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Meet the CSSConf EU Speakers: John Brown

John Brown is the initiator of uncontext., creator of hhhhold, and he loves programming. John currently lives in Portland, Oregon, where he works at Instrument as a Technical Director. He was their Lead Developer on the Google I/O 2014 experiment.

In his talk “A CSS Dive Through Google’s Powers of Tech” he will share how a complex 3D world was built with CSS and CSS3DRenderer instead of WebGL or canvas, explain how they made SVGs move like origami, and show you the pitfalls and triumphs of working with CSS3D, Three.js, and motion.

“Code is Art” is the motto John lives by. When he isn’t coding like a madman at work or at play, he’s growing peppers, woodworking, or enjoying food from other cultures.

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Hi John! What keeps you busy at the moment (other than getting ready to hop on a plane and come speaking at CSSconf EU)? Any cool projects you are working on?

I am currently excited about my latest community driven art project, uncontext. It’s a data party line that anyone can connect to and create art out of seemingly random data. I am working on a gallery show in Portland for January 2015 that will bring together over a dozen creative coders in a space showcasing code as art in ways that are digital, physical, and a hybrid of both. I’m always looking for new pieces, so contact me if you’re interested in being a part of this show!

When traveling to Berlin, what are you looking forward to the most?

As much as it is a tourist answer, I am excited to see the amazing architecture. The Brandenburg Gate, Museum Island, The Gendarmenmarkt. And the Bauhaus Museum! I will be playing it pretty loose, though. Which means that if you see me, I will take any local wisdom on sites and activities.

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If you would not work in the web, what else would be your profession?

Let’s hope that day doesn’t come any time soon, because I would be lost. But if we start with a blank slate, I would be building furniture from reclaimed materials and exploring other fine woodworking endeavors. As much as I love programming, building something that I can hold physically and say “I made this” is amazing. Those physical objects also won’t disappear with one accidental or malicious command. I would probably be selling my chairs and tables through an online store, so maybe that doesn’t count since I would be using the web still. I guess I can promise to only sell my goods in person at markets and galleries, so that way we can avoid the internet all together.

If you could teach someone new to CSS one thing, what would that be?

Transition! Use it! The transition property is easy to use and so powerful. With it, one line of code can make the difference between “meh” and “oooooohhhh.” The reason I got into programming was seeing a circle I programmed into existence swing back and forth. That movement, I made it happen. With code! Motion is what got me hooked, and I’m convinced it would hook most people.

Which CSS quirk has cost you the most nerves so far?

It’s not a quirk, really, but despite years as a professional developer, z-index is still as confusing to me as a cucumber in a pickle factory. I understand it, I swear I do, but when I go to use it, nothing’s in the proper order. z-index, I’m sorry.

If you could make one wish: What would you like to change in our industry?

If I had one wish I could spend on our industry, it would be that women were represented in equal proportions to the population. We are still only at 10-15% female developers (in the US), which is crazy! A diversity of thought and experience is important in any community, especially ones that change on an almost daily basis like tech and software.


You can (and should) follow John on twitter.

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