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At the end of last week I had the privilege of attending ScotlandJS, a conference (held in the fabulous Summerhall dissection theatre) for the Javascript Community of Edinburgh and beyond. With roughly 100 attendees, many of whom have a deep knowledge of this increasingly popular programming language, and 18 speakers presenting on quite a broad range of topics, I sometimes felt that my brain was being dissected.

Summerhall Edinburgh

Image courtesy of STV Edinburgh

Thursday kicked off with a passionate talk about the origins of the Javascript community and the conferences (like ScotlandJS) that help connect it. Delivered with energy and humour, it was an interesting presentation (sprinkled with a few rants) that highlighted the variety of backgrounds, careers, and experience levels of Javascript-ers, all of whom are joined together by a common and powerful language.

The presentations throughout the remainder of the conference ranged in their relevance to my own work. Even the less obviously applicable topics contained kernels of useful information though: approaches to problems, methods of code construction, best practices and useful programs, libraries and frameworks. Some of the talks tended toward the anecdotal while others were far more technical in nature, diving straight into complex code examples that were way over my head.

One presentation I particularly enjoyed was an introduction to the Bacon.js Javascript library. Though I may or may not eventually make use of this resource (I was pondering different applications for it throughout the talk), the simple and clear description of some of its core features (making use of live examples and clever visualisations) was extremely helpful for getting my head around the concepts that were discussed.

ScotlandJS Logo

Image Courtesy of ScotlandJS

I walked away from the conference with several things: ideas, curiosity, and (a bit of) confidence. There are lots of subjects and tools to research further and several possible means of progression on current projects to be investigated (my scrawled notes from some of the talks will require deciphering first). My mind was spinning with ideas over the two days about how the topics of discussion would integrate well with or provide inspiration and direction for specific challenges that I’ve been facing – or may even encounter in the future. At the end of the day, I’m no Javascript expert, and attending ScotlandJS didn’t magically transform me into one. Learning the little tidbits I picked up and being introduced to new ideas while there has, however, given me some more confidence – a little more of a toe hold in the community and knowledge of the field. My lack of expertise does not mean that I am incapable of producing good, usable code.

On a side note, though I did enjoy mingling with the many friendly and intelligent attendees, I was faced with one disappoinment: of the 100 seats on the floor, only 6 or 7 of them had women sitting in them. I was expecting a disparity in the number of male and female conference-goers, but not quite that drastic a difference. I know that female programmers make up more than 10% of the field, and it was a shame to see a better representation at what was really a great conference. Maybe next time there will be more of us…