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I'm currently sitting in San Jose waiting for my flight back home (when I say it like that it almost sounds like it will be one hop instead of three and nearly 12 hours sigh) so I thought I'd take a few minutes to share my experiences of attending my first jQuery conference. I honestly did not know what to expect. It seems like I've been attending the same three conferences (cfunited, cfobjective, MAX) for the past decade or so and while they are certainly great conferences (or were in regards to cfunited), I really didn't know what to expect outside of our community.
The conference was held at the Microsoft Silicon Valley campus. A nice location with good speaker rooms - although many of the sessions were standing room only. I think a larger venue will be necessary even if they keep the same amount of tickets next year. It's hard to judge what room in a multi track conference will get the most traffic, but it seemed like a constant struggle for folks to find seats. The food and coffee was good enough, but to be honest, I've got pretty low expectations in that area. Shove a cheap sandwich in front of me and I'm satisfied. They did have Starbucks coffee available though and it was easily the best conference coffee I've ever had.
The crowd itself was really interesting. I believe there were around 500 attendees, and while I'm used to recognizing people at ColdFusion conferences I only knew 3 people there. I spoke to many different people in radically different jobs which was very cool. Much like at ColdFusion conferences, it seemed like the majority of attendees were on Macs. I'm not going to hold that against them of course. ;)
So what about the content? My main concern was whether or not I'd be able to understand the sessions. I know I've blogged quite a bit about jQuery, but to be honest, I still feel like a noob at times. If you look over the schedule you can see the topics are pretty advanced. That being said - I was able to take something away from every presentation I attended. Some things were certainly a bit difficult to wrap my brain around, but I don't think an intermediate jQuery person would have a problem. A beginner might struggle a bit more - but if you are looking to help kick start your understanding to the next level, then it is definitely worth the money.
The speaker quality was top notch. In particular the presentations from Matt Kelly (on backbone.js) and Paul Irish (on Chrome's dev tools) were easily two of the best presentations I've seen in many years. Paul had probably the best moment for me in the entire conference. He was showing Chrome dev tools on screen and the font was a bit small. He quickly increased the size but that caused the icons to grow, not the actual text of the dev tool itself. Get this - he actually opened another instance of the dev tools that pointed back to the original dev tools and "fixed" the size. It was like something out of Inception. Probably staged too - but I don't care. It was awesome.
It was also real nice to get a high level review from John Resig himself on the future of jQuery. As an audience member, I really felt like I was part of the process, not just a simple user. I don't plan on committing any patches any time soon, but it really felt open. (I hate to use that word since it's been way overused lately.)
I definitely recommend people consider attending the next conference. My understanding is that they are held twice a year (once in California and once in Boston) so you will have another opportunity in a few months. It was a great honor for me to be able to speak there and I hope I can do so again in the future. My thanks go out to Doug Neiner for convincing me to submit my talk.