Josh Goldberg
View from behind of me on stage, wearing a black collared shirt with a green Pokemon pattern, pointing to the distance

2023 Conferences In Review

Jan 29, 202430 minute read

Recapping the fantastic in-person conferences I attended in 2023.

2023 was my year of conferences. I applied to a whole bunch, got into some, and had a fantastic year flying around the world every other week. It was exhausting and I’m probably never going to go for that many again — this year was an experience.

Talk Reflections

I think 2023 is the year I really learned how to give a good tech talk. Not all the talks I gave were at the standards I want to hold myself to (especially as I got tired towards the end of the year), but there were a few that I’m truly proud of. My 2024 goals will be around giving great talks reliably. ✨

Favorite Talks

I liked quite a few of the talks I gave, but I think these ones in particular stood out. The talks I try to give:

Some of my talks do that better than others.

How to Complain Positively

StaffPlus NYC

This is one of my favorite talks ones I’ve given. It’s a tight ten minutes that walks through how I’ve messed up trying to effect positive change (“complain”) in the past, better alternative strategies, and general tips for working with others.

I’m really proud of the flow and presentation style used. I like how it uses emotion and humor to emphasize the points of the narrative. I hope to give more talks in the coming year that flow the way this one does.

You Could Lint More

revo.js and others

This talk is one of a family of talks I give under names like “Static Analysis: Shockingly Awesome”. It covers what “static analysis” is, the difference between formatters, linters, and type checkers, and what type-checked linting with typescript-eslint entails. The revo.js edition also added in a range of ESLint plugins that do assorted useful tasks.

I don’t love the way I presented this talk. I think I needed to pause more as a presenter, and the narrative got a little boring towards the end. But the contents make me happy and I believe have helped some folks get more out of their dev tooling.

Talks to Work On

One annoying aspect of working in public is that people see you learning things the hard way. Some folks will only ever see one talk of yours. If that talk is one of the ones you’re not proud of, that may form most or all of their opinion of you. Irksome.

All speakers have to practice to get better — and also need to pause and reflect between talks, get advice and feedback from peers, and study great speakers in the field. I did a lot of the practice and less of the rest than I should have.

Real Time Nostalgia with Web Sockets

Wey Wey Web

This talk might be my white whale of speaking. It’s meant to convey how waves of new tech abstractions and frameworks make it easier over time to make more and more complex apps — against the backdrop of cool tech demos of real-time karaoke. In theory the talk is really cool and packs an inspiring message about the past, present, and future of web dev.

In practice, each time I’ve given it I’ve been wholly unsatisfied with how it ties those themes in together. I think it’s too surface-level and doesn’t tie in the themes together. Attendees leave unsatisfied and wondering why I just threw a bunch of technical jargon at them.

One of these days I’m going to get that talk to work and it will be fantastic. It didn’t happen in 2022 or 2023 though. 😔

Type-Safe Style Systems

revo.js and others

This talk is fine, I think. I like how it explains the path we took through CSS modules, CSS-in-JS, and the two mainstream approaches of Tailwind-style utility classes and larger component library builders. That’s all good and relevant information that often gets lost in modern CSS discourse.

But the talk spends a lot more time digging through historical facts than providing useful information on styling systems. I think the talk could replace around 5 minutes of the historical stuff with 5 minutes of styling system design patterns. Things like setting up themes, using dynamic components, and why token-based approaches refactor so nicely.

I’m already scheduled to give this talk at least once in 2024. You can bet I’m going to rework it to really make the points exploring styling systems shine.

The Conferences

I want this page to serve as a collective of shout-outs to the great in-person conferences I attended this past year. They’re ordered by date. Each has links to the conference as well as any associated repos, slides, videos.

I also included one treasured moment from each of them. I definitely could have gotten a few for each conference, but needed to keep it brief…

THAT Conf Texas

January - Round Rock, USA

Talk: Design Systems: Maximum Consistency, Minimum Effort [Repo] [Slides]

Workshop: TypeScript for JavaScripties [Slides]

THAT Conf was my first conference of the year - and it was a grand one to start with. The THAT conference series holds its conferences in Kalahari resorts. They’re a multi-day, multi-track event with a ton of different disciplines represented.

