Pew Pew Laser Blog

Code. Glass art. Games. Baking. Cats. From Seattle, Washington and various sundry satellite locations.

Past Blogs

Where Ideas Come From.


When a writer is asked "where do you get your ideas?", they might flippantly answer "Poughkeepsie". I've done quite a bit of speaking over the past year, and I thought that aspiring speakers might be interested in knowing exactly where I got my ideas for talks.

A month or two after I'd gotten my Sparkfun Inventor's Kit, I was talking with a non-developer friend who asked how long it took me to get set up. "A few hours", I said, "But now that I've done it, I could probably get someone running in about an hour." At the time, I was wondering "Is this a good talk idea?" about pretty much everything I was doing, but it seemed like "From 0 to Nodebots" was in fact a pretty good talk idea. I could share what I had learned in these first stages, and give the audience a road map to fun with hardware. I gave a 25 minute version of this talk at Seattle JS (my local JS meetup) a few months later, and an expanded 45 minute version at Nodevember 2014 a few months after that.

"Color in the Real World" came from a different place altogether. As I got more and more into blowing glass, I realized that my complete lack of drawing abilities hampered my ability to take "notes" for a visual art medium. I picked up Art Academy - a handheld video "game" that teaches folks how to draw. I worked though the lessons from time to time, practicing sketching and learn some interesting things abour art history and color theory. As I learned about highlight coloring and atmospheric perspective I thought, "these ideas definitely apply on our modern screens". I gave a 15 minute version of this talk at SassConf 2014, and an expanded 30 minute version at CSS Conf AU 2015 just last March.

If you are looking for speaking ideas, try thinking about what you chat about when you talk with your friends and colleagues after work. When you get excited and passionate about something, or you see folks lean forward and nod when you're talking, that's something you should consider speaking about.

Building Community.


Here is a collection of thoughts and resources for building your local technology / development community.

Organizing Conferences & User Groups

Building an online community

CSS Conf AU 2105 Talk Notes.


March was a busy month for me. In addition normal work, curating CascadiaFest (closing the CFP and reviewing all the talks) and various meetups in Seattle, I spoke at CSS Conf AU 2015. I was absolutely gobsmacked to that my talk proposal was selected, and thrilled to present a full-length version of my lightning talk from SassConf. CSS Conf AU was a wonderful conference - my deepest thanks to the entire organizing team who did an excellent job of making the speakers feel welcome and putting on a first class conference for their attendees.

As seems to be my habit when speaking, I had a fairly serious case of the "speaker dumbs" and didn't manage to pay the greatest attention to the other talks. Oh well, here's hoping for the videos to come out! Here are the notes that I took away from CSS Conf AU 2015:

CSS for Humans - Matt Sawkill

4 1/2 Methods for Theming in (S)CSS - Harry Roberts

Newton Meets CSS - Evangelina Ferreira

Delivering Responsibly - Scott Jehl

Fundamentals of Front End Ops - Ian Feather

Bye-Bye Bootstrap Bloat - Fiona Tay

Let's move! - Benjamin De Cock

Building Better Interfaces With SVG - Sara Soueidan

Sara's talk was outstanding. I took so many notes for her talk that it deserves to be broken out in its own post. So I will publish something in the future.

Efficient Web Type, c. 1556 - Kenneth Ormandy

Invisible animation - Steven Fabre

Systems Thinking (Going Out on a Limb) - Claudina Sarahe

A CSS Eulogy - Michael Riethmuller

Clean and Simple - Justin Ouellette

Moving towards web components - Andrew Betts

Open Source Design: A Call to Arms - Una Kravets

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