Half a year has passed since T3CRR 2021. Last chance to write something about this TYPO3camp. I was part of the organizational team for the first time last year! Because it was my first meetup with the TYPO3 community in 2015, the camp is special to me.
The atmosphere of the Unperfekthaus in Essen has always been an extraordinary part of the T3CRR. Unfortunately, the UpH was not available that year. And due to the ongoing Corona situation, we decided to host an online Barcamp.
In addition to the general organization, I was mainly responsible for the graphic work, as well as the setup of the virtual conference tool Gather.Town.
- Date: November 5–7, 2021
- First time as a digital Barcamp in Gather.Town
- 111 participants
- 21 sessions in three rooms
The TYPO3camp RheinRuhr takes place under a new motto every year. For each theme, a matching graphic exists, which is used on t-shirts, bags, etcetera.
For this camp, we quickly decided on Ingo Schmitt's suggestion "First Contact". The explanation is just as quick: we were the first TYPO3camp following the release of the new TYPO3 version 11 LTS. And its sprint releases also used the space motif as a common theme.
The lettering is set in Century Gothic Bold. The letter "T" was modified to form the new version number.
The spaceship in the foreground is only indicated as a silhouette. This decision required the choice of sufficiently dark fabric for the T-shirts to get the right effect.
The two astronauts are supposed to reflect the teamwork on TYPO3 v11, as well as the joint familiarization with the new version during the camp.
You can find a t-shirt in the goodie bag of most Barcamps and conferences. Regular participants have a well-stocked closet by now. Therefore, during ticket buying process, we offered the T-shirt as an optional purchase and only produced the ordered quantity after the camp.
What I like about T3CRR shirts is that, apart from the camp graphic on the front, there is only a discreet T3CRR logo on the back of the neck.
This year, Joachim Rolwes made a suggestion that fitted the theme: each participant received an embroidered mission patch, just like it is customary for astronauts and the ground crew on NASA missions.
When it came to choosing a digital venue, we didn't make it easy for ourselves. Over time, we examined various solutions, some of which had very different emphases. In the end, Hopin, InvitePeople, and Gather.Town made it onto our shortlist.
Gather.Town was mentioned by Michael Oehlhof, who got to know it at JavaLand 2021. The tool convinced me quickly with its special graphical user interface and interaction possibilities. And I think the tool turned out to be a real stroke of luck.
The TYPO3camp Munich had started six weeks earlier with a similar web interface (named WorkAdventure). Karen Falkenberg and I participated as well and were able to take some lessons for our own camp. For example, we subsequently positioned the stage in the center of each session room: this gave the presenter and the organizational team a better overview of when digital hand signals were used.
The most important facts about Gather.Town:
- It is a conference tool in pixel design. Each participant attends with an avatar that can be customized.
- The controls are WASD, arrow keys or right-click: "Move here"
- Participants nearby automatically become visible as a video, allowing easy interactions and random encounters. Even larger groups can have conversations in this way.
- For some rest, video and sound can be turned off, the video radius can be limited, and users can also be blocked (if needed).
- Chats and a participant list are also available. The list makes it possible to find an avatar on the map - a path to him is then displayed.
- Sessions: Conference rooms provide spots for speakers and moderators that allow broadcasting to the entire room. The Spotlight function is available for questions from the audience.
- Rooms or "Spaces": there is a good selection of ready-made rooms that can be used and individualized for your own event. To host private events, you can protect your Spaces with a password.
- Interactive objects: can be placed throughout the area. They allow opening information texts, embedded websites and the like.
- You can add logos, information stands and other objects to provide the necessary attention to the camp sponsors.
If you want to set up a new space in GatherTown, you can start with a pre-configured template or start from scratch. We chose the "Deluxe Conference" template, which is designed for 100+ participants.
We then started the customization process, which mainly consists of two areas:
- The basic design of the rooms.
- The positioning of objects (with and without interactivity).
We removed or replaced some rooms completely. For the remaining rooms, the foreground and background were graphically adjusted. We moved walls and exchanged floors. Although you can do this in Mapmaker, it can be easier to do it in an external graphics program like Photoshop.
GatherTown provides countless objects that you can position freely: Furniture, plants, decorations, and much more. From office furniture to cyberpunk, many styles are offered. In addition, builders can upload their custom graphics in PNG format.
Another lesson learned from the TYPO3camp Munich: if virtual chairs are available, they will be "used" by participants. So we equipped all session rooms with sufficient seating. We also tried to make the camp an inviting place by placing lots of other objects.
You can insert objects via Mapmaker, or directly in the GatherTown interface. That allowed us to quickly add things as needed - for instance arrows and text to guide the way to the initial session planning on Saturday morning.
To give participants the illusion of a multi-dimensional world, avatars must not be able to walk over walls, trees, and other large objects. For this reason, four layers exist in Gather.Town:
- The background: contains the floor, the lower half of the walls, and certain other graphic elements, such as tree trunks.
- The object layer: contains all the objects positioned by Mapmaker. Inside Mapmaker, you can also define the order of each object.
- The avatar layer: on this layer, the avatars move. They can therefore cover the two previous layers.
- The foreground: contains the upper half of the walls, treetops, and other elements that avatars can (partially) hide behind.
Together with the possibility of blocking areas in Gather.Town via effect tiles, an atmospheric world can be created.
Ingo had the idea of truly launching the new TYPO3 version into space – with a weather balloon up to the stratosphere (at an altitude of up to 40,000 meters).
The launch took place Saturday morning at the Bad Pyrmont airfield by the Stratoflights team. Besides two video cameras and the USB stick (with TYPO3 v11 and a list of all core contributors), the (just in time) produced mission patches were on board. The camp participants could track the flight route directly from within Gather.Town. After almost two and a half hours, the weather balloon and its cargo landed in a field.
Once the camera had been recovered, Michael and Joachim post-processed the videos in no time at all and uploaded them to YouTube.
In the YouTube channel of the TYPO3camp RheinRuhr, you can now find the videos of launch, flight, landing, and recovery.
A successful Barcamp needs to be promoted on social media channels. And this requires not only a clean editorial plan but is also a lot of work.
For some of the most important posts, I created matching artwork that represented the process (or journey) of the camp's organization. The images were available in a square and landscape versions for the different channels.
Of course, a Barcamp like this doesn't organize itself on its own. In the organizational team, my special thanks go to my colleague Julia Nolden. She too was a new member of the team and worked tirelessly on social media and the T3CRR website.
I also want to thank the participants! The first digital T3CRR fell into a time when many of us were already weary of video conferencing. Fortunately for us, you all embraced it extremely well and contributed to the success of the camp.
Some participants even bought the far more expensive supporter tickets to support our camp: Jari-Hermann Ernst, Carsten Falkenberg, Daniel Fau, Oliver Hader, Marco Huber, Chris Müller, Guido Schmechel, Wolfgang Wagner, Sandra Waider, Michael Waider, Thorsten Weber and Andreas Wolf. Thank you all, you are amazing!
Last but not least, I would like to thank the sponsors for their often longtime support of the T3CRR: Marketing Factory Consulting GmbH, Schaffrath DigitalMedien, CP/COMPARTNER, Codappix, jweiland.net, PPW, Analog Digitalagentur and ITK Rheinland.