One of my favorite events throughout the year is the trivago tech get together. It’s the one time where we all get together to celebrate tech. Here are some impressions from 2019:
See all those happy people mingling in person? Guess it’s obvious why we had to change this up for 2020.
Why internal conferences are still important
We managed to get a lot done this year, but communication across teams was getting harder through virtual meetings. It’s difficult to foster serendipity when meetings have to be planned for; those coffee-machine conversations are sorely missing.
That is a problem for a company like trivago where collaboration is a big part of our DNA.
So we decided to try and get some of that spirit back into our lives through a virtual event we called the trivago tech week, which took place from December 7th to December 11th.
trivago tech week - the hard numbers
The week was jam-packed with an assortment of talks 🎤, exchange forums 🧠, a virtual hackathon ⌨️ , and a secret “tech challenge” 🔍 .
Each day we had an assortment of sessions by our talents as well as external speakers from Github, Google, and Expedia that were invited to the event. Formats ranged from talks, panels, special guild meetings, interviews, over pair-programming up to workshops.
Overall we had…
- 32 total sessions
- Approx. 30 hours of content
- 35 speakers
- 10 hackathon projects
- 50-100 participants per session
- 128 “can you hear me?” checks in zoom
- 0 regrets
Some talks were public and we had 157 external signups on Eventbrite.
a multi-step scavenger hunt for all you Dropboxers that
tests your wit and resourcefulness
Basically you’d solve puzzles and find links to get up to 1 Gigabyte of free Dropbox space. (In 2011 that was a lot!)
The event created an odd feeling of connectedness, even though the challenge was entirely virtual. Ever since then I wanted to replicate this magic experience and create a challenge like that myself.
As we were looking for a special virtual event for this year, the fond memories came back. I asked Simon Brüggen if he wanted to help me create the challenges… and he was in!
We hosted this virtual scavenger hunt as a one-day event in the middle of the week.
90 talents participated to reach the end of all challenges as quickly as possible. We allocated a whole day to make the challenge fit around everybody’s schedule of talks and other duties, but thought that it would take roughly 2 full hours to solve everything. The first team reached the finishing line in less than 40 minutes, many more teams not far behind — an impressive display of the troubleshooting and bug finding skills.
We got lots of positive feedback from our participants ranging from “One of the best challenges I’ve ever seen in my whole entire life.” to “The coolest scavenger hunt ever!”
Here’s a summary of the challenge:
🛠 The hackathon was completely optional, but a nice way to explore new technologies, tools, or new product concepts. This year’s motto was “internal tools” and here are some of the highlights:
treevago - trivago as a graph
In a big company it can get tricky to know who to contact for Docker troubleshooting or to find out who the team lead of an employee is.
Timmo Schulte had the idea to create a graph from the skills of our employees using Neo4j and a web visualisation. Talents can tag themselves with skills that will be searchable by everyone.
Pull Request Reports
This independent script will scan the open pull requests of repositories a team owns and send a report to your team Slack channel. No need to run around tens of repositories to see which PRs to review.
The initial version of the project is available on Github and more features are planned for the future. The tool is written in Python 3 and uses the GitHub API.
The maintainers Praneeth Peiris and Akshay Apte are looking forward to your contributions.
“What if trivago can be anywhere and everywhere?”
This was the question Daw-Chih Liou and Marcelo de Lima Leal Ferreira asked themselves. They came up with a concept for trivago widgets that can be integrated into any website. This would make it very easy to find and book accommodations while browsing a travel blog for example.
Congratulations to the winners. 🥳 The devs will answer questions on Twitter, so please reach out if you like.
Key takeaways 🗝
The tech week was great! Here are our learnings:
Virtual events can still be fun, but they require a lot of effort behind the scenes. For example, we tried to spice up the event with some fun team-building activities like the hackathon or the tech challenge.
Rather than trying to recreate a physical event, we found it worked better to embrace the possibilities of virtual spaces: stretching out the event over an entire week instead of trying to squeeze everything into a two-day schedule, using asynchronous communication throughout the event, and so on.
Not everything worked flawlessly. Sometimes there were connection issues or the slides were not visible for a moment. That’s fine. What mattered was that we had a platform to exchange ideas and spread knowledge.
We are very much looking forward to doing such an event in person again in the near future. In the meantime there’s no harm in experimenting with ways to connect the real with the virtual world. If you also plan an event like this, feel free to reach out for a chat.