This is almost a live recap of my tour of South-east Asia (and Hong Kong) this month (September 2017) and will be updated as things chug along. There’s also a long introductory passage about public speaking, skip if you’re not interested.

15 days, 7 talks, 5 countries

About speaking at conferences

How would you feel if you’re given the opportunity to talk about one of your favourite things in front of a large group of people? For the little group of people who have attended Talk.CSS before (I LOVE you all), it seems like I’m pretty okay with public speaking, and honestly, I generally am. But an “official” event, like a conference (or anything with a budget, actually), does feel different.

I know that Chris and I often joke that we’re flying blind when it comes to Talk.CSS, and that’s largely true, and we do a lot of improvisation and ad-libbing for that, but meet-ups are generally quite casual and relaxed. Conferences (and events with a budget), at least to me, come with a greater responsibility and an air of professionalism.

Professionalism is NOT something that you’d usually associate me with. If you’ve met me, you know this. Monkey is probably a closer association. But I do have a “adult-mode” switch that I can, and will, turn on when the need arises. Conferences (and events with a budget) are situations that require some serious adulting.

My first full length talk took place this year at the inaugural Webconf.Asia in Hong Kong back in June. The speaker line-up included well-known and experienced speakers like Bruce Lawson, Heydon Pickering and Andrew Betts (just to name a few). I think I came after Dietrich Ayala (another powerhouse speaker), and I was way more nervous than I thought I would be.

Luckily, once I started, the nerves started to fade. I think nerding out about CSS makes me so happy that it overrides any other emotion I may be feeling at that time. It’s almost the same as when you’re “in the zone” when playing basketball.

The first time I was flown out of Asia for a talk was for pitercss conference in Saint Petersburg. I’d never even been anywhere close to Europe before, so I chose to fly out a week before the conference just to spend more time there.

The conference was amazingly well-organised, and the turnout was fantastic. Words are insufficient to describe the experience, but there will be video released later so check back for the link. Met so many wonderful people here, like Vadim Makeev, Aga Naplocha and the Viennese Mafia of Eva Lettner, Andrey Okonetchnikov and Manuel Matuzovic.

I’ve had the privilege to do quite a bit of speaking this year, and I’m so grateful to every organiser who chose to take a chance on me, a literal no-name speaker, and all the audience members who came up to me after to chat and tell me they enjoyed my session. It really means a lot to me.

There are a lot of developers from South-east Asia who do great work, it’s just that there isn’t that much visibility on them. I don’t often see speakers from my region in international conferences, and I do feel an added responsibility to represent us in the best possible light.

🇵🇭 @ Form Function Class 8

Speaking FFC8 is definitely going to rank as one of my top experiences ever. First of all, FFC5 was my first ever conference as an attendee, and I truly experienced Filipino hospitality at its best. This time I was attending as a speaker, presenting a brand new talk about CSS layouts, AND I had the ridiculous idea of doing a small snippet of live-coding on stage.

Wondering what past me was thinking when I thought live-coding was a good idea, haha (joking...a little bit)
On stage at FFC8

Even though I rehearsed the talk a number of times, there were no guarantees that things wouldn’t go wrong and there was a bit of a snag in terms of the set up. But I changed how the code was presented at the last minute so there was way less typing involved. Really relieved things didn’t go badly 😌.

What I did not expect, was the overwhelming response when I finished my session (a few people at the back actually stood up 😍). I was just hoping that the audience wouldn’t find my talk boring (because I have had people fall asleep in front my face, 🤷) so this was amazing. It might have also been the fact that I managed to weave in Beyoncé into the talk somehow 😎, so I would also like to thank Queen Bey for this successful talk.

There are lots of photos of the conference on Facebook, and here’s a highlight video.

🇸🇬 @ Mozilla Dev Roadshow Singapore

Landed back home for a couple days and also the very first stop of the Mozilla Developer Roadshow. Because Singapore is sort of my home base, I naturally strong-armed everyone I knew to show up for this. Why I still have friends left is a mystery to me 😈.

The line-up for the Singapore stop was packed, and we had THE Jeremy Keith doing what I personally think is one of the most inspirational tech talks I’ve ever heard, on Evaluating Technologies. And to hear it live was such a wonderful experience.

My session actually stuck between two of the biggest names in web development, Jeremy Keith and Vitaly Friedman of Smashing Magazine, so forgive me if I was just a little bit stressed. AND my iPad, which was a pretty critical part of my talk setup, decided it was the best time to have a hardware failure.

But the advantage of being at home is that I was surrounded by familiar faces and managed to cobble together a temporary solution, thanks to my shifu, Michael Cheng, who generously just lent me his iPhone instead. Michael, you awesomez!