I met a bunch of the organizers the night before and helped out a bit with setting up the -impressively crafted!- stage scenery. For such a large conference, it felt surprisingly personal. You can tell Clark and the rest of the organizing team put a lot of care into it.

✨ Treasured moment: hanging out with Akira, Brandon, Craigory, and other speakers around dinner and then at the piano lounge. 🎹

StaffPlus NYC

March - New York City, USA

Talk: How to Complain Positively [Slides] [Video]

StaffPlus is part of the LeadDev family of conferences, targeted to developers in the “IC” (Individual Contributor) career path. I really appreciate having a conference for us. The lineup of speakers around me was incredible and topics went more in depth for staff developers like me than I’ve ever seen before. I learned a whole bunch around both people-politics and tech-management that haven’t come up in many other conferences.

✨ Treasured moment: having consecutive “D ‘n M” (Deep and Meaningful conversations) with Doug, Hila, and Rebecca during the conference. 🥰

React Miami

April - Miami, USA

Talk: Setting Up ESLint and TypeScript for React [Slides] [Video]

Miami! Not very many conferences has quite so many people in my specific areas of web tooling. Nor do many conferences have such a fun party vibe - while still being approachable. The morning events (I chose the 5k), after-conference karaoke, and general fun vibes were thoroughly well organized.

React Miami also was notably great at including a diverse lineup that touched on more than just React. It covered a gamut including accessibility, burnout, CSS, and the rest of the alphabet (IYKYK).

✨ Treasured moment: walking out on stage with Ken, Sunil, Will, and other speakers in oversized animal costumes for Kathleen’s talk. Or maybe, giggling about it backstage beforehand. 🦩

Stir Trek

May - Columbus, Ohio

Talk: Building a Design System In-Flight [Slides] [Video]

Having a conference in a movie theater is a good idea. Making the whole thing movie-themed and having a speaker event the night before of watching the new Guardians of the Galaxy, complete with popcorn, soda, and candy… Awesome.

Despite the theater-style arena, the conference was also super personal. A lot of folks from the American circuit -including a few from THAT!- were there. It was lovely seeing so many friendly faces.

✨ Treasured moment: grabbing dinner at a local BBQ place with Bekah, Chris, Diana, Homer, Mark, and a bunch of other speakers. 🍖

CityJS Athens

May - Athens, Greece

Talk: TypeScript for JavaScripties [Slides] [Video]

I’d heard of Greek hospitality before but this really showcased it. The conference itself was very good (and in a cool ampitheater). Plus I got to hang out with a couple local dev meetups.

But then we did a speaker day trip through Athens… …and then the lead organizer Aris organized a lovely full-day trip with his family and other organizers on a beach. Incredible.

✨ Treasured moment: Aris taking us through a fish market and then bonding with Alessandro, Daniel, Facundo, Matheus, Sia, and Tan over Greek food at lunch in a half-basement half-cafe. 🥣

Web Directions Code

June - Melbourne, Australia

Talk: Static Analysis: Shockingly Useful! ⚡️ [Slides] [Video]

Out of all the places I’ve been to, Australia has -by far- the best coffee. No contest. ☕️

More importantly than supplying me with infinite cappuccinos, Web Directions Code also had an excellent spread of web technologies showcased by the speakers. I learned a bunch about the web as a platform: bluetooth, passkeys, WebAssembly, and more.

I’ll admit, this one was probably the most jetlagged I’ve ever been at a conference. But it was worth it for the impromptu conversations in and out of the venue.

✨ Treasured moment: hanging out with the Allsop siblings at the organizers table between talks, chatting aimlessly about coffee, life, and the tech industry. ☕️

KCDC 2023

June - Kansas City, USA

Talk: Static Analysis: Don’t Fear the Linter [Slides]

Talk: Floating and Sinking Promises: Understanding Broken Async Code [Slides] [Repo]

Along with THAT, KCDC holds a distinction of being one of the few “big” (>3 tracks + a convention hall) conferences I truly enjoy. The talks were solid and staffed by a whole bunch of community folks I’d been wanting to spend more time around.

