This week, Codeland, which you might recall was my first tech conference last year, released their CFP ("Call for Proposals"). I had been thinking about maybe applying to give a talk at the conference, so I was excited to see that the CFP was out, and decided to spend some time thinking about whether or not I should submit a proposal and what proposal I might submit.

Proposal For A Talk

Talks at Codeland are expected to last 15 minutes, and all talks will be on the first day of the conference. On the CFP page, Codeland has themes that they ask that your talk fits into. The talk I was thinking about giving does not fit into any of these themes. So I decided to think about topics that may fit into the suggested themes. The CFP lists three themes:

  • Be Amazed - exciting applications for technologies
  • The Big Picture - about how code is affecting society
  • Deep Dive - deep dives into fundamental concepts that affect how we think about software development

The first two themes could actually apply to things I'm doing at work (we're doing some interesting stuff with technologies and definitely working to make an impact on society). But I'd rather not speak in depth about something I do at work, because (even though I would probably walk through my whole talk with marketing in advance and have them approve it) I'd be worried about accidentally sharing proprietary information. It's definitely still an option, and speaking about the project I'm working on could be interesting, but it's not really my top choice for a topic.

Deep dive is an interesting theme for a talk, and there's certainly a lot out there to learn from a deep dive, but I don't feel like enough of an expert on any topic to be comfortable doing a deep dive. One technology we use at work that I think is interesting is state machines (via xstate), but I'm still very new to the concept and while I might feel comfortable enough to talk about it in July, I don't think I'd be comfortable enough to finish a proposal by the end of March (and again, that would be a case of having to be extra careful to not say anything proprietary).

My preference was to submit a proposal for a talk, but right now, I'm not sure that I have a topic that I'm interested in speaking about that fits into one of these themes. I may work on a proposal the talk I was originally thinking of doing, "Self Care During A Job Search", and submit it under "other" (which is an option), but I doubt it would be accepted, since they traditionally prefer technical talks. I also may have a chat with my manager and see if he has any ideas. I have some time to think about it (the CFP is due March 25th), so I may still discover a topic about which I am comfortable speaking.

Proposal For A Workshop

Like talks, the Codeland CFP offers themes for workshops: creative coding, new tech, accessibility, career/personal branding, security, technical interviews/resume prep, computer science fundamentals, intro to hardware, and project collaboration. Workshops last 2.5 hours and are given on the second day of the conference.

With a greater range of themes, I figured it might be easier for me to find a topic for a workshop. My first thought was to propose a workshop introducing participants to Typescript, which I recently had to learn for work. I was thinking that we could start the workshop by building a small app together, and then "convert" a JavaScript project to Typescript in the second half (either have people bring their own projects or have a few suggested projects for them to use). I might tinker with this format, but that's what I'm thinking right now. I'd submit the proposal under the "new tech" topic, even though Typescript isn't super new at this point, because it's something that not everyone has used.

I've also thought about doing a workshop and state machines and xstate (under the same "new tech" theme), but I'm not as confident in that topic and I don't know how many people would be interested in learning about it, so for right now, I'm putting that idea on the back burner.

I'm also trying to think of topics that might fall under the other themes. Creative coding is really cool, but I don't do any of that. I attended an accessibility workshop last year and loved it, but I'm not confident enough in my accessibility knowledge to teach a workshop. I could do a workshop about starting a personal blog under the career/personal branding theme, but I'm honestly not excited about that idea because I blog for my own sanity, not for branding reasons. I probably have enough experience to give a workshop on preparing for technical interviews, but it's not a topic I enjoy talking (or even thinking) about. I know nothing about CS fundamentals or hardware, so I couldn't give a workshop on those topics. I don't even know what "project collaboration" means, so I definitely can't speak on that. I'll continue to contemplate these topics over the next few weeks, but as of right now, I don't have any ideas for these topics.

I think Typescript is probably my best workshop idea, and I'm going to focus on that for the time being. I may revisit the idea when we get closer to the CFP deadline to see if maybe there is something better out there.

Why Not To Submit

While I am certainly entertaining the idea of submitting a proposal, I'm not sold on it, for a few reasons. One big one is my anxiety around public speaking. I want to work on that this year and become more comfortable speaking publicly, but I'm not sure that a large conference is ideal for my early attempts at pubic speaking (although the workshops are smaller than the talks). I also don't feel confident in my expertise on tech topics, and I don't know that I could speak confidently about a tech topic.

My last big concern relates to the timing of the conference. As a Sabbath-observer, conferences are hard for me because almost all of them have Friday and/or Saturday programming, and I have to either miss programming or decide between being home for the Sabbath or attending the conference. One of the things I loved about Codeland last year is that it was on a Monday - no Sabbath concerns. This year the conference is Thursday and Friday, with the workshops on Friday, and while I could probably stay for most of the conference and make it home in time, I wouldn't feel comfortable giving a workshop on Friday afternoon. I'm already not happy that, depending on how they schedule, I might have to miss a decent chunk of the Friday afternoon programming, and I'm really not sure that I want to submit a proposal when I know it will likely be rejected because I can only give the workshop in the morning, not twice.

My Plans

As of right now, my plan is to work on a Typescript workshop. I'm currently writing a blog post on the topic, and I thought that I might be able to expand that into a full workshop. Before I submit the proposal, I'd like to have most of the "learning Typescript" part of the workshop written, and a decent amount of progress on the "practicing Typescript part".

I'm also thinking about discussing this with my manager in my next 1:1. We've spoken about my desire to get involved in speaking publicly, and I'd be interested to hear his feedback about whether it's a good idea and what topics I might want to consider. I know that my manager has a strong desire to help me grow, and I think his feedback can help me figure out if submitting a CFP is the right decision for me.

The CFP closes at the end of March, so I have time to figure out what (if anything) I want to submit. But I'm glad I took some time this week to think about it, because now I know what work I need to do to prepare and give myself the best chance for my proposal to be chosen.