NodePDX 2016: A Recap of the Conference

Logo NodePDX

Located in Portland, OR, NodePDX really embraces the Cascadia spirit. The organizers claim that Portland is the home to some of the most talented developers in the world and after spending 3 days with the NodePDX crowd, I have no problems believing that.

The event was held at the Bossanova Ballroom in downtown Portland. The venue itself was great. It had a Victorian ballroom feel to it with its red carpets and velvet curtains. It had a main floor where most of the chairs were installed and a bar that was opened all day long. There was also a nice mezzanine upstairs where an unconference was held as well as a hardware hacking workshop. The whole atmosphere of the venue made it really relaxing and it made it easy for people to approach each other.

Joël Lord @NodePDX 2016

All in all, the event was, in my opinion, a great success. All the presentations that I’ve seen were of very high quality and I won’t go into the details of each and every one of them but here are some of the presentations that I found to be very inspiring.

“A Foolish Quest: Creating Knitting Patterns Using Javascript,” by Liz Abinante (@feministy)

Tricot pour chat

This was the story of the creation of an open source project. The goal was to automate the process of creating knitting patterns. I now know more about knitting that I ever thought I did. Some of the lessons to take from this presentation are that, no matting how trivial it seemed and how mathematical and logic the solution originally seemed, you will still need the eye of an experienced designer. No JS library will ever be able to replace that.

“From Software to Hardware: How I Track My Cat with Javascript”, by Tomomi Imura (@girlie_mac)

In this talk, we learned how to mix up a bunch of Javascript libraries with a Raspberry Pi and a bunch of sensors together to achieve a kitty tracking camera. Some of the libraries used were very interesting. More specifically, there was a cat face recognition library that used neural networks behind the scenes to detect if there was a cat in the picture (Kittydar).

“Demystifying TypeScript Decorators,” by James Churchill (@smashdev)

I must admit that I’m not a fan of TypeScript so I was hesitant about this one. Still, James managed to capture our attention by live coding some TypeScript Decorators. Those @expressions before a block of code lets you modify functions, classes or properties. It seems like a very powerful way to add meta programming easily to your code base. Even more interesting, you can create decorators in normal Javascript using Babel as a transpiler so you don’t have to use it in conjunction with TypeScript.

“RRR – React, RethinkDB, Raspberry Pi,” by Mike Glukhovsky (@mglukhovsky)

Mike presented us the RethinkDB Photobooth. A Raspberry Pi device that can take live photos and tweet them. It made extensive use of RethinkDB which seems like a very promising way to handle real-time data. RethinkDB lets you add listeners to your database so you can get notified when the data changes. This could change the way we think about real-time data.

“I Play the Javascript,” by Matt McKegg (@mattmckegg)

A very entertaining talk about how Matt built his own software so he could perform live electronic music. The library called Loopdrop was built in Javascript. The live performance was great and Matt also told us about some of the challenges that you might run into if you quit your job to dedicate all of your time to your pet project.

In Summary

NodePDX was a great conference. There was a lot of highly inspiring talks and a lot of interesting conversations after. The rhythm was great and it let us mingle between talks. I can’t wait to apply some of the things that I’ve learned into my next projects.

As a speaker, it was also a good conference to participate in. The organizers were very friendly and made sure to make us feel welcome.

On a more personal note, Portland is a great place to be. I enjoyed some of the activities organized outside of the main conference track like the bike ride around the city and I certainly hope that I will have the chance to go there again in the near future.