Gather Town Setup for Online Coding Workshops

We like to use Gather Town for hosting online coding workshops for Epic Web.

Gather Town can be used as an interactive platform for conducting online coding workshops. It feels more immersive than traditional video platforms like Zoom; it provides a spatial, 3D-esque experience instead of 2D video boxes.

Here's how to set up and use Gather Town effectively for your workshops:

Create your own map layout. While designing the map, ensure that each table and chair is an isolated space, allowing participants to work together without disruption.

Once the room is created, back it up. You can find the option under 'Manage Space'.

Control access with a guest list. To manage the guest list efficiently, a tool called "Script Kit" can be used to interact with the API. This tool enables you to add, modify, or remove guests as per your requirement.

If you want to keep your space open, you can remove the entire guest list, allowing everyone to access the space.

For workshops with more than ten participants, a reservation is required. Plan the reservation according to the number of expected participants plus a few extra for last-minute additions.

The platform provides a chat feature and a central desk for participants to approach with questions during the workshop. Make sure the participants know they should approach the front to ask their questions so everyone can hear.

Devise a system where participants can approach you for private one-to-one sessions during exercises. This system could be as simple as going to a corner of the screen.

Be aware of the behavior of the 'Share Screen' feature. The screen share stops if you step into a private space.

Practicing and getting used to these aspects will enhance the workshop experience for both yourself and the participants.


[00:00] All right, so let's talk about gather if you want to use gather to run a workshop. It is awesome really cool place for people to hang out and You can easily broadcast to the room and all of the things that you would expect are Here and so like during the workshop you can come up here into your table in the corner. People can come ask questions and stuff while other people are in the other tables working on the exercise. So we don't interrupt each other. It's really, really awesome.

[00:25] And it also, it's just so nice if there's somebody down here and while you're presenting, they come up here, you know that, oh, they've got a question. And now they're broadcasting, and so everybody can hear their question. It's just a really, really awesome place to be, as opposed to Zoom, where you don't necessarily feel that, because the people are like just 2D boxes. But when you can see like spatial stuff, it's just, it's a much better experience. So I do recommend Gather, it's awesome.

[00:56] When you create your map, because it does take a fair bit of time to do the creation, like you have to create each one of these spaces, and each one of these has to be its own isolated space so that they can have a table for people to work together and stuff like that. And then in fact, even each one of these individual chairs needs to have its own space. So it actually does take quite a bit to create one of these rooms. But once you've created it, man, this bothers me so much, there we go. Once you've created it, you can go to, you can make a backup, that's what I did.

[01:24] And it's a good idea just in case you mess something up with your space. Okay, so we'll go into Manage Space. And if you go under space access, you'll notice I require a login, but I don't have a space password. Anybody can jump into this space when I'm not giving a workshop. I don't have any guests on the list.

[01:45] So if you don't have any guests, they'll just let anybody in. So to add guests, you can absolutely do the CSV thing and everything, that's fine. Or you can just borrow my gather guest Script Kit script. So if you don't have Script Kit installed, I recommend it, it's a fantastic tool. But this interacts with the API and makes it really easy to add guests.

[02:09] So what you can do is you say, hey, I want to change my guest list. We can add a guest, save a guest, or upload a guest list. And so if you do upload guest list, it'll just allow you to upload this CSV so you can drag and drop the, oh, actually not a CSV, a JSON, because it's easier to do JSON for me. So yeah, you do a JSON file. This is really nice because I would just have a JSON file on my local computer, and whenever somebody would sign up or whatever, I could just add them to that JSON guest list and then upload my guest list file there, really easy.

[02:47] So that's what that gather upload guest list thing is all about. You can save the guest list, so whatever the current guest list is, it will save that to disk in a JSON file from which then you can modify and do whatever you want and then upload it. Or you can just add guests manually. So I'm gonna do that right now, And I should probably get rid of these console logs.

[03:10] Console log, where did you go? Yeah, get rid of that thing. Okay, so now if I go to gather guests list, I've got a guest, Awesome. And it even shows like the Gravatar. So here, if I say me at, then, oh, whoops, add a guest, me at

[03:29] And then, yeah, we have me at Sweet. And I can click on that and I can modify or remove the guest. So modify guest, the email, the name is kentcdods. You don't really want to send this because you want them to be able to set it themselves.

