Great to be the one kicking off our yearly blog festival Blogtober! This first blog is not particularly technical, but this subject has been the most prominent thing on my mind during the last 6 months. Connection with colleagues and sharing knowledge is part of our DNA at JDriven, better yet, it is part of our vision as a company. Throughout the years we gathered lots of experience in how we share our knowledge with the community. But this was always in a world without social distancing and other connection limitations.

So like a lot of companies and events we switched to completely online. At JDriven we use the Google Suite so Google Meet is our go-to tool for virtual meetings. When we started to use this more extensively we found some useful extensions that helped in this new virtual world, one of which for example helped with creating a better grid overview. But Google realized that these features were sometimes must-haves and integrated some features into Google Meet itself, resulting in unwanted behavior or even total loss of functionality if the extension was not completely removed. So pro-tip: try to minimize extensions as much as possible.

Google Meet works fine as long as interaction is kept to a minimum. There is no easy way to moderate a session with 5+ participants. This is not very helpful for workshops or discussions. Of course there are extensions to help you out but like I said extensions are not always the best solution. Also from a presenter point of view only having your webcam to interact with is not helpful in feeling and reading your audience and knowing if your explanation is the right approach. Non-verbal communication is almost non-existent online so you have no idea if your message came across the way you intended. We had some great online sessions at JDriven on Functional Programming, Neo4J, UnConferenced sessions and even pub quizzes.

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As time went by everyone was at home online all day with Scrum meetings, XP sessions, virtual coffee dates and tech sessions. Everyone got webcam-tired being online all day and then attending an online tech session or a virtual beer at the end of the day. At this point in time it is getting harder to stay connected with your colleagues or anyone else outside your 4 walls.

So seeing as it was impossible to meet each other in person at the office, we did multiple tours throughout the country and delivered some small and practical gifts at each doorstep. Together with a good talk from a social distance we tried to connect what was briefly disconnected. This turned out to be a great way to stay in touch and be safe at the same time!

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With lockdown protocol slightly being lifted we rearranged our office to facilitate a small number of colleagues in a safe way each day. This gave us the opportunity to meet each other offline once again. We used this to create mixed online and offline events which gives you the best of both worlds! We even hosted our yearly Raspberry Pi programming challenge “De vrolijke Framboos” this way with some great feedback! For me this is the best way to connect in a safe way within the guidelines available to us.

Unfortunately as of last Monday, lockdown protocols are more strict once again and we will be switching back to completely online. Luckily we can use what we learned during the first lockdown to our advantage and connect in a better way.

Before this all started I never gave social distancing much thought until March when it invaded our lives in a strange way. As humans it’s our nature to come together, connect and be in touch with others. So let’s hope we can overcome this pandemic and go back to the way we were created to connect!