In a world absorbed by concern over community spread of the coronavirus, many large gatherings are being cancelled or altered. For example, the South by Southwest events in Austin, TX have been cancelled for 2020. Last year the combined attendance at the events was about 400,000. The Collision conference, which promotes itself as “North America’s fastest growing technology conference”, has been transformed into an online-only experience called Collision From Home. The event, previously scheduled for Toronto in June, had been anticipated to draw about 30,000 people. The Google I/O developer conference has been cancelled as a physical event, with plans being developed for an online experience. Facebook cancelled the annual F8 developer event, as well as the separate Facebook Global Marketing Summit. Adobe cancelled the annual live summit as well. A host of other business, scientific and technology events have been cancelled, or transformed into online-only formats. People are thinking about new ways to work and interact, including online options that capture many of the advantages of in-person meetings. As I was thinking about these developments, I came across the following quote from a NamePros moderator team. In this blog post, I look at how NamePros is a never-ending online domain name conference. I offer tips on how to optimize the experience, and wonder about how we might make it even more effective. NamePros as a Conference A conventional conference brings together people with common, or overlapping, interests to hear speakers and panels, learn new skills in workshops, investigate job opportunities, network both formally and informally, and visit exhibitor booths. Let’s look at how you can do much of that on NamePros. While NamePros does not have speakers as such, discussions fill the role of conference presentations. In some ways a NamePros thread is better than a live talk, with more opportunities for in-depth commentary from multiple viewpoints. Plus here everyone can be a conference speaker! As well as keynotes and other presentations, most conferences have panels, roundtables, or similar structures. This does not formally happen often in NamePros threads, but there is no reason why it could not. Several people could get together, brainstorm and research an idea, and then together lead the discussion. Workshops develop skills and techniques. While there are not workshops per se on NamePros, many threads become in essence learning about a topic or technique. Video could help some topics come closer to a workshop experience. Networking While nothing can quite replace face-to-face networking opportunities, there is no doubt that you can readily make new friends. Just by participating in threads this will happen naturally. The Break Room and Chat are great ways to interact with others on almost any topic. And don’t forget the Networking Meet and Greet section. News One thing you learn at conferences is industry news, and NamePros has its own section for domain news. Job Board NamePros has its own Job Board, where you can browse listed jobs, post your skills in the domainers for hire section, or as a developer/designer. The Design Contests section is also relevant. Free Stuff We all want the free swag that you typically get at conference exhibitor halls. Well, it is not quite the same, but there definitely are free things at NamePros. You can even get free domain names. Don’t forget to browse the coupons and offers section. Exhibitor Hall The exhibitor area at conventional conferences is not only a good place for refreshments and networking, but it also promotes efficiently learning about new products and services. On NamePros the Promotional and Reviews sections, as well as advertisements, meet this role, to some degree. Auctions The live auction is a major feature of NamesCon Global. The auction thread at NamePros offers a steady stream of auctioned domain names at various price levels. Learning New Things A key reason we go to conferences is to learn new things and hear different perspectives. While no online experience can quite replicate the excitement of hearing a passionate speaker live, the many threads at NamePros provide an opportunity for us to effectively learn new things every single day. Alvin Brown conducted an interview with Morgan Linton at NamesCon 2020. One tip that I picked up from that interview, applicable to any kind of conference, is that each night Morgan wrote down three things that he had learned that day at the conference. I have not yet tried this personally, but I plan to each day write down one or two things learned at NamePros. I think the exercise will help me focus on how to apply what I learn here to my own domain investing. One huge advantage of NamePros over a conventional conference, is the ability to archive the discussion, and to cross-link multiple threads. As well as NamePros own search box, you can use the full power of Google search via the site:NamePros.com command. A Few Hints So how can you optimize the experience of NamePros as a conference? Here are a few ideas. Part of getting the most out of a conference, is to make good choices on what to attend. The same is true at NamePros. Consider your choices and invest your time in the topics that are most valuable for you. Get in the habit of establishing a daily plan for the time you spend on NamePros and prioritize. Your plan will help guide which threads you interact with, but how do you make the most of your time spent in those discussions? In face-to-face conferences, I found that keeping a pad close and writing shorthand notes was beneficial. For example, I would