Bauhaus in the Browser at Empire Conference


Starting my talk at Empire Conference 2017. © 2017 Robbie Holmes (@robbiethegeek)

I had the great pleasure of speaking at Empire Conference in New York City this year. And I don’t say that lightly. Empire Conference was one of the smoothest, chillest conferences I’ve ever attended, which is pretty good considering the cliches about the East Coast.

I gave a version of my talk “Bauhaus in the Browser”, which I first gave last year at Cascadia Fest and expanded for CSS Conference. The talk originally featured four new or underappreciated CSS standards that I applied to recreating works by artists of the avant-garde. The second time I gave it, I expanded it to five, because I had some extra time.

Portrait by Emily Griffin

My portrait was given to me as a thank you gift. Illustration by Emily Griffin (@emilywithcurls).

For Empire Conference, I had the tricky task of once again compressing my talk down to 25 minutes, but still covering all five topics. This process was yet another feel-good horror show. It was challenging because there were a number of areas where I felt the content was too good to cut, but I recognized I was going to have to make sacrifices.

There was also important content that I wanted to add in. In particular, I wanted to share jumping off points to the places where I did my research and the people doing the hard work upon which I was planting my flag. And I also just wanted to share some cool works by others whom I had discovered since initially creating my talk.

After all of my changes, and even speaking at a seemingly break-neck rate, during practice, I still seemed to come in around 25:30. Not bad, but not quite the goal. Nevertheless, I felt like the content I had was too valuable or interesting, and decided to focus on giving a good show.

The talk I gave was as smooth as it ever had been, probably due to a year of sitting with the talk and practicing. People laughed at the jokes, and the response I got was extremely warm, which I thought was pretty good for a CSS talk at a JavaScript conference.

This morning Justin gave the best CSS talk I’ve ever seen: Bauhaus in the Browser. So glad I came!

nydame (@nydame)

That’s some high praise to live up to! And, I even came in right at the 25-minute mark. I don’t know how I did it, but I did it.

But That’s Enough About Me

The rest of Empire Conference was great. They had a slightly different format than most conferences. Often a single day is reserved for an optional workshop. Here, talks were given during the first half of the day and workshops were done during the second.

I liked this way because I feel like generally conference talks are moving away from nuts-and-bolts how-to style talks, and moving more toward demos, theory, and inspiration. My favorite talks are more about what we should be doing as designers and developers and less about how we should be doing the work. Additionally, these talks tend to live longer in your consciousness and are less subject to the whims of technological fads and fashion.

Meanwhile, workshops dedicate a longer period of time to digging into a problem and actually doing the hands-on work to solve it. This is where you can get a how-to takeaway that isn't just taking a photo of someone's code slides.

A (very) rough layout I was able to put together for Trillian, a project that’s presenting data collected by satellites and telescopes around the world. View more on Dribbble.

For my workshops, I did two Code for Good Sessions. They were both successful in their own ways, and I may have more thoughts to write down about them in the future.

And, of course, every good conference has to have a good party. There was a fantastic 1940s jazz cruise that closed out the whole event, but I have to say my heart lies with the “Computer Science 2000” live-skewering of Hackers as my favorite event. But then, I’m a sucker for free glowsticks and popcorn.


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