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So hi, everyone. I have a lot of things to say as usual. But first, I want to thank Jerry and Brent, our lovely organizers for having me and everyone else here. And my fellow speakers for being so awesome so far, and for those who speak tomorrow, don't blow it.
All the talks today have been so great, it's always super intimidating. And actually, I was kind of worried with Aaron's talk because I was like, oh, he's going to like tell funnier jokes than me, but then you got into like the serious stuff and I was like, OK, I'm feeling good, because-- I don't know. It's-- this is quite a block of speakers. I'm actually like super impressed and, you know, it's been great.
But also I want to thank the rest of you for showing up here despite my presence. I always enjoy-- I'm usually the last person on the first day, I always enjoy being between a bunch of nerds and their nerd party, it's a very powerful feeling. And since Gary's not going to cut me off-- he wouldn't dare-- [LAUGHTER] I can keep you here as long as I want. Forget movies. What is this, a theater?
Anyway, now this is going to be weird coming from me-- and I hate to do this, but I recently started a new job. So it's really important for me to let you know that the opinions I express today are not only my own, but also my employer's and yours and your employers' own opinions. If you've received this private talk in error, please delete it. And to save the environment, I ask that you do not print this talk out. OK.
So I'm very excited to be here in Seattle. While Aaron was talking, I got a call from Seattle which is like what happens whenever Amazon fails to deliver my package. And if it wasn't for this talk, I would have picked up and been like, oh, I'm like down the street, I can't pick up my package in Jersey right now.
It's been on my list obviously of places I wanted to go for a long time now. I feel truly blessed to be here, it's always a gift to be invited to speak at a conference, especially a new one by people-- that are run by people I really admire despite the absolutely crushing anxiety that occurs the moment I agree up until about 10 minutes before I go on stage when I've completed my talk.
I think in the past two days I've probably eaten like 15 servings of chips and like 20 cookies, a couple of half-priced bag of Easter candy. I purchased a Hoobastank ring tone on iTunes that turned out to actually be a cover of Hoobastank and not the original. So like, you'd think I'd have a handle on this now, I've been here for awhile, but I still screw up.
Because June's going to mark the four-year anniversary of my first ever conference talk. And of course, I did what I do best, which is complain about how I'm so bored all the time. But since that conference, which coincided with my entry into the industry from academia, I can see what's happened-- I've gotten hotter, smarter, stronger, and I've spoken at over 30 events. Thank you.
But when I was just getting into the industry, I was kind of doubting that this whole speaking thing was for me. I had spoken a lot at colleges as a teacher, but this is like a whole different thing, speaking at tech conferences, it pushes you and me to do things I typically hate, like working, shaking hands with strangers, flying-- flying just doesn't seem natural to me. Like-- and I feel like-- and you can ask me more about this at the party, but like I feel like by putting all of our work and energy into like improving like flight-like technology, we're stunting human evolution to actually have us people to fly ourselves, but-- [LAUGHTER]
All right, you can ask about that later. Another thing I hate about conferences is that I gain a Twitter following from it. I don't really like hanging out at breweries and I feel bad because I made the slide before I found out the after-party's at a brewery. I'm allergic to hops, so I can't drink beer, but I'm waiting for like the moment when you all, like, remember and realize that hops are gross.
I also don't like-- I was like, I don't like taking part in human conversations, which again, I'm sorry, I didn't realize that people were actually going to be at this conference, so-- all right, just ignore that slide. And also, like, you have to get out of bed. I haven't really sort of been invited to the whole teleconference circuit yet. But yeah.
So one might ask, well, if you hate all these things, then why do you do it? And I would tell you, well, Sharon, it's just one of the important aspects of being a real web developer. Sharon, in classic Sharon fashion, would then ask me, like, real developer? Like, what does it even mean? And I respond, well, I don't know, Sharon. Maybe if you stop touching my goddamn katanas for one second and pay attention at DeconstructConf, you'll learn how to be a real web developer.
