The following unedited speech was given by nearForm‘s CEO Cian Ó Maidín and was originally posted on Medium. He spoke at the Gala Dinner of the NodeConfEU Conference, describing how, from humble beginnings, it has become what it is today. NodeConfEU took place in October in Kilkenny.
In my life, I have had the great fortune to have met with people who have made a huge impact on my life and changed the way I think about the world.
One such person was on a mission to “end negativity.”
It’s so easy to be negative — and with any mission of substance such as ending negativity, there is a massive and amazing opportunity. Going to Mars is engineering, ending negativity is much deeper than that.
You don’t fight fire with fire — you fight fire with water.
So the first JS Conf US happened- and Chris and Laura Williams started something that has had a massive impact on developer communities across the world, and which created a forum and platform for some of the greatest minds of our generation to come together and share ideas.
Jan Lenardt — Malte Ubl and Holger Blank and some other folks were at the first JSConf US, they were sitting right up the front — and their minds were blown with how amazing it was — so amazing in fact — that there on the spot they agreed that they should bring it to Europe — and in 2009 JS EU Happened.
At JS Conf EU 2009 a drop out math PhD student— from upstate New York by the name of Ryan Dahl took to the stage and outlined a project that he had been working on.
Ryan dropped out of college because he was sick of his studies — and had many ideas that he was so interested in — that he left to pursue his ideas.
He didn’t pursue them because he thought they would enhance his career, and not because he thought they were going to make him rich — he pursued them because he had an intense curiosity — and this he put in front of everything else.
So Ryan ended up living in Chile — with almost no money — and had been playing with the idea of creating the ultimate webserver = as he described at the time — the state-of-the-art on the server side was unable to send data to a progress dialogue in a web browser which was uploading a file to the server.
And so — a few months later Ryan — presented his talk on Node.js at JS Conf EU.
You can’t tell in advance if something is going to work, and you can only join the dots retrospectively.
So after Ryan’s talk at JSConf EU — sitting on a fountain Bert Belder, Ben Noordhuis, Mikeal Rogers, Felix Geisendörfer — all sat and asked — how can we help with this project — instantaneously they were pulled by a gravitational force which they could not resist.
So my first experience with the Node Community — was in 2012 when Richard Rodger, Cristian Ianto, Seamus Darcy and I started nearForm — a Node.js consultancy — which was waaaay before it’s time.
That year I met with Eamon Leonard — who had been running meetups in Dublin for a number of years — Eamon encouraged me to start the Dublin Node.js User Group — we just did it.
At our first meet-up in May 2012 — we had 100 people — when we asked the people there if they’d used Node before, we only had 2 hands pop up — the crowd did, however — drink all the beer in the venue that night — not only was in the busiest meet-up ever in the venue, it was the first meet-up .
So Node Conf Europe was born in June of 2012 — when on a Friday morning — hungover (the morning after the second Node Dublin Meet-up) with a gent who deserves to be pointed out by the name of Anton Whalley — I was complaining that I had bought my ticket to go to Node Conf USA 2012 — and that it was going to take 17 hours to get to Portland OR from Dublin.
I said that it made no sense why they didn’t do a Node Conf in Europe — I mean what the hell!!
I can remember Anton’s look — when I said that — and then he looked at me, eyes widening — and said — You’re crazy!!!
And so within an hour — it was done — we were going to run the first Node Conf Europe.
Once we reached the point of knowing we could pull this off — We had no choice and again gravity kicked in. It was the right thing to do.
Sometimes you reach a point when you just go — what the heck.
I had no idea how to run a conference.
So I called Mikeal Rogers — and asked him if I could run Node Conf EU.
We had to book something fast or we wouldn’t have a venue.
We booked a venue — the Guinness storehouse — we had 14 weeks.
At this point we had no tickets sold — we didn’t even have a ticketing system — no website — no sponsors!
So Richard and I took out a loan of €50k to bankroll the conference.
It eventually started to dawn on me and I realised the challenge.
Then Eamon Leonard put me in touch with Chris Williams- and Chris offered to help!
He explained to me about JS Conf — their value system and what it was about.
It’s amazing sometimes when you’re drowning that a small helping hand can make a big difference.
Chris gave me a crash course in conference organisation.
I was still freaking out.
He pulled me in — and said you need to have faith that it will be ok — focus on the positive.
So earlier in my career- I built a software company — and was never happy with version 1.
I always wanted to rebuild it — it wasn’t good enough — the design could be better …
And then my company failed, halfway through the rebuild process — I lost money — and was sad— and it occurred to me as my company was failing — that the original version of the software I wrote (in my bedroom in my parent’s house) was the only version that would ever see the light of day.
So my take away was that sometimes we only have one shot — So I put my heart into Node Dublin.
In life anything that you build — you need to build like this is the only version that will every see the world.
So Chris inspired me — and got me to think about what a conference was actually about…
It’s not about selling — It’s not about email lists of attendees going to sponsors — sales pipelines — people in suits manning stands.
A conference should be there to serve and enhance the community!
The Attendees are the most important thing.
And a goal of a conference should be to inspire and encourage the attendees one year — and hopefully they become the speakers the next one
As people who try to serve the community — our philosophy is to contribute more back than we take away from it.
We take the role of a facilitator.
We provide a petri dish for communities — and a beautiful thing is when as a result of being at a conference that new people meet, become friends, collaborate and new things start to grow and spring into existence.
It’s a beautiful thing to be a host to a group of diverse people from all over the world and to create a safe place for everybody to be.
Some beautiful moments from the JS Conf family events:
· Phone Gap
· Node Copter
People were inspired — I was inspired.
My mind was blown by the openness of people. The acceptance of diversity, and that community could be a collection of people from all over the world — many folks of which felt they didn’t quite fit into their lives at various times, but find a home in a community.
With the internet community there’s this emergence of a new society, one which is not built — on the legacy of a world and rule systems that grew from past history — but rather on the emergent properties of a connected world which is powered by sharing ideas.
So this year was the last year of JS Conf USA — I would like to say cheers and toast — Chris and Laura Williams — for the beautiful thing they created which has led to a sequence of positivity and beautiful things happening.
We can’t afford to forget our roots, and sometimes when you take a chance — and your gut says yes — you need to take it — and throw positivity out into the world — go with it and enjoy what comes out of it.
It is my sincere hope that the Js Conf School of thought will be something that will grow — and that people will continue to be inspired and will continue to spread positivity.
Our hope as the people that have put this together — is that we can enhance the world around us — and that NodeConfEu — can be a conference which is about community and people and that we will always remember.
I would like to say a sincere thank you to the people who have made all of these beautiful things happen —to all the hackers and painters, the vagabonds, the cyborgs, the philosophers, the wizards, speakers, work shoppers, volunteers, encouragers, supporters and to the people for which this is about: