Saturday, August 27, 2016

JSConf Iceland 2016

The spirit of JSConf lives in Iceland! Conversations with new and old friends, two great tracks, wonderful social events, diversity, significant other track, an inspiring venue, local and global sponsors and the friendly organizers from Iceland. JSConfis had it all. The Williams family who started JSConf US, the crew from JSConfeu and all other JSConf organizers would approve. The JSConfis team and the local JavaScript community should be very proud of faithfully carrying on the JSConf tradition with a strong Icelandic flavor.

Iceland has a strong place in JSConf history. The second JSConf in the US was disrupted by the 2011 volcano the exploded behind a nearby Icelandic farm. Most airline flights between Europe and the US were cancelled for a week. Several speakers were stranded in the US and one speaker could not make it. This created an opportunity for Jed Schmidt to give an excellent, humous presentation and so a JSConf star was born. Over the years Jed has given back to the community with more talks at JSConf and helping to create one of the strongest local JSConf meetups in Brooklyn, New York. Brooklyn has now given back to Iceland as several of the speakers are Brooklyn alumni.

JSConfis also benefited from the JSConfeu. Many of the JSConfeu team were in attendance. They were mentors and two spoke. Only the JSConfis organizers can tell the full story of all the assistance. But as an example, I found out about JSConfis from a JSConfeu announcement.

Why did I attend JSConfis? I've been fortunate to have attend all eight JSConfus. I've also attended one JSConfeu. With JSConfus cancelled, I had planned to attend JSConfeu this year. However, when that too was cancelled for this year, I followed Jan's recommendation and bought a ticket for JSConfis. I'm so glad that I did because I was once again inspired by JSConf.

JavaScript is a creative tool. An obvious example was Amy Cheng's "Recreate Masterpiece of Modern Art with JavaScript".  She recreated Damien Hirst’s Spot paintings and one of Piet Mondrian’s Composition paintings. I hope to take her work and port it to screens in my living room.

Another example was Mariko Kosak's presentation on "Making a Robot Eye with JavaScript - or Magic of Computer Vision Unraveled".  With grace and ease she conveyed this very technical and mathematical topic in simple terms and ended with a great demo.

The JavaScript community also cares about people. The first keynote talk by Myles Borins - "On left-pad and empathy: understanding human connection" set the tone. (I was not able to attend Berglind Ósk Bergsdóttir's "Feeling like a fake - the Impostor Syndrome".)  Jan Lehnardt presented an emotional talk on "The state of the JavaScript Community". As a leader in both Open Source and the JSConf community, he poured his heart and soul into this talk and raised serious questions for every developer around the world to consider. Hopefully it will become a Smashing Magazine article soon.

Speaking of Smashing, Vitaly Friedman's session on "Dirty little front-end tricks" amazed even the CSS experts with surprising details from the specs and creative hacks. Similarly, Malte Ubl, lead developer for Google's AMP project,  in "#notalljavascript" made his audience look at the details and dark side of third party JavaScript that we use for social media, ads, comments and other purposes. It is worse than you think.

JSConfs provide a way to gauge community trends. React, which was introduced at JSConfus in 2013, has a major role. "Pivoting to React, at scale" by Tilde Ann Thurium provided hard numbers on improvements from using React. I complemented her on how her presentation scaled down from her 160 person shop to my one man shop. There were several other react talks which I could not attend. Simultaneously, in Salt Lake City, Utah, US, my friend Kevin Old was speaking at React Rally. So no doubt, I should study up on React - which I've said before.

Speaking of entertaining, with two musical interludes Visnu Pitiyanuvath talked and sang about "HSL: The RGB You've Been Waiting For." He convinced me. Liv Erickson's keynote on "Why you should care about the VR Web - and how to build it!" was convincing because of her personal passion for the technology. Perhaps it needs to be tempered by the "Laws of Media", but I will definitely explore this. David Khourshid convinced me in "Reactive Animations with CSS Variables" that I need to know CSS variables.

Finally, in a well researched talk Jenna Zeigen showed "How Your Brain is Conspiring Against You Making Good Software." I've already recommend this to a non-JavaScript person as very useful to anyone on a work team. The topic deserves wide distribution and perhaps an interactive version.

Not all the talks are covered above. Often it was a coin flip as to which track to attend which attests to the high quality of the conference. For example, I missed the talk by Azat Mardan who is also from Virginia in the US.

Again, the entire JSConf community should be proud of the team behind JSConfis. Thanks to everyone who made the conference possible and provided a great experience for me and my family. Congratulations on creating a great JSConf.

[Note: I'll come back to this post when I return home and add links to videos and presentations.]

PS Our family spent a week prior to the conference touring Iceland. Wow! It is beautiful and exceptional. This just enhanced our enjoyment of JSConfis.