back to article Build goes digital, Brexit goes virtual (really): El Reg gets some unexpected lessons from WSLConf

Microsoft celebrated the conclusion of a successful - and suddenly virtual - Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) conference by switching the forthcoming Build event to a digital affair as well. The Register spoke to those behind the first WSLConf about hitting the big red button with mere days to go. The gathering, WSLConf, was …

  1. John H Woods Silver badge

    videoconferencing

    As a young undergraduate friend observed "I can't wait to see how my lecturers will manage online teaching when most of them can't stop YouTube autoplaying the next video."

  2. Len Silver badge

    The challenges of remote trade negotiations

    Politico has an interested article about the challenges of conducting complex trade negotiations through video-conferencing.

    Andrew MacDougall, who was head of communications for Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper during seven years of trade talks with the EU, said it “sounds possible in theory but it’s not practical.

    People are fooling themselves if they think they will have the same kind of chemistry and ability to get things done over a screen as they will in person,” he said. “So much of this is on intangibles like trust and sentiment and those are really only things that build up from being around the people, being literally across the table from them and having coffees with them in the breaks.”

    Politico.eu: Video killed the Brexit-negotiating star

    From my experience of spending easily 15 hours a week on a call with the same team for over a year, I can concur. If you get good at these things you can get a tremendous amount of stuff done but there are some things, usually little but very important such as chemistry and raport, that are very difficult to replicate digitally.

    1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Re: The challenges of remote trade negotiations

      f you get good at these things you can get a tremendous amount of stuff done but there are some things, usually little but very important such as chemistry and raport, that are very difficult to replicate digitally.

      That's true. Weekly status updates, project discussion, all work fine by teleconference, although video rarely adds much. 30 years ago when it was new we did video all the time, but with a scattered team people rarely even activate their camera these days.

      Even so, those meetings tend to be at least semi-formal. Nothing beats getting together in person a couple of times a year to have a beer, swap jokes, and just learn what the person (as opposed to the engineer) is like. I've made good friendships that have long outlasted the project where they started that way.

      1. druck Silver badge

        Re: The challenges of remote trade negotiations

        Maybe having a beer and swapping jokes is why trade negotiations have often taken 7 years or more.

        Perhaps do it via video conference can cut out a lot of the time wasting, especially seeing that we've already been in negotiations for over 3 years, and it's clear than chemistry and report is rather thin on the ground with our EU counterparts.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: The challenges of remote trade negotiations

          Maybe having a beer and swapping jokes is why trade negotiations have often taken 7 years or more.

          Or maybe it's because the British government are completely inept?

          it's clear that chemistry and rapport is rather thin on the ground with our EU counterparts.

          Hardly surprising when you see who's been doing the negotiating.

          1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

            Re: The challenges of remote trade negotiations

            Maybe having a beer and swapping jokes is why trade negotiations have often taken 7 years or more.

            Or maybe it's because the British government are completely inept?

            I think the 7-year reference was to the EU/Canada talks. The Canadians aren't usually inept, so...

            it's clear that chemistry and rapport is rather thin on the ground with our EU counterparts.

            Hardly surprising when you see who's been doing the negotiating.

            Yeah, Barnier doesn't strike me as someone who'd be bundle of laughs over a pint.

  3. ThatOne Silver badge
    Unhappy

    It's not the same.

    Conferences were a way to travel to places one wouldn't had visited else. Just manage to stay a couple days longer than the event itself and turn into a tourist. Most events knew this and tried to stage their events in interesting places, as opposed to some big city industrial zone with a conference center.

    All work and no fun...

    1. RM Myers
      Unhappy

      "All work and no fun... -"

      just means you work in the modern day IT.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "All work and no fun... -"

        Retirement is getting comfortably close.

  4. HildyJ Silver badge
    Facepalm

    OTOH

    Let's start by assuming conferences are fun. Losing conferences permanently would be bad. F2F interaction can be fun and can be productive. And, yes, there are people who wouldn't know what F2F is if you slapped them in it.

    As a temporary solution during the pandemic, virtual conferences seem to be a reasonable response.

    As a reason to shut down negotiations, virtual conferences seem to be more of an excuse, especially when the players already know each other.

  5. ThatOne Silver badge

    Is there such thing as a "virtual conference"?

    Thinking about it - What are conferences? You don't go there to see what some company has to announce and hear a couple speeches from interesting people: You could have done this as well from your desk using Internet. No, you mainly go there to discover or hear things you didn't even know existed, to be able to have a quick informal chat with a vendor without causing a sales drone to pester you weekly for years to come, and generally to meet like-minded people and swap business cards.

    It's (IMHO, YMMV, etc.) the "bazaar" quality which is interesting, the discovery, and this is definitely lost in a "virtual" conference. Unless you trust YouTube to auto-feed you the exact right videos you would had been interested in but didn't know they exist (not a chance in hell with their dadaistic video chaining algorithm), and even then you would miss on the networking aspect. It's not the same to read "John Doe, Potentially Interesting Person" written on a web page and to actually chat 30 seconds with him.

    (Just thinking out loud. What's your own opinion about this, people?)

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