Going Online: How we organized the first ever virtual csv,conf (part 3)

This is the third of three guest blog posts by Serah Rono, Lilly Winfree, Jo Barratt, Elaine Wong, Jess Hardwicke, John Chodacki, and Jonathan Cain, co-organizers of csv,conf (catch up on part 1 and part 2). In this final post, the authors look to the future (and explain the comma llama!).


It would not be csv,conf if it had not been for the #commallama. The comma llama first joined us for csv,conf,v3 in Portland and joined us again for csv,conf,v4. The experience of being around a llama is both relaxing and energising at the same time, and a good way to get people mixing. Taking the llama online was something we had to do and we were very pleased with how it worked. It was amazing to see how much joy people got out of the experience and also interesting to notice how well people adapted to the online environment. People naturally organised into a virtual queue and took turns coming on to the screen to screengrab a selfie. Thanks to our friends at Mtn Peaks Therapy Llamas & Alpacas for being so accommodating and helping us to make this possible.

A big thank you to our community and supporters

As we reflect on the experience this year, one things is very clear to us: The conference was only possible because of the community of people who presented, attended and supported us. It was a success because the community showed up, was kind, welcoming and extremely generous with their knowledge, ideas and time. The local people in DC who stepped up to offer knowledge and support on the ground was a great example of this and we are incredibly grateful for the support, though this turned out not to be needed. 

We were lucky to have a community of developers, journalists, scientists and civic activists who intrinsically know how to interact and support one another online, and who adapted to the realities of an online conference well. From the moment speakers attended our practice sessions on the platform and started to support one another, we knew that things were going to work out. We knew things would not all run to plan, but we trusted that the community would be understanding and actively support us in solving problems. It’s something we are grateful for. 

We are also thankful to the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and our 100 + individual financial supporters. It is worth noting that none of this would have been possible without our planned venue, hotel and caterers being very understanding and letting us void our contracts without any penalties. 

Looking Ahead – The future of csv,conf

Many people have been asking us about the future of csv,conf. Firstly, it’s clear that csv,conf,v5 has given us renewed love for the conference and made abundantly clear the need for a conference like this in the world. It’s also probably the case that the momentum generated by running the conference this year will secure enthusiasm amongst organisers for putting something together next year.

So the question is ‘what should a future csv,conf look like?’ We will certainly be considering our experience of running this year’s event online. It was such a success that there is an argument for keeping it online going forward, or putting together a hybrid online/in-person event. Time will tell.

We hope that this has been useful for others. If you are organising an event and have suggestions or further questions that could improve this resource, please let us know. Our Slack remains open and is the best place to get in touch with us.

About the authors

Serah Rono (The Carpentries), Lilly Winfree (Open Knowledge Foundation), Jo Barratt (Open Knowledge Foundation), Elaine Wong (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation), Jessica Hardwicke (Code for Science & Society), John Chodacki (California Digital Library), and Jonathan Cain (University of Oregon) were all co-organizers of csv,conf,5, and co-authored this series of blog posts. Martin Fenner, DataCite, Danielle Robinson, Code for Science & Society, and Paul Walsh, Datopian were also co-organizers of the conference.


Check out our resources pages for more CSCCE-curated resources on running events and hosting online communities.