Yee haw! Paperless Post sent three people to the cowboy-themed JSConf in Scottsdale, Arizona recently, and now that we’re back from the Wild, Wild West, I thought I’d share some of my conference experiences.
Instead of attempting to recap the entire experience, which isn’t possible, or even trying to cover all of the amazing talks, which would also be difficult, I thought I’d highlight a few of my favorite moments which I think will properly speak to the quality and success of the two-day conference.
The Return of Play and a Standing Ovation
Two talks were stark contrasts to this theme, in that they presented ideas that rooted themselves firmly in the trajectory of computing history, and tried to focus as much on ideas as implementation. David Nolen’s talk about Jelly Stains was a trip through the history of his various programming language love affairs, and Daniel Henry Holmes Ingalls, Jr.’s presentation on The Lively Kernel was a hilarious and surprising retelling of the manifestation of a lifetime’s worth of work.
The Lively Kernel is “a new approach to web programming” that was founded at Sun Microsystems in 2006 by Dan Ingalls and Antero Taivalsaari. In case Ingall’s name isn’t familiar, read up about his history with the Smalltalk programming language and advances in Virtual Machine technology here. During his talk, Ingalls took the JSConf audience through a tour of the Kernel, which is quite aptly named. Illustrating that every aspect of the system is “alive,” and that it exists in order to make other connections possible, Ingalls used it to make pianos play, elephants dance, and graphs fill with data. His ease at the podium was highlighted by several exhortations that “that’s how it should be,” noting that he has spent a large part of his career trying to make live systems de rigeur, and that our pleasure at seeing things “just work” should be a catalyst for us to actually get up and make them work. I was very impressed that the JSConf community overlooked the lack of visual polish in this presentation and that everyone seemed to gain easy delight from the fact that the simple interactivity obviously rested on a deeply complex and well implemented kernel. Ingalls gave the crowd the gift of vision, and the crowd returned the favor with a well-deserved standing ovation.
Embracing the Low-Level
array.length()) and to show us other areas where V8 doesn’t optimize as successfully. The message was a clear and hopeful one – write your code, reason about it, and read up on what V8 can do – it can make you a more confident programmer who writes more efficient code.
Standing in Circles and Nodding
The one thing that I had heard about JSConfs that proved to be very true was that the experiences outside of the conference rooms would be as valuable as the talks themselves. The conference in general has an air of accessibility and in general doesn’t take itself too seriously, and this lends itself to lots of casual conversation. I cannot stress enough how many of the most fun and enlightening moments from the two day conference came from standing in circles with people and chatting. At one point I found myself standing around with beers or coffees in hand with Brian Ford of Rubinius, Slava Egorov, Rick Hudson of Intel, and David Nolen, chatting about the cutting edge Garbage Collection technology used by Rubinius, the JVM and V8. All I could do was smile and nod, knowing that I was in the company of brilliance, and feeling lucky enough to get a glimpse.
What’s even cooler is that when you looked around at JSConf, these kinds of conversations were happening everywhere – speakers made themselves available after their talks or at the sponsored parties, and in general, a congenial air of collaboration amongst peers dominated.
Hope for “the language with a bad upbringing”
If you’re interested in Paperless Post’s commitment to professional development, we’ve posted about going to conferences before, and keep in mind: we’re looking for more talented people in NYC and SF.
- Daniel Friedman’s Work, including the Reasoned Schemer
- The Zebra Puzzle that David Nolen spoke of
- The Lively Kernel that Dan Ingalls demonstrated
- Intel’s River Trail as provided by Intel
- Google’s V8: an overview
Update 04/18/2012 – The photos from the booth sponsored by Paperless Post are up! Check them out here!