Welcome to the first-ever, totally online MCN conference experience: we’re thrilled that you have decided to join us! Months in the making, our intention from the start was to ensure that this event is as welcoming, accessible, and easy to navigate as possible. This guide aims to deliver on this promise, and we hope you’ll find it useful.
We have broken down the details so that you can see what platforms we are using, how to use them, and call out where they might fall short, so you are ready to make the most of each tool, supporting our community as we come together in a whole new way. Being a community of technologists, we’ve also added a couple of optional tools to play with that we thought were interesting in our thorough analysis of the many ways people are now connecting online around the world.
If you haven’t yet, purchase your registration for MCN 2020 VIRTUAL. Once registered, you’ll receive a confirmation email to get set up on our conference platforms. If you registered and didn’t get an invite to the program schedule, you can use your Eventbrite order number to get your Sched account setup or reset your password using this form. Questions or issues with registration? Email us!
You will be sharing your name and email with MCN when you register. We will use this to communicate with you about the conference. When you register, know that Eventbrite stores data about you for their marketing and internal analysis. You can delete the information they are storing by following these instructions.
MCN 2020 Welcome Session
The Program (Sched)
You can access the entire conference program on mcn.edu and at mcn2020virtual.sched.com if you want to maximize screen space. If you’re new to the platform or trying to figure out how to do something, check out the Sched attendee guide.
If you haven’t yet registered, do that first. If you already registered but didn’t get an email from Sched or don’t remember your details, you can use this form to look up your account and/or reset your password using your Eventbrite order number, or if you’ve already set yourself up simply Login.
Update Your Profile
Networking is the main reason we attend the conference, so we strongly encourage you to complete your profile to let others know about you. Also, with your name, people will be able to find you on Slack.
Build Your Schedule
Add the sessions you are planning to attend to build your personal guide to the conference and access Zoom links to attend sessions. Limited attendance sessions require an RSVP: Deep Dives, Speed Networking, Virtual Tours, Workshops, and other special sessions; you’ll need to add the session to your schedule on MCN Sched to join the attendee list (or, if it’s full, the waitlist) and gain access to the Zoom link. Note that Workshops are reserved by purchasing a $10 ticket on Eventbrite, which will allow you to add it to your schedule on MCN Sched.
Access your Sessions via Sched
Links to access your sessions will be available 10 minutes before start times on that session’s page in Sched once you’ve added it to your schedule. For those signed up for pre-recorded sessions with live Q&A, the Vimeo links to view pre-recording will be made available on that session’s page in Sched at least one day before the live Q&A session.
You will also receive an email 10 minutes before the session. Please do not forward or share the Zoom link with anyone. Sharing the link can cause a serious privacy and security issue. We are counting on you to keep our space safe and welcoming.
There are six different types of sessions, and all sessions are either a webinar or a meeting.
- Webinars are events with only presenters on-screen, and you’ll participate using the Zoom chat and Q&A to pose questions; your camera and mic are not engaged, but your username is viewable.
- Meetings are events where you can join on-screen and participate beyond the chat function using video and audio functionality. You can read more about the distinction between Webinars and Meetings on Zoom.
MCN Community: Whether you’re a first-time attendee or a seasoned one, join these sessions to hear MCN’s leaders and volunteers help you get situated or share housekeeping or other special announcements.
60-Minute Presentation Panel: These Webinar sessions include most MCN 2020 VIRTUAL sessions. They bring together panelists to discuss current projects, issues, and trends among various digital and other practices in the museum sector to help you see the forest from the tree. Think big picture insights and diverse perspectives.
30-Minute Presenter Q&A: These Zoom Meeting sessions are Q&As for each of the pre-recorded sessions so you can join them live to ask the presenters all the questions you may have. They will be made available on Sched at least one day before each Q&A session for you to watch them at your convenience, on-demand, either between live sessions, in the middle of the night over milk and cookies, or whenever!
Experimental “Other” Session: These sessions experiment with the presentation and/or online format to create spaces and foster conversations that can only be found at MCN. How to tune into these sessions vary. While some have a specific start day and time, others are drop-in. Be sure to thoroughly read the session description and note the session “type” in Sched.
Workshops: These are primarily Zoom Meetings. Space is limited. You must sign-up in advance by purchasing a special ticket on Eventbrite. Once purchased, you can add the session to your calendar on Sched. If all seats are filled, we will start a waitlist. In case you’ve purchased a ticket, but can’t attend, let us know immediately so we can offer the spot to another attendee.
