./mach pancakes! && ./mach climb-big-hill

Screenshot 2018-09-23 18.34.42
Hang on… I know that person!

One of the big perks that comes with an Outreachy internship is a conference travel stipend for participants to attend a relevant event either during or in the year following their internship period. When I started investigating my options, I stumbled across ScotlandJS early on and knew almost immediately that I had hit the jackpot. For starters, one of my Mozilla Webcompat team members, Ola, was the face of all their publicity.

Awesome fellow webcompatters, Dennis and Ola

Then I started looking through their speaker schedule… and noticed that half of them were women, and all of them looked like funky, interesting humans. Plus, the talks had interesting names (e.g., “How I Ended Up Automating My Curtains and Shouting at My Laptop” and “Sorting Your Socks with JavaScript”).


Judging from the group photos it wasn’t a huge event, which made it seem friendly and manageable, and therefore something I could handle without feeling like a fool despite the fact that my JavaScript skills are still pretty basic. And the final deciding factor: It was in Edinburgh, one of my favorite cities and only a two-hour flight away.


The venue was the quirky Dynamic Earth center (sort of an environmental exhibit/exploratorium for kids), which was at the edge of the city beside Arthur’s Seat (which turns out to be a huge hill, not a really big chair). The first day kicked off with coffee and opening remarks by organizer Peter Aitken, then quickly segued to Ola’s talk on TCP. I was impressed by the fact that the code of conduct was prominently posted at the entrance:

Seems like that should cover it, right?

Ola’s talk was about about TCP, and she made sure everyone was awake by incorporating audience participation and pancakes. Foolishly, I sat in the front row, so Dennis and I ended up as part of the transmission chain (although we were too slow and missed out on the data-breakdown snack attack).

Lost packets! (in your network, eating your data…)


The conference lasted two days, each talk ran about 20 minutes, and they were scheduled in three blocks of three. After each block, there were breaks where each speaker led a small discussion group, and you could choose which of the three preceding topics to join. This turned out to be a great way to keep things digestible and prevent one’s various appendages from falling asleep from sitting too much — each time there was a break we had to tromp up two flights of stairs to get back to the coffee and discussion areas.

The talks were short enough not to be overwhelming, and, surprisingly, they were all interesting and understandable — even for someone like me at a junior level. I had to force myself to stop taking notes and just enjoy listening. Some the presentations that I found particularly inspiring and useful were:

Umar Hansa on Practical Mini-Projects in Node.js


Galuh Sahid on Building Command-Line Tools & Dashboards:

These first two talks were amazing for how much they managed to cram into the 20 minutes — they made me want to immediately find a quiet corner where I could pull out my laptop and try out some of the suggested projects.


Florencia Herra Vega on Electron:

I loved learning more about Electron, which I was only vaguely familiar with beforehand. Add that to the list of fun things to hack on later. Maybe there’s a Webcompat need that can be fulfilled with an Electron app. Let’s build cross-platform apps, y’all!


And Jessica Rose on Imposter Syndrome and Individual Competence:

Jessica Rose is just awesome. This was such a great talk — empathetic, funny, concise, and full of great advice. Fake it until you make it, she urged us, promising that that’s all everyone around us is doing even when they seem like they have it all figured out.

Overall, this was a very thoughtfully planned conference run by extremely thoughtful people who clearly and demonstrably care about diversity and inclusion. The community was warm and accepting, and everyone was careful to keep things accessible to all skill levels. I found the two days to be extremely valuable, and I hope to be able to put some of the things I learned into practice very soon. This conference will be a hard act to follow.

Dennis and I decided the best way to top off all that JavaScript was to walk up the really big hill we’d been staring at on breaks for the last couple of days. It was a gorgeous view from the top, but insanely windy, and it was the perfect end to the trip.