Remote Tips

The world has changed, and so has Coderetreat. With a lot of events going remote this year, we want to provide you with some guidance on how a remote Coderetreat can work.

git diff "onsite" "virtual"

A virtual coderetreat is not anything like an on-site one. A lot of care needs to be put into things taken for granted at an on-site event, such as creating a space for random conversations, or giving people an “out” without creating an interruption while still prompting other people to contribute who just need that one final nudge.

Everything is slower, everything takes more energy

First and foremost, you might find that the prospect of sitting in front of your computer for eight hours on a Saturday (while presumably doing so for the past five workdays already) isn’t the most appealing place to start with. A coderetreat warrants for consecutive time spent on the same problem, but it might be feasible to consider to limit your event for about four hours, with considerable time accounted for the start, a break and some social time after the event.

Not everything about a coderetreat needs to happen synchronously! You can help people settling in and getting to know each other by inviting them to the chat channel (e.g. Discord/Slack) for the event a few days before the event.

This is also an excellent occasion to start sharing the Setup Guides and to prompt them with a warm-up question!

Cater to the attention span

It is important to have some means of persisting information that will be required throughout the event. Consider using a Google Spreadsheet, an Etherpad or a Miro/Mural-board to provide attendees with information such as the zoom links, the timeline and the time for breaks etc.

During any format you might run, make sure to have the constraint written down for people to refer to. Everything important you say should also be written down somewhere for people to refer to.

For any retrospective you run, make sure people collect their input in text-form and merely use the audio to carry home their points. Miro or Mural have excellent templates for you to start with.

As with every facilitation, less might be more after all. A very flexible collaboration tool (e.g. Miro, a blank canvas) might allow for more positive group dynamics than a highly constrainted one (such as e.g. Trello, a kanban-esque organization tool).

The upside: A truly global coderetreat

For once, you might get the chance to host a truly global coderetreat. Our Events Page encourages people to find an event that works for their time and language, not necessarily one that is in close proximitry of them.

As such, your event could have someone from another part of the world join and contribute to your local community! Consider adopting a common language (such as English) for your event and make sure to promote your event on social media and in the communities!

Hear it from the experts

Here are some blog posts from people who have hosted virtual coderetreats before:

If you have any experience, please share it with us by submitting a Pull Request for this page

Tools

Video conferencing

  • meet.jit.si is a free, open-standards-based video conferencing solution that allows for a large number of people to be in the same call. It lacks good moderation tools.
  • zoom is a paid for video conferencing solution that offers break-out rooms and can be moderated.
  • Discord is a tool similar to Slack that allows realtime and asynchronous communication through video/voice channels and chats.

Collaborative Code Editors

  • VisualStudio Code, together with Live Share, offers easy collaborative editing, sharing a terminal and even tunneling ports so results can be previewed in realtime. It is our recommendation out of any more sophisticated collaborative IDEs.

Brainstorming tools

A shared document can be helpful for persistent information, e.g. video conferencing rooms, schedules or even retrospectives. Share it with your participants upfront!

  • Google Docs offers real-time editing
  • Dropbox Paper offers similar real-time editing
  • MURAL.co is an (almost) infinite canvas that can be used for coordination, brainstorming, retrospectives and collaboration
  • Miro (formerly RealtimeBoard) has similar capabilities as MURAL.
  • Etherpads are an opensource alternative for collaborative editing.