Or: How to fill your office with more people than ever before
As you may know, together with the team at Hyvä Themes, we had big plans for a big event in the first half of this year. But then the war in Ukraine started and organising basically a party for the community didn’t feel right.
That’s why we scaled it down, toned it down from party to community gathering and switched from a grand venue in Aachen to our very own office. Our office that has never seen more than 20 people working here at the same time thanks to remote work.
And now this office was supposed to become the Hyvä community’s meeting place for two days. We negotiated how many people we could bring into our office without it being overcrowded. What we refer to as our “ballroom” suddenly felt rather small.
But we did it. For the first time ever, the Hyvä Community had a proper chance to meet in person. We plunged right back into meeting face-to-face after two years of social distancing. It was exciting, lovely and maybe a bit insane.
First step: Checking in
The best check-in usually isn’t worth mentioning as it works so smoothly you don’t think about it. For us, checking in people worked pretty well as it’s easy when you know most of them already and don’t need to ask for names. Checking all the European Covid certificates on the other hand is a little more trouble, but it contributed to feeling a bit safer even with almost 60 people present.
Day 1 – Learn from HyväClasses & exchange ideas
Suddenly, a couple of minutes after the check-in started, what we refer to as the hallway track was in full swing, people grouping in the kitchen to grab some coffee, in the atrium to enjoy some sunshine and in our ballroom in anticipation of the official opening.
Once HyväCamp was officially opened, we split up the attendees: One group got to listen to Willem with an introduction to Hyvä while the other group followed Vinai with a session on Hyvä’s tech stack, a session catering to intermediate Hyvä developers.
Food. The foundation of a good all-day in-person event
The biggest stumbling point for us as organisers was lunch on Day 1. Chaos & confusion describes it best: We had to figure out which food corresponded to which item on the bill and make sure to add the correct allergen infos. You really don’t want to experience any allergic reactions among your attendees to the food you serve. But once the buffet was opened, some of the stress was gone and our team breathed a sigh of relief.
Another thing we learned the hard way: If you run an event in your office, you may want to have a second printer in case the first printer doesn’t want to work on that day. Otherwise, you’ll need to create handwritten food labels rather fast.
After these tense minutes, we appreciated the positive feedback for the Syrian buffet even more.
HyväClasses, CommerceExchange – all at once
After lunch, the attendees again split up to either attend another HyväClass or to take part in the CommerceExchange discussion rounds. The first HyväClasses scheduled for the afternoon was a session by Willem Poortman during which he introduced MageWire and had some exercises prepared for his audience to practise what they had just learned. The second session was held by Peter Jaap Blaakmeer, showing the capabilities of Cypress to test your Magento 2 system.
For those not as much involved in developing Magento projects, we ran three CommerceExchange sessions: “Beyond Hyvä – complementary services in your tool kit”, “When and how to recommend Hyvä to merchants” and “The Future of Magento”. All of these topics sparked quite some discussions and especially the last one understandably led to some longer going exchanges which continued during a barcamp session on Day 2.
End of Day 1 – A tour around Aachen
Aachen, Aken, Aix la Chapelle, Aquisgran – our city goes by many names and has a long history. Andreas and Ina showed our HyväCampers around town, recounting some of the legends and stories connected to the old buildings.
Finally, the groups sat down for dinner and drinks, and there may have been a couple of Gin & Tonics to end the night.
Day 2 – Many ideas to hack & discuss
The program of day 2 was sculpted by the HyväCampers: With many suggestions for hackathon projects and barcamp sessions, they provided their fellow attendees with plenty to choose from. Since everyone only had two votes, some tough decisions had to be made.
Moderated by Vinai, we were able to set up a schedule that offered ways to learn something new, e. g. about CMS options for Magento 2, to dig deeper into previously learned topics like MageWire or to continue discussions from the day before, e. g. around the future of Magento.
Matching the hackathon theme of the day, lunch of Day 2 consisted of pizzas from our favourite pizza places in Aachen. Different meats, vegan cheese, even gluten-free dough – we had it all. Maybe we should have offered a voting system to finally find an answer which pizzeria here is the best. Next time…
After lunch, the hackathon projects and barcamp sessions continued until it was time to wrap-up. Some hackathon groups presented the results of the day in front of all attendees. Then it was time to close the very first HyväCamp. Willem had brought some Hyvä swag to hand out that was quickly distributed among the attendees. Shirts, mugs, and more all found a new home. And thanks to Łukasz Bajsarowicz, we were also able to gift some attendees with t-shirts and books from SwiftOtter.
For now, HyväCamp is closing its gates. We are thrilled to see the big energy the Hyvä community has and its eagerness to push us all forward, bringing Magento to the next level. You may rest assured that this wasn’t the last Hyvä community event in person. But for now, the next gathering is a virtual one at Hyvä Meetup on July 6.
A big thank you to all HyväCampers
Our biggest thank you goes to the team of Hyvä Themes who had our backs right from the start when we first gathered ideas for this event. We also want to thank Peter Jaap Blaakmeer from Elgentos who readily accepted the offer to do a HyväClass and brought his team with him, making sure we all had a party.
And last but not least, we are grateful to all HyväCampers who had us overjoyed with their quick ticket orders, signalling to us that this was the right event at the right time, and their enthusiasm and support during the event.
Lessons learned from our perspective as organisers
There are always aspects of an event that in retrospect could have been handled better. To our future selves and to you if you are an (aspiring) event organiser, here are our main learnings from HyväCamp:
- Do not rely on one channel of communication. We focussed very much on Slack which led to some people not getting all the information they needed in time.
- Keep it simple, schedule. We had different session types like HyväClasses and CommerceExchange running simultaneously with different lengths per session. That was confusing. All tracks should have their breaks at the same time.
- Have a designated time-keeper. Either you will want them to make sure a session comes to an end or you want them to help sessions start (almost) on time.
- Show successes. Our hackathon could have used a proper wrap-up so all groups could present their work.
- Plan some time buffers. We noticed it during our closing and hackathon wrap-up that there was still plenty topics to address and a bit more time for these would have been great.
- Murphy’s law applies to printers, too. A backup printer would have saved us from some hassle.
- Extraordinary food may require extraordinary work. Food is an important element of any event and for Day 1 we opted for a more extraordinary choice. The food was great, but the work around it a lot more than with a simple, reliable pizza.
Giving back to the community
With respect to our community members in Ukraine, we didn’t want to organise a big party while they are fighting for their lives. We would rather see them succeed very soon and get a chance to celebrate together with them afterwards.
HyväCamp made a profit of 420 € from the tickets we sold. With our community members in Ukraine in mind, we have decided to donate the profit to an aid program for hospitals in Ukraine. It’s a local initiative started here in Aachen by a professor of our local university who is a native of Ukraine. The initiative provides Ukrainian hospitals with urgently needed medicine, bandages, and other medical supplies.
While the donation won’t have a relevant effect on the war, we hope that it is still a contribution to quite literally lessen the pain this war inflicts.