At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, I produced and co-organized a series of live AMAs connecting high schoolers with tech leaders like Elon Musk (SpaceX/Tesla), Patrick Collison (Stripe), and Ladyada (Adafruit!)
Note: The people featured in this case study are a snapshot in time at who high schoolers in an online community looked up to in spring 2020, and do not constitute an endorsement or recommendation.
Elon Musk‽‽‽ ️ #
What happens when you gather a bunch of bored teenage hackers stuck at home at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic into an online community? They find a way to get ahold of Elon Musk, of course!
I have a hard time getting people to believe me, so here's proof in the form a video of me asking a question to the dogecoin daddy himself:
And Elon's retweet of a graphic I designed to promote this AMA:
In advance of this, please try to hack Starlink & Tesla Mothership! https://t.co/msdv8Dq2BN— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 23, 2020
At the end of the AMA stream, I also hosted two mini-shows! The idea for both of these came to fruition the night before the event, and I turned them into reality within 12 hours:
- Fresh Reactions: A guided conversation on the students' first thoughts and insights from the AMA! (Turns out everyone had many things to talk about, and keeping a conversation of 50+ students on topic isn't the easiest thing, so this was scapped for future AMAs.)
- Ship Showcase: A place for high schoolers in the Hack Club community to showcase the cool things they're working on! Some of the things presented at the first ship showcase included Desktop Goose by Sam Chiet, nCoV2019.live by Avi Schiffmann, and Notes for Support by Gina C!
Perfecting Live Event Moderation #
These AMAs were live, real-deal events. None of these questions were pre-screened, and very few of these questions were scripted.
How did you pull it off, you may ask? We pre-screen participants to see if they have a record of being a welcoming prescence in our community (in addition other factors!) We also used Zoom's built-in moderation tools to selective mute and unmute as needed, and raised hands to find people to call on.
Additionally, because there were minors involved, we also set up an automated system that let us collect digitally signed parental consent forms.
More AMAs #
Turns out, Elon Musk isn't just the only tech leader a bunch of bored (and/or super motivated) teenagers managed to get ahold of. This turned into a series of its own over the summer, and I ended up producing AMAs with:
- Tom Preston-Werner, formerly GitHub, 2020-04-04
- Elon Musk, SpaceX & Tesla, 2020-04-24
- Jack Conte, Patreon, 2020-04-30
- Simone Giertz, inventor of DIY robots, 2020-05-07
- Guillermo Rauch, Vercel, 2020-05-14
- Audrey Tang, Digital Minister, 2020-06-04
- Patrick Collison, Stripe, 2020-06-11
- Ladyada, Adafruit, 2020-06-25
- Dylan Field, Figma, 2020-07-09
- Tommy DeVoss, hacker, 2020-07-23
- Alex Stamos, Stanford Policy Lab, 2020-08-06
Hi Dylan! #
As a bonus, I designed a unique set of stream graphics and social cards inspired by Figma (an online design tool) to spread the word about Dylan Field's AMA. Here's the open source Figma community file if you wanna poke around with it: https://www.figma.com/community/file/874018400672082070/Dylan-AMA
Okay fine, here's another easter egg #
Since you made it to the bottom, let me let you into another tiny detail I snuck in: I spent too much getting the dot in the
i from Patrick Collison's name to resemble the
i from the Stripe logo.
AMA Alert !!— Hack Club Asia-Pacific Region (@HackClubApac) June 11, 2020
Patrick Collison the Co-founder & CEO of Stripe will be joining us this Friday 1:30 AM IST.
We'll be streaming the session via YouTube & Twitch.
See y'all there!https://t.co/NAqQsVRyoa pic.twitter.com/8DXC6LrcGK