My experience at CSS Conf China


I had an exciting experience three weeks ago—I gave my first Chinese talk at the 4th CSS Conference in China, in Xiamen, on March 31st.

I learned a lot from this experience—both about myself and about the chinese development scene—and I want share my learnings with you.

Let me begin by introducing the organizer duo.

The organizers

The organizers (Yu Bo and Lin Yi) are a “cute” duo. “Cute” for the lack of a better word because I don’t really know how to describe them; if I excel at writing fiction, I would have done a better job. You have to live with “cute” for now.

If you hung out with conference organizers before, you’ll know that organizing a conference is hard work. Many organizers stop work entirely to organize a great conference.

But not these two dudes.

They hold their day job—which is challenging on its own—and still manage to organize multiple conferences in China every year. In 2018 alone, they’re going to organize two more—Vue Conf and React Conf.

This means they organize conferences in their free time. They even stay up late (till the wee hours of the night) to book flights and stuff.

I’m mentioning them because I’m inspired by them. They’re older than me, but they are able to keep their energy levels high throughout the day (even late into the night). Then, they wake up early on the second day and are still filled with energy. How do they do that? On the contrary, why do I get tired so easily? (The question remains unanswered, but I’m actively searching for answers.)

Another thing. They redefined what hospitality meant for me. I’ll share more about this later and why its important.

But for now, on to the conference itself!

The venue

The conference is held in a cinema. (Yes, the kind you watch movies at).

The conference is held in a cinema

I was shocked when I entered the venue. I never thought anyone would hold a conference in a cinema because films are usually shown from the control room at the back. If speakers were to give talks, their laptops need to be in the control room (or at least at the last row). How will we be able to speak without our laptops? What about live-coding, if any?

The organizer duo had a creative solution. They hooked us to the control room through an Apple TV, with a router to speed up the wireless sync. As a result, we had our laptops right at the front, but we don’t have internet access. Better than not having a laptop, I guess!

Um, I’m just super impressed at how they come up with creative solutions to customize the environment to their needs. My buddy, Hui Jing, improvise extremely well on the spot too. She calls it “anyhowly”. I think anyhowly is an awesome skill that needs to be mastered.

My talk

It was my first Chinese talk. Naturally, I was nervous beyond hope, even though I spoke Chinese at home.

My greatest worry was the translation of industry-related terms. How on earth do you translate words like components, relative units, maintainable, scalable, or even media queries?

I was so nervous I sent out this tweet to help calm my nerves 😂.

Luckily, there were expert translators in the speaking group. Two, in fact. Both helped to translate Vue docs from English to Chinese. They told me what words to translate and what not to. Apparently, you should not translate “media query” into chinese, because nobody would know what they mean!

They even gave me a list of words to translate. (I added these words into my slides so I won’t forget about them 😂).

A list of words translated from English to Chinese
Slides contain both english and chinese words
Inserting translated words into my slides to joy my memory

Thanks to these two gentlemen, 勾三股四 and justineo (their nicknames; chinese people have a thing with nicknames), I was able to give my talk successfully without breaking down in tears. To be precise, I felt so relieved that I was able to help another speaker with their talk! 😂

How did my talk go?

Well, I spoke in a mixbag of Chinese and English. Mostly chinese; I said words I couldn’t translate on the spot in English. It was an amazing experience.

I learned (once again) that you don’t have to be perfect. You just need to be good enough to deliver a message you care about. Whether the audience resonates with it is out of your hands.

Hospitality redefined

I flew in to Xiamen on Thursday; the conference talk was on a Saturday; and I flew out on Monday. If you do the calculations, you’ll realize I was given two extra days in Xiamen—Thursday and Sunday. The organizers gave it to me, no questions asked.

These extra days were important to me. I asked to fly in on Thursday because I was nervous about my talk. I wanted to give myself enough time to work on it because I know I wouldn’t be able to focus on it back in Singapore. I asked to fly out on Monday because I wanted to take a day off to enjoy a city I’ve never been to.

When the organizers booked the flight and hotels without asking any questions, I felt there wanted to help their guests feel at ease, which is important. I’ll elaborate in a short while.

In addition to giving me two extra days to chill, they showed me around Xiamen on Sunday. I don’t know if I’m weird, but this act mattered a lot. When I visit a new city, I’m not interested in tourist attractions. What I am interested in, is people. I like to hang out with locals—organizers, volunteers, and even local developers.

The hospitality they showed me made me think about the hospitality I’m showing you.

  • If you haven’t bought my books or courses, did I create enough content to help you become a better developer? If not, what else can I do?
  • If you bought my books or courses, did I help you overcome your barriers to learning so you successfully learn the skills taught? What else can I do for you?

I struggle with these questions every day, and I always make it a point to serve you as best as I can (although I have to admit I lapse on occassions).

If you have any questions, if you haves on how I can help you more, please feel free to let me know and I’ll see what I can do!

Wrapping up

I go to a conference for two things—content and people. I’m inspired by both the content and people at CSS Conf China. The content was as amazing as any other CSS Conference elsewhere, and I’m glad I made some wonderful friends in my short trip to China.

I also had an unexpected reward—kicking myself in the butt about how tired I feel everyday, and being present to how important it is to make guests (you) feel at home.

It was a great trip.

Group photo
Can you spot where I am? 😁

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