[03:45] But there you go. If you want affiliation, instructor, again, you don't really need to do this either. The role, the instructor, I guess we'd say But honestly, the only field that actually matters is their email, the rest of these, like it's fun if you want to. I did this for some of the creators of the libraries that we were doing.

[04:08] When I was teaching the workshop, I would invite a library creator. So I'd put the affiliation, and that does appear next to their name and stuff like that. So anyway, that's how I managed the guests, was just by using this. And if I refresh here now, then we will see, boom, we've got those guests. Now, of course, I can also say, hey, I wanna remove those guests, so let's remove that guest.

[04:35] And then it will come here, remove that guest. And so this UI sort of just makes it easier to manage that. Or of course, you can remove the guest list. And then everybody can access it. So during the workshop, you just upload that JSON file.

[04:54] You could do a CSV if you want to, but I recommend using the script kit thing. It's very, very nice. But yeah, you just set the guest list and now only those people who are allowed in the workshop will be able to get in there. Okay, so let's also talk, and we don't like really do anything with the roles or whatever. Maybe we will do something like this in the future if we have like people who are supposed to be moderators and stuff.

[05:14] But when I ran things, I didn't really need a moderator, like it wasn't really a big problem. Okay, so let's talk about the reservation. This was a little bit funny for me when I did this, but the thing is that by default, you only get 10 people allowed in the room at a time. I think that's the default. Oh yeah, 10 users from the free plan.

[05:41] So if you're going to do more than 10 people at your workshop you're going to of course need to pay for the reservation. It's not crazy expensive, but certainly not even the price of a single ticket to your workshop. But, and so, but yeah, it does cost money. So if you don't feel like, yeah, there is worth it, then you can just use Zoom. Of course, Zoom has its own limits as well.

[06:06] So anyway, I recommend one-time event. Yeah, we're not doing like a virtual office, so we don't need it to auto renew. So we'll go one-time event, you select that, and then it's $3 per user per day with a monthly price guarantee. What that means is you'll never be charged more than you'd pay monthly. So it is a little bit confusing, but Yeah, you will want to know how many people you expect to be in there.

[06:33] And I added like two or three people on top of that. So I think I said, let's limit it to 62. It's very possible some people won't even show up. So keep that in mind as well. But yeah, so then you just say, hey, my workshop is on 10-18 of 2024.

[06:52] That's my birthday. And it ends on that day as well. 24, whoops. Ah, 2024, good grief. What, are you for real?

[07:07] Ah, that's hilarious. Okay, maybe I can, I guess I can select that? There we go, okay, whatever. It's on March 6th now. And yeah, we're gonna say we have 62 users.

[07:19] Then we go into the payment and you enter in your payment here, and that's it. And then on that day, you will have full access to that number of people. It works great. And I should also mention that I made a little slip up with how I scheduled things, and Gather was super cool about it, and they fixed things for me very quickly, so their support is awesome. So yeah, you definitely want to have a reservation for your workshop time.

[07:51] And yeah, I think that's pretty much it. And then as far as like the experience during the workshop, you chat here, make sure that people are aware that they need to come up to the desk so that they're inside one of these bubbles or whatever. And so that way everybody can hear their question. And then during their exercises, you just come over to the top right corner or wherever, just have a space where people can come ask a question during the exercise and then of course have a place where you can go and say hey if I'm in here then I'm not accessible and it's a private space so even if somebody walks right up next to you they can't hear or see anything that you're doing, which is quite nice. So also just make sure that you remember to share your screen, because I think if we say, hey, let's share my entire screen, we'll share this, and you know, it goes on forever, escape, there we go.

[08:48] So when you leave, I am still sharing. I've noticed that sometimes, or maybe this was a bug that they fixed, but sometimes the screen share will go away. And Yeah, so you go into a private space and then you come out, screen share goes away, which makes sense. So just keep that in mind that you'll need to start sharing your screen again. But this thing is, it totally rocks.

[09:12] So I definitely recommend using and getting used to gather for these types of experiences because it, yeah, it's pretty awesome. Okay, that is gather. That's how you get things going with that. And I hope that is helpful to you. I hope you totally love giving workshops in this environment because I think it's pretty rad.