Back from JSConf

Oh good, someone already posted the “dripping with love” review of JSConf and organizers Chris and Laura Williams:

I’m so glad that’s out of the way because I really didn’t want to do it. It’s not that JSConf wasn’t crazy good (it was), and it wasn’t that Chris and Laura didn’t go completely over the top in a good way for everyone involved (they did), it’s just that I don’t want to be the guy writing those posts because there’s so much more good to talk about – especially when I’m pretty certain if you asked ANYONE at JSConf if they’d recommend going next time you’d get a yes. Seriously, anyone…I really can’t think of a thing wrong with the conference aside from the horrible cellular coverage in Northern Florida on T-Mobile while I’m selling a house and looking for a job.

So with that out of the way, dripping love for JSConf aside…

There was an undertone to this conference and the community there. Maybe I’m reading into it because I want it to exist – but I don’t think that’s it. I think it was really there: in the sessions, in the people, all around.

Javascript has a community both young and old because of the nature of the newfound revival of a language that’s been used for 18 years. Javascript is also a language that nobody can tell you the “right” way to do things. There is no “one” MVC framework  – in fact, there are oodles.

Given how often we adopt, drop, and rework our flow in Javascript, when large groups of us meet to talk about Javascript it’s chaos. And I love the chaos – it’s like a mix of hardcore language basics and boundless creativity and rocketscience from all walks of life.

Let me explain with the rise and peak of Adobe/Macromedia Flex that I lived through:

I used to use Flash quite a bit – it was my favorite platform several years back (though I didn’t have that much experience in others at the time). I was drawn into it by the creativity being sparked in the community. It was THE creative tool to use, hands down. Something happened, though – we adopted a framework. Flex is/was pretty damn good actually. It shares a lot with other similar things like Silverlight/XAML and Android/XML. Nothing wrong with Flex.

Here’s the problem, though – I remember being at a 360Flex (great conference BTW) several years ago and EVERYONE was doing business applications and throwing Flex at it. There really wasn’t much talk about other tools/technology/creativity – just how to do stuff in Flex. I know, I know – Flex conference…but it really highlighted the shift in my favorite creative platform to the business side of things. Everyone was talking about Flex, not so much about Flash – just Flex. Adobe pushed that stuff hard to Java devs, and with the huge marketing focus on “Flex: The One Framework to Rule Them All (better than crappy Java) ™”, Flash was sort of forgotten about by lots of money seeking entrepreneurs and also folks who just didn’t want to get left out of the new technology standards.

At the time, I thought that the entire community settling on a single framework was a good thing – but for me, it really sucked the creative juices and talent from an awesome animation/interactive platform.

Compare this to what I’m witnessing in the Javascript community. “OMG I love Dojo…wait no! Backbone is for me! But look over there, it’s Google Clo….oh wait its Angular now!” We’re talking about MVC frameworks, and we’re talking about boring old business applications – but things are moving too swiftly to settle in. As a result, we can have rigorous and intelligent conversations about Require.js, but we’re not going to get it crammed down our throats at JSConf.

The lack of a solid direction here is a huge opportunity that I’m seeing folks at JSConf take in spades. Instead of obsessing over one thing -we’re obsessing over a huge number of things in completely separate directions. This is what makes a community absolutely fun and thriving.

We had Janessa Det obsess over beat detection and sound. We had Steven Wittens obsess over WebGL, we obsessed over Nodebots, Nodecopters, and 3D printing. Would we have seen this if 2 years ago someone had declared Backbone.js “The One Framework to Rule Them All (ps: Flash sux)™”? I’m obviously not a JSConf organizer, and having met Chris Williams once for 4 seconds, I certainly can’t speak for him. However, perhaps I’d think as an organizer, I should load my conference up with Backbone tracks and Backbone training.

As a result of all of this, I’m seeing loads of creativity and creative uses of Javascript – much of this knowledge coming from communities and research that has nothing to do with Javascript or the web. This makes me very happy.

Perfectly capping it all off, we were treated to Seb Lee-Delisle. I truly hate being a fan of anyone, but its really hard not to be a fan of Seb’s. In addition to showcasing some jaw-dropping interactive installations, he treated us to a short Creative.js training session with generative art in the HTML canvas. His session was the perfect mix of humor, self-deprecation, humbleness, and inspiration. He had one piece of great advice that I’ve only been smart enough to adopt recently – “Think small and FINISH YOUR PROJECT – Nobody will see it or know about it if it’s 90% done”.

Seb’s was the perfect end session to spark a thought in my head. The thought is that this community has some very creative and curious folks. And for me, knowing that there are lots of other creative and curious folks creates quite the inspiration to continue what I’m doing….and of course finish more of what I start!



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