Saturday, May 1, 2010

A solid dyson sphere of Awesome; The JSConf experience

A couple of weeks ago I attended the second US JSConf in Washington. It turned out to be a very good move indeed.

I can easily say that this was one of the best conferences I've been to, maybe the best one. The reasons are, I suggest, threefold;

1) I have a personal, burning and possibly unhealthy interest in JavaScript.
2) The speakers were generally critical-mass awesome.
3) Track C - "The first rule of Track C is that you don't talk about Track C" - as Peter Higgins, president of the Dojo Ajax Toolkit has been known to tweet.

Track C meant hanging around the corridors of Hotel Palomar, pilfering beer from pirate chests and having interstellar discussions about programming. And joking. And talking about SF books. Epic.

The playfulness and allowing atmosphere was really great and everywhere you turned you met guys and gals that also arrange their own conferences, write their own frameworks, turns the web inside out (or upside down), and so on.

But last things first; After two days of extremely technical talks, games and panels, comes the final payoff - the keynote. What might the keynote bring, after node.js future directions, Sproutcore WYSIWYG editors, custom DSLs and JavaScript interpreters for Flash?
In a word: 'Bacon'. Aaron Quint gave a Bacon keynote. No, it's not a framework or scrum-derivate-du-jour, actual cured pigs belly, that's what.

Aaron is a foodie. He's a great Ruby and JS guy as well, but he is a very passionate foodie, and the level of passion and knowledge in his talk about making your own bacon, history of and how to barter it for microbrew was both entertaining and cheeky.

Actually, the cheek belongs to Chris Williams, Pirate Captain of JSConf who, as always, risks all by choosing a *non-programming* keynote for a programming conference. That in it self was almost as fun as seeing it.  Naturally Passion is key, and Aaron did weave in some pseudo-code to refer to the different experience of making food and making code. But the core of the talk was, IMO, about what makes us tick, as foodies, as developers and as human beings.

Also, Chris actually planned JSConf together with his wife (who had a T-shirt with the text 'Pirate Pending' on), which was really nice and the very antithesis of Corporate.

Another cool thing about the conference was that over 100 people who sent in their abstracts didn't get chosen. Actually, that is just the way it is and neither here, nor there, but since many people *really* wanted to get a place speaking at JSConf and vented some steam on twitter, Kyle Simpson (@getify) proposed having a pre-conference conference, the so-called Scurvyconf, which was open for anyone who couldn't speak at the actual JSConf.

The sound at the pub where ScurvyConf was held was deafening, with drunk geeks shouting over each other and having a generally good time. So the speakers had a hard time getting heard. This was taken in stride however and even though the audience participation was varied, it was very empathic where it occurred.

At the end of the first day we were treated to a cruise on the Photomac sponsored by Yahoo! with wonderful food and long discussions with people from Disney, Microsoft (Really!) and SinnerSchraeder (Hi Holger!) ranging from how XSS really works to defensive synthetic biology and the open wetware foundation. A total blast.

I finally got to meet in person Justin Meyer, the creator of JavaScriptMVC who gave a great talk on its many strong points. My favorite is still the railsish generative scripts which creates client-side files for certain tasks (like consuming and displaying services).  Justin was also the man who opened the bar in the wee hours of the morning on our way home from the final Google dinner night. Kudos for that (and spontaneous dancing to boot).

When we finally got home, the final night, the idea was to go to sleep immediately. The ever-present pirate party had other ideas, however.

There was vodkas and Guitar Hero and lots of falling into each other arms and crying, figuratively speaking, naturally.

We just had a great time. In fact, when I ran through airports the following morning, hungover like what have you, I was told that I had something hanging on my back. So I did. I let it hang all the way back to Sweden, and referred at least one person to Facebook who asked about it.

It turned out, when I looked at my pictures, that I was not the only one so inflicted.

I'll wrap this up now, and leave you with some more random pictures and a huge thanks to Chris and his pirate family for creating a completely stellar experience.