
ROBERT: I'm pretty excited about that.
KRISTIAN: Yeah and I hope that you would be interested in being mixed. I'm sure people will have questions about that kind of stuff. I've already talked to a couple of speakers and I'm trying to reach out individually and see how many people can be there for that because it's really interesting. In your case, if there's enough people to say like, "This part kind of confused me," or, "You lost me here," that's an opportunity for you to refine the talk and get really explicit timed feedback.
I think if someone came to you after, say your JSConf talk and was like, "You know, there's this part that I don't really understand," like you don't have the immediate understanding of literally, at what point in the talk are they exactly talking about. I think that will be really interesting. That's –
ROBERT: That's absolutely could be bigger.
KRISTIAN: Yeah and I'm trying to figure out the best way to do this. If you've ever been in Twitch chat before, it can get a little rowdy and I'm trying to figure out the best way to manage that because I have literally zero tolerance for whatever kind of the most toxic of Twitch chat as I have zero tolerance for that in the conference. I'm trying to figure out the best way to make that happen.
But if you're a speaker and especially, it's your first time ever giving a talk or something, if you get that kind of feedback, hopefully it's delivered in a way that doesn't suck and we're going to try and mediate that as best as we can. That's a great opportunity for really effective improvement on your presentation style and stuff like that, so I'm really excited about that.
ROBERT: It's actually interesting to think about is what kind of trolls you might run into and –
KRISTIAN: And you have people who are like, "Vue is better…"
ROBERT: Yeah or any kind of cross-trolling that might happen. That'd be interesting to see how that plays out and how you might enforce that code of conduct.
KRISTIAN: We definitely do have a code of conduct in Discord and so far, I'm happy that we haven't had to enforce that in any way or there hasn't been anyone that has brought the quality of the chat down. I've seen people answering questions about different open source projects and stuff like that. I think, Robert you wrote up a solution to someone's problem in the TypeScript channel or something. Did I see that?
KRISTIAN: Yeah, stuff like that is really cool.
ROBERT: Someone who was asking how to do radio buttons in React and I was like, "I'll just write a quick code chain box example that kind of showing this."
KRISTIAN: Yeah and if I could pick one long term goal of where I want to see the conference in the community in a year or two, I want to be able to scale that up to, say like 10x or 100x the amount of people but still keep that quality of conversation. I think that is really looking at producing a conference. That part, honestly isn't the most complicated part. It's if you can use Adobe Premiere, you can pretty much make a pre-recorded conference work. It's keeping that quality and making people feel like they are a community, especially for people who know that they want to be a web developer, maybe they have no idea where to go or how to start. If people can join the ByteConf community and feel like this is a good place, that you can call this place home, I guess online and learn in that way. That's kind of the larger goal. The conference is just one aspect of getting there.
WIL: This is all very exciting. I'm looking forward to attending.
KRISTIAN: Yeah. I am really looking forward to it as well. It's pretty wild that it's August, that it's actually happening soon. I'm really excited. It's going to be sweet.
ROBERT: Yeah and I'm seriously working on my talk right now, to try and get it together. The cool thing that I found about that, I'm talking about BigTest and Wil is a person that's writing BigTest and he's the mastermind behind it. It'd be great to have him in there and answering any questions alongside with me as the talk goes on. I didn't even consider it before you said it. It is really powerful because I'm going to be introducing something that might be foreign to a lot of people, this testing style and how you do it in single page apps. There will be a question and I know I won't be able to cover everything and hit all the bases and make sure that's not confusing because it is a complicated topic. I'm going to do my best but the added benefit of me being able to clarify things on the spot is kind of mind blowing there.
KRISTIAN: It's huge and I'm trying to figure out the best way to archive that kind of dimension of the conference. I'm really interested to see it tomorrow. We're doing an 'Ask me anything,' but I'll plug that at the end. It's going to be an interesting to see what the kind of ratio, like signal-to-noise is in the chat and if it's good, especially at the conference itself, if people are asking really good questions and that kind of stuff and the speakers are responding, that is a really valuable thing to try and save. I'm trying to figure out how to do that as well, even save the most requested questions or maybe the most detailed answers that the speakers have and making that available in some way, I think it would be really valuable to people.
WIL: Yeah, for sure.