Deep Dives: These Zoom Meeting format, workshop-style sessions are included in your conference registration but have limited capacity. You’ll need to sign up by adding these sessions to your schedule. Please be sure to remove it from your schedule if you cannot attend as soon as possible so we can let in people from the waiting list.
Chatham House Rules
Some sessions will be conducted according to Chatham House Rules to encourage open dialogue. CHR means the session is not recorded, and live captions and chat transcripts are not saved. Everything is off the record so that you can feel comfortable.
Keep in mind that all MCN sessions, social events, and even the spaces you or other attendees may personally create for keeping the conversation going are expected to abide by MCN’s Community Guidelines and Code of Conduct. If you have been involved or witnessed an incident during the MCN conference that you believe violates our Code of Conduct, report it to MCN by submitting this name-optional Code of Conduct Violation Report Form.
Unfortunately, Sched is not the best when it comes to accessibility. We have provided thorough documentation to Sched Support that was well-received, but many fixes won’t happen in time for the conference. For your edification, we have summarized the accessibility spot check on the accessibility page.
MCN conference organizers will have access to information you upload to your profile. We use this data strictly for managing the conference experience. You can control your settings to determine what is visible to the rest of the community and check out the Sched instructions to adjust your settings.
Sched will have access to any files, content, and information shared when you sign up for an account. They also acquire information from any device you use when logged into the platform, as they identify: “such as the dates and times of your visit to our website, IP addresses, the types of browser, operating systems and languages you use… and your location.” All that said, they have instructions online to request your data and delete your data.
The Sessions (Zoom)
We are running the entire conference on Zoom because we have determined that it is the most inclusive option available to ensure everyone can participate. We recommend you prepare by creating an account if you don’t already have one, and pre-installing Zoom’s desktop application for a higher-quality experience. If you’re new to Zoom, they have excellent documentation and video tutorials to get you up to speed.
How to Zoom
If you’ve created a Zoom account, we recommend signing in ahead of the conference to select and save your desktop settings—profile, video, audio, displays, accessibility, etc. for a better experience. Zoom can accommodate different bandwidths, but if you want to be certain you’re welcome to check out Zoom’s recommended system settings.
- Video: If you would like to have an on-screen presence during Meeting style sessions, this is where you control your video feed and other visual controls for meetings.
- Audio: This is where you select which microphone to use. We recommend using a headset with a mic, but at the least headphones to avoid those spooky sound feedback issues.
- Share Screen: Make sure “Scale to fit shared content to Zoom window” is selected so that slides are not cut off on your screen.
- Chat: This section allows you to customize the zoom chat settings to your preference.
- Virtual Background: If you are concerned about your background, use a virtual background to disguise your location. We’ll share MCN backgrounds you can use.
- Profile: This is where you set your profile image and first and last name. Both will be visible to all attendees. You can also change your profile name during a Zoom session by clicking on the Participants button at the bottom of the screen, hovering over the list of attendees, and clicking the Rename button next to your current profile name.
- Keyboard Shortcuts: A useful list of shortcuts to act like a pro when you use Zoom.
- Accessibility: Control the scale of closed captions, chat display size, and whether you want meeting controls to be present always.
- Follow the link on the session’s MCN Sched page, available 10 minutes before the session start time, links will also be sent via the email 10 minutes before the session start time. Do not post or share these links, you will compromise the security of the conference. If you cannot access a session, request help via Slack on #mcn2020-helpdesk
- Waiting Room: When entering a session, you will encounter a screen with the text “Please wait, the meeting host will let you in soon.” Or “Please wait. The webinar will begin soon.” The host has to approve each person before they can enter the live session.
During the Session
- When you first enter a meeting your mic will be muted.
- Mute yourself when you are not speaking
- Use Q&A to pose questions to presenters
- Use chat to discuss session content with fellow attendees and facilitators
- Break out rooms will be used in some sessions like Speed Networking. They allow the participants to meet in isolated smaller groups.
- If you are having a technical issue during a session reach out to tech support on Slack in the #mcn2020-helpdesk channel
- Check out the accessibility page for tips on how to participate in a more accessible way
- All live sessions will be recorded, except for those following Chatham House rules, and will be made available to attendees following the conference via Sched.
- Do not record or screenshot any session without notification or consent.
NOTE: The 30 minute Q&A sessions are in response to a pre-recorded session that we recommend watching before joining Q&A. The video will be available in advance via the corresponding session. They will be made available on Sched at least one day before each Q&A session for you to watch them at your convenience, on-demand.
