I originally gave this keynote at OSCON 2014 in Portland, Oregon to something like five thousand opensource enthusiasts. It was my first keynote, and I wrote a comic script for it, drawing each slide as a comic panel. Here's the video followed by the original script and artwork!
I tell stories.
I’ve been telling them since I started drawing comics professionally at the young age of seventeen. I’d always felt limited by static pencil and paper, two-dimensional linear storytelling. Paper was easy to grasp, but it was limiting.
For instance, I couldn’t play my favorite music while making witty references to it (which I did a lot of).
After a career change into web development, I continued to tell stories in presentations, comics, articles, and now with code.
It took me a few years and a few CSS specs to figure out that the “Infinite Canvas” Scott McCloud wrote about had been in front of me all along: the browser. HTML5 has all these APIs, these wonderful APIs we build as a community: audio, animation, text to speech, geo location… and I’d spent the past five years mastering the foundations to wield them.
The power went to my head and I quit my job to tell stories with code full time. I’ve traveled the world spreading the gospel of the Infinite Canvas. The most common thing I hear is, “I wish I could draw like you.” (My response to which is that it’s easy, just spend seven years drawing and earning 75% less than what you currently make.) But the images are only the surface treatment. There’s so much more happening underneath.
I made Alice in Videoland (the name is a tribute to one of my favorite bands) to feature in Adobe’s Inspire magazine. I knew it would mostly be seen by designers, so I wanted to introduce them to some tools for making their own stories come to life: it uses SVG, CSS to animate the different illustrations, and jQuery and a handful of plugins to trigger events.
The feedback I hear most often after I give a talk is, “I wish I could draw like you!”
Well, just as developers often wish they could “draw like me,” those artists often wish they could “code like you.” (I should know. I’ve got the emails to prove it.) But neither of you have five to seven years to sink into learning the other’s craft when there are stories to be told today.
Which is why collaboration is so important. Together we can build amazing things. It is not a matter of learning how to draw or code like me. It’s a matter of seeking out and collaborating with those people whose skills you wish you had.
When you look at the things I make, you’re not looking at my stories, my art. You’re looking at the culmination of many creators: the people who contribute to big libraries like jQuery; the team who releases some unassuming script they couldn’t imagine using outside of that one weird project; the editors who argued until the spec was ready and the programmers who actually implemented it; that person who answered my “silly question” on Twitter; the author of the original Alice in Wonderland; the inventor of the multiplane camera.
I can tell stories because you help me tell stories. You are creators, too.
Let’s tell stories forever together.