I went to my first Fluent conf this year. It was a generally good experience. I enjoyed the company and the topics. Maybe I’ll go again.
I went to the one-day training before the conference, where there were half and quarter day sessions around a single topic. I went to an awesome “Building a desktop app with Electron” training, where the content was great, the teacher, Steve Kinney, was exceptional, and I felt accomplished as we learned new things and got to create something together with my own typing fingers. It went very quickly and probably could have been a bit more solid with even a full day of training.
I did two other trainings that weren’t nearly as good. The people were smart, imparting what obviously took some brains to figure out, but they weren’t engaging as teachers and couldn’t capture my attention well enough to make me feel like I was along for the ride. Pre-conference prep material suggested that we’d be producing something together in these sessions as in the Electron session. That would have been awesome. I am a kinetic learner. Unfortunately, there was no attempt to build upon pre-session work, and both other sessions felt dull in comparison to the morning’s ride.
The mix of keynotes was great at the conference. There were some heavy hitters: Brendan Eich and Doug Crockford. There were some new, refreshing faces and topics from the likes of Laurie Voss and Alex Russell. The keynotes were shorter than others I’ve seen – shorter than even the other sessions. They felt almost like lightning talks, but from big web tech personalities. The content was varied. The delivery was all very good. These were high points in the conference.
The sessions were mostly good. I have a general like-dislike relationship with conference talks. I have to remember that the point is not to be permanently changed at the end of the talk or to have immediately picked up some great new skill. The probable best place that I can be at the end of a session is inspired, pointed in a new, interesting direction, with enough information to know what I don’t know and go figure it out.
There was a ton of content, with 6 tracks most hours. Some of the highlight talks that I went to were: “This talk is not available offline”, by Alex Rickabaugh, talking about “Progressive Web Apps”, Service Workers, and how to create a more native-like web experience; “How to write a worthwhile test”, by Justin Searls, which was chock full of valuable insight for test creation and tooling; and “Building our reactive future”, by Matthew Podwysocki, talking about Rx.js and how Observables are expressive coding constructs – he was hilarious too. I’m sure I missed some other great ones. Should I have bought that expensive “watch the recorded videos later” package?
I did attend a few less-than-stellar sessions, during which I read all the docs on Cycle.js and worked through all the examples. It’s a super interesting framework and fit in with a large tech theme from the conference, Observables.
San Fransisco is a fun city. I love walking around the city. It was unfortunately unusually overcast and drizzly weather while we were there. We had less rain than was forecast, so that was good, and we were able to get out into the city at night. Perhaps because of all the cloud cover, it seemed like it was always super late by the time we got out.
The conference was all held inside the Marriot Marquee. It was held in the basement. There were no windows. Thankfully, they had good HVAC to mostly evacuate all the nerd smell. It was funny going in the first time, because you go down about 3 flights of escalators, making it feel like you’re on your way to the subway. I don’t know how many 1000+ attendees there were, but it was amazing that the hotel had that much space. The basement must have extended underground underneath the adjoining plaza. The Marriot was nice. The staff were very friendly. There was the strict policing of badge checking at most entrances – that was annoying.
Getting to and from San Fransisco proved laborious with a hefty layover on the way in and a hefty delay getting out, due to weather. This task alone made me consider just buying the virtual conference option next time. It was fun to meet a bunch of people from all over the globe though. Perhaps they could all come visit me in the Rocky Mountains next time, and we could party here.
Lunches were good. The food was good and interesting. The lines went quickly, especially on day 2, where it seemed that they had 12 independent lines for lunch. That was awesome. Apparently I just got lucky the first day. There were enough people that a proper dinner and after party didn’t happen. There was a reception the first night, which consisted of an hour of other people drinking alcohol. I had a water. Water from Norway never tasted so good.
The conference gave out water bottles. They were on a shelf in the hall. Oh, and they gave out name tags. Beyond that, there was an exhibition hall with vendors giving out the usual – stickers, t-shirts, and trinkets. I love a good sticker and found quite a few. Github had the best. Codeschool had some awesome ones too, such as 80s neon “Staying Sharp with Angular”. So good. I also replenished my summer wardrobe of T-shirts. Heroku did go beyond T-shirts, which is a trend we should encourage, and now I have some rockin’ purple socks.
Fluent was a great experience and a highlight web conference for the year. I’ve heard it has been even better in years past. It’s probable that I’d go again to try it out again and hope for an even better experience. Thanks, Fluent, and I’ll see you next time.