Jeremy wasn’t joining us for the rest of the trip and we had to say goodbye at the end of the event. But I did manage to hang out with everyone to nerd out about the web in general the night before. We even had an action item to file a bug, because Vitaly, Markus Seyfferth and I concluded that Chrome had a bug with CSS grid for print stylesheets.

Jeremy also suggested to do this recap of the Roadshow experience and so I’m writing this blog post 🙆. The talk that I did this time was a variant of the one I did at FFC, but Bruce Lee replaced Beyoncé. I also think this is the first time a lot of my friends have seen me turn on “adult mode”, so that was kinda fun. Elisha Tan (the superwoman running TechLadies) said it best:

“You know it's big business when Huijing Chen styles her hair and says no hokkien.” (photo credit: Elisha)
Speaking at Singapore stop of Mozilla Developer Roadshow

There’s also a fantastic team working on capturing the best parts of the entire roadshow. I think full length talks will be released as well, so stay tuned. Subscribe to the Mozilla Hacks Youtube channel!

🇻🇳 @ Mozilla Dev Roadshow Ho Chi Minh

Next stop, Vietnam! I’d only ever been in Ho Chi Minh for a grand total of 6 hours before this, so it was nice to be able spend a bit more time here. One thing that I tell every one who will listen is that Vietnam has a lot of talented developers, who are working on really cool projects that make use of cutting edge technologies, it’s just that nobody has really shone a spotlight on this region. Yet.

We had the chance to meet with teams working on VR projects, and even though what we played with were prototypes, they felt way more polished than some commercial products I’ve seen before. The audience was smaller than in Singapore, but that also gave everyone more time to connect with each other and try out the webVR kits and play around with A-Painter.

I tried A-Painter for the first time ever, and it was amazing. To quote Fabien Benetou:

You may think you know VR, but until you put on the headset, you don’t.

As someone who played a lot of video games growing up, using the controllers was super intuitive. Think Nintendo Wii style nunchucks (but not really), in both hands. It’s really fun to be able to draw and create in a 3-dimensional space. But my favourite thing (because I’m weird) was the teleportation function, where after you draw a bunch of stuff, you can just teleport yourself some distance away to admire your handiwork.

No idea what I found so fascinating on the floor though
Trying out A-Painter for the first time

Now that I’ve done the semi live-coding thing on my slides twice before, I was less nervous about the setup not going to plan, because yet again, my extended screen glitched and I ended up having to look at the main screen and type with one hand (because microphone). Turns out the first time in Manila was the most successful attempt 🤣.

Also met a fellow Malaysian, Ondris Pui, who’s currently lecturing at the Ho Chi Minh campus of RMIT, as well as Jolanda Tromp, who’s a researcher at Duy Tan University focused on user-centred AR/VR. Lots of interesting conversations with interesting people doing interesting stuff.

🇲🇾 @ Mozilla Dev Roadshow Kuala Lumpur

Even though the event is said to be in Kuala Lumpur, a local will tell you, technically Cyberjaya isn’t really KL. But tomayto, tomahto 🤷. This is the only weekend event scheduled, and it was a full-day thing, with 3 talks in the morning, a nice leisurely lunch break, then 3 more in the afternoon.

So glad that there was time for David's talk this time
David Bryant on emerging technologies

David Bryant rejoined our motley crew and gave a longer version of the emerging technologies talk, which included a fascinating section on WebAssembly, as well as the research coming out of Mozilla on speech interfaces. Also, Dietrich joined us for this leg of the roadshow! And somehow I was scheduled immediately after him again 🤣.

Class photo time! (someone is missing)
Almost every one for the KL roadshow

And I didn’t anticipate this at all, but there was a warm, fuzzy feeling to speaking in my own country ❤️. It was the first time I did a talk in Malaysia. I don’t expect everyone to understand this, but that moment when I mentioned “Saya bangga jadi anak Malaysia”, and the audience applauded, will be one of the highlights of this roadshow for me.

As someone who had the privilege and honour of representing the Malaysia women’s basketball team once in my life, I suppose this idea of being a representative for your country is a bit more emotional to me than most other people. Maybe. (Or I’m just a weird person)

Feeding the cats...
Dinner in KL, like really KL city

Anyway, my overly complicated talk setup went wrong again, this time, the resolution on the iPad was so off that I couldn’t read a single word of my speaker notes. Guess it’s a good thing I already did this talk a few times. But flying blind meant that I probably didn’t keep to time that strictly. I just want the setup to work perfectly once. Just one time on this hectic tour 🤞.

🇲🇾 @ Mozilla Dev Roadshow Penang

Penang has and will always have a special place in my heart. Even though my family moved away from Penang when I was 4, our household was completely Penangite. I remember learning to read English with my mum, and learning to write Chinese with my grandma, but I came out of the womb speaking Penang Hokkien.