ROBERT: The other thing I just have some of thought of too, with all this being pre-recorded, you are able to schedule this out pretty well. At a normal conference, if somebody had a 45-minute slide and they finished in, say 30, the conference organizers will then have to go and figure out what they're going to do with that spare time but with all pre-recorded, you can just kind of spot it together and have a plan going forward.
KRISTIAN: I think most of the talks, I've kind of ask people to keep them around 45, 50 minutes and we'll have some space between the talks for people to continue to ask questions in the chat or I can plug things like the Discord server in those spaces and sponsorship infos and stuff like that. But I'm also constantly thinking of these little formatic conference allows so many different little things to be tested.
One thing we're thinking about doing is like at noon, there's going to be a break, kind of a lunch break, but ideally and I need to start thinking this out, getting some lightning talk style things from people who submitted a talk and didn't get accepted or something that and those are –
ROBERT: Would those be live?
KRISTIAN: That's a good question.
ROBERT: Or pre-recorded?
KRISTIAN: That's a great question. I think the thing with live is that I would have to figure out how to get people to hop onto the stream. That might be possible but I'm not quite sure. I think we'll probably do pre-recorded, kind of across the board for this one but there's all of these little opportunities to do interesting things with the format.
One thing that, I will take you on kind of a journey here like where my mind goes and I think about stuff like this over the last year or two. This is going to seem like such a tangent but I'll tie it up, I promise. Over the last year or two, actually longer, it's probably the last couple of years, I was really into Anthony Bourdain and all of his shows and I was really interested in, again this is going to sound really bizarre but I was interested in taking that idea and applying it to conferences. For say, the keynote speakers, I was thinking like it would be cool actually to go and meet them wherever they're working and stuff like that and introduce them in that format and maybe even sit down with them and do an interview or do some kind of live coding with them and have that available as a bonus material to the conference itself. Maybe air some of it in-between talks as part of the preface for their talk. There's all these kind of interesting things.
I think that one thing that always kind of bothered me about the developer world is, I guess I always feel like it's really hard to visualize how to get started as a developer and then what is the day in the life of a developer and what do you actually do. I think I've been really interested in this idea of giving people a holistic view of how to get into this industry and to show people. At least in my opinion, there is a lot of hype and maybe, not intentional but it makes a scene a lot more difficult than it really is. That takes a lot of time but there are a lot of people who probably have been, whether that's kind of the Steve Job's worship of tech people or this other thing that no one can be like them unless you're whatever, if that makes sense.
Basically, everyone in this industry is just a normal person. Maybe, there are some crazy personalities out there who are really dominating or stuff like that but for the most part, I think especially in the web developer world, everyone is, at least in my perspective, very welcoming and just like normal people and I want the aspect of the community to be letting people into that world and say like, "This is not as impenetrable as you may think," and there's a lot of different ways to –
ROBERT: Amplify the kindness and amplify the welcoming.
KRISTIAN: Exactly, yeah.
ROBERT: I like it. You did mention like around lunch time, there would be a break. At other conference, they usually cater lunch. Is there anything offered for that or is it like go on and find your own lunch?
KRISTIAN: That's actually a really interesting question. No, there isn't anything planned but now, I wonder if I should find a company that's like… Is that DoorDash? Is that grocery delivery, is that restaurant delivery? You know what I'm talking about like –
ROBERT: Restaurant delivery.
KRISTIAN: – Or something like that. It'd be cool to have a coupon like if they're React, they might want to sponsor the conference. That would be interesting. That's a super –
WIL: – Delivery fee.
KRISTIAN: Yeah, that would be super cool.
ROBERT: It might be too late for that now since we're a couple of weeks out but some of those companies do used React or in the future, for the future of ByteConf series, like if it's a SwiftConf and I know you've mentioned that before, you might be able to be like, "We're doing a Swift online conference. You guys use Swift. Do you want to sponsor?"
KRISTIAN: Yeah. I think there are so many opportunities to do really cool things. That's a really cool idea. I haven't thought about that before. I'm going to write that down. That's a very cool idea.
ROBERT: Could you tell I've been thinking about like a ByteConf accessibility conference? Because I have.
KRISTIAN: Yeah. Let’s do it. For real, that would be sweet. The format, we can tweak it in so many ways. It's like a full-day conference plan but there's definitely the opportunity to do really small form, like just an evening or something like that, where you get a couple of people together. The way that I visualize it in the future is there are these longer conferences but also, it just be really neat to do kind of continuous –
WIL: Online meetup essentially.