Remember that recorded sessions (except for Chatham House Rules) will capture your profile info, how your name is displayed, chat information, and your profile picture or video feed and microphone feed if you used it. If you are concerned about privacy, consider the name you use, the profile pic you select, and whether or not you want to use a virtual background if participating with video turned on. After the conference, you can delete your Zoom account through your Zoom account settings by following these instructions. Your IP address connecting to the meetings and webinars will not be deleted when you delete your account—more on privacy and safety below.
We chose to use Zoom specifically for its accessibility features. These are documented on their website.
Live Automatic Transcription
Otter.ai provides automatic live transcription with a powerful AI and impressive speed. While we know that CART captioning is still superior as there are chances of misinterpretation in automated transcription, we agreed that the quality of this transcription service was the best we have seen and we wanted to be able to caption as much as possible. To turn on Captions, press the CC button in the menu controls at the bottom of the Zoom window when you are in a meeting.
If you find the delay of captions populating to be too slow, try viewing the real-time transcription on the Otter website. You can access this by clicking on “LIVE on Custom Live Streaming Service” in presentation sessions.
Or on Meeting events, like Workshops, Deep Dives, and some of the big events it appears as “LIVE on Otter.ai Live Notes” in the upper left of the Zoom window:
When you select “View Stream on Otter.ai Live Notes” a separate browser window will open taking you to a live transcription feed. You will be asked to create an account, but you do not need to, simply close the modal that pops up to view the transcript stream.
We will share recordings and transcripts after the conference with all attendees, so no need to request access, we will not be sharing access on Otter during the conference. These links are just for viewing during the conference.
There is also a lot you can do to support a more inclusive experience as a presenter and attendee, check out the accessibility page capturing all of the details about accessibility and the conference.
Make Connections (Slack)
Think of Slack as the conference hallways. It is the glue of your MCN VIRTUAL experience to connect in between sessions throughout the conference and afterward to avoid the withdrawal.
Everyone who has registered will get an invite to join the private (and public) MCN Slack channels before the conference begins.t. We are adding conference attendees every other day until the conference. During the conference we will be adding new registrants multiple times a day.
Slack is accessible in your browser without downloading anything, but we think that the desktop application for Mac, Windows, or mobile (on your devices app store) provides the best experience. If you’ve never used it, Slack has excellent documentation online to help you out.
Private channels for MCN2020 conference attendees only
- #mcn2020-introductions When you first get on Slack, introduce yourself on this channel, it will provide a friendly directory of attendees to help you meet new people. Share where you’re from, what you’re hoping to get out of the conference, what you think is cool about museum tech, and maybe you want to share your hobbies to find your museum tech knitting circle.
- #mcn2020 Stay in the loop with MCN 2020 VIRTUAL! We’ll post daily briefings, session updates, and more throughout the conference.
- #mcn2020-helpdesk Having a tech issue? Get help from the MCN tech team. A moderator will monitor the channel continuously during conference hours.
- #mcn2020-meetups A space to chat and arrange meetups with your fellow MCN 2020 VIRTUAL attendees.
- #mcn2020-random Yes, we all need laughs more than ever these days, and this is the place for silliness. Be respectful and remember that the Code of Conduct applies across all MCN related activities and platforms, whether formal, informal, or silly.
- #mcn2020-pets Whether they have fins or fur (or anything in between), drop a pic of your favorite co-worker. Check-in with the channel too if you need a mid-conference, pet-induced brain break.
- #mcn2020-speakers and #mcn-2020-volunteers are private backchannels just for conference presenters and volunteers to get the tech support they need. If you’re a speaker or volunteer and don’t have access, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Public MCN Channels
- #general This is the default Slack channel. It includes every MCN community member that has ever engaged with Slack over the years (yes, can you believe we’ve had it for years!?) That means, like all public channels, it includes people who aren’t attending the conference in addition to attendees.
- #conf-questions For any MCN community member (attending or not) to ask questions about the annual conference.
- #conf-announcements This is where we share general updates about the conference. These, as the channel name implies, are public conference announcements.
You’re welcome to direct message one (or more!) other MCN Slack members. Think of it as your go-to group chat with your conference connections. Only admins can create new channels. If you have a suggestion for a new channel ahead of the conference, email email@example.com.
Using Slack Commands
Slack has all kinds of commands to make things happen. Check out their built-in commands list. The first one you might want to know about not to get overwhelmed is /mute, which silences all of the notifications you get on the channel you use it on. We are also making some neat custom commands. We’ll be adding those here soon!
