... or "who knew there was anything in Blaine, Washington?"
I got back recently from giving my first talk at CascadiaFest 2015, held in the beautiful Semiahmoo Resort outside of Blaine, WA. As a long-term Seattle resident, my only knowledge of Blaine was as "that place where we spend too much time waiting to cross the border", but it turns out there's a beautiful golf resort right nearby. Since I don't golf I still wasn't that excited, but CascadiaFest had more than enough activity to keep me busy.
What is CascadiaFest?
The conference was held at the Semiahmoo Resort, which was actually quite beautiful.
The grounds were large, it was surrounded by water, had a spa and a pool - honestly I had no idea there was any place this nice between Seattle and Canada.
The lines to get in on the first day were long - it seemed like if they'd let people check in the night before, they could have prevented some initial headaches.
But once that initial hurdle was passed, the rest of the conference was incredibly well run. The conference badges were far beyond any I've ever received
- solid laser-etched wood, definitely one to be kept. There was some other swag, including a great CascadiaFest hoodie, but the badge was a real standout. Plenty of sponsors were on-board providing lunch and dinner, and the speakers-only dinner gave me a chance to get to know my fellow speakers better. Overall the sense of camaraderie amongst attendees was strong, making it by far the friendliest conference I've attended.
The conference was broken thematically into three days, with a single track of talks each day in a large room holding \~400 people. All talks were uploaded to Youtube and auto-captioned.
Day One - CSS Day
The first day was CSS day, and the talks were mostly on CSS, but with a few on more general topics. Take a look at the playlist above for the full set, but I'll call out a few.
Alan Mooiman had a solid start to the conference with a talk on the history and future of CSS, and why the cycle of birth and death in preprocessors is a good thing.
Amy Lynn Taylor's talk started out slow, but had some great insights on how to make a distributed team cohere and have a common culture. As someone who works from home / remotely much of the time, it was relevant to my interests.
There was a great talk on JSON Web Tokens (vs. Cookies) by Martin Gontovnikas with some easy examples to follow and motivating reasons to use them.
Myles Borins had a great talk with a deceptive title - "On the fallibility of large systems" made me think it was going to be about distributed systems and fault-tolerance, but instead it was on how our easy use of large dependency-chains can cause exciting failures you'd never expect. A useful reminder for anyone using npm and Bower.
Andrei Kashcha's talk on visualization of huge graphs was fantastic. His delivery was charming and his enthusiasm was infectious, and the insights he was able to pull from these large graphs of package manager dependencies like npm were illuminating.
Ashley Williams had a talk on ES6 that was both great and somewhat depressing. Depressing mostly because I'm not a huge fan of the JS language, and her point that JS is a teaching language due to its ubiquity and popularity rang true. I agree with her insight into the oddness of adding classes to ES6 given JS's prototypal inheritance - I hadn't considered it before, but it does seem out of place.
Another of my colleagues - Parashuram - gave a talk on automating web performance measurement that had some great details on how to integrate that into your development process, and how to avoid pitfalls in the process.
I'd also like to give a shout-out to Tougo Coffee for keeping me wired throughout the entire three-day period, and whatever genius on the CascadiaFest team who decided to bring them up to Semiahmoo.