In the Land of the JavaScripters

by Havi Hoffman (CC-BY-NC-SA)

A 10-sonnet sequence to celebrate JSConf EU X and the people of JavaScript. These poems are mostly about the evolution of the javascript community over the last decade, and some observations about the relationship between writing code and writing natural language, shared in verse, from the perspective of a non-coder and long-time devrel observer.

I — The Beginning

When I consider JSConf EU
And wonder what it is I have to share -
Heroic JavaScripters I once knew?
Or Y-U-I or Ajax, or would you even care?
I’ve studied coders long, but not your code,
I know constraint can free up self-expression
Rhyme scheme and metre, platform, network, node -
But is there room on stage for true confession?
You see, I’ll speak of culture’s evolution -
But you’re the artisans of JS give-and-taking -
So I’m not here to ‘splain your revolution…
It’s iterative and comes from daily making.
Creating more than apps and interactions -
You terraform immersive new distractions.

II — The Origin Story

I could not have written this sonnet without Jan Lehnardt’s brief and highly personal talk called
JSConf History, which gave me permission to share my own recollections.

The times have changed with JavaScript’s ascent -
Since @voodootikigod 10 years ago
Pitched us to sponsor a new event,
A gathering in Washington. Beyond the web 2.0
Of suits and swag and paid product pitches.
The first JSConf happened in the spring
and almost didn’t due to funding glitches.
But tickets sold! It was a homecoming
For folks who didn’t know that content + fun
Could raise up a community
Of like-minded coders where once there was none.
It was not long to find an opportunity
To do another one in pulsing Berlin — Holger, Jan, Malte & Kristina made the eu confs  — pure win!

III — JavaScript World Domination

Trajectory is best viewed in retrospect.
A JS singularity was never inevitable,
But loose federation makes network effect -
The JSConfs have been unforgettable.
“Client side, server side, dark side of the moon”
Asia, Australia, Colombia, Budapest -
node.js and firefox os launched from this cocoon
Iceland, Scotland; CSSConf and the rest
That magic dynamic that comes to your town
building camaraderie out of the fun.
Maybe it’s conferences all the way down.
Artifacts of knowledge, with access for everyone.
And always new ideas are put in play.
To influence a global generation’s way.

IV — The Code of Conduct

I quote from various codes of conduct I discovered online, including the JSConf Code of Conduct and the Recurse Center Code of Conduct .

At our events we do not tolerate
Harassment of participants in any form.
A posted code of conduct works to mitigate -
In 2011 this was far from the norm.
Today we raise each other up through schooling
For unbiased language and communication
Appropriate kindness and respect — and tooling
To promote good behavior and collaboration:
We will not tolerate at our events
Stalking, or following, or unwelcome contact.
This includes offensive verbal comments:
Intimidation or innuendo. A Code of Conduct is a pact
Reminding each of us of our humanity
And hoping tolerance can replace absurdity.

V — A digital immigrant reflects on Emma Lazarus (1849–1887)

The sonnet is a poem of fourteen lines:
“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses,…”
Octave, sestet, pentameter defines
The sonnets of Petrarch, Shakespeare — and Emma Lazarus’s
“New Colossus” that made the Statue of Liberty ever more
A “Mother of Exiles.” For every refugee -
Her lifted “lamp beside the golden door”
gives “world-wide welcome” to the land of the free.
Twenty years to go from print to monument.
Written in 1883, engraved on a plaque
In 1903. A poem for the immigrant -
By an activist & feminist. A world-class harbor hack!
Emma, like me a New York City girl with Jewish roots -
Wielding words to change minds — we work in cahoots.

VI — What’s not lost in translation

The immigrant who puts down roots but never
learns the language. That’s JavaScript and me.
Sometimes code is poetry that changes lives forever -
Though nothing fails like success to keep us free.
Gathering wise words from twitter, I could weave
sonnets of bravery in 140 characters
Gleaned from conferences, talks recorded to retrieve
later, to remember the passion of others.
Courage in the form of a TED talk by Carole Cadwalladr
To the tech gods of Silicon Valley
“sheer terror” didn’t stop her speaking truth to power
Her urgency — to save democracy.
“Will we play with our phones as this darkness falls”
Fascism rises when democracy palls.

VII —A Sonnet for Mozilla

You may know Mozilla as the dinosaur
That birthed a browser — open source — out of
Netscape’s ashes. Long may Firefox endure
As a user-centric client, with a mission worth your love:
To protect the net as a global public resource -
Mozilla makes browsers, apps, code and tools
Open and accessible, safe and free. A force
For opportunity — with level playing field rules.
Keeping tabs on browser culture & internet health
“Explicit in our aspirations” — and stated in our manifesto
In support of civil discourse, collaboration, and a wealth
Of user commitments. Ten principles plus addendum show
A clever red panda that feints like a fox -
Protecting web standards so the open web still rocks.

VIII — Angus wrote a book about JavaScript style

“Doctrine and dogma: these are the enemy
Of good javascript,” writes Angus Croll,
A programmer who codes English expressively — 
If Hemingway wrote JavaScript for whom would it toll
Croll’s book praises pushing language boundaries:
For Ernest, code works tersely and direct
His simplicity conceals the quandaries
Of eloquent reduction. Jane Austen’s code is circumspect…
“If code is function and poetry is grace -
If poetry connotes and code commands”
The choice of paths reveals a human face -
While algorithmic style’s in human hands.
A 25-author pastiche goes beyond the charm of ploy
And leads me to write sonnets which I hope will spark joy

Sonnet IX — Everyday Chaos — Big Data, Big Picture

John McCarthy was not trolling when he said
We’d learn to program to talk to the servants.
The father of LISP, AI’s first talking head
His work foretold the big data disturbance.
David Weinberger looks at this topic
In Everyday Chaos — open platforms let us iterate
The scale of the data can make us myopic
So we touch the net and learn to unanticipate…
He peels back our new reality: detailed and connected.
The framework of causality is ready for a rest.
Predictive outcomes can yet be detected
Control of complexity is put to the test.
Simple things belie the massive tangle underlying
We’ve left the clockwork universe now, for uncharted flying.

X — Tech Speakers and Strange Attractors

Mozilla Tech Speakers is a program designed
Like Global Diversity CFP Day — 
To make diverse speakers easier to find,
And share skills, tools and contacts along the way.
CFP Day workshops are grassroots and self-sustaining
Built by @jiggy_pete to fill a lineup with new faces.
Mozilla’s program offers support — and training — 
for web advocates and speakers from a host of places.
These are living proof of working ecosystem
Standalone programs launched and thriving
Feeding global JavaScript momentum
nomadic tribes of advocates arriving
Is it the butterfly effect or “strange attractor” -
The influence of JSconfs could well be a factor.