KRISTIAN: Yeah, like broadcasting. I don't want to say like a TV channel but like this place that we're going to be airing new stuff to the people who are working on and we're going to be airing old talks from conference and stuff like that and giving people a space to constantly be learning.
KRISTIAN: Yeah. The thing is like with Twitch, they've done a lot of tools recently that I've become kind of aware of as I'm trying to figure out the best way to broadcast the conference. They have a lot of stuff around scheduling and stuff now that actually gives us the opportunity to basically run, maybe not nightly but weekly or monthly thing without having to explicitly setup… I don't know if either of you've ever done Twitch streaming but you have this broadcast software that you have to run on your computer and stuff like that.
They’re working on tools to remove that aspect of it and really just make it almost like a YouTube competitor in some ways and maybe like a more live aspect. That's stuff is really interesting to me because that totally fits in with the kind of aspect of what we want to do but there's all kinds of other opportunities too. I know there are a growing number of people who are doing live programming streams and it would be really cool to be able to share our audience –
ROBERT: Coordinate that?
KRISTIAN: – And stuff like that, so I'm trying to figure that out as well.
ROBERT: Are you familiar with the Ember community at all?
KRISTIAN: I was familiar with the Ember community a couple years ago. It's actually is what I learned before I learned React but I think I'm pretty out of date now.
ROBERT: One of the team members here at Frontside, Taras, he started something similar like that two years ago called Global Ember Meetup and it was just an online meetup that would happen at night and people would come on and give their talks. It was actually really cool because there's a lot of engagement from all across the world, which was super neat. I would love to see that idea to continue live on.
KRISTIAN: I know for our mailing list, we have a sense of where people are located and this is the nature to advertise and stuff because I think our most of our audience is still in the US, Canada, UK and stuff like that but there is growing numbers of places like Africa and South America and stuff like that, where I'm not as exposed to that community but I would to make it available to all of those people. I genuinely just haven't been exposed to those communities as much and I would both like to understand the unique problems of being a web developer in those areas and also, do my best to adapt the format of the conference and stuff to those groups.
I imagine that people are really excited about it but I think after the conferences, really one of a lot of the interesting stuff happens because we can take a look back and say, what could we have done better to include all kinds of groups that are historically disenfranchised from attending this kind of stuff, if that makes sense.
ROBERT: Even for me, I really want to go to conferences that are in Europe but that's a big investment. It's like breaking down those barriers. I'm pretty privileged in that regard but for somebody that isn't, even just attending a conference inside the States or somewhere that even kind of close for them, just the price of the conference ticket puts them out, so I'm really excited about this idea. Why not leverage the web and make everybody available to learn in conferences and have access to that community.
KRISTIAN: Yeah. I think I actually saw that Facebook just announced. They're doing another React Conference and it was interesting speaking of ticket prices, I think a lot of you were saying it was super expensive. I don't know what the exact number was, maybe you know but I actually had some people tweet like, "This is why I'm excited for my ByteConf," and I was like, "What?"
WIL: That's awesome.
ROBERT: I don't know what their prices but when Facebook throws ReactConf, you have to enter into a lottery. You wouldn't even actually get a chance to buy a ticket. You have to enter a chance into winning a ticket for you to buy.
KRISTIAN: Yeah and that kind of stuff, I mean that won't get too deep into my politics in general but generally, that's the kind of thing that I am extremely allergic to. Even the idea of having a lottery and stuff like that, there's a lot of people who, to make the decision and say they have the opportunity to attend the conference, like if they say they get a lottery email like you have a ticket, there are some people who will be able to swing that on the spot and say, "I want to buy a ticket and start to book my flights and stuff or whatever," but there's a lot of people who that's going to be a thing they need to plan for a really long time. They don't have the opportunity to wait on the email and say, "Yes, I can go to this to what I'm being paid." That's just a different dimension of financial and I think the ticket was like $600 or something, maybe $700. It was expensive but there are much more expensive conferences.
