First web dev conference today for a few years, and my opinion on them hasn't really shifted. Those talks that seem like a sales pitch, or that feel how it would feel to have someone read the documentation for some tool into your face, are a real grind for me.

The talks that always work for me are not about particular tech, code, working culture, communication, or a parade of sarcasm to prove a point. The talks that hold my attention and make me feel something are those that appear to be completely unrelated to web development and are instead based in art, creativity, or history. Throughout the talk a central premise or takeaway reveals itself.

My two favourite ever talks:

  • The Original Skunk Works – Nickolas Means. This appeals to the aviation nerd in me, but how these feats of engineering came to be is extremely inspiring (but also makes me realise how basic and meaningless what I build is).
  • The World-Wide Work - Ethan Marcotte. I was fortunate enough to see this talk in person, and it remains the most remarkable thing I have ever seen at a conference. Via code examples that appear unrelated, history of engineering and design, and unions. What we build should be ethical. Is it?