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Realtime Conf Recap

by Kristina Weis

Last month, the majority of our team attended Realtime Conf here in Portland. We were joined by a few hundred people from around the world — mostly developers and designers — who are interested in real-time technology for the web.

The Talks

There were interesting and informative talks about WebRTC, XMPP, Node, owning your data in general and a lot more. I talked with some of our developers here about their favorite sessions, and here’s what they had to say:

"My favorite session was Max Ogden’s talk on NPM and how Node’s ecosystem works, because it’s really applicable to us designing stuff for developers and how we present our APIs as small modular pieces that anyone can pick up and recombine with other pieces easily." — Patrick Arlt

"I liked Max Ogden’s talk and how he talked about principles of compositionality and applying those to the problems of fixing monolithic software." — Nate Goldman

"I really liked the opening talk [by Aral Balkan]. It really set the tone for the whole conference about owning your data." — Manny Lopez

"The guy who talked on PeerCDN [Feross Aboukhadijeh] was really good. The technology was really interesting: a peer-to-peer CDN for delivering content. You don’t get content from a server anymore - you just get it from some other browser." — Patrick Arlt

"I really liked the food one because it wasn’t trying to show you something. He was talking about the way these people work and how they’re craftsmen and there are a lot of parallels, but he left it to you to think about and draw those connections. I spent a lot of time thinking about that one later because he didn’t do the thinking for me." — Josh Yaganeh

"I liked Amber’s talk about Indie Web. She convinced me to start doing Indie Web stuff." — Nate Goldman

The Realtime Experience

But those sessions, good as they were, probably won’t be the most memorable part of Realtime Conf for many people. Realtime Conf was an experience, and a pleasantly weird one at that.

Here are some of the interesting things about Realtime:

  • There was a graphic novel attendees were supposed to read before the conference, and in between many of the sessions there were scenes acted out on stage that continued the story.
  • Everyone walked from breakfast to the conference through closed off streets accompanied by a marching band.

Realtime Swag

  • Attendees were given a flag and passport for their made-up Tech Republic country (like Clientsidemodeltopia and United Async Emirates), and we were assigned a seat that put you at a table of people whose passports were from different Tech Republic countries.
  • There was even a stamp with your country emblem and Twitter handle for you to stamp other peoples’ passports.
  • Before the sessions started we were all invited to stand and sing the national anthem of the Tech Republic.
  • For a somewhat random session about food, a garden was brought in and everyone was invited to go pull off leaves and flowers to eat.

Manny, Nate and Amber eating from the Realtime Conf garden

  • In one of the acted out scenes, the band began to play "Wake Up" by Arcade Fire and a group of young children came out on stage to help sing it.
  • There was no schedule for the conference...anywhere. Speakers were only told when they would speak.
  • Speakers were introduced by fictional names that fit into the story, and their nametags also had that fake name.
  • There was an amazing band (led by Ben Michel) that played elaborate folksy songs between sessions.

And on top of that, our own Amber Case introduced everyone to MapAttack and at least 60 people played with us during a break.

"It really is unlike any conference ever." — Manny Lopez

"We are all going to remember stuff about RTC because there’s also this other ridiculous stuff around it. You couldn’t not pay attention." — Patrick Arlt

"Like at [redacted conference name] I spent the whole time coding, and honestly wasn’t listening to the speakers that much. But because of Realtime’s theatrics, I paid attention the entire time." — Nate Goldman

Realtime Conf was a pretty amazing way to learn about developing real-time technology, and it was such an experience that many people - or at least I - left feeling happy and thinking "What just happened?"

Aaron Parecki and Amber Case at Realtime Conf - Photo credit: Becca Blevins

Photo credit for top and bottom image: Becca Blevins