SpigotMC goes to California for MINECON

SpigotMC goes to California for MINECON

Every year, Mojang holds the annual Minecraft convention, MINECON. MINECON is a convention where Minecraft players, software developers, content creators, and others in the Minecraft gaming world come together for a weekend of panels, activities, shows, and most importantly, comradery. I traveled to Anaheim, California to see the SpigotMC team again and help represent the open source cause. The convention was from September 24-25, 2016. This is my second time going to MINECON – last year, I went to London with the team as well.

Arriving in Anaheim

SpigotMC team grabs lunch on Friday and meets others in the community at MINECON 2016 in Anaheim, California
SpigotMC team grabs lunch on Friday and meets others in the community

I arrived in Anaheim early in the morning on Friday, September 23. Unlike last year when I flew in on the first day, I had some time to get to my hotel, settle in, and meet the team before the action began. Michael Dardis, the project lead, and Jordan Taylor, a fellow community moderator, were already in California. Michael was visiting from Australia and Jordan flew in from the UK. They decided to take advantage of the opportunity to travel and see some of what the west coast has to offer.

After checking into our room and leaving our luggage, we went to scout the convention floor and see what we would be facing on Saturday and Sunday. The convention was held in the Anaheim Convention Center, which was a large venue to accommodate over 12,000 attendees. I checked myself in as an Agent, or in other words, a convention volunteer. After getting our badges and goodies, the team visited some of the various food trucks outside the convention center. Without much of a delay, we began meeting various others from the Minecraft community. One of the people we spent the most time with over the weekend was Ryan Michela, a former developer of the Bukkit project. He would join us for most of the weekend as an honorary Spigot team member.

As the day began to close, we traveled through Anaheim to see if we could find a spot to host our annual tradition of a community meal, and that we did!

Spigot hits the MINECON floor!

SpigotMC team gathers on Saturday before going into the convention center for MINECON 2016 in Anaheim, California
SpigotMC team gathers on Saturday before going into the convention center

Saturday morning started bright and early as some of the team members had meetings with other people in the community, and I had my Agent shift for the Hypixel Arena for most of the morning. My shift mostly consisted of directing people to and from various computer stations for a tournament bracket of various mini games. This was probably one of the most high-pace jobs for the volunteers as it was low-light and required constant vigilance to cycle new players into open stations. Nonetheless, I enjoyed the experience and met some cool members of the Hypixel team and other Agents along the way.

The Hypixel Arena in full swing! Working here was crazy, but fun at MINECON 2016 in Anaheim, California
The Hypixel Arena in full swing! Working here was crazy, but fun.

After my shift ended, I reunited with the rest of the team as we explored everything MINECON had to offer. It was a different experience than last year since SpigotMC did not have a booth, but we watched some interesting panels and talked with various fans throughout the day. Those of us on the floor had brought plenty of SpigotMC swag, from t-shirts to flyers to wristbands. By the end of the convention, we had distributed around 20 t-shirt packages and nearly 500 wristbands.

Minecraft mods for teaching

SpigotMC project lead Michael Dardis answers a question at the "Using Minecraft Mods for Teaching" panel at MINECON 2016 in Anaheim, California
SpigotMC project lead Michael Dardis answers a question at the “Using Minecraft Mods for Teaching” panel

One of the big highlights of the weekend was the “Using Minecraft Mods for Teaching” panel. Our project lead, Michael, was one of the panelists to speak. The panel covered the various methods and tools from Minecraft and the community. These methods and tools help enable teachers and mentors to introduce programming concepts to children and grow interest in computer science.

Asking about open source

As some in the team joked that they knew I would bring it up, I asked the panelists about the role of open source in Minecraft and computer science education. Through my own experiences, I believe the game is a powerful medium to empower children to begin thinking critically of their digital world, and not only to think about it, but to begin shaping it. Open source fits well with this because kids can read how others did a particular task or project and learn by example. Arun Gupta, the panel moderator, took lead on the question and talked further about how open source is an important part of the puzzle.

Encouraging girls into programming

Lastly, a question I did not expect to hear but was glad to hear it was from Nina Arens, an educator and part of the Living Computer Museum in Seattle. Her question specifically targeted how to help more young girls get interested in what is traditionally a male-dominated environment. While the discussion was hard to come to a definitive solution in the time of the panel, I was happy to see this question raised. The discourse for raising interest in computer science in children needs to include these types of questions. The role of diversity in tech is an ongoing issue and needs more exposure even in places where it’s not traditionally asked. Thank you, Nina, for asking some of these hard questions during the panel.

For more coverage of these points, you can watch the full panel above.

Community dinner

The annual SpigotMC dinner, where the community joins the staff team for a night of food and fun at MINECON 2016 in Anaheim, California
The annual SpigotMC dinner, where the community joins the staff team for a night of food and fun

Tradition calls for the SpigotMC team to organize an annual meal for our community members. This year, we settled on the California Pizza Kitchen as our venue. Because of a range of complications, we were unable to reserve ahead of time. On Friday night, Michael, Jordan, Ryan, and myself did a trial run of CPK and decided we would host there. The view was beautiful from the outside tables, with the sun setting right down the middle of the boulevard. We went ahead and booked the reservation the day of.

