The Wave 🌊 👋🏻: I attended #FITCToronto2019

What I learned from my first ever tech conference.

FITC Programme, my badge and a small temp tattoo.

As one of the lucky winners of HackerYou Twitter giveaway, I had the pleasure of attending #FITCToronto this past Monday to Wednesday. As a past event professional whose bread and butter was producing events like this, I was beyond excited to attend.

Since my days as a conference organizer, I believe a good event serves at least three purposes: to educate, to inspire and to network. #FITCToronto2019 did all three very brilliantly. So if you will allow me, grab some popcorn and let me tell you about my experience at the conference.

Learning never stops, especially when you go beyond your comfort zone.

First, A little bit more background here. Seven months ago, I wrote my very first line of HTML and that is when my web develop journey started. A talk on AR, VR and AI, therefore, is like mind-blowing for me. Here are some things I learned while being wowed constantly by the talents the FITC community shown:

Technology as new medium

Dominic Burt & Stef Smet, Spark AR, @fbplatform

Dominic & Stef on stage at FITC. Message on the screen: The Medium is the Message.

While I still remembered the many heated debates on the relationship between technology and communications in my undergrad, the talk delivered by the duo at Spark AR brought a new layer to the concept. When we leverage technologies, such as AR and VR as a medium to tell stories, our way of story telling reaches another level.

If you do not believe me, open the camera on your Messenger or Instagram, see that filter that gives you the possibility to have a cat eye instantly? That is what they create at Spark AR. Now you can flip your camera and create a comic drawing version of your world. Wow!

Wow, if you want to know more about what they do, head over: https://sparkar.facebook.com/ar-studio/.

Lighting in a messy world.

Phil Reyneri, Lightform, @philreyneri

Phil on stage at FITC. Message on screen reads The Future is Bright.

Lighting has always been a topic of interest for me. When I worked in events, I was constantly amazed by how lighting can bring up mood in the room in matters of second. Phil’s talk was about projecting AR & VR into our physical world and how the lighting in our daily world can be very messy.

He talked about the projectors of the future and how they can look a lot like the everyday objects we interact with, such as, lamps. He totally enlightened (pun intended) my hope on achieving the world like Black Mirror in our lifetime.

If you are interested in some of the brilliant work he does, head over: https://lightform.com/.

Morning, Olivia. Where is the nearest subway station?

Stephen Martell, Current Studios, @stevemartell

Olivia shown on screen at FITC during Stephen’s presentation.

Stephen’s talk was one of my favourites at the conference. I am a big fan of a presentations that tells a good story. In this case, Stephen went in depth with how they designed CoverGirl’s AI Assistant, Olivia. A couple weeks ago, I made the connection, and saw event design as a form of user experience design. In the past I was tasked with designing user experiences for events and now I can apply that knowledge while designing user experiences for digital products.

One of the many lessons Stephen shared that stood out to me was the knowledge they decided to give Olivia. Instead of just an AI that answer questions about make up, she has learned to engage in small interactive talks and answer general questions shoppers might have. The team also made sure that she is able to give varying answers to the same questions, which give her the personal flare that distinguish her from other AIs.

To learn more about the other projects Stephen’s studio have worked on, head over: https://currentstudios.digital/

The whole circle of Generative Coding

Matt Deslauriers, Matt DesLauriers

Matt on stage at FITC. Screen shows his work.

Without a doubt, Matt opened a new world that is full of possibilities with his talk on generative arts and creative coding. I am very proud of my Mondrian generator app, Mondrian in Style (live), my very first jQuery project of mine. I learned that day during Matt’s talk this frenzy I have with creating arts with code has a name.

Luckily, with the advancements of technology, we can now use codes to generate instructions for computers to generate art. This makes arts 1000 times more accessible and we can even bring them back to the physical space by outputting them into the psychical space by outputting them onto something like paper or fabric. In this way, digital art has finished its full circle.

Matt has an awesome open source framework, Canvas-sketch. Head over: https://github.com/mattdesl/canvas-sketch.

