Last week a group of kidlit writers put together an online conference that was honestly one of the best applications of technology I've ever seen for writers.
Most writers work alone at home. Conferences cost money between travel, hotel, food, and registration fees. Attending conferences can also be inconvenient -- they happen during the weekend, which is when writers usually relinquish their solitude and interact with the rest of the world.
So the organizers of WriteOnCon did the logical thing: they put together a midweek conference that was free and online. Writers wouldn't have to interrupt their usual work schedules (or change into business attire!) and could still connect with one another.
The organizers put together a mix of static and live content. Every hour during the work day they published either a blog or vlog post. In the evening they scheduled moderated chats. Over the course of the conference, there was also a forum where people could post work and provide critiques.
There was only one big glitch (inevitable with any event involving tech): the site went down on Day 1. I'm guessing WriteOnCon was hit with more traffic than they were ready to handle. A few hundred people pre-registered for the conference (in other words these registrants created accounts to participate in the forum and chat). Once the event began and individual posts were announced on Twitter and retweeted, thousands joined, many of whom followed the static content either on the website or through feed readers and never created accounts.
The site eventually returned, and in the meantime, organizers cross-posted static content to their own blogs to keep the momentum going and to stick to the schedule they'd created -- a simple solution while they got the site back up -- and the rest of the conference went on as planned.
The best part of this event? All of the static events are archived on the WriteOnCon website. There's a treasure trove of panels, talks, and essays on a wide range of topics from industry professionals. This is worth exploring and one of the biggest advantages of an online conference. Even if you didn't attend or didn't hear about the event until it ended, you can still access the presentations.
Will this sort of event replace in person conferences? Of course not. Nor should they. There's a great deal to be said for meeting writers in person, to dedicating a weekend to developing craft, and to having the opportunity to interact with presenters. However, WriteOnCon was accessible to an enormous cross-section of people -- both geographically and economically -- providing complementary learning and networking opportunities.
I'm looking forward to more online events such as these. Kudos to the organizers!