Regarding the 2020 Monktoberfest


On March 11, 2020, the NBA suspended its season due to the outbreak, and things began to move quickly. Its impact on tech was immediate. Within days, large tech industry conferences were postponed or cancelled one after another, employers began to issue travel restrictions and ultimately, in response to local lockdowns, the largest work-from-home experiment in history began.

A little less than a month later, we provided an update stating that we were trying to be optimistic and still planning to hold the Monktoberfest in October. We knew that there would be no vaccine available in that timeframe, of course, but our hope was that some combination of exponential increases in testing capacity and stringent, nationwide lockdown efforts might limit the spread such that holding the event would be at least a possibility. And if there was even a slim chance, we wanted to preserve the opportunity to hold the event – in no small part because we had hopes it might allow our community to come together, to grieve and to heal, to laugh and to cry.

We issued that original statement reluctantly, believing that in the middle of a global pandemic with the number of lives lost growing at frightening rates, people had bigger things to worry about than our conference. Eventually, however, it became evident that our silence, however well intentioned, was doing our community a disservice.

It is in that same spirit that I’m writing these words today. With protests raging, as citizens the world over take to the streets in defense of justice and equality and to protest systemic racism, it again has not seemed appropriate to comment on matters of less consequence. But just as was the case the last time around, we have a community asking for updates if only so that they can plan. I’m sad to announce, therefore, that that aforementioned slim chance we’d pinned our hopes on is now gone.

We are officially cancelling the 2020 Monktoberfest, and will instead turn our eyes to 2021.

There are a number of reasons for this decision, as you might expect, but the simplest and most fundamental problem is that a 2020 Monktoberfest would have been – intentionally or not – unavoidably discriminatory in nature. Given the failure of the United States’ response to this crisis at the federal level, the best case for the fall involves the virus still in widespread circulation, varying in intensity from state to state, region to region. The worst, of course, is a full blown second wave.

In either case, the only people we could expect to attend would be those able to bear the risk of infection based on their personal health and family situation. As any past attendee of the event understands, we’ve had many attendees with complicated medical histories and conditions that would prevent them from attending – several speakers have discussed these explicitly, in fact. Others are in the most vulnerable demographic. Many more would be attendees have immediate or extended family or friends with conditions that make the virus a more lethal risk.

For us, then, as hard and difficult as this decision has been – and it was very difficult for me personally for reasons I will discuss another time – it was also a simple and straightforward decision.

The Monktoberfest is first and foremost an event designed to bring people together. People from different roles, backgrounds, areas and ideas. We work very hard to be an inclusive event, both on the individual level and in terms of the communities outside of tech we reach out to.

Put simply, then, we can not and will not hold an event that excludes those most vulnerable to the disease. It would be a contradiction of everything the event itself stands for.

We have done our best to buy time to see if the institutions we entrust with our public health could, in spite of the shackles they currently labor under, pick themselves up in the face of this crisis and reverse its trajectory. With two months additional months of inaction, however, we are now out of time.

On behalf of all of us at RedMonk, therefore, I made the only decision I believed I could.

To our would be attendees:

  • I’m sorry we will not see you this fall. I can’t tell you all how good it would have been to be with you all.

To our sponsors, who have been notified and who have universally been wonderful and understanding:

  • I’m sorry we won’t be able to bring you the event that we’d hoped. RedMonk is very grateful you chose to support the event this year, regardless of the fact that it was cancelled. Specifically, we’d like to thank the following supporters of the Monktoberfest:
  • AWS
  • Two Bulls
  • DataStax
  • Red Hat
  • Salesforce
  • MongoDB
  • Cloud Foundry Foundation
  • Linode
  • Cloudflare
  • Cloud Native Computing Foundation
  • StackPath
  • Punderthings Consulting

Perhaps most of all, I’m sorry to all of our wonderful local vendors and suppliers. They are a critical part of the Monktoberfest, and unlike much of tech but very much like the rest of the world have been swept up by the storm that is the global pandemic. RedMonk will reach out and see what we can do for them in the interim.

Before I close, let me promise two things.

  • First, while we do not intend to try and replicate the event virtually, we will most certainly mark the occasion in some fashion. We’re working through ideas from a virtual talk or two to remote hangouts and toasts. We don’t have the details yet, but all past alumni will be contacted with plans as they become available. If you were planning on attending this year for the first time, put yourself on this list and you’ll receive that same information.
  • Second, we will be back. And we will make the next event worth the wait.

Until then, stay safe.


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