refactor /riːˈfaktə/ – verb – restructure (the source code of an application or piece of software) so as to improve operation without altering functionality.
At Axxes, we love conferences. Conferences are an excellent platform for our people to learn, and to meet their peers. But they can also be a place where we show the world what we’re made of. This is why we support conferences, and why we have organized our own internal one since 2018.
Then in March 2020: it all ended. Bringing people together to learn and share ideas was no longer possible. (Not offline anyways.) Suddenly, attending a conference meant staring at your screen for a day, and giving a talk meant getting pumped up to stare into a webcam for an hour. Sure, this was a great way to keep learning, but the human aspect and the networking disappeared.
So soon came the question: Are we going to have a Haxx this year and if so, how? On the one side, we did not want to sit around and do nothing, but on the other side, we felt we needed to do more than just streaming some talks.
We ended up partnering with Painting With Light, a company that specializes in running digital events. We also decided that in between the talks we wanted to run a live show with all forms of entertainment to tie the whole event together. Speakers were in a room with a few real faces to speak to, and the audiences at home had a non-stop entertainment stream for the entire day.
I think we all felt that Haxx 2020 was the best conference we could run without bringing everyone together.
A few days after Haxx, we were all talking about the event, and we realized that what we had done was something that we wanted to show to the world. We felt that we had successfully transformed (refactored so to speak) the digital conference concept into something of our own.
But if we wanted this to be successful, we needed to find a new identity for our conference. So we started thinking:
Only a few weeks later we had most of the moving parts sorted out. Re:factor had a working date; it was going to be a free digital conference in support of Bednet; Euricom and Painting With Light would be our partners-in-crime; we even had a few international speakers signed up.
But many other things remained on our to do list: we needed to find more speakers, create a website and social media channels but of course also people to help us run the event: hosts, moderators, operators, crew, etc.
Luckily, we have amazing colleagues and a partnership with great companies, so filling all these gaps was only a matter of days. When we communicated what we wanted to do, many people jumped at the opportunity to contribute.
The train was set in motion, and there was nothing that was going to stop us. The 31st of March was going to be our big day.
As the date came closer, the pieces started falling in place. We had plans for international speakers to be on site with us, backup solutions in case they could not make it, etc. There was one thing however we did not have control over: a sudden spike in COVID infections in Belgium and the introduction of tighter lockdown restrictions. A week before the event, it became clear that bringing everyone to the studio was not a responsible thing to do. We were in the final stretch, but suddenly, we had to move the finish line.
A new date was picked, everyone was informed, and the team took a few weeks to regroup before everything went full speed ahead again.
When Re:factor finally came around on June 2nd, it was everything we had hoped it would be. The hosts kicked off a fantastic show on the main stage, followed by Kevlin Henney with a great opening keynote about 6 impossible things we believe to be possible. Money was donated to Bednet and the hosts brought entertainment between the talks. At the end of the day, we had Dylan Beattie’s keynote about 6 impossible things we achieve anyway. This was followed by a musical gig with some of his world-famous interpretations of rock songs, delivered live from London through the magic of the Internet.
While we were watching the last tunes outside in the sun, a sudden realization hit us: we had successfully run a hybrid conference in challenging times and that felt great!
You weren’t able to attend Re:factor and are curious to see how it looked like? Check out the aftermovie here!
Maak alvast beter kennis met Axxes en onze bedrijfscultuur!