Why I’m Going to CampJS Next Year

This post is being written in the euphoria immediately after campJS IX has just wrapped up (edited and posted a couple of weeks later because being busy). I wanted to get quick sketch thoughts down on why I am going back to camp next year, to help you decide whether this sounds like something that would be good for you to come to.

Wait, what even is this about?

campJS is a 3(ish) day camp, featuring some talks, many javascript programmers, and much fun. They change their website url slightly every year, but their twitter account is probably not a bad thing to watch if you end up wanting to go next year.

Our campsite for this year (photo courtesy of Ticiana Andrade)

Karaoke (and other non-coding activities)

Okay, yeah, I’ve put it right at the top, front and centre, and I’ll not deny there’s some personal bias going on here, but *hear me out* about this. Karaoke allows you to see other sides of people, and makes sure your weekend away is not just all talking shop. There are people who feel like new friends who I want to keep in contact with who I wouldn’t have met without karaoke. (There’s a bonus karaoke story at the end)

The other campJS staple if you want to get to know some other programming-people is werewolf, which I completely missed this year, and definitely need to make sure I catch next year. (if you encounter me in a game of werewolf next year, please remember I have never once been a werewolf at campJS and killing me in round one is mean).

Random Conversations

If you *did* want to talk shop though, there were so many people who could just bump into and strike up a conversation with. One of the things that campJS calls out right at the start was ‘no contempt culture’, which is, no trashing other technologies. This allows some great conversations and I got to chat with both people with less experience, and people with more experience, and just coalesced ideas around technologies I am using, and several I am not.

Inclusivity

I love tech events where you see more women represented, more backgrounds and nationalities represented. It gives me heart that we can do amazing cool stuff without creating a monoculture around our work. Plus a lot of these people are cool and I’m excited to be excited about code with them.

Seeing Cool Projects

I love seeing crazy stuff other people have done. Special shout-out to Jason O’Neil for his vocally library, which was the cool thing I saw at camp that got me really thinking. I don’t know what I want to do with it yet, but I want to find out.

Camp IX had a coincidental overlap with a game jam ludum dare, which led to seeing some amazing things people made over just a weekend. I hacked something together last year and not this year, but just seeing all the creative coding was inspiring.

I wish I remembered who made this incredible little game (photo courtesy of Anai Araya)

Location, Location

I give this camp a slight ding for being in a campsite without a beach, but every time I escape the city it’s such a happy-making experience. Going for a walk among the trees in a moment of downtime is great as well. I’m hoping we get back to a beach next year because beach walks yesss.

A developer stares into nature (photo courtesy of Ticiana Andrade)

Validation

This ties into random conversations, but deserves its own point. I signed up for a lightning talk, which ended up being a tad longer than lightning, and was pretty well attended, so I’m calling it a rogue talk. I took the opportunity to talk about ‘documenting react components’, or, what I have been working on for the last year.

This conversation and others really helped me reflect on how awesome the work my team has done really is. It was great to find that other people were running into similar problems to the ones we have been, and opened up learning about how others were solving them. It’s really easy in the middle of a project everything you wish was better, and hard to remember the bits which are great.

Behold! A rogue speaker considers his slides (photo courtesy of Anai Araya)

If you’re thinking on going yourself, consider:

  • There is minimal, sometimes no internet. This is a goal of the camp, but can hurt if you’re not expecting it. Particularly if you have a project you want to hack on, you may want to set it up beforehand.
  • It’s dorm accomodation. You’re going to be sharing rooms, and the beds will probably be uncomfortable.
  • They are normally in places quite out of the way. Like the above point, but with the added ‘you might not be able to stay offsite’.
  • This is definitely an event with alcohol. Not everyone drinks, but quite a few people do, and combined with the above point, probably makes this not an event for people who want to avoid being around people who are drinking.

If you have other questions or concerns about going, feel free to tweet me, and I’d be happy to answer. (twitter link goes here)

🎶 Karaoke story time 🎶

Last campJS, I wandered out of a game of werewolf, having been eliminated in the first round (a near constant state for me in werewolf), and had some time to kill. There was karaoke going on, and I was like, ‘what the hell, I haven’t sung in about four years, every time I’ve done karaoke, I’d awkwardly failed (through picking bad songs).

I quietly sidled up to the person controlling the songs, and got to look through a list. After ten minutes being disappointed by songs that weren’t there, I found “Pompeii” by Bastille, which I was like ‘this is probably in my vocal range, and I don’t know if I’ll see these people again so sure, let’s sing.”

I sang three songs that night, and got down off the stage (there was a full on stage!) uplifted, needing to sing more, aghast at how much I had forgotten why I like singing so much. The next year trundled along, and my work did several karaoke events, and there I was, picking songs, singing with people again, and it was such amazing.

Two weeks before this campJS, I finally joined a choir again, and coming back to camp this year reminded me of how it put me on this crazy journey.

I can’t wait to see what I’m looking back on next year.

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