I recently had the chance to attend AdaCamp in San Francisco. It was a great experience and I was able to meet so many positive and inspiring people involved in the tech community. It was also my first time attending an unconference. After attending so many conferences where speakers are scheduled and topics are announced ahead of time, attending an unconference like Adacamp was a breath of fresh air. Instead of having a preselected group of conference speakers, AdaCamp made it possible for anyone to host a workshop and share knowledge. Everyone was also encouraged to share their experiences and thoughts in each session instead of waiting for a Q&A.
A Few Session Takeaways
Learning to Code — There was an interesting discussion on ways of staying motivated while learning to code. Some great suggestions were to set small, reachable goals with interesting projects. Have accountability partners who you check in with each week. Go to local meetups and discuss what you are working on. But my favorite was the suggestion of getting a cat! One attendee had a cat who woke her up early every morning (I can relate to this). She used this time to take an hour or so to learn to code.
X-Ray Goggles — I previously wrote an article on the process of using Firebug to learn code. Another attendee pointed out another excellent tool from Mozilla called X-Ray Goggles. Like Firebug, you can edit a website directly in the browser, but X-ray Goggles also allows you to save your changes on their server so you can continue to play around with the code.
Challenges & Solutions — Many of the sessions were dedicated to discussing how the tech community can become a more inclusive place for everyone. This is such an important issue that I think more people in the tech community need to address. There are many problems that still exist that attempt to silence women and minorities and make them feel as if they do not belong. Among some of the solutions discussed was the need for more allies. In short, a change in culture is needed in order to solve this issue and it can’t only be dependent on those who are affected by exclusion.
Accessibility — Since inclusivity is so important, I would be amiss to not mention accessibility in tech. There were a few discussions on how important creating accessible websites. There have been many positive changes in terms of the technology that web designers/developers use. These include using web fonts (Google Fonts & Typekit) instead of images for headers, the decreasing use of Flash, the use of semantic code in HTML5, etc. Designer and developers can also be conscious of the color choices we make to ensure there is enough contrast. Apps like Color Oracle are also useful in testing sites for color blind users.
It was an great experience to be surrounded by so many intelligent people with a wide range of backgrounds and experiences. I also have to commend the organizers of AdaCamp, they created an amazingly supportive environment that encouraged so many amazing discussions.