So if you would all get your slimy tentacles off my ancient katana collection, Sharon, and the rest of you in the room, you can listen and/or watch as I deconstruct the real web developer. Get it? Deconstruct? It's DeconstructConf? Where's-- where's Gary? Gary, it's on-brand. You see it? Gary. "Notice me" is what he's thinking. [LAUGHTER]
Other alternate titles of this talk are Kino-- what is that even? The software? And notice me, Gary. Anyway, so you want to be a real web developer like me, and we already know that that means you have to speak at conferences. Why? Because I said so. If you have never spoken at a conference, typically you're either invited to speak or you apply to speak through a CFP or a call for papers.
I'm usually invited to talk for some reason, and for another reason, I say yes. And then they ask me for an abstract, I'm like, whoa, buddy. Like, you want to actually know what I'm talking about? Like, I'll think about it. And then I'll send something like a few weeks later maybe, and if so, I will probably change the topic without notice a couple of times. But it's one of my many charming qualities, though, next to being incredibly hot and extremely strong, so we have fun.
You'd think that despite those previous slides where I talked about things I hate, you'd think that my favorite part of speaking at conferences is being among the incredible speakers, the community organizers, and engineers, but you're wrong-- it's making the slides.
Slide creation is an art where you can really express your creativity in a super efficient and not-at-all stressful way. Kino only crashed seven times when I tried to make this gradient background. That's like good luck, right? Seven's a good luck number. It's like when a bird shits on you it's good luck.
Next to birds shitting on me, my next favorite thing about speaking at conferences is being onstage with an early 2000s Britney Spears microphone and having an audience, and I can say nearly anything without argument because I'm the only one in the spotlight and all the AV equipment is hooked up to me. So any one of you in there are basically inaudible and cannot protest. I call this a Jenn-O-Clock.
One bad thing about speaking, as I mentioned before, is that it makes you more visible within the community and ultimately leads to more followers. And no matter what you do, there's nothing you can do about this within social media, so you're going to have to go against the grain of your community.
And I do this personally in a number of ways that's worked for me. It might work for you, but now that I think about it, I think that that would decrease the extreme uniqueness of me. So I want to make a deal with you here that you will never do the things I do to be unique. One of them is live in New Jersey.
Everyone hates New Jersey. Like, everyone except people like me who live there pay half the rent of what people pay in Manhattan while still basically living in Manhattan. On the other hand, I do have to hear a lot of really bad Jersey jokes and get shit from people when I invite them over, but those people are usually from Ohio, which-- which Justin Searls has yet to prove to me is actually a real place. [LAUGHTER]
And I didn't annotate this, this is a very-- a Redditor volunteered to do it, so shouts out to Reddit.
So I briefly mentioned earlier that I started a new job, and it's a professional blogging company that sounds like a water park or an L.L. Bean competitor and it's called Fog Creek. We co-founded Stack Overflow, invented Trello and FogBugz and other things, and now we're working on a product that I was hired to take part in and that's Glitch, Glitch.com.
It's an in-browser IDE and we're trying to bring view source culture back by way of the vaporwave as one does. It's not only static pages like other web IDEs, but also Node applications. So imagine you want to teach somebody how to code, you want to teach them HTML, and then they're like, OK, cool, I wrote HTML, like, how do I get this on the internet? And then you like teach them like AWS and like Ansible and like Terraform-- like, no, we don't do that, it's not how you teach code. Glitch, we already deploy projects for you that you can then do whatever.
But trust me, blogging daily is not a very sustainable activity. You're going to need to post even smaller bytes of content on other platforms, so to be a real web developer, you need to be prolific on social media.
Twitter is what I've been using for nine years now, and apparently that's over thanks to Mastadon, which I've used three times. Instead of like 140 characters, you could post up to 500, which is basically a blog or an ad-free lyrics web page generator. People like it because it's decentralized, which I think is a fake idea, but I'll get into that later. What's important, though, is that you need to use all social media sites.
