Coronavirus Wipes Out Dev Events - UPDATE SxSW Now Cancelled
Written by Sue Gee   
Friday, 06 March 2020

South by Southwest, the annual film, music and tech conference due to start on March 13 in Austin Texas, has been called off a week before it wes due to start. The annoucement came after the city authorities issued an order for it to be cancelled due to concerns around the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak.

Although there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the area fears of the consequences of attracting tens of thousands of conference visitors - last year the event has 73,716 attendees, 19,116 of whom were from outside the US, Mayor Steve Adler decided to declare a local disaster in the city. In response the conference organizers have undertaken to "faithfully follow" the City's directions not to proceed with SXSW. The statement on the website continues:


"We are devastated to share this news with you. The show must go on is in our DNA, and this is the first time in 34 years that the March event will not take place. We are now working through the ramifications of this unprecedented situation." 

Original Article:

Google I/O 2020 is the latest developer event to be cancelled in its in-person mode due to the risk of spreading coronavirus. And while SxSW stubbornly refuses to be called off, if it goes ahead many exhibitors and many delegates won't be in attendance.



Organizers of any large gatherings currently face an agonizing choice. Cancel and you disappoint those who had planned to attend and end up badly out of pocket after all the refunds and reimbursements. Don't cancel and you risk ending up with a near empty auditorium and disgruntled attendees and exhibitors who were expecting more. 

Due to take place February 24-27, Mobile World Congress at Barcelona, which usually attracts more than 100,000 attendees from 200 countries was cancelled less than two weeks beforehand after major exhibitors withdrew. Some of its exhibitors and ticket holders, and technical journalists turned up anyway as it was too late to change their plans. All concerned suffered losses. The organizer, GMSA has refused to give refunds to exhibitors who had purchased booths, referring to the force majeure situation created by the cancellation of MWC 2020 due to the coronavirus threat as ‘uninsurable’. 

This issue of being able to collect on insurance policies seems to explain why SXSW, South By Southwest, due to start on March 13 in Austin, Texas, has not yet been called off, despite major tech companies, including Twitter, Facebook, Netflix, Amazon, LinkedIn, IBM and Intel having pulled out. Three major music groups, Sony, Universal and Warner Music, have advised their employees not to attend but so far civic and government authorities have not intervened to stop the event going ahead.

Discouraging people to travel from continent to continent does seem the responsible thing to do at this time. The biggest dilemma of all  is the Olympic Games, which is contemplating going ahead with just the participating athletes and no spectators, a fate which is allowing some other sporting fixtures to proceed.

Facebook was the first tech giant to take the decision to replace a major in-person event - F8 scheduled for early May - with a mix of remote and local ones announcing:

In light of the growing concerns around COVID-19, we’ve made the difficult decision to cancel the in-person component of F8 this year, in order to prioritize the health and safety of our developer partners, employees and everyone who helps put F8 on. We plan to replace the in-person F8 event with locally hosted events, videos and live-streamed content."

In Changes to F8 2020, Konstantinos Papamiltiadis writes:

This was a tough call to make -- F8 is an incredibly important event for Facebook and it’s one of our favorite ways to celebrate all of you from around the world -- but we need to prioritize the health and safety of our developer partners, employees and everyone who helps put F8 on. We explored other ways to keep the in-person part of F8, but it’s important to us to host an inclusive event and it didn’t feel right to have F8 without our international developers in attendance.

Followed Facebook's lead, Google has now cancelled the "physical" element of I/O 2020 due to concerns about the coronavirus and is looking for an alternative format to engage with its developer community. Google had already changed the format of Google Cloud Next ’20, transforming the event, taking place from April 6-8, into Google Cloud Next ’20: Digital Connect, a free, global, digital-first, multi-day event connecting our attendees to Next ’20 content and each other through streamed keynotes, breakout sessions, interactive learning and digital “ask an expert” sessions with Google teams. Those who had already purchased tickets can expect refunds and and the event is now being promoted as:

an immersive and inspiring event without the risk of travel.
Avoiding travel is probably the best way to limit the spread of the coronavirus. With one confirmed case among Amazon employees in Seattle and two in Italy, Dave Clark, Amazon's senior vice president who runs worldwide operations, sent out an email that no group or team meetings requiring travel should be planned until at least the end of April. Going further, Microsoft allowing anyone based in Seattle or San Francisco to work from home through March 25th. 
Both Google and Microsoft are increasing free access to tools that facilitate remote working and teleconferencing. Google is extending Hangouts Meet video-conferencing capabilities to all G Suite and G Suite for Education customers globally through July 1st. That means organizations can host meetings with up to 250 participants, live stream to up to 100,000 viewers within a single domain, and record and save meetings to Google Drive.  For its part Microsoft is rolling out an update to Teams  that will lift restrictions on how many users can be part of a team and allow users to schedule video calls and conferences.
So it seems the corona virus outbreak may be reshaping the way we work as well as making us rethink the advisability of travelling and the need to gather together in person - after all this is 2020.

More Information

Changes to F8 2020

Google Cloud Next update

Related Articles

Countdown To Google I/O 2020 Has Begun 

 Facebook F8 - We Are The Enemy! 



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