JSConf Australia
JSConf Australia

In December 2013, before I published my research on Accessibility of the Shadow DOM, I submitted a proposal to JSConf on the subject. I also submitted a proposal to JSConf Australia after some friendly prompting. I'd nearly forgotten about the Australia proposal until I received an email saying my talk had been selected. Not even a kind-but-your-talk-was-rejected email from JSConf US could lower my spirits.

After giving my talk on Accessibility of the Shadow DOM publicly three times before Melbourne I felt aptly prepared. Despite refining my message each time, I felt at JSConf Australia that I didn’t have a successful approach for experienced JavaScript developers. I also learned about the typical human response to go completely blank when speaking to a large audience. I spent too much time on accessibility background and didn’t quite get my point across about Shadow DOM. It was a long way to travel to learn about talk planning and organization, and I took it pretty hard. But I made notes about the successes and what I’d like to improve and made it a goal to do better next time. JSConf Australia helped me to grow a lot as a speaker.

Track A
The Track A Stage at JSConf 2014

One cool thing about JSConf US is even if you aren’t selected for Track A, you can still submit a talk to Track B. Sure, there are fewer perks but you can still have your message heard. I'd already planned to attend, so it was the perfect opportunity for a do-over. I shifted my talk to include less background and instead focus on multiple aspects of Web Components. I gave the talk twice (in one day!) before the big event: an amazing slot in The Paciello Group’s Inclusive Design 24 event for Global Accessibility Awareness Day and again that evening at the SeattleJS monthly meetup. By that point, I felt my talk had matured and told the right story. With that prep under my belt I secured my Track B slot.

It should be stated that I love tacos (trust me, this isn't as tangential as it seems). For months, I'd been thinking it would be funny and amazing to create taco-related Web Components. It just so happened there was a running reference to tacos on the W3C mailing list for Web Components and the people involved were amused when I mentioned them. As such, I included some references in my talk, including a Web Component that appended taco gifs to the screen when clicked.

Animated Taco Gif

At JSConf, tacos emerged as a central theme: one night at the hotel bar I happened to say out loud, “what if the taco button delivered real tacos?!” The second the phrase came out of my mouth, we all knew it had to happen. After some recon with the hotel catering staff I got Angelina Fabbro from Mozilla on board to bring the tacos in (and even to expense them…thanks, Mozilla!). Carter Rabasa from Twilio hooked me up with free credits to make phone calls from my web browser. I also got to chat with Potch, maintainer of Mozilla's X-Tag & Brick libraries for Web Components. (That is the awesome thing about JSConf: an opportunity to drink beer and hang out with influential people in the JavaScript community.) I then spent the “choose your own adventure” day adding a calling feature to my taco button.

Pool.js at Amelia Island Resort

On the big day, I managed my nerves and rehearsed in a separate part of the hotel. I got up to the podium and though my mind did go blank, I was able to keep things rolling by glancing at my notes. At some point in the talk, everything just clicked. Before I knew it, we'd arrived at the taco button demo at the end of my talk. I explained ARIA live regions and the accessibility of the component before firing up VoiceOver for Mac and interacting with the button; call status updates from Twilio were read aloud through the screen reader using a live region. The call connected and then a mic’d-up Angelina Fabbro bursted in the door with a tray full of hard shell tacos. “Don’t use this power very often, you guys…” It was perfect. I thanked Mozilla and Twilio and just like that, my time was done.

I had some great hallway conversations with people who said they learned a lot about accessibility and Web Components through my talk, and that accessibility could even be fun. It was an unforgettable experience. Not bad for a first-timer. I left JSConf overjoyed and returned home with another accepted conference proposal and a few offers in my inbox. I’m grateful for these opportunities to improve my public speaking skills and to share what I'm learning in my daily work as a developer. Hope to see you out at a conference soon!