Thomas Hopkins: JSConf 2015 Recap

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A couple of weeks ago I had the privilege of attending JSConf 2015 with 3 other RV engineers. In case you missed it, here’s a quick recap:

About JSConf:

JSConf is a family of conferences for the JavaScript programming language that happen around the world: Europe, Australia, Brazil, the United States, and other locations. The US branch of JSConf, which has been running since 2008, serves a few hundred attendees over 2-3 days of talks, dinners, and the occasional bottle rocket launch.

It’s family friendly: The organizers did a fantastic job of offering a little something for everyone. They’ve put helpful things in place like tickets for significant others and Choose Your Own Adventure day – with all sorts of activities available. A number of people even brought their kids this year, which speaks volumes about the atmosphere.

And super rad: From its angular logo, to the arcade machines in the conference hall lobby, to the Star-Wars-themed desserts on the last day of talks, to the 80s music that was piped over conference hall speakers – there was certainly some nostalgia in the air. I didn’t see anyone dress in the decade, but several speakers added some 1980s flair to their presentation slides in sometimes amazing ways.

My top picks:

Though I can’t mention them all here, presentations this year followed JavaScript’s continued growth with a focus on features coming to the language soon, new APIs available in web browsers, hardware programming, and software you can now build with JavaScript. To that last point, a few of my favorite presentations included recreating a dial-up modem in JavaScript, making music on the NES with JavaScript, knitting with JavaScript, and, maybe most amusing of all, a talk about web audio that culminated in the face theremin. Go ahead; try it. It’s the best combination of your webcam and atheremin that you’ll see today.

I saw a couple of especially thought-provoking presentations that I also should cover here. Simon Swain built a missile defense simulation for his talk, “Cold War,”  which taught us first about techniques for rendering vector graphics in the browser, war simulation, and 1980s history. Simon showed how the simulation changed as he added different types of weapons and more combatants, which brought about his poignant conclusion: He asked the audience to bet on which of two combatants would win, increasing the number after each victory. Once you get to five, the simulation destroys them all within a matter of seconds. “Game over” appears on the screen.

Lastly, Ashley Williams gave the most nuanced and interesting talk I saw, “If you wish to learn ES6/2015 from scratch, you must first invent the universe.” There was so much depth to this presentation that there’s no way I could possibly do it justice here. In a nutshell: Ashley led us through a few parts of the latest JavaScript specification with an eye for using JavaScript for teaching, asking us to think carefully about new features: Are they valuable? Or do they just make JavaScript even more difficult to understand?

Here’s a huge thanks to all the presenters, organizers, and other friendly people who made JSConf2015 such a huge success and an incredibly valuable experience for engineers! I’ll see you all next year, after I’ve brushed up on my NodeCopter skills…

Thomas Hopkins is a senior engineer / JavaScript wizard at Red Ventures, where he builds analytics tech and maintains cloud servers. He is also a chorister and amateur pianist, has a degree in anthropology and enjoys writing about himself in the third person. Follow him on twitter! @hopkinsth

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