I personally am a fan of Instagram. I've been using it since day one and I managed to snag the @Jenn handle, which isn't surprising because it's typically a woman's name and if you think about it, there's really like no women-- like, where are all the women I'm always hearing? And I'm like, yeah, like, where are the women in tech? Like, there's absolutely, like, no women at all around me, it's so elusive. Like, where did we go?
Anyway, I had to move Jenn to another account because all of my comments and messages on it were people, mostly teens named Jennifer asking to have my username.
There was one guy who happened to be a hardcore fan of the band Staind, because why not? Offered to pay off my student loans for me to transfer the name to his boss. And yeah, I had, like, my best friend Brian was just like, why is his email Staind's email? And I was like, oh, it's like Aaron from Staind who wants like the account. It's been a while since I've heard from him. You like Staind trips, right? Anyway.
Anyone big in tech will tell you that being popular in social media means everything. It can lead to great things you never even knew you wanted, like to have One Direction perform at your birthday party. And it's important that you share that wealth with your dearest of friends. So my dear friend Kyle had been invited to speak at a conference and then the organizers were like, actually, we want you to do two talks, and he messaged me and he was just like, troll mom, help me, what do I do to get out of speaking at two things?
And so I was like, well, tell them that you'll do it if they book One Direction at my karaoke birthday party that's happening in a month or so. And the organizers didn't know who One Direction was, so they were like, oh yeah, like, we'll look into it. And like I copied my friend who was sharing the birthday party room with me and we're like, yeah, we have a room of like 28 friends, so really, we can only fit two of One Direction, I don't know. [LAUGHTER]
In the end we didn't get any of One Direction. And at the same time, DjangoConf in Europe was like postponed because One Direction was playing there and all the fans had taken up all the hotel rooms. And then the DjangoConf organizers told me like, look, if you had a seat like we are spoken like we asked you to, you could have been close to One Direction-- I don't know, it's what-- everyday is a winding road. [LAUGHTER]
So Aaron mentioned Hacker News. Hacker News and GitHub are both like social argument websites-- it's what I call them. I don't really peruse Hacker News too much because I like to focus on social argument sites where people actually write code. And you can have like total access to big developers in your field and company founders and stuff. You're within arm's reach of them.
And with that reach, you can alter the reality of corporate structures. Like this person here. This is a PR that I think Laurie had made-- Laurie's a co-founder of NPM, Inc. Made a PR on Paul Ford's "What is Code" article on Bloomberg, and it was like, interns, are you even about what NPM stands for, because it's like-- yeah. And someone was just like, you're being like, the CTO of the company, like, doesn't mean anything, which is-- I don't know.,
in any other industry, if you tell like the CTO of a company that their level of the company means they have no say in something that actually has to do with their company, it's just like a wild thing for me.
But you also don't want to just interact with other engineers. You also want to interact with the people that have the power to fund tech projects, like menture capitalists-- that was a Freudian slip-- I mean venture capitalists. So like Benedict Evans is a dear friend of mine, he just doesn't know it. I also call him Area Terrible Man.
So yeah. We found some interaction with each other that he might not have liked. I'm assuming he doesn't like the new Coheed. And the important thing is that with people in power, you have to be persistent with them, because they're probably going ignore you and sometimes you really need to get some sort of information from them that they only have. So again, you have to be persistent and incentivize them to listen. And it always works for me. So-- [LAUGHTER]
And it's like the whole-- like there are attendees here who are in these messages. Where's Todd? John Resig, writer jQuery, he's a nice guy, but he bakes bread. Some of my best friends bake bread.
But I'm like-- I was telling Suz Hinton, who's speaking tomorrow, like, I'm waiting for someone one day to ask, why are there no women in tech baking bread? [LAUGHTER] And I feel like-- this is in all seriousness, I feel this pressure now to stop this in its tracks. So sorry to like all of my pals when they watch this for roasting them, but I'm actually quite worried about this. Like, I'm worried about fucking bread. Like, you think I'd have enough emotional labor as a woman in tech to have to deal with braking bread-- I don't know.
Anyway, step seven is author an algorithm. This is easier done than said when you're a real web developer, and I should know. In 2014, I created an algorithm called Jort Sort. It has a website, professionally-designed logo, and everything. This is the only thing I have ever made as a side project that got a professionally done design.
You can control the consequences of algorithm authorship, though. Sometimes bad things can happen, like someone at Microsoft can enter it into RxJS as an exception people could use. So it could be implemented in a real open source project that many people are using, it's quite terrifying. But the great thing is that sometimes men will save the day by spending precious time trying to make it better, because of course it can be better. It was an algorithm I literally wrote in a few minutes with my immensely female and extremely menstruating brain. [LAUGHTER]
But no, to be all fair, like, it's funny, I was looking at a lot of these old tweets, I was like, I gotta find the tweet of the guy who I think he had worked at Netflix, that would like spend all day and was tweeting at me trying to optimize before he realized it was a joke, and it has Ben Lesh who actually is on RxJS Core. So my how they evolved. I don't know where Brad is. You'll also receive exorbitant amounts of praise and recognition.
Unfortunately, the less optimal part of this stuff is that you probably need to consider writing code maybe. I don't know if it's actually necessary, the science is still out, but--
Yeah. So those are my eight steps. You would think that in the current web development industry or bubble, if you're into things like reality or playing with soap, you'd think that the larger part of being considered a real web developer is not actually the stuff we are paid to do but fake ideas, and you're right, because virtually everything we do is fake.
So I got some hot takes coming up. Decentralized social media is a fake idea. It could be real at first, but in a capitalist society, you can't expect the intentions of gatekeepers to be pure. And I'm sorry, I just had one more spot in my "blame things on capitalism" card before I was eligible for another latte, so I'm glad I got that out of the way.
Distributed systems. That's a fake idea I think, I don't know. I know-- I'm sure, like, all of you except me are distributed systems engineers and I don't understand why. I like understand what closures in node adds are, but I don't understand distributed systems. Like, what systems are not distributed? Like, you have a server somewhere and like your browser somewhere else, like that's distributed.
Whenever my friends who like work in that space, which are literally all my friends, explain to me what they do, it just like translates in my brain to like, my job hired too many people to actively ignore technical debt, so I'm expected to save the day every day. So yeah.
The blockchain. Blockchain is like the new SEO, and you'll probably know what that means. Which by the way, speaking of SEO, someone's finally been arrested for it. That just happened yesterday, I'm super stoked. Sorry, I don't know her. Like, yeah, sure, buddy.
Oh, so the other day-- [LAUGHTER] the other day I got an email from Local Business Amazon that told me that by instance at Jenn.money was-- I think it's free tier soon, and so I couldn't figure out which of like the 13 Amazon logins had my instance, so I purposely applied a broken Terraform plan to like kill it. It gets the job done.
Being internet famous is a fake idea. I have over 20,000 followers on Twitter and guess what? Only one of them actually pays me.
Like I said, every day is a winding road. But then I think like maybe I'm just not getting the same perks as other like thought leaders are, because my web presence is what some would call a professional liability. I think that that was a vine of me pulling like six foot of toilet paper out of my mouth, because I like magic-- I went through a magic phase. It was only a six second-long phase.
On the plus side, though, a hardware company in Jersey once unsolicitedly mailed to my old office a broken electric staple gun, and a popular paint brand sent me a T-shirt that wasn't even the shirt I was tweeting about. If I were actually famous, I probably would have gotten the shirt that I wanted. I also probably would never have to pay for Hoobastank cover ring tones, because better yet, it would be the original fucking band. Anyway.
