JSConf, NodeConf, and Open Government


I was in Portland last week, soaking up back-to-back conferences in JSConf and NodeConf. JavaScript (or just JS) is experiencing a bit of a renaissance. Not only are the modern browser wars a boon to client-side JS performance and functionality, but JS is being used on the server side via Node.js. The speakers and attendees are on the cutting edge of software development. It was an inspiring, mind-expanding week.

Reflecting on these two conferences, another important observation comes to mind about my fellow attendees: Many of them are active in the open government and open data community. Our community!

  • At the opening party for JSConf last Sunday night, I had a conversation with Eamon Leonard, an open data activist from Ireland. He helps lead Open Data Ireland and owns the domain opendata.ie, now being used as a data catalog for Ireland.
  • Open Ottawa organizer Edward Ocampo-Gooding was there in Portland bright and early on Monday morning, despite being at TransparencyCamp in DC the day before. Not even I shared his dedication, as I completely skipped TCamp on Sunday.
  • Edward’s colleague at Shopify, Jonathan Rudenberg was also at JSConf. He was the People’s Choice winner for last year’s Apps4Ottawa contest for the app “Where is my bus?“.
  • Past Apps for America winners gave some of the best-received talks of JSConf. Andrew Dupont, who placed in first for Apps for America 1 with Filibusted, gave a fantastic talk about extending the JavaScript language.
  • A two-time Apps for America winner, the prolific Jeremy Ashkenas teamed up with language creator Brendan Eich of Mozilla to talk about CoffeeScript and the future of JavaScript.
  • Mark Headd, a developer advocate at Tropo who had a huge hand in making Open Data Philly a reality, gave a demo-heavy, and kinda magical, presentation that used JavaScript to power telephony-based apps. Mark received an honorable mention in the first Apps for America for Hear Me Say This.
  • Code for America fellow and PDX API creator Max Ogden was hacking up a storm at both conferences.
  • At NodeConf, Jim Pick, previously employed by Joyent (the Node.js company), told me about his plans to dedicate half of his working hours to open data in Vancouver, Canada.
  • Much of the crew from Development Seed was at NodeConf. Their co-founder, Eric Gundersen, spoke about TileMill at TransparencyCamp five days earlier.

I was also happy to talk open government with those not yet familiar with the movement. I may have convinced a citizen of Yellowknife, Canada (population 19,000) to build a web app for his city’s bus schedule. The city has 4 bus routes. Striking up conversation with other attendees, I was surprised to learn that so many knew about the budget cuts to the Electronic Government Fund, and all who did agreed strongly with Sunlight’s position. All in all, it was a pleasant surprise to see our community so well-represented at JSConf and NodeConf.