Donut.js in Downtown PDX

Connor visits a Javascript meet-up in Downtown Portland.

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I’ve been trying to learn how to program for almost a year now. I use Treehouse, a collection of online web-classes on programming and code (link). It’s $25 a month and well worth it. The videos are neatly organized and the projects are well-designed and easy to use. So far I’ve learned some Ruby, HTML, CSS, and Javascript. There seems to be a very enthusiastic community surrounding Javascript, so I’ve been focusing a lot of my efforts towards that particular language.

A friend pointed me to a monthly meet-up called “Donut.js” that takes place in downtown Portland (link). People interested in Javascript show up to share what they’re working on, while snacking on donuts and La Croix. I went to two of these events so far, and I really enjoy them. You never know exactly what people are going to be presenting about, so the talks themselves vary in quality and subject matter. Some of the talks have either gone completely over my head, or were so boring that it pained me to point my eyes on the podium. However, every so often one of the talks clicked with me, usually when the speaker managed to link their genuine personal interests with their technical skills in programming and Javascript.

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Me and my name tag at Donut.js.

One speaker, interested in music, developed new musical notation in order to help him create the most dissonant music possible. Another speaker demonstrated some basic concepts of WebGL, an online animation software.  In the most recent talk I attended, the speaker showed us the many uses of introducing random elements to software and web design. A web-security professional by day, he walked us through programs he had written that generated Pacific-Northwest landscapes.

As with any kind of art form, it is always more interesting when the presenter is able to channel their passions with hard, technical reasoning. It’s beautiful to see well-executed passion, and it’s usually unmistakable when we see it. As a programmer-in-training, it is also motivating to see people using complicated tools like Javascript in order to make things that are just fun to look at. It reminds me why I am banging my head on a keyboard trying to learn something that, at first, feels unnatural.

I’ve been channeling my efforts into making web apps that generate poetry. This isn’t really a new or groundbreaking concept, but after nights of pulling out hair and scrolling through about a page of code, I finally was able to make a program that generates random plot summaries. I posted a couple through my experimental Twitter-bot account, which you can check out here (@PercyWishkiller).

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I don’t know exactly where I will be applying my newfound skills, but I know that the road to web-developing is long and unpredictable. At the very least, I like having general knowledge of what people are doing with code, which makes me appreciate their projects so much more. Next, I’ll be going to an “Internet of Things” meet-up where programmers will be loading Javascript code onto devices and other pieces of hardware. I’m excited to see what these people are making, and I’m excited to broaden my understanding of what is possible with technology.