Travel log: Nordic.js 2019

So, I attended Nordic.js this year. I’ve had the conference on my radar for a while after hearing good things about it from colleagues. It’s what I would describe as a general web development conference, but with an emphasis on JavaScripty things - as the name might suggest. It takes place in Stockholm each year, which is nice since it means I can get there easily by train and avoid the carbon footprint of flying.

The train from Oslo to Stockhom is great! Since it’s about six hours I treated myself to a first-class seat with a power outlet, a fold-down table for my iPad Pro, and legroom for days. Perfect for catching up on The Dark Chrystal on Netflix.

The conference was held in a venue that felt somewhat out of place between ferry-, cruise-, and container ship terminals about a fifteen to twenty minute drive from the central station. The conference was packed. Breaks were a whirlwind of people bouncing between sponsor stands, a cotton candy machine, a soft ice dispenser, and coffee stations. Apart from the venue the immediate area didn’t have too much to offer. On day two during the lunch break I happened upon Farm while wandering about, which you should check out if you attend next year and the venue remains the same.

The speakers were talented folks and the subjects felt quite varied. Some framework talk, some practices, some culture and values, some frontend, some infrastrucure, some testing, some machine learning, some mechanical keyboards, some design systems. If you do web development in any form there should be something of interest in the lineup.

I think the two talks that left the biggest impression on me were the opening and closing talks.

The opening talk by Isa Silveira inspired reflection on the values (or lack thereof) we have as developers when creating something. While creating something new can be exciting and rewarding, it may not always be a net gain for society. Facial recognition technology can help us find images of our friends and family from our growing photo collection, but it can be also used to install precision surveillance on a massive scale. As developers we have the means to build, but also the means to refuse building. Protesting works, both from within a company and from without. Stand up, unionize, and do work that aligns with your values. Developers usually make good enough money to be in a position of choice. Donate your time and/or money to help good causes, and don’t let your next employer be one that does business that conflicts with your values.

Closing up day two Sara Vieira made us laugh out loud, leading by example in Building Dumb Shit. Sara opened the talk by lining out a common motivation companies claim they have for doing what they do - “changing the world”. Why? What for? Change isn’t always for the good, depending on who you ask. Sure, Airbnb can be nice for getting some money while your house is unused over the summer. But how about neighbourhoods where all of a sudden 80% of appartments are full-time Airbnbs? What does that do to a community? Making people smile, though - that’s always a change for the better. So how do you make people smile? Build. Dumb. Shit. The dumb shit can make other people smile. And if not, at least you were happy while making it. Being in a good mood improves your learning as well, so it’s a double win! Go forth and build stupid things!