The sponsor booths were super well done too. There was a sloth, an arcade cabinet, and a puppy pit I got to lay around in.

✨ Treasured moment: having a deep and meaningful chat with Nick, then him kicking off a fantastic karaoke group with a soul-touching rendition of It’s Raining Men over Karaoke. 🎤


July - Wisconsin Dells, USA

Talk: TypeScript for Javascripties: Day Camp Edition [Slides]

My second THAT conference! It was nifty seeing the bigger rendition of the same conference in a surprisingly similar Kalahari resort. I was impressed with the consistency of the conferences. The two had very similar vibes and style, with similarly high levels of quality.

The keynotes from the two conferences were universally high-impact and insightful. I was happy to get the same kind of awesome community and talks the second time around.

✨ Treasured moment: hanging out again at the piano lounge with Craigory, Katie, Kristen, and Zach. 🎹

SeattleJS Conf 2023

August - Seattle, USA

Talk: Static Analysis: Don’t Fear the Linter! [Slides] [Video]

Workshop: TypeScript for JavaScripties [Slides]

Seattle is my favorite city in the United States. It’s got fantastic food, music, and nature scenes. Also a lovely tech community with lots of old friends.

SeattleJS Conf, to me, is an exemplar of the Seattle tech community. The organizers take care to make a fun and friendly space. I actually got my start public speaking at Bellevue and Seattle meetups, so it was something special to be able to give a talk on a bigger stage.

✨ Treasured moment: hanging out at pizza-fueled karaoke after the conference with Carter, Chris, Rachel, and an assortment of other awesome folks. 🍕

JSDay IE 2023

September - Dublin, Ireland

Talk: TypeScript Static Analysis Hidden Gems [Slides] [Video]

Dublin! What a fun city. Despite traveling far, something about this conference’s community felt simultaneously approachable and enthusiastic to me. The conference did a great job setting up attendees and speakers for good conversations. We had a lot of varied spaces to talk around -tables, mixers, and so on- that were effectively at encouraging us to chat.

Plus I appreciated the great photography day-of — seen at the top of this post.

I actually dipped my toes into MCing a bit in this one. Which, by the way, is surprisingly difficult! I’d known it was tough before, but standing up in front of a crowd and being charming is not an easy task.

✨ Treasured moment: a jampacked morning of grabbing breakfast with Erica, going on a 5k run with Remo, then walking around and talking TypeScript with Orta. 🏃

React Live 2023

September - Amsterdam, NL

Talk: Detecting React Bugs Automatically [Slides] [Video]

Amsterdam is one of my favorite cities in Europe for conferences. It’s got a thriving food scene, lovely canals, and world-class museums such as the Rijksmuseum.

This conference also had an opening party before-hand that showed the TypeScript Origins documentary I took part in. It was nifty being in the room and re-watching the video through the eyes of other developers.

At this point in the year, my conference fatigue was really starting to kick in. So although the conference’s lineup of speakers was quite good, for me the standout here was social events around the conference. We had a lively speaker dinner one night and karaoke another night. Plus several other speakers and I had great 1:1s around the city.

✨ Treasured moment: a full set of lively discussions on and around tech at the speaker’s dinner table with Alexander, Anisha, Giorgio, Kent, Medhat, and Nico. Plus, french fries of course. 🍟

revo.js 2023

October - Timișoara, Romania

Talk: Type-Safe Style Systems: The Future of CSS [Repo] [Slides]

Talk: You Could Lint More [Slides]

I love eastern European tech events. There’s something magical about them. Maybe it’s my Polish/Ukrainian heritage finally coming into play around the shared cuisines around Europe’s central and eastern countries? Maybe it’s how consistently hard-working event organizers are there around making a good representation of the area (a common topic that came up)?

Either way, revo.js had a stellar lineup and lots of great organizing touches from the organizing team. That included taking us to and from the airport -with an extra trip because I left luggage there like a buffoon- and multiple casual events in the lovely city around them. Plus a full day bus trip to a small village with a buffet of Romanian food and drink prepared by relatives and friends of the organizers.

