SofaConf and Primer after 2 days

Boon Yew Chew
4 min readJun 23, 2020

This is an aimless ramble about virtual conferences in the age of COVID.

In a surreal twist, lockdown has enabled me to attend 2 conferences at the same time — Primer and SofaConf—remotely. Strangely, intentional or not, the way the sessions are sequenced across the two conferences enabled me to watch them back to back without that much overlap.

That being said, I am finding myself engaging more with SofaConf than Primer, and it has to do with the more-practical content, and engaging Q&A follow-up after. Primer definitely feels more abstract and academic, despite much of the talks focus on important societal issues like racism and global health, which are very important and needed.

Primer’s Emerging Designer VR exhibition was an impressive simulation of a museum-like poster gallery, but I did struggle to read the posters when I was navigating the space. The daily Miro boards also captured the collective spirit, presence and reflectiveness of Primer’s community well.

Screenshot by @errederruiz

Attending both conferences at the same time has reminded me how much I miss conferences, which is scary because conferences poorly represent the reality of what I actually face on a day-to-day basis. This is not specific to virtual conferences…. but I feel good when I’m there even virtually, and that counts for something.

Conferences are an escape, a place where we can freely moan and pitch our solutions believing that they can answer at least part of our problems, but most importantly be amongst other people who feel the same pain.

But they’re not reality and at the end of the day, I’ve learnt again that I’m responsible for my own actions at work, and I need to believe in my own ability and means to shape the changes I want to see. Even with fresh external perspectives, the road ahead is long and painful, and I need to find my own way to hack through the challenges at work.

Strangely, the fact that conference ticket prices have dropped so much has helped me realise the truer value for what they are—a momentary and effective way to pause, reflect, connect, and smell the UX roses. I think the high price sort of inflates its value a lot, and creates a sort of bubble-idealism effect that can be dangerous and self-perpetuating, a bit like Agile.

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Boon Yew Chew

Principal UX designer at Elsevier. IxDA local leader and board alumni. Strategy. Systems. Visual thinking. Design. Has a brain in his stomach.