Especially, if you don't work at a company that covers your conference costs, like I am fortunate to the both places I've been at for a longer period of time like say, two plus years, have both sponsored conferences, they allowed any of their employees to go to conferences with some budget in the thousands of dollars every year and for someone to pay that, say they want to get into web development, that's a huge financial burden if you're working minimum wage or something like that. I feel like I sounds I just came down very hard on the React Conference but it's fine. It's cool that they're going to get really cool speakers and stuff like that but I think it's something.
ROBERT: It's the job position of online-only versus co-located, right? There's talk there.
KRISTIAN: Yeah and we talked earlier, maybe there's a hybrid approach of doing ByteConf physically, I think the one thing I will never compromise on in terms of how we put on the conference is like if we're going to do a physical thing, it needs to still be available for people who can't attend it. I think even at this point, the first conference hasn't quite happened yet but I do strongly believe that's already in the DNA of the idea and kind of ideals of the conferences I want to allow people to always attend, whatever we're doing, regardless of their situation.
WIL: That's huge. I never attended a conference until last year when the company I'm currently working for, Frontside, paid for it. Before this, I had never been to a conference. It's awesome to see, they're like free [inaudible] by now.
KRISTIAN: The conference I talked about earlier, the San Francisco one, I just straight up put that on a credit card, like I could not afford it. I did it because I guess I felt like –
ROBERT: That thing –
KRISTIAN: Yeah, exactly but there are people who just straight up can't do that. By that point, I was interning at a web development place but I still was basically getting paid like minimum wage. It was like under paid but I did it because I felt like it would be an investment. I didn't actually get a job from any one of that conference or anything like that, so who can say what the actual value of that was but it was important kind of in a motivational way but I don't ever want people to go into debt to go to ByteConf. That sucks. There's no way I'll allows them to do that.
ROBERT: Yeah, because it's not only the conference ticket. Depending on what conference you're going to, I’ve seen as low as $150 and as high as $2000, just for the conference tickets and then you have to get your hotel for a week and fly out there and food. It quickly turns into a really expensive endeavor.
KRISTIAN: It is in a lot of ways. I think for people who are fortunate in tech, it's somewhat of a vacation because you get to go somewhere. Usually, the tech conferences, I think are held in pretty cool locations, unless it's some kind of indie conf that doesn't have a lot of sponsorships or something like that.
I went to a conference a couple of years ago that was at Disney World and it was very much a vacation. I went to the conference and I had a lot of fun. It was an Elixir Conference. I learned a lot of stuff there but after the conference was done, I went to like… I'm trying to think what it is called. It's like Downtown Disney, basically or whatever, so I went like –
ROBERT: Oh, they renamed it to Disney Springs.
KRISTIAN: Oh, really? Disney Springs, wow. That sounds very –
ROBERT: Yeah, I [inaudible] for two years.
KRISTIAN: Actually that does sound right. Coming from LA, I used to go Disneyland all the time. Even if the conference is just on a hotel or whatever, usually the area around it is pretty nice but that definitely limits a lot of people, unless you're fortunate enough to be making a tech salary or have a company that will cover that conference budget for you.
ROBERT: We're sending two people to JSConf Hawaii. We were able to snag the early bird tickets which are so much cheaper. Then I was shocked that the hotel cost on Waikiki Beach was cheaper than my Portland hotel, so I'm actually super jealous and it was a super awesome vacation on the beach in Hawaii for less than what probably took for me to get to Portland.
KRISTIAN: Is that where JSConf is? It's just in Portland?
ROBERT: That's JSConf Hawaii. Portland was Chain React, so shout out to React Native Conference. The JSConf US one is in San Diego which is coming up in two weeks. Oh, my God.
KRISTIAN: Nice. If you are a conference speaker and stuff, I think you get some stuff cover. I don't know. Every conference is different or whatever, so if you go in that format, if you go to conferences as a speaker, I think it's a little bit different situation but I can think of a lot of times that I looked at a conference and there's been a couple of talks that I found interesting but just the amount of money that I would spend to see one or two talks that really interested me, it wasn't worth it.
ROBERT: At least ByteConf kind of shed that and absolutely drops the barrier of entry of to nothing. I mean, nothing mean you have to have an internet connection.
KRISTIAN: Yeah but there's still a couple of things. This is why I'm trying to deal the rebroadcasting and making it available after the fact is there are some people who still can't take a day off and watch a full seven or eight-hour conference, so it's important to make it available after the fact too.