✨ Treasured moment: lounging on top of a hill off-and-on with Anna, Atila, Matt, Ben, Lucian, and Ritvi after the horse-and-donkey ride along with Dana, Diana, and Jay. 🏞️


October - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Talk: Building a Design System Mid-Flight [Slides]

Philadelphia! I live here. It was nice to finally have a conference near home.

I wish I’d been more recovered for this one: there were quite a few attendees and speakers in the Philly area I wish I could have talked with more. Despite Philly seeming to have a relatively muted tech scene post-COVID, there’s a lot of good potential in the city!

LibertyJS also had the nifty idea of giving us pre-paid gift cards to use in local restaurants as groups rather than having generic catered lunch. What a good move for promoting local businesses.

✨ Treasured moment: a casual but lively Pho lunch in downtown Philly with Ben, Brent, Joe, Killian, and Phil. 🍜


October - Sofia, Bulgaria

Talk: Killing Mutants with Mutation Testing [Repo] [Slides]

Talk: TypeScript for JavaScripties [Slides]

…and back to eastern Europe! I don’t often do corporate conferences (this one was hosted by Telerik), but DevReach stood out to me as one that was geared towards community members and learning new tech (not just the company’s products). Which was absolutely the case: it stood on its own as a solid conference for both .NET and web. DevReach had a solid speaker lineup and lots of cool people attending. I also got to hang out with the organizing team a bunch, and let me tell you, they were a hoot.

DevReach additionally had a speakers day trip to Plovdiv that included a tour, lunch, and time to walk around. Which was phenomenal. I wish I could have stayed longer.

✨ Treasured moment: going out for dinner to a local restaurant in town and then drinks at the rooftop bar with JP, Katy, Laura, Myriam, and Selam. 🌃

NodeConf EU

November - Kilkenny, Ireland

Workshop: Floating and Sinking Promises: Let’s Fix Your Broken Async Code [Repo] [Slides]

Out of all the events I’ve been to, I think NodeConf had by far the greatest concentration of influential people in the JavaScript/Node.js ecosystem in one place that I’ve ever seen. I would walk by random conversations and somehow fall into a deep discussion about iterator protocols or the types-as-comments TC39 proposal. It’s hard to understate how expertise-packed this conference was.

The location was beautiful, too: an estate in the Irish country complete with running paths, auditorium spaces, and banquet halls.

✨ Treasured moment: Finally meeting Titian and then having a long talk on the bus ride back from the speakers dinner. 🚌

Wey Wey Web

November - Malaga, Spain

Talk: Real Time Nostalgia with Web Sockets [Slides] [Video]

Did you know spain is suffering from an invasive species of parrots called Quaker Monk Parakeets? They’re incredibly cute and fluffy and apparently bad for the environment. But much like the rest of Malaga, they’re colorful and lively and a joy to be around.

Wey Wey Web was unusually multidisciplinary in how it blended design-oriented presentations with technical ones. I found it refreshing to get primers on art history and the impact of proper design on tech products.

Additional shoutout to the two speakers events: one for walking Caminito del Rey (beautiful and a great networking opportunity), and the other at a small music venue with a bombastic metal opening band in their early 20s (hell yeah).

✨ Treasured moment: Morning workout and then surprise run with Aleksandra. 💪


I enjoy street cats. Finding and feeding them during speaker events is a great way to have a little fun and bond with your fellow speakers. This year had some excellent street cat highlights:

I’m going to write a guide to how I attend conferences soon. Keeping a can of cat food on your person is a nifty trick that’ll be mentioned.

Final Thoughts

I love conferences. They’re a fantastic way to learn about new tech, connect with interesting people, and make friends in the industry.

I won’t be doing as many in 2024 — not out of a lack of desire, because I need to better focus on work and have more time for myself. I wish I could do more.

Thanks again to all the conference organizers for having me over and all the hard work you did to make your events special. You were a huge part of making my 2023 great. I deeply, truly appreciate you. 💖

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