Night of food and fun

On Saturday, after the convention floor closed up, we began gathering the team members and some of the community together from the convention center and walked over to the restaurant. Some people were waiting there or joined us shortly after we arrived. Overall, I think the total number of attendees was close to 40 people. We didn’t have cool name badges like last year, but it was an enjoyable event and I was happy to meet so many amazing people from the community in-person. If you attended our dinner, thank you again for coming out and I hope the team will get to see you again!

We checked Twitter for a moment to find that our feeds were exploding with MINECON activity in Anaheim, California
We checked Twitter for a moment to find that our feeds were exploding with MINECON activity!

Furthermore, one thing I find worth noting is the kind generosity that I have come to know from Michael. At the end of the evening, he left one of the most generous tips to the (awesome) wait staff at the California Pizza Kitchen. The manager had to come out and verify that the amount was correct before charging it. It was clear this made their night. For these reasons and plenty of others, I am happy that Michael is the person leading the SpigotMC project.

Open education

One of my most interesting conversations was with Christie Fierro, part of the YetiCraft team and an educator at the Tacoma Community College in Tacoma, Washington. I quickly found that Christie and I shared many of the same interests and engagement with using open source and open content to empower students and build better curriculum in education systems. The big project she was helping drive was a Minecraft seeing eye dog to help engage blind students.

Another one of the big goals she was helping drive was Creative Commons-licensed textbooks and material for courses. This was fascinating for me to hear about and I enjoyed learning how the open world is continuing to have a larger presence in education. Thank you Christie for the great conversation and discussion, and I hope we can collaborate together in the future with some of the open work at the Rochester Institute of Technology.

Meeting my server staff

After four years, I finally meet one of my awesome staff members, Justin Natzic at MINECON 2016 in Anaheim, California
After four years, I finally meet one of my awesome staff members, Justin Natzic

This event report wouldn’t be complete without noting the opportunity I had to meet one of my Minecraft server staff members. For over four years, I created, manage, and run the CrystalCraftMC Minecraft server network. One of the people who has been around for almost the entire time is Justin Natzic. Justin is now a moderator on the server and has helped complete projects like a Mob Arena, where players fight endless waves of monsters and bosses to receive prizes and loot. Together with the rest of the team, Justin helped lead and develop challenging waves to keep players on their toes.

Sunday night dinner

On Sunday night, I went to dinner with him and his father. We had to chance to reminisce about four years of memories, brainstorm some new ideas for the server, and enjoy the chance to finally meet each other in-person. I am fortunate to have an awesome team of volunteers like Justin help with my Minecraft server. Without my staff team, CrystalCraftMC would never have made it this far. I look forward to a chance where I might see him again, on the west coast or otherwise!

A double special thanks goes to him and his father for driving me to the airport, where I ended up racing through the airport with lights turning off behind me. I made my flight by about two minutes… no more, no less. I appreciate that I had them to drive me there, because I wouldn’t have made it back in time for my 10:00am class on Monday otherwise!

Saying goodbye

Some of the team poses in front of the big MINECON 2016 banner in Anaheim, California
Some of the team poses in front of the big MINECON 2016 banner

The end of the weekend was difficult for me. A couple of weeks after MINECON, I officially announced my resignation from the SpigotMC team. While I was still a staff member during MINECON, I had given this thought for a while and knew that this would likely be my last convention as a team member. SpigotMC is a major part of my life. From the project, I discovered the world of open source software and learned about various other things from the community. My experiences afforded by the SpigotMC project even influenced my choice in university and degree.

Getting ready to wind down the night in our hotel at MINECON 2016 in Anaheim, California
Getting ready to wind down the night in our hotel

Special thanks go to FOSS@MAGIC at RIT for helping sponsor some of my travel costs to this convention. Without the support of the university, I would never have been able to attend. Extra big thanks goes to Stephen Jacobs for helping me navigate attending the convention even after the last-minute rejection of my panel.

Parting words of advice

Throughout the years that I served, I have met many incredible and inspiring people. I am happy to know that the team behind the SpigotMC project are some of the best people I have met in open source. Even though my time is up, SpigotMC is in great hands and I know that its leadership will make the right decisions, even when it is hard to do. As I said to some of the others in the community, the absence of one giant gives way to the rise of others. I hope that with my passing, more members of the community will answer the call of building the community forward and caring for the SpigotMC family.

My other parting words for anyone reading is to always keep an open mind. What we learned as a moderation team is that no matter what decision we make, there will always be someone who thinks it is the wrong decision. It is impossible to make everyone happy. But the team is thoroughly committed to do the best job we can. So if there is ever something that frustrates you, spend time considering how decisions impact others. Try to think through our motivations for making the decisions we make. If you still disagree, instead of only complaining, help build a collaborative solution for how to make it better. This kind of feedback is always welcome. And should you ever feel stuck, my email inbox is always open. You can reach me at jflory7 [at] spigotmc [dot] org.

Thanks, team

I was incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to travel to California this year and meet my fellow SpigotMC team members. I am thankful that I was able to see all the team members one last time and help wave the “SpigotMC flag” for another MINECON. Thank you everyone who has been a part of my journey through the world of Minecraft and SpigotMC. It has shaped my life immensely. Saying goodbye after all this long feels impossible to do. So instead…

So long. See you soon.

SpigotMC Team at MINECON 2015 in London, England
You guys all rock. Team photo from MINECON 2015 in London.

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