I think I mentioned, I want to sell the conference talks with the slides and with the bonus materials and stuff after the fact. There's people that are actual, like practicing React developers who would feel fine paying like $30 for those or something and that way, we can hopefully, ideally, I hope I'm not totally speaking out of this to make totally go wrong but ideally, pay the speakers to some degree. That's another kind of aspect of it that I eventually would to do well in the future. But like you said, lowering the barrier to entry to literally as close to zero as we can get is what's really important to me. Then they feel everything else, we can work back up to something, putting on the really big conference events that a lot of other people are doing but still keep those ideals that we had from the first place.
ROBERT: I love it. ByteConf sounds super awesome. I'm very excited to be selected to be a part of it. I really appreciate that. Is there anything else that you want to plug about ByteConf?
KRISTIAN: Yeah. A couple of things, tomorrow depending on when this comes out, August 10th at 5 PM PST, we have our first 'Ask me anything' with Kyle Shevlin, who is a speaker at ByteConf React this year. It's just going to be Twitch.tv/ByteConf. If you're on the mailing list or you're in the Discord server or stuff like that, you probably already know about this but I will obviously tweet about it as well.
A couple of other things. The 24th of August, we're actually doing and this hasn't been announced yet. This is the first time I'm talking about it.
ROBERT: You heard it here first.
KRISTIAN: Yay! We got an 'Ask me anything' with Kentcdodds, one of our keynote speakers. I'm very excited about that. That hasn't been announced yet but I imagine that's going to be really cool. I think people are going to be very into that. Finally of course, the conference itself. ByteConf React is August 31st. It's one day, starts at 9 AM PST. You should join the mailing list and follow us on Twitter. It's just at @ByteConf. You'll see a link to the mailing list there as well and you'll get some more information there but it starts at 9 AM. On Twitch, it's Twitch.tv/ByteConf. That's all you need to do to attend. I would love for people to follow us on Twitter and join the mailing list but if you are allergic to following the people on Twitter or getting emails, you don't have to do any of that. You can just find us that day on Twitch.
We have some more things that we're probably going to announce as kind of preconference events in between now and then but those are kind of the two or I guess three, main things. Thank you for having me on. It's been really awesome. I think it's maybe the first time I've talked about the bigger picture stuff with the conference so it's been really cool to get to talk about that. I'm excited for your talk as well. I think it's going to be really neat.
ROBERT: Awesome. Thank you for coming on. Like I said, I'm really excited for ByteConf. When I saw this pop up as an idea, I was all over it. I think I actually submitted the CFP before you officially announced that there was CFP. I'm like, "I'm in it. I'm going for it."
KRISTIAN: One more thing, I think I didn't mention just kind of organically is that all of the CFP submissions are actually reviewed by people in the community. I'm really proud to say that the talks they have selected, including Robert's were generally, because people were just super interested in them. I think that's going to really show when we air the conference. People are going to be really excited about this stuff. It's going to be super cool. I'm beyond hyped. I'm extremely nervous, extremely hyped and it's going to be great.
WIL: I'll also going to say that if you have an Amazon Prime account, you get a free Twitch subscription, so you can go ahead and subscribe to ByteConf on Twitch.
KRISTIAN: Yes. That is very true. I should do a better job of plugging that. Oh, one more thing. I guess I should be a good podcast guest and also say like, if you want to follow me on Twitter, my name is Kristian Freeman, it's at @imkmf on Twitter. For the most part, I just tweet about ByteConf stuff and Product Hunt stuff and then get mad about politics sometimes but I should do a better job of plugging my stuff. Again, thank you for having me on this. This has been really, really great and I'm looking forward to seeing you both at the conference.
ROBERT: Cool. Thank you Kristian. This is a great conversation. I'm really excited about it.
We are the Frontside. We build software that you can stake your future on. If your team needs any help with single page app testing, accessibility especially in single page apps, I'm really, really open to helping anybody. If you or your team need help in that or leveling up, be sure to reach out. We're open to pair. We're open to start a new engagement, anything that kind of helps you and your team to move forward, we're super interested in. As always, you can reach out to us Info@Frontside.io for any feedback on the podcast and thank you Mandy for producing our podcast. Thanks everyone. Have a good day.
WIL: Yup. Thanks guys. See you at ByteConf.