03 December 2012

dotJS: a 'not' so JS conference?

Last Friday I traveled to the wonderful city of Paris together with some Hippo colleagues for the dotJS conference. It was going to be my first tech conference in France and I was really excited. dotJS is a new conference and promoted itself as: "The largest JavaScript conference in France", which raised my expectations. The list of speakers looked promising with for instance Jeremy Ashkenas (creator of Backbone.js) and Jacob Thornton (one of the creators of Twitters Bootstrap). It was a two day conference of which I only attended the first day (second day were workshops). The rest of this post will be about how I experienced the conference.

The venue

dotJS was held in the beautiful Théâtre des Variétés in the hart of Paris. The venue really looked amazing and the conference covered all floors and rooms of the building. With a sharp looking screen it was really easy to read any code that presented itself on-screen. The seats however were quite small for people like me (or people above 1.70m in general). For those of you that ever flew with EasyJet it was sort of a similar experience. The conference attracted about 500-600 people and the room was packed.

Conference view from above
Photo taken by @mauriz http://svay.com/photos/2012-11-30_dotjs/


The lunch in the middle of the day was good and there was some real tasty quality food, but making fresh food with about 250-300 people waiting can become quite a logistical problem. Even though the total amount of attendees were divided in groups the lines were long and everybody had to be in the same room to be able to get some food. I liked the freshly cooked food, but I guess this could be a bit improved with prepackaged lunch boxes or serving food in multiple rooms.

Talks and speakers

These days Javascript is not only used on the client/browser, but also on the server side with for instance Node.js. Therefor the list of speakers was a mix of both and in my opinion contained a lot of knowledgeable individuals. To name a few:
In total there were about eleven talks, so the day was packed. All speakers had about 20 minutes to talk about their topic which was a nice pace. It helped to stay focused on the talks at hand.
There were even some lightning talks at the end of the day, which added a nice change to the conference. The overall quality of the talks and speakers was good and I really enjoyed some of them. However for a Javascript conference there were only just 3 or 4 talks that actually went into technical details and unfortunately most topics were more pointed towards general topics like open source and communities. I thought that was a shame, since there was so much knowledge on stage. The highlights for me were: Jeremy Ashkenas ("Symbiotic languages") , Brian Leroux ("How the Javascript language can lead to unexpected results") and Jacob Thornton ("The history of Open Source").

Summary


The conference was nice and had attracted quality speakers. Sylvain Zimmer and Thomas Bassetto did a really good job in making dotJS happen. Unfortunately the conference had just a couple of in-depth Javascript talks and therefor did not really meet my expectations. Even though there was no real schedule up front my advice to the organizers would be to make a good balance between general talks and in-depth talks next year. I personally would have expected a lot more in depth Javascript talk at at Javascript conference.

3 comments:

  1. Thanks for your feedback! Very useful.

    As you know, we asked the speakers to talk about what they were most passionate about. It's interesting (and maybe related to the cute puppy syndrome of @fat) that so many of them chose not to talk about their "main" tech project for the XXth time.

    Do you think we should have asked them to talk about specific topics? I think some of them wouldn't have be so good on stage, but it's an open debate!

    Thanks

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    Replies
    1. Hi Sylvain,

      thank you for replying! I guess you have a point with the puppy syndrome. You already pointed out during the conference that dotJS wasn't a regular conference.

      From my experience with most conferences, speakers are allowed to send in talks. Those talks will either get accepted or rejected by the organizers. The final selection will then make up the conference. I guess in this case the speakers got invited and were allowed to talk about a subject of their liking. That of course stimulates creativity and allows the speakers to talk outside of their area of expertise and about something they have a passion for, but it also did confuse some attendees, since they were expecting more technical Javascript talks. Hence the name dotJS right?

      Therefor I do think that having a slightly different balance would benefit the conference (or give the conference a slightly different name). It might be an idea to move towards 30% passion with key speakers vs 70% in-depth session (or 40/60). I'm not familiar with any other Javascript conference in France, so maybe you should stick to this formula to be different from other conferences.

      Please keep in mind that this is also just a single persons opinion and there were a lot more people at the conference. I think everybody agreed that the conference was a success.

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    2. Thanks!

      Yes it is indeed a question of balance. We'll probably push it a little more towards tech, while keeping the same rules. Also, having other dotConferences will allow each one to be more specific to its own subject ;-)

      See you next time!

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