In about a month, a joke on Twitter turned into a full-day DevOps conference delivered in the Animal Crossing: New Horizons game and streamed on Twitch.
Austin Parker, the principal developer advocate at LightStep, is hosting Deserted Island DevOps on Thursday, April 30 from 10 am to 4:30 pm Eastern. He has 12 speakers for the conference and almost 1,000 registrations for the full-day event.
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Parker has been a fan of Animal Crossing since it first came out on the GameCube, and the current release for the Nintendo Switch corresponded with the worldwide coronavirus shut down. He joked on Twitter about creating a trade show booth on Animal Crossing and was surprised to get some traction around the idea of using the game as an online event site.
“I think limitations often stimulate our imagination, so it felt like a natural venue for a DevOps event–developers have to be very imaginative, after all,” he said.
Parker put out a public call for speakers and had more than twice as many submissions as available spots. The event team was looking for talks that demonstrated the creativity and joy that Animal Crossing inspires.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons is an island life simulator. Each player starts on a deserted island in a tent. Players design their own home and build everything from scratch. Anthropomorphic animals also live on the island and complete daily tasks including fishing, bug catching, and fossil hunting. Open-ended gameplay happens in real time.
Software engineer and speaker Adrienne Tacke said she is slowly getting online conference fatigue and found the prospect of a conference being held inside Animal Crossing was refreshing.
When she wrote the pitch for her presentation, Tacke considered Animal Crossing game mechanics and inside jokes and then tried to match it to a DevOps topic. Her session is, “Embrace the Wasp Sting: Why Failure Helps Your Team.”
“I ended up choosing my topic because it aligned perfectly with my experience playing Animal Crossing: New Horizons for the first time and because failure plays a pivotal part in building a successful DevOps strategy,” she said.
Tacke said she’s never played a game so much to prepare for a talk before and has been spending time getting her character in-game “ready” for the conference. Tacke is a senior developer advocate for MongoDB and is creating company swag to share with attendees.
“In the game you can create custom designs for clothing, so I, like many other speakers, are creating T-shirts, hats, and hoodies with our company logos to share,” she said.
The agenda is designed for the Animal Crossing setting and features several interesting sessions, including:
- Bridge Construction Kit: DevOps and Security Don’t Have to be Islands
- No Dev is an Island: How to do Serverless Together
- If You Can Wait 6 Months, You Should
- Mob Programming From Home: A Case Study in Teaching Cloud Migration from Your Island Getaway
- Sticking Together While Staying Apart: Resilience in the Time of Global Pandemic
Parker expects the event to attract developers who don’t always have a corporate sponsor to pay the significant expenses required to attend many tech conferences.
“By producing and presenting the conference as a free live stream, with closed captioning, it’s my hope that we reach people who may have always wanted to attend a tech event but weren’t able to,” he said.
Parker said he has been glad to see the community that is being organically built by attendees.
“As there is a limit of how many people can be in the same online session at one time, people are creating virtual ‘watch parties’ where they host other attendees in their online sessions, as they all watch the live stream together,” he said.
Parker is also the host of On-call Me Maybe, a podcast about building and operating reliable software, which will be hosting the Twitch broadcast of the event.
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