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React Rally Recap, 2017

On Friday night, I touched down in San Diego after an exhilarating two days in Salt Lake City at one of the best conferences I can remember, React Rally.


tl;dr: React Rally continues to surpass my expectations in every way for what a tech conference should be. If you like thoughtful discourse, inspiring talks, friendly people from many different backgrounds, and attention to detail, you owe it to yourself to attend next year.

My personal path to this year’s Rally started a few months ago when Matt and Jamison asked me to give one of the keynote talks. I was stoked! But I’m a terrible procrastinator, so my buddy Michael Chan prodded me along and even let me tag along on his trip to speak at a ReactJS OC meetup back in June. That was a huge help and definitely got me thinking deeply about what I wanted to accomplish during my talk.

Fast forward to this past Tuesday, and I was already getting the feeling that this conference was going to be special!

That logo set the theme for a lot of the decor and details that I’d see at the conference this week: old school video games like Frogger, Pacman, and Space Invaders on arcade machines in the hallways, neon slap-on bracelets, Lemonheads, Connect Four, beanbag chairs, the Simon Electronic Memory Game, and neon pink, purple, and green everywhere! So many of these details took me right back to my childhood.

The theme carried right on through to the main stage at the Sheraton Salt Lake City where an internally-lit neon podium and two giant, glowing Rubik’s Cubes were stacked. Three huge projection screens up front made sure that everyone had a great view, and every seat but the first 3 rows had a long table where you could place your laptop.

Putting these kinds of details and decor together takes a lot of time, effort, and money. It shows the conference organizers care. And it’s a key ingredient in building the right kind of vibe where you can feel relaxed and ready to learn something.

Also, the React Rally squid was back this year as a chalk mural just outside the main hall! 🐙

Yours truly opened the conference with a talk about unpkg–a CDN I built back in 2015 that decompresses tarballs from the npm registry and serves up the files inside. You can watch the talk today on the recording of the live stream from day 1, or you should be able to look it up later this week on React Rally’s YouTube channel.

I was so stoked to go first! Being the procrastinator that I am, it let me get my talk out of the way so I could focus on relaxing and enjoying the rest of the conference instead of working on my talk. Also, after witnessing the rest of the talks, I’m pretty sure I would’ve had major anxiety if I had gone last. They were all so good!

I really can’t adequately summarize every talk here, so I’m not even going to try. But I left each session feeling inspired and with a very healthy respect for the community and the breadth of problems we’re tackling. Over the course of the 2-day, single-track conference we heard talks about React (ofc!), React Native, React Native Web, D3, neural networks, Internet of Things, Redux, offline-first PWAs, WebAssembly, Accessibility, GraphQL, Webpack, Elm, contributing to open source, using native APIs in tandem with React, and much, much more.

There were also several great talks about using React in the enterprise, which is an increasingly relevant topic. At React Training, we are getting the chance to work with more enterprise customers every day. People are solving real problems at large scale with React, and it’s exciting to hear their stories.

The talks were incredible, but amazing talks don’t make a great conference; amazing people do. And they showed up at React Rally in spades. Just walking around and talking to people, you could feel their genuine interest and support!

During the lunch break on day 2, Ryan hooked up his Nintendo Switch to the main stage projector and played Mario Kart! (Did I mention there were video games at this conference? 👾)

On the evening of day 2 we all met at Salt Lake City’s Gallivan Center for BBQ brisket and pork, games, homemade popsicles, and live music under beautiful, clear skies.

A camera with a green screen was setup near the stage that projected more of that awesome React Rally artwork as the background to photos we took.

Turns out my shirt was actually the SAME color green as the green screen we were standing in front of! This made for some pretty interesting shots…

And lest you think I’m gushing a little too much about the conference, I’ll let others do the talking:

But I think this one probably sums it up best:

💕 Awwwww!

Hey, life is too short to go to boring conferences with zero personality and no video games, or to pass up making great friends with great people.

As I grow older, I measure the success of my life by the number of backyard BBQs I have with friends and family. We didn’t hold React Rally in my backyard, but we did eat some good BBQ and the feeling of hanging with people who I care about and who I know care about me was the same. That makes this a very successful week for me 😅

I will see YOU at React Rally 2018. Don’t miss it!

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