NEJS CONF 2019 Recap

Blend's own Michael Todd, a UI Developer and native Nebraskan, traveled to Omaha for the very last NEJS CONF. He came away with a few tricks of the trade to bring back, plus a spring in his step.

  • Michael Todd
  • Aug. 19 2019

Earlier this month, I traveled back to my homeland (Nebraska) and entered the wilderness (Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo). With the requisite tools strapped to my back (my laptop) and a grin on my face (a grin with a slight grimace at the prospect of networking), I had a plan for the day: Be inspired by the speakers at the NEJS CONF to do better at my job. And I was! But I came away with something else, too.

Here at Blend Interactive, we frontend folk are always framing, sheetrocking, painting, and designing digital houses while our backend brethren are electrifying, hooking up the utilities, and ensuring the foundation is secure and the doors are locked to give our clients a lovely place to live online. While the divide between frontend and backend has been more distinct in the past, JavaScript is increasingly becoming a programming language that bridges the gap. And as JS is capable of more and more with each passing year, it’s crucial for me to better understand the language, especially as it continues to evolve.

Thus, I was happy to attend the fifth and final NEJS CONF. I went to it first back in 2015 as a newbie, having entered the programming world via Omaha Code School the year before. I not-so-fondly remember terms and acronyms zooming past and feeling quite discombobulated by the whole thing. I hadn’t been back since, and this year, as it returned to being hosted at the zoo’s aquarium, things have thankfully changed for the better in the intervening years.

Each year, the organizers of the conference—whom I admire greatly—established a theme for the event: from magic one year to space another year. This year, the theme was “The Good Life Aquatic,” a play on the unofficial slogan of Nebraska paired with the Wes Anderson film “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.”

While I went in thinking that each talk would have something I could take back to work with me, that wasn’t quite the case. There was a bit of home automation, digital rights management, and generative art to keep the topics fresh and diverse. That said, my favorite talk by Adrienne Tacke did concisely (and deliciously) break down three JavaScript methods that I didn’t use beforehand: map, filter, and reduce. So I will use that here at work.

But most of all, what energized me and has carried through since as the biggest takeaway from NEJS is that there is a friendly, inviting community of web developers who I enjoyed networking with and want to continue to meet: in person at future meetups here in Sioux Falls, online via blog posts like this one, and at conferences where I’d like to begin giving talks in order to better engage with the public conversation surrounding the web.

Perhaps being at the zoo helped to bring out some childlike wonder in me, but as an introvert who normally takes awhile to get to know, there was something about being in the midst of such a tight-knitted group, and my ability to meet and connect with new people, that gives me confidence to catch this wave and ride it to future high fives and handshakes. After all, there are some real interesting people out there behind these screens. :)

For those of you wishing to dig in further, here’s a variety of slides and resources from the speakers at this year’s NEJS CONF. And if you know of any events I could speak at, drop me a line! I’m at

“Delicious JavaScript: Delectable Explanations Of The Power Of JS” by Adrienne Tacke

“Storytelling And Tech” by Ash Banaszek

“Pika: Reimagining The Registry” by Fred K. Schott

“Responsible JavaScript” by Jeremy Wagner

“Web Assembly: The Future Of JS And A Multi-Language Web” by Kas Perch

“How I Ended Up Automating My Curtains And Shouting At My Laptop” by Luke Bonaccorsi

“Are You Being Servered? — Exploring A ‘Serverless’ Web” by Phil Hawksworth

“EME?CDM?DRM?CENC?IDK!” by Sebastian Golasch

“How Privilege Defines Performance” by Tatiana Mac

“Generating Art Everywhere And Fast!” by Trent Willis