WDCNZ 2014

wdcnz inside

Photography by Michael Valli Photography (michaelvalli.com)


WDCNZ is a yearly conference of tech talks for web developers, held in Wellington, New Zealand.  Wellington is also the home of SilverStripe, the company which produces the awesome open source product that Praxis CMS is based on.  So what better opportunity than to take a quick flight over the Tasman and meet face-to-face with the creators of SilverStripe, fellow developers, and a score of industry leaders giving enlightening talks?

Talk of the Town

All day today, the hard working folks at WDCNZ kept hundreds of geeks well hydrated with coffee and kept bellies stuffed with food. The rest of the time was spent watching some very clever folks give amazing talks. The flavour of the month (still!) appears to be JavaScript (and Node.js), with almost every talk touching on how this incredibly versatile language was empowering ideas.

It seems robotics and electronics have also increased in popularity even further, with a couple of talks focusing on how these technologies are encouraging more and more women to get involved in programming, traditionally a male-dominated industry.


A delightful talk by Sarah Hui was given, showing her journey of developing a robot from scratch and controlling it with JavaScript. It's really cool to see her passion and enthuisiasm for the project, and the excitement and satisfaction when the robot was (almost!) complete.

Jen Myers discussed how not to be an expert, challenging the traditional concepts of learning and experience.  Fellow Aussie, Mark Dalgleish gave a talk about bespoke.js, which is an extremely minimal presentation micro-framework, consisting of lots of cool little plugins to achieve different effects.  The super smart Katie Miller talked all about functional programming, an interesting presentation which went a little over my head I must admit!

At midday, a five person panel convened to discuss technical education and the issue where most in our industry cannot learn the skills they require from university, as the industry changes too quickly for tertiary education to keep up. Audience members asked questions and gave comments, with some supporting traditional university education and some against.

The presenters of WDCNZ 2014. Photography by Michael Valli Photography (michaelvalli.com)

James Pluck gave a really interesting talk about AngularJS and SilverStripe, which was a must for me to see. There was a great turnout for his talk too, with standing room only in the adjunct room separated from the main auditorium. AngularJS, by Google, augments web applications with MVC capability, by using HTML tags with custom attributes in an effort to remove a lot of the glue code needed to manipulate the DOM. Looks really cool and interesting, especially considering the SilverStripe backend driving it.

Toni Barrett gave a great talk on writing better CSS, something we should all do.  James Halliday gave probably the most entertaining talk of the day, talking about writing your own small modular tools, and using them together to do really cool things. His live sound wave editor blew everyone away, by making sound and music through code updated in real time.

Finally, Sara Chipps talked about making jewellery with embedded LEDs that can be programmed for different effects. The goal of doing this is to introduce software education to teenage girls in a way that is appealing to them. Overall the conference was a fantastic experience, in a great city, and I hope to come back for the next one.

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