Try It Quiet

Tuesday, July 2 2012 javascript node

At NDC 2012, I was set to give a talk on NodeJS, and what it's like to work with it. I dislike the quick "hey neat wow" demos - but how do you show what it's like on a daily basis to a room full of people who have likely never tried it?

New. Not New.

NDC is dominated by Microsoft developers - many of whom are curious about other technologies like Node and Rails. When trying to describe Node to a Microsoft developer a natural Q&A starts that can go a number of ways - but I found, oddly, that the outcome was quite predictable.

A number of .NET developers kept on me about "how is this new?" I think that's a great question. The concepts behind Node are not new - people were doing this stuff with VB of all things (I can't remember the link or the name). Unfortunately these conversations took a not-so-fun turn.

NPM. NuGet. RubyGems whatever it's all the same. There's nothing new about a package management system and nothing new about Node.

That's usually where the conversation would end by me smiling and wishing them a good conference.

On the more positive side (which happened more often) - people would want me to contrast Node with ASP.NET MVC. I don't like contrasting ... anything - you end up sounding like you're "selling" an idea rather than discussing the differences.

Don't Talk

The best way to get around these conversations? By not talking at all. That's what I did for the NDC talk - I sat down and coded to some fun music for 50 solid minutes.

My goal was to show you rather than regale you with a wall of words, arm-waiving, and claims of code salvation. In short: I want you to make up your own mind.

Many people left. In fact there was a stream of people leaving in the first 5 minutes or so, and many of them gave me "red cards" - the NDC scoring system method for saying "you really suck". One person sent me a message on Twitter that told me "You just waisted my time".

I was nervous (to say the least) and if you watch the video you'll see me wipe my sweaty palms on my pants - trying to steady my nerves. I didn't look up. I couldn't look up - I thought I would see a mostly empty room.

As the talk went on, people started filling in. Then more people... and more people. I heard a lot of murmurs as people were helping others near them understand...

Finally - when the talk was almost over I looked up to see a room of eyes staring at the code projected on the screen. Some helped me debug things - others cocked their heads sideways - solving problems with me as I wrote stuff out.

I received some nice feedback on the talk - so I thought I would share it with you. It's a bit rocky in the beginning - the talk was pushed up 24 hours as another speaker missed her plane to the conference and we had to do a last minute shuffle (literally, I found this out at midnight the night before).

I was terrified, I was underprepared, and I wouldn't recommend doing this style of talk to anyone. But it was fun (as odd as that might sound) and many people enjoyed it - and yes I think I very well might do this talk again because clearly I enjoy torture. That's what happens at conferences :).

Anyway here's the talk: