Scotland JS ’ Javascript can do what?

I’ve always considered myself as a closet geek. Those around me would argue otherwise, as clearly I’ve got IT Support Line tattooed on my forehead; “My broadband’s not working?”, “My computer’s really slow”, “How do I get smilies on my iPhone?” – these are just some of my favourite cries for help by my nearest and dearest. My stock reply (learned through experience I should add): “There’s a tool for that somewhere, oh hold on, almost got it . . . yes that’s it – Google!”

Realistically, I’m less than confident in my actual scoring on the geek-ability charts. Yeah, I can code and design for the web but my programming skills are like a one-year-old with Lego. So, when my esteemed colleague Steven Milne suggested we attend Scotland JS this year, I confess, I mentally ran a mile back to my little closet.

Would there be humans there? Do I have to research Star Wars before I go? What about Star Trek? What if I don’t have enough time to listen to my ‘Steve Jobs – an Autobiography’ audiobook just one last time? So many questions, not enough time.

Hold on, back up, back up. I was getting ahead of myself. I didn’t even know what this was all about. A quick jaunt to their website (Google’d it, +1 to me, whoop!) revealed:

‘Scotland JS is a JavaScript-based community event running for the second year. Our delegates have the opportunity to learn from leaders in the field and also share their own knowledge and experience with others.’

A list of speakers revealed a full two-day timetable, with refreshments provided.

Okay, there’s food. I’m in.

After a quick train journey to the glorious Scottish capital of Edinburgh, I arrived at our destination: Summerhall, the former Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies in Edinburgh – now a creative hub for the arts with studio and workshop spaces.

Entering the room I was confronted with the spectacular sight of the former Zoological Anatomy Department's Dissection room. To give some perspective, this room was built to allow the study of giraffe and elephant anatomy. It was big.

Slightly apprehensive, I began to socialise with the other attendees, and found many interesting, intelligent and like-minded individuals who I’m delighted to confirm are most definitely human.

So what about the talks? There were too many great speakers with fantastic content to cover here, so I’ll give you the highlights. Brace yourself – here comes the techie bit:

Day One

Gregor Martynus leaving behind back-end development discussed how to develop and build full-stack apps without one.
Philip Roberts talked up bacon.js as a brilliant library to help you write Functional Reactive Programming and avoid callback hell in your Javascript.

Jason Frame blew my mind wide open when he demonstrated a drag-and-drop environment for cloning and deploying server environments. It took him 30 seconds to do what sometimes takes me hours!
Sebastian Golasch talked unit testing – probably the most talked about topic over the entire conference – giving a sneak glimpse into his soon-to-be-released library DalekJS, a front-end unit testing tool for browsers that runs from the command line.

Day Two

James Shore enlightened us on how rewriting our code kills companies. Good automated testing can reduce technical debt and make refactoring your code easier. How does he do it? Test driven development using Karma of course; a multi-browser testing library that even tests in virtual machines.

Bernard Kobos showed us how we can use testing software like Selenium to test across not only desktop browsers, but mobile environments like iOS too.

So what was my favourite moment of the conference? That would be Nodecopter.

Programming flying robots with node.js – what could be cooler? Well, making them dance of course! There was a full day Nodecopter event on the Saturday after ScotlandJS for forty special individuals who spent the day programming (and probably crashing) their own drones.

The best thing of all? All the proceeds were donated to Maggie's Cancer Caring Centres. Well done Scotland JS!