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A Persistent Case of Mis-Identification.

11.18.2013

This is one of my stories from CascadiaJS - a community-organized JavaScript conference held in Vancouver BC last week. I had a really great time at the conference last week, and I'm very grateful to the organizers for all of their work in putting it together.

During the second lunch break, an attendee and I were chatting and he was emphatically pitching his upcoming start-up conference. This continued for an awkwardly long time, and he said that I should really consider coming to his conference to teach people to make robots. I said that I thought it was kind of wonderful that he thought I could teach people to make robots, but that I was going somewhere else...

Later that day, another attendee sat down next to me, and said that he loved my talk on robots. By this time, I had begun to suspect what was going on, but I had to check. I covered up my badge and asked him what my name was. Nervously, he said "You're CJ?" No, no; I was not CJ Silverio, who had in fact given a very inspiring talk on JavaScript driven robots earlier in the day, though we might bear a slight resemblance at a distance. Once I had convinced the attendee of this, we had a good laugh and talked until the next presentation started.

That evening at dinner with some people, I told the story of these two encounters. We laughed and agreed that the situation was pretty silly. I admitted that sometimes I couldn't tell apart the multitude of white dude developers apart, either.

Even later, at the after party, I was talking one of my new friends from dinner who happened to be a speaker. A fellow came up to us and said that he really liked her talk on browser audio as well as my talk on robots. My friend and I turned to each other and had a good laugh and then I explained to this third attendee that I was not CJ.

Later still, I found CJ at the after party and told her this story, and we agreed that the pattern was hilarious. The official event photographer happened to take a picture of us; which I hope to share sometime.

There are a few possible interpretations of this pattern of encounters - from attendee eyesight to the impermanence of conference chats, but here's the most important message I see: There are too many women at the conference to rely on the cognitive shorthand of "the woman" or even "the brunette". Women are populous enough to necessitate identification as individuals. To me, this is a wonderful thing.

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Tags: cascadiajs conferences web-development

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