put an exclamation point beside new ideas, and a question mark beside things that I want to ask a question about. Conferences generally require delay before we make a comment or ask a question. Delaying a bit before making a comment on NamePros, especially if unsure about what you are about to say, is probably wise, even though the system does not require it. If you start a discussion thread, ask yourself what benefits this topic will have for NamePros members. As the initiator, take responsibility for including accurate information and a clear focus in the initial post. In face-to-face conferences skilled moderators play an important role in keeping discussions on track and respectful. They also help spread the question opportunities around. The person who starts a thread should take responsibility for trying to keep the discussion productive. Of course the moderators will deal with clearly disruptive commentary. Sometimes discussion gets heated, so we should all keep in mind the NamePros Expectations for respect and constructiveness. Just as you would act in a professional manner at a conference, professionalism is important here too. Face-to-face conferences try to minimize duplication of sessions on similar topics. If you are considering starting a new discussion topic, do a search to make sure that a thread on that topic does not already exist. Take advantage of James Iles weekly Top Topics NamePros Blog series to help guide you to the most valuable recent topics. Networking and meeting new people will be facilitated by active participation in topics you find interesting, including posting and making use of the like/thank buttons. We were all new here once, so go out of your way to welcome newcomers and give them the benefit of the doubt in their early posts. Some long-term members do an outstanding job of welcoming new people in the Beginners section. Hats off to you! Ideas for Possible Change In writing this post, I thought about a few ways that NamePros could change to make the site even more like a conference. Here are some of my personal ideas. Conferences gain from the impact of inspirational keynote speakers. Would it be reasonable to have video presentations that would fill that role in a new keynote presentations section? Part of the excitement in conferences builds on the idea that they are time-limited and scheduled. The asynchronous nature of NamePros is one of its strengths, but would there be value in each week having a few scheduled events that are promoted on the side bar? I would like to see the Ask Me Anything section used more regularly. If we had a weekly announcement of a promoted guest in the section, I think that would help build excitement and interest. Could the auction section attract more interest if a subset of the auctions were highlighted beyond the existing promotion feature? This would require some small group of respected domain investors to select the few names that would receive this special treatment. Another possibility would be to have the featured auctions all take place in the same time window, thereby gaining some of the aura of a live auction. I think there have been improvements at NamePros in promoting high-value content, such as the addition of the Community Favorite on the sidebar. There are probably other ways to identify and promote high-value content. As mentioned earlier, I see value in threads that are organized and started by a group of people. There are perhaps ways to encourage this, perhaps by a new NamePros section where only threads started by at least two experienced members working together are allowed.. The commercial content on NamePros has become a divisive issue. It is not easy, but if we could find a way to encourage most companies who provide products and services to domainers to be active here, and, within bounds of NamePros rules, to inform us about their products, I think it would be a win-win. I wonder if we need a new section solely for new product announcements. I think, particularly new members, could benefit from technique workshops. Should there be a new section of NamePros for Workshops? In most cases these would start with a video introduction, followed by a series of tips and questions and answers. I would see these offered both by domainers and commercial providers. Final Thoughts A great conference can be magical, opening your mind to new ideas and fresh insights, and allowing you to meet and work with people. Sure, numerous sessions will be disappointing, but the gems more than make up. NamePros is an exceptional online community. Let’s all continue to do our part to make it even more valuable, and to take advantage of the opportunities here. NamePros is indeed like a conference of the world’s domainers. And it never comes to an end. How great is that? What Do You Think? NamePros is not only a never-ending domain name conference, it is a community with a universe of different views and experiences. I hope you will share in the comments section your own views on this topic. Do you think that NamePros is like an ongoing conference? Do you have tips to share on making time spent on NamePros more productive? What aspects of NamePros as a conference have I overlooked? Could NamePros make changes so that it becomes even more like a conference? Do we want it to become more like a conference? Just to be clear, any ideas in this post are simply personal reflections, and I have not discussed the content with anyone who manages or moderates NamePros. Also, I am sure some of the ideas were picked up over the years from member comments on the site, so I am not claiming them as original to me.