The 125

Malte Ubl
Malte Ubl
Jun 24 · 3 min read

A few weeks ago I helped organize the 10th and last-of-its-kind JSConf EU. Our conference has changed tremendously over the years, and this year introduced a BIPoCiT Space to create an exclusive space that is inviting, supportive, and respectful for all Black, Indigenous, and/or People of Color in Tech (BIPoCiT). Turns out now everyone on the internet thought it was a good idea.

JSConf EU 2009 had 125 attendees. When I read that the BIPoCiT space ended up having 125 attendees in 2019 it got me to reflect on the tremendous privilege that emanated from the opportunity to attend our first event, and it makes me incredibly optimistic on the impact that the BIPoCiT space may have on people’s life going forward.

But first look at us:

The original 125

Clearly not everyone felt invited in 2009. Those denied opportunities cannot be righted by only creating a more inviting conference in 2019, because the access and connections created at the original intimate events no longer translate to the mega conference of today.

It may be hard to understand just how impactful the privilege to attend that first JSConf EU has been to the lucky few like this introverted programmer who had too much fun implementing Perl 6’s object model in JavaScript. I’ll go through a list of connections, not as a humblebrag, but to really clarify the extend of the privilege that access to the event granted.

  • I met Nikolai Onken whose family will join mine for a summer vacation in Denmark this year. He is now an executive at Amazon.
  • I met Joe McCann who would 2 years later DJ at my wedding and then go on to found NodeSource.
  • I met Paul & Eamon who’d later invite me to speak at their exclusive conference that took a private train to a helicopter to a small island and get drunk with Amazon’s CTO.
  • I met Brian LeRoux, creator of PhoneGap, who’d invite me to his wedding off the coast of Vancouver and be my neighbor in San Francisco.
  • I met Nicole Sullivan, who I now have the privilege of working with at Google, and who’s son hangs out with my kids.
  • I met Ryan Dahl, creator of Node.js, who’d show me around San Francisco when I moved there.
  • Speaking of San Francisco: I made so many friends at my conference, when I moved to SF three years later I literally had more friends there than in the city I previously lived in for 10 years.

This list could go on and on, and I’m sorry that I left some of y’all out of it, but the point really is: Imagine you didn’t feel welcome. Imagine that the opportunity that attending the event would have presented to you was denied because some trait of your identity felt to be incompatible with the group that was celebrating the technology you loved.

This is why it was so important to create a dedicated BIPoCiT space. I sincerely hope that the new 125 created some of the tight-knit bounds that can only form among smaller groups of people who share an experience.

I had no part in organizing the space. All credit goes to the BIPoCiT team. But I will be watching their progress, make connections, write references, grant access, and maybe in 2029, if I do well, make a bullet point on their blog post about the next 125.

Malte Ubl

Written by

Malte Ubl

Tech lead of the AMP Project. JavaScript infrastructure at Google. Curator of @JSConfEU