If you make it light enough, they will use it.

Chris Zacharias, imgix, @zacman5

Chris speaking at FITC. Screen shows performance number comparison between an original and hyper light website.

Thank to the lovely lunch n’ learn by Henri Helvetica that I attended before the conference, #webperf is not a foreign topic. For me, Chris’s talk added to that and completely changed my perception of creating hyperlight websites. Instead of thinking about performance AFTER the project is mostly done, the very first step of building a hyperlight project (if that’s the goal of the exercise), is to reconceptualization the different elements to the bare minimum. In other words, what are the absolute necessities the site needs to up and running.

It does help to mention that 85% of the performance issues come from image assets. Imgix creates an awesome solution to manage image source set with a simple CDN input.

If you are curious about this, head over: https://www.imgix.com/.

My wave is yet to come.

David speaking on stage at FITC. Message on screen “Have Fun”

The title of this session and this post is inspired by a message shared by the closing keynote David Carson. Even though some AV issues stopped him from playing all his beautiful videos he had planned, he successfully blew me away with all the amazingly beautiful work he did, and of course the way he enjoys the small things and manages the big wave (he surfs!) in his life. However, there were many other AH-HA moments I had during the conference:

Escapism Vs. Innovation

Jared Ficklin, Argodesign, @jaredrawk

Final message of Jared presentation: The future can be post scarcity, logistics by adhocracy, ecology by ecopoets, abundance by automation, frictionless revolution, curated capitalism & spiritualism by philotics. We can avoid peak technology.

One of the many nuggets in Jared’s talk was this idea of whether we are using technology as escapism or innovation. The example he gave was how we use AI to scan immigration requests. For these tasks that can be a bit hard on a human. Are we using the technology to avoid those hard feelings of filtering out unqualified candidates for an immigration application?

If you say yes to that question, the solution may be to make technology human or in other words, augment technologies with human capacities. Instead of having a robot that runs around create zin gardens, link this robot to a meditation seat where it would only run if the human sitting on the seat is focused.

If you interested in knowing more about the autonomous future? Head over: http://argodesign.com/.

The meaning of live

Kate Dawkins, Kate Dawkins Studio, @dawkinsstudios

Kate speaking at FITC.

The world Kate lives in is the perfect child of my past and current lives: technologies at live events. Although I am fully aware of logistical challenges can cause problems while running live events, hearing her stories added another layer of difficulty on it. Again, I am amazed by how her and her team leverage technology as tools for better story telling.

One of the details she shared about the Festival of Remembrance London project touched my heart. They were able to retrieve some diaries of that era and made an effort to use that exact font in the light show. The attention to every little detail was very very inspiring.

Head over https://katedawkinsstudio.com/ for more of the beautiful work of her studio.

y tho

Zoe Daniels, HackerYou, @zoecodes

Zoe on stage at FITC.

I wanted to leave a little space here for the person who had a huge impact on my coding journey: Zoe. She was the lead instructor at the coding bootcamp, HackerYou, that I graduated from 5 weeks ago. Luckily, I had many many chances to sit and absorb her wisdom but seeing her on a larger stage at #FITCToronto2019 was very special.

Thank you Zoe, it was great to be one of your angels.

Want to learn more about the bootcamp? Head over: https://hackeryou.com/.

Learn and grow together.

Me wearing a Beyoncss t-shirt with Henri at FITC Pub night.

I am forever grateful for the opportunity to attend the conference. I truly believe it was an event that gives me the opportunity to meet, learn and grow from the people in this awesome community. We may not be able to move the mountain by ourselves but we sure have a chance to do that when we collaborate together.

And of course, proof of my ability to fly.

Here are some other places you can find me on the Internet:

I coded a website for myself.

http://chaoyuezhao.com/

I write at-the-moment short blog post (people also call them tweets): https://twitter.com/ChaoyueZ

Wanted to know about my career journey? Head over: https://www.linkedin.com/in/chaoyuezhao/

And of course, you want to know what food I eat: https://www.instagram.com/chaoyue_zhao/?hl=en