Portland, OSCON, and World Domination Summit

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I rented an apartment in Portland for July to escape the Raleigh heat, leaving my husband behind to refloor our home. Before he came up to spend the last week with me and fall in love with the city, I had many adventures including attending Word Domination Summit and OSCON and meeting so many people I’d known online for ages in person for the first time.

Note: These pictures were taken with my Nintendo DSi XL because whenever I take pictures with my camera, its battery runs out in a few hours. I figured low resolution pictures were better than no pictures, given my need for visual memory aids.

World Domination Summit

WDS was something I and my Ruzuku teamies were looking forward to taking on together. I went to Portland a week ahead of time to set up my apartment and prepare. Unfortunately, two days before the conference, I got sick. Really sick. I did my best to fight off the summer cold and protect others by obsessively washing and disinfecting my hands. I even refused to shake hands, because haven’t we all gotten the con crud from that one guy who swears it’s just allergies before clasping your hand in his moist mitts? I did not want to be that guy.

WDS carnival
WDS kicked off with a huge street fair. These people are crazy!

Chris Brogan, a sort of Super Geek Motivational Speaker who I should probably have heard of already, gave a talk about drawing power from our super heroes. He dropped so many super hero in-jokes, I think only about 10% of the audience got them all. But that 10% was tickled pink, and I was proud to be among them.

I met Yoshiko, a game designer from Japan working in LA. She was possibly the coolest person I connected with at this conference. I knew she was awesome when I saw she’d drawn Mami (from 魔法少女まどか☆マギカ (Mahō Shōjo Madoka Magika) fanart on her iPad. We attended one after party together, but I was so sick and sniffly, I’m afraid I was a poor social partner. Had I been of my right mind, I would no doubt have stuck to Yoshiko like glue and had many adventures. I can only hope that our paths cross again! (And given how things in my life always repeat themselves, that is not unlikely.) Yoshiko was truly kind to stick with me so much while I was under the weather.

When I'm sick, I'm no fun.
This was me for the entire conference.

I craved both steak and cookies all the time. I blame the cold.

It wasn’t until the last night in the Crystal Ballroom when everyone started wearing their “geek shirts” that I was able to pick out fellow web developers. One of the first shirts I recognized had a big microformats logo on it–and it belonged to none other than Tantek Çelik! Of course, the music was far too loud and I was far too sick to squee and ask him all the questions I had. So I shuffled away and felt bad that I finally got to meet a celebrity in my world but was unable to do more than get his moo card. But it is a moo card I will treasure!

WDS, The Crystal Ballroom, full of people
The ballroom was an utter mad house. The floors would bounce and pop. I thought we were breaking the floor, but it turns out it had been built for competitive dancing, and ball bearings had been placed under the boards on purpose.

OSCON

I thought I would have to skip expensive OSCon until I realized I could get free access to their expo hall. I got there just before everyone started shutting down and was able to get some neat books and meet some new people. I even ran into one of my favorite coworkers from my first big job at BBH Media!

OSCON’s expo hall was a lot of fun, and I enjoyed going through the books at the O’Reilly kiosks. But, as a front-ender/UI engineer (I come up with interfaces to help users do things and then I code them to life), I felt like there wasn’t a whole lot there for me. Most of the booths and kiosks were oriented toward server and operating system technology. For instance, I would have expected to see a presence from WordPress, jQuery, GIMP or Inkscape even–but the technologies were definitely skewed toward Big Backend Software (and databases). I did my best to rustle up something interesting–and I sure did! (Aside from the bottomless Ben and Jerry’s freezers they kept in the middle of the hall.)

Tyler Ortman of No Starch Press poses next to my copy of the Manga Guide to Databases.
Tyler Ortman is an editor at No Starch Press, the publisher that translates and publishes the "Manga Guide to..." series of books. Here he is holding my copy of "The Manga Guide to Databases," which I got him to sign. It was a good book and a bouncy introduction to databases. He told me that one college teacher of databasery has replaced his textbook with this book. I can believe it!
A gathering of women and girls at Greenlight for Girls's booth at OSCon.
There was a strong women's presence at the conference. There were even tables marked off for women to get together at. I wondered what exactly such tables would achieve, but I met a number of neat women while sitting at one, so I suppose it was a wise decision on the organizers' parts!
The Arduino Kit and book I bought at OSCon
Oh yes, I bought these. Call it an impulse buy. This was the sort of thing I just yearned for as a kid. Sometimes, I like to pretend I'm a kid again and buy myself toys. This Arduino kit is one of them.
Two women from O'Reilly, one of them Edie Freedman, Director of Brand Management, pose in front of a wall of endangered animals.
I met O'Reilly's Karen Montgomery and Edie Freedman. They were at a big display about what we can do, as developers, to help endangered animals. You can learn more at oreilly.com/animals
The Maleo.
They brought the Maleo to my attention and encouraged me to seek out the Bronx Zoo's Maleo project directors.

There was at least one kiosk with a front-ender spin: Temboo. Temboo is a collection of out-of-the-box API’s you can snap into place. I rarely use API’s, though–not that I’m avoiding them, there’s just not much call for them with the sort of things I implement at Ruzuku. I should probably work on that. So maybe I’ll find something useful or inspiring there, too?

Portland's Web Development Scene

While in Portland, I wanted to check out the area’s native wildlife and web dev scene. My husband and I are serious about moving here some day, and I wanted to make sure that there was a community for me to leech off of give back to. I had a blast going to meetups of WordPress developers, UXers, Rubyists, and feminists. But I noticed a lack of strong front-end development leadership. Are there no fronties in Portland? If not, mayhaps the is a void I can fill!

I finally got to meet some people I’ve known on the Internet for some time, like Michael Fields (my favorite WordPress developer) and Eric Mann.

Robert Pitts and Lindsey
Robert Pitts with illustrator girlfriend Lindsey Morris at Pix, grabbing a late night bite!
Nicole Ramsey poses next to her sweet motorcycle.
I had a huge breakfast at Jam with Nicole Ramsey! She's one of those super women who codes, has kids, rides a motorcycle, and still finds time to scarf hashbrowns with a complete stranger from Twitter. Mad respect.

I also had tea with Teri Solow at the Tao of Tea, and she gave me this great advice about recursion which one of her professors gave her (it was so great that I wrote it down in my moleskine right then and there!):

  1. Make progress (it needs to do something)
  2. Stop the madness (it needs to have an out, a way of stopping)
  3. You gotta believe (that it just works--Parappa style)
Code-n-sploders eating Mexican and grabbin' beers.
Amy Farrell and others eating Mexican and grabbing beers after Code-n-Splode. Code-n-splode is like "stitch-n-bitch" but for women developers.

I used calagator to find where all the cool events were happening. I attended the “PDX Women in Information Technology Happy Hour” which was swarming with recruiters but also had a number of DBA’s and fresh, entrepreneurial faces. But Code-n-Splode was my favorite women-oriented event. Being there made my eyes sparkle with “I want to be as cool as you are!” I am attempting to maintain contact with the group over IRC. (EVEN JQUERY COULD NOT GET ME TO USE IRC. But that’s for another post…)

The Verdict

Portland is awesome on so many levels, from the Japanese book store and taiko classes to the abundance of high quality tea to the bustling comics and zine community. It has a strong development scene with a great number of active, strong female developers and engineers. I could see myself wedging in there quite nicely. Coming back to Raleigh, I realized just how lonely and bored I’ve been here. And now I have a better idea of why. The husband agrees. Portland is in our future.

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