TL;WR*: a mostly social event, great for meeting the authors of those modules you see scroll past when you run npm install and it installs half of the internet. Also, lots of presentations on somewhat hipster stuff which I not always understood, but that’s great–I like not understanding it all from the get go, so I can learn something. And some discussion about physical and mental health and better community building and other important non purely technical stuff that usually never gets the chance to be discussed in tech conferences.
My favourite ones, now that I realise it, were mostly about graphics, real time stuff, crazy hacks and the least technical of topics: mental/physical health and community building. Definitely not talks about JS frameworks and code organisation–for some reason I always find these pretty dull.
- Sara Soueidan: “Styling and Animating Scalable Vector Graphics with CSS”. A really good explanation of SVG and also… why it is so weird! I totally understood things that I had stumbled with each time I tried to use SVG in web pages. Plus she also dropped some clever tricks on how to use SVG for responsive content.
- Lea Verou: “The Chroma zone”. She didn’t reveal tons of things I didn’t know before, but the delivery and the slides were really amazing. I really suggest you go to Lea’s github account, clone all the projects to your computer and learn all you can from them.
- Patrick Hamann: “CSS and the critical path”. As a part-time design nerd, I secretly enjoyed and appreciated that Patrick’s slides were styled following the Guardian’s layout. I don’t think many people in the audience were familiar with this newspaper’s aesthetics, so it was hard to convey my excitement about this little touch. Nerdisms aside, this talk also had really good insights about how to deliver content to visitors fast.
- Paul Irish: “Parallax performance”. Again, not a ton of things I didn’t know on their own, but really well put together.
- Alex Sexton: “CSS colors”. I believe this is an updated revision to the talk he did at DHTML conf past March, which I sadly didn’t attend. It was both hilarious and educative in a wicked way, and some people spent time looking for collector editions of crayolas after learning that CSS colours were named after those.
- Someone whose name I don’t remember now: “Perspective in CSS”. It wasn’t that the topic was new to me, but it was, again, really well put together, and I think it was her first talk, which makes it even more amazing. Good work, and sorry I don’t remember your name. Will update this as soon as I can.
- Jenn Turner: “lessons in emotional safety FTW”. I had seen her speak at CascadiaJS 2013 for the first time and she was so nervous and fragile there, and then here she was so much better, stronger yet admitting her own failures, and even put on some props for part of the talk. I was really glad to witness this transformation :-)—and the message she delivered was super important too.
- Raquel Velez and friends: “Nodebots LIVE!”. A good state-of-the-art discussion, lots of demos and really lively and friendly atmosphere. It felt more like a friends meeting and showing what they did on the past holidays than a serious conference talk, and I really enjoyed this session style.
- Matthew Bergman: “Health Myths We Tell Ourselves in Tech”. This is a talk you had to be in because I don’t think the recording will make any justice. Matthew was performing yoga exercises while delivering the talk–which meant he was on a mat on the floor so the camera couldn’t really catch his face. At the same time the microphone couldn’t catch his voice sometimes, so unless you were there it was hard to listen. It was also so painful to listen to his health struggles during the past year, and also, realise how much work went into hiding them, because I hadn’t realised at all when I met him before. Basically his message was: the brain doesn’t live on its own, it’s housed on a complete body that you need to take care of too. So invest in your health if you want to be a developer for a long time.
- Angelina Fabbro: “Improving 2D & 3D Canvas Performance on the Web, One Frame at a Time”. I still feel like there was so much left to say, but I was really happy to see this happening as many people seemed to have learnt a great deal with this talk. Here’s hoping for better performance everywhere in the future. Save us some battery cycles!
- Kate Hudson: “Contributors Wanted: Encouraging Diversity in Your Open Source Project”. Kate delivered a fantastic talk detailing their experiences building a community for projects such as Mozilla Webmaker, and also clearly explained why diversity is something you must foster if you really want high quality software. Also we decided to found the Kate Hudson fan club right after this talk finished. I’m president, Angelina is VP. Apply in the comments!
- Christoph Burgmer: “Hacking a HTML renderer in plain browser-side JS”. I managed to catch the end of this talk and it was really an amazing hack. I’m looking forward to watching the entire video.
- Jordan Santell: “Signal Processing with the Web Audio API”. Not really nothing I hadn’t seen before, but it was a cool on-stage live-coding dubstep experiment, and I’m always up for some bassy waves. Also, it was great to see people being wooed by the new Web Audio inspector in Firefox!
- Mikeal Rogers: “simplified Node deployment”. This was so simple, I think I missed something. Need to revisit it, but it looked elegant and nice.
