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API Conference in times of Corona

yenlo_blog_2020-08-25_api-conference-in-times-of-corona_600x350Event organization is one of the businesses that has been hit hard by the Corona virus. People don't travel anymore or yet, and there are many, often severe, restrictions on people's gatherings. I personally miss conferences a lot. It used to be a great place to meet new people, get new ideas and do business. Although I always enjoyed it, it also has its drawbacks. Somehow the organizers always managed to schedule three sessions that I wanted to attend in parallel, and none of my interest in the next slot. And if you made the wrong choice, it’s not polite to jump to another room. Oh, and then there are the long breaks, waiting in line for coffee and food.

So, when you think about it analytically, if you have to travel abroad for a two-day conference, it takes four days to get about four hours of useful information (for you). The organization is doing its utmost to serve a multitude of visitors, all with different interests, backgrounds and experience levels. Consequently, not every talk is targeted at you. Nevertheless, visiting an event is a nice trip, you have more interaction than during an online event, but if you sum it all up, do onsite events still have a future?

We're back! Or not?

Last week, I finally attended an event in person, after five months. Yenlo sponsored the API & Serverless Architecture Conference Hybrid in The Hague, a leading event in Germany which we attended several times already now came to The Netherlands. Two days packed with talks, all streamed online as well, so people could choose whether they attended live or online. After all this time and with all the measurements the organization had taken, my hopes were high, to be frank. I soon learned half of my fellow presenters attended remotely, and only few people had travelled to The Hague to join the experience. Although I completely understand that not everyone may or want to attend a live event, I was hoping for more. This made me think about my love for these conferences a bit more and how event organization has changed.

Online performance

It turns out that when you take away the ambiance and the live interaction with like-minded people, yes, you can digest more information in a shorter amount of time. However, you also tend to be much more critical on the quality of the content. If you think about it, many of those speakers give much the same talk multiple times in different venues. Sometimes, they perform better than other times. Who doesn’t? Or the camera doesn’t show the full slide. Even the best talks leave room for improvement. Maybe the lighting is not good, the sound quality, or the speaker is faltering a bit. Normally, you have the life experience to compensate for it. But if you take that away, wouldn’t you be better served with studio quality content? 

Top talks

At the conference, I spoke about "Business first. Technology doesn't matter.", where I explained how to be successful with an API-first approach, Open Source, and Cloud Integration. But, I won't judge myself. Watch the recording here and judge yourself ;-).

To me, the best talk by far was "Taming the rising Complexity of Event-driven APIs” by Matthew O’Riordan. This brought exactly what I’m looking for in a conference talk. Matthew shared a wealth of experience with advanced architectures at the frontline of technological developments. And that’s what I call exciting. 

I also liked the presentation of Inon Shkedy about the OWASP top 10 Web Application Security Risks. A major and actual topic wherefore Yenlo formed a partnership with Enterprise API Security Platform 42 Crunch earlier this year.

I furthermore used the opportunity to stay informed about serverless practices. It turns out that there are many people pioneering this space. A large majority is experimenting with Amazon Web Services (AWS). Funny how those ‘architecture diagrams’ double as marketing tools. Also revealing that many speakers are discovering the benefits of middleware, although they don’t call it that. "The Art of Serverless Microservices Communication with AWS EventBridge” is a good example of middleware being reinvented. The future will tell if the renowned middleware vendors such as WSO2 will be able to capture this space, or businesses accept a lock-in with a cloud vendor. Also, exciting, but in another sense, I guess.

Till we meet (live) again

We all know that watching a live event can be entertaining indeed. Many television formats have proven that. But this requires a more journalistic approach to conferences, lively debates, interviews and such. And even then, with many channels to choose from, it can be hard to sell. But a talking head speaking to an almost empty room simply doesn’t cut it. Not being able to interact with the sponsors at all is also a major deficiency in my eyes.

I compliment the organization for trying a live event, streamed online, during this time and I forgive them for the teething troubles they are going through. It’s a learning experience. Still, I’m not convinced that the traditional conference formula will ever work in an online world, where alternatives are just one click away. It’s an industry waiting for disruption. Hopefully we can meet in another online event format soon. And one day, in person again…

Do you want to learn more about APIs and API-first integration for Microservices? I can recommend to watch the webinar below.

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Published August 25, 2020

Ruben van der Zwan

As Co-Founder and CEO of Yenlo, I am an IT-visionair and from the first hour. I believe that digitalization enables companies to grow by creating new channels to reach their customers. Important in such a digitalization journey is to avoid lock-in’s by vendors, technology and budget. Therefore, I am a fan of an API-first, Open-Source first and Cloud-first strategy. Obviously Yenlo’s key-focus services are aligned with these key-pillars by combining WSO2 open source technology with a secure and professional cloud-solution: Connext. Our Integration-Platform-as-a-Service solution for medium and large enterprises. Want to learn more? Contact me or join conferences all around the world where I am a frequent speaker.

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