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Looking back at LibrePlanet 2020: Freeing the future together

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On March 14 and 15, the Free Software Foundation (FSF) held LibrePlanet 2020: Free the Future online. The virtual edition of LibrePlanet was nothing short of a success, and it was quite a journey to get there.

Looking back to a week before the conference, we had an incredible lineup, exciting plans, and more new program elements than we've ever had before. With a new logo designed by campaigns intern Valessio Brito, a refresh to the LibrePlanet 2020 Web site, renewed focus on using the LibrePlanet wiki to collaborate, and with a new home at the Back Bay Events Center, we were ready to receive hundreds of free software supporters in Boston for another successful conference. And then everything changed.

Our in-person event suffered the consequences of the global COVID-19 pandemic, forcing us to make the difficult decision of bringing LibrePlanet 2020 online in order to protect our supporters, staff, and all the many interrelated communities. There was no time to pause and mourn: instead, the FSF team put our heads together fast and charted a new direction.

Within the scope of five days, we were able to move the conference from an in-person experience to a live streaming event, thanks to the heroic efforts of our talented tech team, our volunteers, and the flexibility and cooperation of our scheduled speakers, even some previously unscheduled ones. We hosted three sessions at a time for both days of the conference, bringing viewers thirty-five streamed talks from forty-five speakers, as well as eight lightning talks. Technical difficulties were few and far between, and when one of our speakers asked how many nations were tuning in, within the span of eighteen seconds, twelve countries were identified.

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