And I mentioned this. I mentioned these fake ideas on a more serious note, because I witness on a daily basis the barriers in this industry sort of getting higher purely because of the cult of personality we all here in this room not only subscribe to but are complicit in. It should go without mentioning that the current requirement of being extremely online and incredibly logged in it's much easier for men than women.
And if you're a man who thinks otherwise, I would love you to tell me at the party-- maybe in some good lighthearted conversation-- how many people have assaulted you at conferences, have sent unsolicited dick pics on Twitter, or emailed you your own address, and not to remind you in case you forgot but to scare you, all for being a woman engineer.
And I guarantee that there are people in this room who believe that meritocracy is real-- it's not. And that I'm not their idea of a real web developer because I tell jokes on stage, I probably run faster than them-- I do-- and you therefore find it hard to believe that I've written software that has had more of a global visitor reach than most of you will ever have in your entire careers, which is true-- sucks for you.
And honestly, like, all of us who did come on stage here and a lot of the people that I've talked to here and know here are all very successful and really love what they do. And you'd think that with all of us being successful and loving what we do, people entering the industry would stay for that sweet success and loving what they do.
But there's a lot of pressure to do more than just our jobs. We speak at conferences, which is exhausting and expensive. We attend them, which is exhausting and expensive. We argue online. We make what could be simple concepts extremely hard to understand by co-opting mathematical terms incorrectly to describe them. And we pull the ladder up behind us so newbies feel like there's no light at the end of the tunnel. And not just newbies, but those of us who have been in this game for a while.
A couple years ago I was in a car in Austin. My friend Stanley and me were singing Avril Levine's "Complicated" at the top of our extremely hot and incredibly strong lungs. And after the song was over, I turned to him and I said, you know, sometimes I feel like I'm not a real web developer because I don't argue about code like on Twitter. And I think that a lot of us feel this way.
So to actually be a real web developer, we need to stop this cycle, especially if you think it doesn't affect you because it does. There are great minds not entering or they are leaving tech, and if you think that they're just simply too weak or inept to make it, society's going to discover the truth one day when we're all gone that you are extremely uninteresting and inept at solving the problems that a diverse society has-- and you'll be the first eaten.
To actually be a real web developer, we need to make being a real web developer accessible to anybody who wants to be one. We see this movement in all interdisciplinary, you know, industries like journalism and education where people are like, you have to learn to code. And I don't think anyone should have to learn the code. I think that everyone should have access to learn how to code if they want to.
The percentage of American public schools who offer AP Computer Science is only 80%. Like, isn't that a crazy number? It is, because it's not true. 5%'s the actual number. [LAUGHTER] And that sucks, 5%! When I was like-- I didn't have access to computers and stuff like that until I was maybe like my junior year of high school, and that was maybe like 2002, which is still pretty close.
And there's this-- I see a lot of like really great movements that are trying to increase that number. ScriptEd is a great organization in New York that takes volunteers and donations to try to provide computer science education, specifically frontend web development to under-served schools in the area, so that we can try to get that number up. So I think New York, the percentage is actually 2%. And we're a progressive city, so the fact it's so low is bananas.
So not only should we be writing code and trying to be nicer to each other than the internet, we should be trying to provide access to other people. And remembering that there are socioeconomic differences, when I show people like Glitch, for example, they can have an app running online for free, and we don't plan on taking away any of those free features.
So you don't have to show them AWS. If you want to use AWS for free, you have to enter a credit card. A lot of people don't have credit cards. So imagine teaching someone how to write code and then be like, OK, take out your credit card and create an AWS instance, and a grown person has to look at you and be like, I don't have a credit card. Like, what a shitty moment-- I'm like getting emotional thinking about it.
So if you see something like ScriptEd going on in your area, really, like, please get involved. And if there isn't something, start one. If you don't know where to start, contact me. I've never started anything like that, but like between like Neil and I, we literally know everyone except like the guy who runs W3 Schools, that's like still a mystery to me. [LAUGHTER]
And then he wants to keep it that way, because I will Fog Creek for W3 Schools in a heartbeat, everyone knows that.
