James Governor's Monkchips

HashiCorp built its own online events platform and it’s awesome. Tiny Wins.

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HashiCorp has good taste. The company builds things that look good and work well. The brand identity of the company as a whole is systematic and well thought out. It should be no surprise, therefore, that Hashicorp runs online events with a crisp design sensibility. Perhaps more surprising however is that HashiCorp took this sensibility and built it into its own platform for running online events.

While watching a keynote at its recent HashiConf EU event I noticed a tweet from Dominique Top, who works as a solutions engineer at the company. She pointed out that the keynote format, using stream overlays rather than slides looks good and works well. Great production values can really help a good keynote sing, especially for an online event.

Dominique’s point made me look afresh at the integrated chat platform, alongside the presentations. It quickly struck that the events platform wasn’t any of the usual suspects, so I asked what HashiCorp was using.

The answer? The HashiCorp events team built its own presentation and chat platform, which offers perhaps the nicest experience of any of these that I’ve used. It just feels minimal and clean.

It also has a couple of examples that put me in mind of what Joel Califa of GitHub calls Tiny Wins.

The platform has some really nice visual touches – e.g., if you scroll down to the bottom of the page, a video window pops up from the bottom right hand of the screen so you don’t miss anything. It just casually saves you some time.

While not a productivity hack I think the support for custom emojis is another Tiny Win. No need to pay a third party to build you a custom emoji, and a pride version, if you can create your own.

It’s kind of absurd there are multiple vendors out there with “solutions” for online events and they aren’t as good in some ways. By using its own platform HashiCorp doesn’t need to share its user data with third parties, another win. I like this attention to the user experience.

In some respects this whole narrative is a bit counter intuitive. I wouldn’t generally recommend a software company events team builds its own events platform. Platforms for events is definitely a non core activity right? Focus on content and outsource the platform. Unless you’re Microsoft, AWS or Google scale it’s hard to justify building your own. But needs must

According to HashiCorp founder and CTO Mitchell Hashimoto:

We built our own events platform for our online events. It is the best one that exists today, you can be sure we evaluated all others that existed at the time (we really, really preferred to buy instead of build… but no choice).

By building its own HashiCorp had all the customisation options at hand and could control the whole experience end to end. If you want redundancy, for example, it’s possible to engineer that with your own platform. The HashiConf EU keynote on day one was the same morning as the recent Fastly outage. You definitely don’t want your keynote starting in 45 minutes at the same time as an outage that puts a huge number of global web properties out of action. HashiCorp’s event video was hosted on YouTube, which didn’t go down, and I understand there were other options in place if it had. This attention to detail, with optionality, is what I am talking about.

Also Hashimoto:

Best events platform story recently: as part of a “fault tree analysis” style exercise weeks ahead of our event, the team had a branch ready in case of a Fastly outage. Fastly rarely goes down. 45 minutes before HashiConf EU? Major Fastly outage. Flipped the branch, no downtime!

The HashiCorp event platform didn’t work quite as well with the live sessions as the recorded events, but room for improvement is always the case with any platform. Overall the experience was really great. 10/10 would recommend. I will keep an eye out for the event write up by HashiCorp. I’d love to know more about the technical and process details.

The events team traded time for control, and it showed. Still loving that pride emoji.

Disclosure: HashiCorp is a RedMonk client, but this piece is an independent piece of analysis.

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