COVID-19 is forcing conferences to cancel left and right, but even more notable is the announcement from O’Reilly Media that it would be closing down the in-person portion of its conference business for good.
O’Reilly president Laura Baldwin writes:
Today, we’re sharing the news that we’ve made the very difficult decision to cancel all future O’Reilly in-person conferences and close down this portion of our business. Without understanding when this global health emergency may come to an end, we can’t plan for or execute on a business that will be forever changed as a result of this crisis. With large technology vendors moving their events completely on-line, we believe the stage is set for a new normal moving forward when it comes to in-person events.
O’Reilly is a forward-thinking business, and this is the first corporate statement I’ve seen that acknowledges that a post-coronavirus world may look quite different from what we’ve experienced in the past. The ascendance of the Internet was the downfall of many conferences, like the dearly departed Macworld, that didn’t offer enough beyond what could be gleaned online. And now, the rise of coronavirus-driven virtual events may cause many more conferences to disappear or evolve into a new form.
Beyond conferences, numerous people—and their employers—are discovering that working from home can be better in many ways. (Particularly when it’s voluntary and doesn’t involve sharing space with a spouse and restive children. We’ll get back there.) As much as personal interactions are always important, being shown that life can go on without quite so many of them might reduce wasted commute time, deadly automobile accidents, pollution-causing plane trips, and more.
It will be fascinating to see which of our assumptions about how things should be turn out to be merely the way we’ve always done them, rather than the way they could be done better for individuals, for society, and for the planet.