So I want to talk briefly about post-high school education and boot camps and-- before we go to the party and you try to all "and not all boot camps" me, I ask that you give me a 72-hour grace period before I wreck you. For both of our sakes.
I'm going to outright say, most coding boot camps are bullshit. As bullshit, as public and higher education and technology, it's just as expensive. They make the same bullshit promises and abandon you if your first employer fires you for not meeting expectations that someone probably at boot camp had promised.
We're producing pre-junior developers now-- what do we call them? Sophomore or freshmen?-- at high rates, but at the same time promoting the stigma behind the phrase "junior developer" by preceding it with "just" or "only" and not mentoring them. And following junior with firing them when they cannot do what your senior devs do on a cheaper salary.
And that's why we hear a lot of diversity and inclusivity, because really, they go hand-in-hand, and if you really want to work at it, you have to make sure that your job or whatever you're doing provides a space where if you're going to hire a junior developer, you damn well better mentor them so that they can move forward and grow.
Like, if you can't do that, then just let them go somewhere else where someone is going to help them. Like, let go of your ego because you might be considered a great company in the eyes of people on Twitter that just see what you've shipped, but I see you.
And yeah. Like, I feel like we have a lot of brain power in this room and in other events that we can like start solving the problem, but first we have to recognize it's an issue. So let's stop being ding dongs about that.
Another thing I was thinking about is that there are droves of wannabe real web developers coming to Twitter and following all of us, and they send questions or emails to me asking what to do to be like me and I'm sure other people get that too. And I try not to ignore those messages, even though it's extremely difficult. I have a very weird colorful past which definitely is, you know, reflected in my behavior, and I can't sit down and write an email about like all those things, and I also don't-- I have my own experience as a white woman that's very different from the experience of other people, so it's difficult to get started.
I suggest asking them back a question like, what are your goals? Like, what is the place that you would like to work with? And like to sort of figure out ways to mentor them that's like low effort, high impact, because we're all very busy.
And they're not only learning how to navigate the industry through social media, they're learning how to build their own web presence and how they're going to respond when people that come into the industry after them ask those same questions. And we are all very, very good at forgetting what it was like when we were first getting started.
So yeah. I feel like over the past several years we've created literal monsters, and as real web developers, we can stop that. I always tell people don't be like Dijkstra. Like, he was right when he said aim for brevity while avoiding jargon, but he was also a major asshole. Shout out to Gary who like totally flood the Dijkstra quote earlier at turn the panel. There was another jerky one.
You can be smart and prolific and immortalized without being terrible, and I feel like we're working in an industry that is reaching that point. At this conference here, you're seeing some of the raddest folks in the game who are here because they want you will learn. And I'm a pretty surreal humorist, but I really truly think that we're in an industry where this all here can thrive, like I don't think that's a surreal idea.
And I was talking earlier with some people about our idols that are all like old white guys that are cantankerous and whatever, and they said like, you know, it's not like there's much else that we can look for. And I think that that's because the representation is not there, and that's why I see things changing. I'm seeing more women speaking at conferences, I'm hearing more about great ideas that are coming from people of color that we've always pushed down and stifled. And that's still occurring, but again, I see it getting better from my own experience only.
And I think-- and Neil's going to think I'm pandering to him, but he's blocked me on Slack. But if you want to think of a truly philanthropic soul who is super into technology and will forever be immortalized and famous, I look at Prince. Like, he was literally a rock star, and I don't see any reason why us and tech cannot follow his lead and not like those of other folks. [LAUGHTER]
Anyway the moral of this story I have woven for you is that the real web developer is a fake idea, and to be a real web developer, you have to get rid of that term. Because at the end of the day, if anyone is a real web developer, it's Douglas Crockford. Thank you.