As stated above, Slack is acting like the hallways between sessions, which means it is not private. Furthermore, the service logs who says what to whom and when. You can deactivate your membership in the MCN Slack workspace, which will remove your membership, but not your personal information or messages. The messages you send and versions of messages you have sent, edited, or deleted will be retained by Slack. If desired, at the end of the conference, you can deactivate your account. To delete your profile, send a request to Slack to contact MCN’s workspace moderator for approval. Once OK, you can delete using these instructions.
Slack has documentation to support using their tool, including keyboard accessibility, using screen readers, and you can customize the theme to make the interface more legible. We also like them because they openly talk about their process (including failing at accessibility), and they say “at Slack, we treat accessibility bugs as broken functionality, and product blockers.” They also have a multi-year accessibility plan, though how they will teach guide dogs to use Slack has yet to be clarified.
Watch Sessions (Vimeo)
The pre-recorded sessions are hosted on Vimeo. Also, you can find uploaded session recordings after they are complete. We will be sharing the videos as private links viewable via MCN Sched. No need to go to Vimeo or create an account to view the videos. Everything can be accessed through your Sched account.
You don’t need an account to access Vimeo. It only tracks viewing data and captures anything generally capturable via standard browser use (IP, location, etc.). The viewing data will help us understand what content is most popular with the community.
All pre-recorded sessions have closed captions. Activate these by clicking the CC button in the player controls. Just last year, Vimeo completed work to make their player WCAG 2.0 AA compliant. You can read about it on their blog.
Other Ways to Engage
In preparation for the virtual MCN, we researched dozens of possible platforms, looking for a dream tool that would be robust, user-friendly, and aligned with our values for accessibility, digital safety, and innovative modes of connectivity. Nothing did all of that. While we vetoed many options immediately due to their lack of accessibility or lack of interest in talking about inclusive practices, we did run into some interesting things people are building and had some interesting conversations.
You may have noticed that we are doing our best to be radically transparent about our process for selecting appropriate virtual conference platforms to demonstrate to the community how you might be able to use these tools for your projects and events. So here, we’re sharing a couple that, while are not official platforms, stood out to us as tools you might want to play with to socialize in a different way. Unlike many other things we looked at, the people behind these are interested in accessibility and improving user experience. If you’d like to get together on one of these tools that does something a little different, we’ve created spaces for you to experiment with.
This nifty product uses the approach to sound levels by proximity as found in VR spaces but in a simple 2D browser window. You can share images, video, screen share, and move around the screen to have conversations with different groups in the same “room.” You can cluster your avatars (or video feeds) to hear each other, or move away to get away from a conversation and into another one on the other side of the screen. You can also click a name in the directory of attendees and connect with that person.
While it is fun to play with, keep in mind that it is a new product, and they haven’t tackled accessibility work yet. On screen-readers, the buttons are unlabeled, and the organization of information is unclear. There aren’t any focus states for keyboard users, and you can’t move around the space. So, yes, they have a long way to go. For this reason, before using MCN’s Spatial Chat to meet up with some colleagues after a session, please check in with your group first to make sure you won’t be excluding anyone or giving them a crappy experience. The inclusive option would be to use Zoom to chat after sessions.
Request the link to MCN Spatial Chat on Slack by sending “MCNspatialchat” to any private attendee channel, for the safety and security of the community please do not post or share the link to protect us from malicious activity, there is no password to join.
In their words: “Share a virtual room with friends. Watch videos, play with 3D objects, or just hang out.” This is a pretty easy browser-based VR platform. It’s limited to about 30 people to a room, but you can spin up new rooms with just a few clicks. You can customize your avatar and bring in media files from the web 3D objects. There is a whole library of goofy things to play with. And of course, since it’s VR, it’s an interesting tool for thinking about immersive learning experiences, and if you have a headset, you can play with that too.
A downside of hubs is the terrible audio compression and, of course, all of the accessibility issues captured on their GitHub. So the same disclaimer goes for hubs as for Spatial Chat. Use it to experiment and play around, but if you’re looking to have an inclusive conversation, please use Zoom.
Anyone can create a space and start playing around:https://hubs.mozilla.com/
We look forward to seeing what our MCN community’s brilliant technologists bring to the table this year to explore how we might build the dream virtual platform for future MCNs. Please try to follow in our steps of radical transparency and share the issues you know of that might prevent community members from participating in an experimental tool and ideally provide an alternate way to join the conversation via Zoom. And of course, if you have ideas for next year, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org; we’re all ears.
Note that while we expect everyone to continue to abide by the MCN’s Community Guidelines and Code of Conduct even when arranging events outside of the official MCN 2020 VIRTUAL schedule, MCN is not responsible for any content or experience you may have in a self-organized event.