Coronavirus, COVID19 and the C++ Community
published at 27.03.2020 10:44 by Jens Weller
As this crisis unfolds, some word on how this impacts our own community, the C++ world.
I'll try not to get too much into the current facts and numbers of this pandemic, there is already written enough about this. And predictions are difficult, especially if they concern the future. So I'll to give you an overview of how the community has reacted. Jonathan Boccara already covered what you as a C++ programmer could do to help.
Most obviously every gathering in the real world for our community (and every other community) has been canceled. This is pretty much a first for all the organizers I know, and those with time to prepare for this seem to handle it a bit better then those with early conference dates when this just was still unfolding. I do want to remind my fellow programmers though, that canceling a conference is a legal and not a logical decision. It has vast consequences, and there is no clear best practice for this. And it might be, that not all conferences survive this year due to the involved legal and financial implications on top of the responsibilty of running and organizing an event in 2020. There is a listing of events affected on reddit.
For Meeting C++ 2020, the announcement for the conference is planned for mid April (due to Easter), and then proceed with the planning. Adjustment to the evolving situation will be made. For now the plan is to go ahead as everything after summer seems safe, I've also heard that CppCon is on track too.
The ISO C++ Committee did cancel its meeting in Summer in Varna, Bulgaria, as ISO did cancel all their face to face meetings for some time. WG21 and its subgroup have for a while practiced teleconferencing and other forms of online collaberation. Work on C++23 should hopefully not be too much affected, except for all the work usually getting done during a full week of ISO C++ being in session locally. The final touches on C++20 happend in Prague, in February.
Most local groups have canceled their meetings, and I think that some groups might try to resume local meetings in May if they're able to legally. Some countries handle this event better then others, but a wide spread and regular offering of local meetups for our community likely will return after Summer. A few groups have started experimenting with online formats. Though there is no option which replaces the talking to fellow members and debate of a certain topic after a talk in your user group. Most options permit one person speaking to everyone else, and some user groups might chose to only host streams instead of a video conference call.
Streaming and video conferencing
With so many folks now working from home, video conferences and chats have become a popular thing. For Conferences and User Groups its often unexplored territory. I've done some evaluation of existing solutions my self, and attended some of the online meetings. The Munich user group chose to stream over twitch, which made the chat the communication channel between the small team handling the event and the actual audience. Unfortunately twitch offers for these streams only the source quality of the video. I've also attended the online meeting of the User Group Osnabrück, which had to switch from jit.si to zoom, and lost with this a few participants. Earlier I've been in a jit.si meeting with community organizers, which went ok. Yit.si is an open source video conferencing service, which under meet.yit.si allows for a simple video conferencing setup. An alternative is skype, google hangouts or Zoom. There is a very good page by the EFF on what you'd might want to know about these tools now becoming popular.
The downside of most video conferencing software is that it is really distracting and often folks not used to this setup aren't muted by default. Also issues with moderation can show up, thats why on most platforms a meeting can be secured by password.
Work & Industry
It seems that many of us are able to work from home now, or already have been able to do this. And for those new to this, KDAB has a few tips for working from home. Yet I know from my own experience in 2008, that this is not always true for freelancers writing C++, and as this post by Rainer Grimm shows, likely also Trainers teaching C++. The Qt Company posted how they adopt to the situation, I hope this becomes the Industry standard. While in the embedded sector Arduino has announced to give orders of medical companies priority. Also as we go into a recession this will have all kind of side effects, but I think that C++ programmers are likely to be able have job security and/or find new positions. Yet I percive this crisis is a pradigm shift, which will allow more remote positions and make work from home a common option.
For now I'm able to continue my work with Meeting C++, and take this event as a motivation to rethink a few planned features for Meeting C++ it self. But its to early to speak of details, I hope to have some of these plans online by mid April with the conference announcement. I am thinking about hosting a weekly video conference, so that folks can have a chat.
Those who will get really sick
I wish all of you the best out come in this event, but we do have to think of those in our community who will have their personal health impacted by this event and the disease. There will be a loss of loved ones, and with some of us in the risk group, also well known members of our community will be affected and might die. So for those of us who are not in risk groups or only get a mild version, please still take this as a very serious and live threatening event.
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