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All Things Open 2020 – Pandemic Brings Tech Conferences to the Digital Age

In today’s article we’re looking at All Things Open 2020, which was the conference’s eighth outing, and due to Covid, the one without an in-person audience.

The 2020 All Things Open T-Shirt

There was no in-person audience in attendance at All Things Open 2020, but there was a T-shirt:

T-shirt for All Things Open 2020
For ATO 2020, the spaceman was full of love and roses.

In 2001, after the fall of the World Trade Center, I was going to write a novel called 2020, which not only represents “clear vision” based on the “20/20” measurement used by eye doctors, but which as a year would be exactly as far away from the year 1984 as 1984 had been away from 1948, the year that George Orwell named a novel he was writing by flipping the last two digits of what was then the current year.

In my never written novel, as with the actual year when it arrived, 2020 was anything but a year of clear vision. Fittingly, it was a year filled with Orwellian Newspeak, meaning language was used to confuse and manipulate rather than to define.

In many ways, it was the year the Earth stood still. Hardly anyone went to the movies, even if there was a cinema open. People didn’t go out to eat, stay at hotels, or board airliners. We just stayed at home and hid from a virus.

To paraphrase Gabriel García Márquez, it was also the year when we experienced lies in the time of Covid, which was expressed by the White House as TRUTHS ARE LIES.

While the then President of the United States spread the gospel of this new motto with claims that Covid held little if any danger, and hosted superspreader events at the White House until he caught Covid and had to be helicoptered to Walter Reed to receive a lifesaving treatment that wasn’t available to most of us, tech conferences were more prudent and shut their doors on in-person events. Those that could, like All Things Open, held events digitally, so that people could experience conferences safely from their homes.

Even with all of their rookie mistakes, unevenness, and technical glitches, these largely successful attempts to livestream what had always been done before live, in-person audiences were a godsend. Conferences such as All Things Open Online broke the sanity-threatening monotony of our self-imposed exile, and gave us relief from the addicting churn-of-doom coming from cable news channels, which were all largely playing a Trump-versus-the-Democrats blame game, no matter which side of the fence they were on.

At the online events, those arguments were left at the sign-in screen. Once logged-on, we were treated to familiar faces we remembered from conferences we attended in the days when Covid didn’t exist and when hallway dispensers of hand sanitizer were to protect us from a disease that really was no more dangerous than the flu, because it was the flu. At ATO online we were taken to a safe world, where our concerns were about protecting our equipment and our data, as well as things like protecting the environment and bringing equality to humankind, instead of worrying about our health and the health of those we love.

Year Eight by the Numbers… and More

I wasn’t alone in attending All Things Open 2020 online. According to All Things Open’s records, more that 7,400 people signed up for the 2020 online event, which ironically make is the largest All Things Open ever, meaning before or since.

According to organizers: “Feedback was overwhelmingly positive from attendees and partners. 200+ speakers and sessions. A truly global audience.”

People at ATO 2020

ATO chair Tod Lewis stands in the Raleigh Convention Center Ballroom, which is usually the site for the conferences general assemblies and keynotes.
Surprisingly effective was Todd Lewis decision to do his master-of-ceremonies thing at 2020’s digital-only event from the Grand Ballroom at the Raleigh Convention Center, which is normally where the conferences keynote addresses are presented.

All Things Open 2023 Opens Sunday

All Things Open 2023 opens this Sunday at the Raleigh Convention Center in downtown Raleigh, North Carolina, which it has been its home since it started in 2013. The schedule for this year’s event is available online. If you’re interested in attending, you can get information on prices (it’s extremely reasonable) and register here.

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