StrangeLoop, Part I: Powered by JS & Opening Party
Last week eight women from Ada Developers Academy got to head down to St. Louis to check out the StrangeLoop conference for the first time! Few of us have been to such a big conference, plus we were looking forward to checking out what the tech scene outside of the PNW looks like. We were able to attend due to very generous scholarships which paid for our tickets as well as our travel. StrangeLoop was on our radar because this year they engaged Ashe Dryden to help come up with strategies that would increase the number of women in attendance. Last year, the conference had about 6% women attendees and this year they doubled the number. We were really excited to benefit from these efforts--without the scholarship, none of us would have been able to attend.
So how was it?
Well, it was awesome.
But we were greeted by very enthusiastic volunteers and organizers, and were pleasantly surprised by the conference swag from Manning Publications- no, not another oversized men’s nerdy t-shirt, but something worthwhile- a book!
By far my favorite talk of the day was “Art.js: Transfigure Data to Create 21st Century Art” by Sarah Groff-Palermo. I must admit, the reason this talk was my fav was probably due to my own biases in favor of data based art. Many of my projects involve collecting data over a long period of time and then doing some sort of visual display, but mine are about 800% less cool and definitely low-tech compared to the examples Sarah showed us. I was glad I came to her talk during this conference, because she was also presenting it during StrangeLoop and I was able to tell a bunch of people about how they should go see her speak. My favorite piece of she presented was “Timeline of Neglect”, a graph piece that marks when a book was bought and then slowly starts to disintegrate as time goes on without reading the book. I left her talk feeling inspired to actually explore the libraries and tools she presented in order to create my own projects, or to take the non-tech data art projects that I already have to the next level and start to integrate code in ways I had never thought of!
StrangeLoop Opening Party:
I know it might seem silly to dedicate half of a blog post to a conference party, but the only reason you might think that is if you’ve never been to StrangeLoop’s opening party. Dear lord was it amazing. Since the start of 2014, I have attended 3 other conferences and let me tell you: StrangeLoop knows how to throw a party.
My expectations were fairly low, seeing as how one of the biggest cultural adjustments I’ve had to make as I transition into tech is changing my expectations when I hear the word “party”. I’ve been to conferences where the big selling point has been board games and a lesson on solving rubric’s cubes. Not that there is anything wrong with those things, just that I come from an industry where “party” has meant something between semi-formal wear and renting out the top floor of a 7 story club. I had not in any way anticipated the sheer joy of exploring St. Louis’s City Museum nor the surprisingly well-behaved men of the conference. Normally I tend to get bothered, and perhaps being with many other women helped prevent some of the unwanted attention, but I was quite impressed by the other attendees’ respectfulness.
We made lots of new friends during the party, from the likes of Launch Code and 8th Light. It was hard not to make friends, honestly, when you run into someone also lost in a series of tubes, caves, and weird tree sculptures. One of my favorite parts was trying to get to the top of the building to ride the 10 story slide, only to find out the line was too long and then discover the giant dome room. We climbed up a bunch of rebar on the side of the dome to reach a small basket-like structure at the top, which you can see Anne and I chilling in below:
Then, just when we thought it couldn’t get any cooler, we pulled ourselves out of the basket, onto the roof to discover a beautiful night skyline and, no joke, a Ferris wheel!! Ferris wheels are basically my favorite, so I didn’t think the party could get any better.
The whole lot of us Adies tried to organize a time to get our picture taken at the Cloudant (a database-as-a-service comapny) sponsored photobooth. Elizabeth and I had already taken a few photos, not really realizing that it was a contest. We had just wanted more content for our #TeamElizabeth extreme pair-programming website and the chance to be silly. We ended up with this photoset of us pretending to be TSwift and Yeezy:
But the best part of the Cloudant photobooth was when we got other Adies in and decided to try our best shot at winning their funny photo contest. Of course, the secret is always to never use the props, so we ended up going for the classic "roller coaster" photo:
AND WE WON!!
Cloudant hooked some of us up with t-shirts, swag, and best of all, a set of Raspberry Pis! The women working at the Cloudant booth were so friendly and excited to talk to other women in tech that they left quite a positive impression on us. Since all of us came to StrangeLoop as Ada Developer Academy students on diversity scholarships, we decided that the best thing we could do with the prizes was to give them to the new students at Ada. We are hoping not just to be able to inspire the new women to explore the different kinds of hacking they can do with the Raspberry Pis, but also to explore different conferences and not be afraid of trying new things and putting themselves out there in the community.
My next blog post will be a rundown of the talks at StrangeLoop-- Hope you'll check it out.