- Marcy Sutton: “Accessibility of Web Components”. Well delivered talk about a topic Marcy is passionate about–and it shows! In her own words: “Accessibility is fun and the right thing to do”. And there was literally a fun surprise during this talk; apparently there’s a long-running joke about tacos in the web components community, and so Marcy had built this web component that was a button that read “Give me tacos”. For this talk they hooked the button to Twilio’s API so when pressed it would call Angelina and so she would enter the room bringing tacos! T.A.C.O.S === Timely Angelina Cuisine Ordering Service, as deducted by Potch. There was also a discussion about getting arewetacoifiedyet.com, but I believe it led nowhere.
- Bodil Stokke: “Reactive Game Development For The Discerning Hipster”. This was one of the talks where I kind of got lost relatively early, but I was OK with that because the rest was really amusing. Ponies! Coin sounds! Doges!
- Brian J. Brennan: “Being Human”. No slides, only him on stage for his FIRST EVER talk and first ever keynote. NO FEAR. Please watch the video when it’s released, and thank you, Brian.
Not so favourite talks, or talks I disagreed with
Because this is also about not agreeing about things. These are from JSConf:
- Neil Green: “Writing Custom DSLs”. This one was mildly disappointing. The semantic points were interesting but I was expecting way more magic than just chaining methods. Or maybe I was already writing Custom DSLs and didn’t know it!
- Guy Bedford: “Package Management for ES6 Modules”. So the new tool was nice… but it was Yet Another Package Manager. So you have to install node to get npm and then install another tool to get packages. Oh please stop that. Stop that now.
- Jake Verbaten: “NPM-style Frontend”. He’s totally into the “one function per module” philosophy, which I could agree in some cases, but my worry is that this results in spaghetti code unless you’re a pedantic programmer with exquisite taste in aesthetics. Don’t get offended, but it just reminds me to Perl code. He was also saying that building your website with npm + browserify modules was great, because you could also grab what you needed–except most of the people probably don’t know what they need. Don’t assume everyone has the same level of experience you have. Also, these very ad-hoc “frameworks” are often understandable by the only person that wrote them. Finally, he not only was using a Sublime editor colour theme that made things hard to read, but also went over time and that made it all a bit painful, because he kept insisting in his modular philosophy while my brain kept disagreeing and getting uneasy by looking at his code. Such tension.
Favourite things that weren’t talks
- Meeting SO MANY AMAZING PEOPLE. SRSLY. SO MANY. OMG. I can’t even dare myself to list everyone, but I loved listening to you all.
- the steel band music on the party of the first night. It was beautiful and I’m 100% positive it was not only Potch and me who wanted to take over the steel drums.
- Paul Irish recognised my twitter handle because of the avatar . Also agreed that Digger is the best game ever.
- Kayaking for the first time in my life, and surviving it! It was even better to have Allen Pike on board (literally), as he knew how to do essential things such as turn to the side we actually wanted to turn towards–whereas I kept steering in the wrong direction at the beginning!
- hanging out with some of my favourite mozillians out a work week. We discussed much non-moz and moz-stuff in a non-pressured environment and that was awesome. I also got to meet some Mozillians I hadn’t yet met in person after a year in Mozilla! I think they call this bonding, and it’s super important when your coworkers are extremely remote.
- spontaneously finding out about so many people using tween.js in so many different ways, so enriching! I need to add these “use cases” to the docs, but my favourite crazy hack so far was Bodil Stokke‘s–she is wrapping tweens into streams, because her game framework is built on top of streams. I am glad that Tween.js is flexible enough that it can accommodate this kind of twisting!
- and still in the VERY HUMBLING department, still getting amazing feedback on my CascadiaJS 2013 talk–about seven months after! Wow.
- all the robots and rockets and general hardware activity going around the place! NodeBoats! NodeRockets! All things node!
- Adam Brault operating the cotton candy machine! That was the cutest thing ever. I had seen Adam first on his closing keynote for JSConf.EU 2013 and it had been a totally different role.
- the whole bunch of north-americanisms everywhere. I know it’s hard to relate for US people, but I felt like being inside a movie. Dunking people into the water, popcorn machine, hot dogs, the cotton candy machine, the giant boxing gloves… it was all really amusing and great fun! (later at the Chicago airport I was really surprised by the amount of popcorn flavours on sale)
- #poolconf–and code reviewing platform.js in the hot tub, which has to be one of the weirdest things to happen in my dev career so far
- the relax.js brunch on the last day, and specially the bacon. Sorry, veggie friends, but that thing was amaziiiing
Less favourite thing
Seriously, never fly through Chicago. I thought Houston was bleak and depressing, but compared to Chicago O’Hare, Houston treated me like royalty. I should have heeded Potch’s advice but I didn’t, and it was painful: a delayed flight, an against-the-clock run from terminal B to C (new and LAST record, because I’m never going back there: 9 minutes), a missed connection by 5 minutes, a 1h+ queue for finding out what was next, and an extra night in an airport hotel. Not my idea of fun!
A SAD, SINGLE FOOT NOTE FLOATING AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS POST
TL;WR* Too Long; Won’t Read.