May 11

JSConf and NodeConf – 2011

Last week was both JSConf and NodeConf in Portland, OR and it was absolutely epic. I spend all year looking forward to the various Portland conferences, but this year happened to also be my first JSConf.us, the first ever NodeConf and a lot of thick bacon. If you aren’t aware of that term, it has become a great way to gauge the accumulated awesomeness regarding the quality of experience at a conference. I believe this was coined at one of the previous JSConfs and I have found it to be a useful addition to my vocabulary.

The opening party was populated with people dressed in amazingly authentic looking pirate costumes, many with a full size macaw parrot on their shoulder of differing and impressive colors. This party was sponsored by  Zappos, included a great pirate band, many fantastic local beers and they simultaneously ran a super fun twitter based prize contents. Towards the end of the night I won one of their awesome prize bags, which included an 8 bit green gameboy pocket (with tetris, super mario and metroid 2). This brilliant little old game device has been receiving a lot of attention at my house this week, somehow it is still incredibly addicting and fun to play. Way to go Zappos! I will continue buying nearly all my clothes through you.. :)

At 11am the next morning I had 45 minutes to announce and show off Jellyfish, which is a project I have been working on for the last few months. The goal of the project is to expose a simple API allowing you to run JavaScript in many different environments at once. In regards to my talk I did two stupid things: 1. I waited to record my demo’s until I arrived in Portland, 2. I waited to record my demo’s until after a beer tasting pirate party. Having said that, I think the talk went incredibly well and I have been really enjoying the responses and ideas I have received from the community.. keep it coming! I was happy to see a follow up talk filling in the bits my talk wasn’t able to. Matthew Eernissee talked about the pitfalls of writing JavaScript to be shared in multiple environments and gave Jellyfish a nice little plug.

I was thrilled to get a chance to hang out with some of the old OSAF gang, @towns, @twleung (who did two great writeups of JSConf and NodeConf), @mde, and @mikeal. It was interesting to hear all the different views on the attention explosion JavaScript has been experiencing over the last couple years, since we all worked on Cosmo — to this day Cosmo still has one of the most dynamic and interesting web based UI’s I can think of.

I’m glad to say that I was at the talk when Batman came to visit (batman.js) in order to help clear the conference of any potential criminals. I was also at the Yammer party with the great 80′s band where there was a Firefox running around. But the most interesting part of the whole experience was listening to the banter about where the future of the language should go. With Node.js doing it’s thing, people are using and seeing JavaScript in a totally different way. This has started to create different needs and expectations that didn’t really exist when JS development lived only on the client side. There are multiple different communities coming together to create this new “JavaScript Community” and watching them collide is sort of like witnessing plate tectonics from space. Each of the collisions creates a interesting new rift, or subduction zone in the mantel of the community.

One thing I can say for sure is that, you either get CoffeeScript, or you don’t — either way, I think it’s fair to say that we will continue seeing more and more ways for people to write JavaScript without writing Javascript.. and those people can get off my lawn.

If I had to pick a couple statements that sum up the crazy, amazing, drunken “JavaScript Community”, I would have to quote the two icons ultimately responsible for the happenings of last week. The first would be Bredan Eich explaining that “Javascript was thrown together to avoid other languages winding up in the browser” and that he’s aware that it isn’t an “ideal language syntactically”. The second being Ryan Dahl explaining that he’s not really a big fan of JavaScript, it is ” simply adequate for the need”, and he “hates callbacks”. Fortunately, both of these guys and the surrounding community leaders are all on the same page. Javascript is where it is because of it’s fortune of being “the browser platform”. We can all agree that as a language  there are a lot of improvements that can be made in harmony, I just hope that doesn’t mean that JS is going to turn into CoffeeScript. :)

The other unrelated thing I learned while at JSConf was that John Resig left Mozilla to build the community at the Khan Academy. I had never heard of the Khan Academy before, but I think it’s fair to say that I will probably re-learn everything I learned in college and more watching his videos over the next few years. Sounds like an awesome gig, and I wish him the best — I did find his Reddit AMA kind of amusing and totally bizarre – Mozilla is going to miss him.

I wish I had time to write an overview of all the JSConf talks, but to sum it all up quite crudely: Cloud9 and skywriter are the bomb, I think we will see more “learn how to program” tools in the browser with JS in the future (which is great) like waterbear. Also, apparently people care about putting JS on mobile devices — who knew?

As for NodeConf — this community knows that it needs to mature, and fast — so there was a huge emphasis on how to run big production systems on node, how to debug it and how to test it. I can’t wait to see the fallout from that day of collaboration.

I wanted to thank everyone for the great input on what I’m working on, and the ideas and feedback for Sauce Labs — I am taking all of it very seriously and am working on turning them into action items. For those of you two simply told me that you love Sauce and to keep doing what we are doing — I appreciate the boost!

Also,  I cannot forget a huge thanks to @voodootikigod, @mikeal and all the folks involved in running those conferences, I had a great time — thanks for inviting me to speak!

I took a lot of amazing photos, and I will be going through those this weekend – so stay tuned for a link to the photo album. And if you missed my Jellyfish talk, I will be doing it again at this years Open Source Bridge – June 21-24 back up in Portland, OR.

See you all at TXJS and JSEU, and maybe tonight at the San Francisco JavaScript Pub Night!

Jul 08

OSCON 2008 Recap

This year was my second year at OSCON in Portland, and it’s pretty amazing for me to look back at last July and know that I was working at OSAF. A lot can happen in a year, but what didn’t surprise me was the amount of people that I interacted with at the con that I had met during my OSAF experience.

A few things come to mind when I think about the conference as a whole. First off, who gave OSCON a Ruby adrenaline shot? The Ruby track was pretty extensive, and I would say more prominent even than the Python track this year. I felt like many of the talks were very introductory with very few actual visual demo’s of things “working”. I know that OSCON brings a very diverse crowd.. but please, please come up with some way to show us if things are advanced, or not. I really get absolutely nothing out of introductory level JavaScript sessions, but a title like “Digging into the guts of JavaScript” could pretty much mean anything under the sun.

Some of the most interesting talks I attended last year had to do with open mapping and location services, I know you want us to also attend the “Where” conference, but these things are part of Open Source and should be represented at OSCON!

I really enjoyed the talk about CouchDB, I hadn’t heard about it and really enjoyed how it opened my mind up to some new concepts about how your application should interact with a database. I would advise everyone to check it out at http://incubator.apache.org/couchdb/.

Another was the “Django Tricks” talk, this was great because he just ran through a bunch of really cool examples — one of which was introspecting a sqlite db to build models from the schema. Pretty cool stuff! Additionally, I think Ted Leung nailed his talk about “Open Source Community Antipatterns”. A lot of the ideas and concepts weren’t new to me, but it always helps to get a more detailed overview from someone who has seen these patterns repeated over the last 10 years.

The best quote I heard was that the “Second OSCON starts at 6pm each night.” I completely agree with this, the social aspect of the conference is invaluable, but be careful about all those free booze — they sneak up on you if you aren’t careful.

I do feel as if I should have done a Windmill talk this year, I didn’t see anything from Selenium or Watir and if we had been a little farther a long with the next iteration on Windmill it would have been a great venue to get some serious exposure. I may attend some other conferences this year, or wait till OSCON next year for Windmill to make it’s big splash.

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