Penang Hokkien is very distinct, and because it’s not commonly heard outside Penang, I’m very attuned to anyone speaking it. Imagine being constantly surrounded by people speaking differently from you almost all the time, then suddenly finding yourself surrounded by people speaking exactly the same way you do. It’s an indescribable feeling.

Penang is all about the food
Audience at the Penang event

We had a new friend join us on this leg of the tour, Mozilla representative and Infosec researcher, Mijanur Rahman Rayhan, who is based in Bangladesh. He kicked things off with a great talk about privacy and security. Be sure to check out his blog too!

Remember how my talk setup has never worked correctly? Ever? Well, turns out fourth time’s the charm! 🙆 This time, the screen resolution was perfect, nothing died mid-way while I was speaking, and the talk went pretty smoothly. And I made sure to weave in 「我是庇能出世的孩子」(of course spoken in Penang Hokkien) into my introduction. (translates to “I was born in Penang”)

Charis in action!

Dietrich was super entertaining as usual, and we had to say good bye after this because he was off to India next. We also had a super cool local artist, Charis Loke doing a live demo of A-Painter, her artwork was fantastic. And it was all live!

Lovely people who came to the event
Audience at the Penang event

I also got the chance to chat with lots of lovely Penangites after the talks were over, about Penang, about speaking, about tech in Penang and Malaysia in general, and all sorts of other things. I might be part of DevFest Penang (I think that’s what it’s going to be called) in November as well. We’ll see how that goes 🙃.

🇭🇰 @ Mozilla Dev Roadshow Hong Kong

It’s the grand finale of the Mozilla Developer Asia Roadshow and it has been an amazing experience all around, with some fantastic people. I had recently been in Hong Kong, back in June, for Webconf.asia, which was my first ever full-length tech talk. That talk went reasonably well, and I was pretty happy to be back here again.

Have to get some exercise in with Fabien and Markus
Hiked around Victoria Peak

The gang wasn’t all staying at the same hotel this time because of some booking issues but we were still in close enough proximity with each other. If you’ve never been to Asia, and hear that Hong Kong and Singapore are the same, you’re sadly mistaken. Asia (and to be fair, almost anywhere else in the world) is like VR, until you’ve experienced it first-hand, you don’t know what it is.

The vibe that I get from Hong Kong is that it’s a bustling, modern city, and yet it retains a lot of its unique flavour, from the narrow alleyways, neon billboards and shop signage. It has a much more organic feel than Singapore, with old sidled right up with new. If I was a better writer, I’d have better words to explain this, but I’m not, so 🤷.

For this stop, we had Brian Birtles and Daisuke Akatsuka presenting on web animations as well as the Firefox Devtools that let us troubleshoot them. Totally blew my mind. I had been using Nightly since last year, so I felt like I had been living under a rock because I sort of always just glazed over the Animations panel and went straight for the Layout panel.

Really informational AND fun talk on web animations
Audience coded along with the talk

One of the best parts of this roadshow is the opportunity to meet really interesting people, and Hong Kong definitely did not disappoint. We went out for food and drinks after the event with Jason Li and Tricia Ling. Jason is a cartoonist and designer who is based in Hong Kong at the moment, and he’s working on a graphic novel called The House on Horse Mountain. He also made really cool sketchnotes of the entire event 😍!

Sketchnotes for the win!
Jason Li's sketchnotes of the event

As the roadshow draws to a close, I must say that this has been a fantastic experience. It was intense and a little bit hectic, but I learned a lot, not only about technical stuff like webVR and animations, but also things like video editing, organising events, how to make your talk more compelling and so on.

I really appreciate the opportunity to be part of this roadshow and it has been a privilege to get to know each and every person on this team. Barry Munsterteiger, who literally made movie magic with all the footage we got. Sandra Persing and Ali Spivak, who put this whole event together. Markus Seyfferth, who gave me really great advice on improving my talk and my presentation slides. And all the other speakers, Fabien Benetou, Jeremy Keith, Vitaly Friedman, Dietrich Ayala, David Bryant, Mijanur Rahman, Brian Birtles and Daisuke Akatsuka, I loved meeting all of you ❤️❤️❤️.

🇭🇰 @ Harbour Front

If the Mozilla Developer Asia Roadshow was a concert tour, then the Harbour Front meetup was an unplugged session. No video crew, no fanfare, just you, me and some CSS. I re-did the talk I gave at Form Function Class, but added a bit about Viewport-percentage lengths.

It wasn’t the rehearsed, down to the minute, polished version of the talk. I just riffed off whatever came up on the slides and talked about CSS and web layouts like I would in a casual conversation. The vibe was more relaxed and it was nice to have that after the intensity of the roadshow.

Regardless of setting, the hands gotta flail
Unplugged about web layouts

The venue was at the Hive in Wan Chai, and it wasn’t a very big space, which made the whole feel more intimate. Using someone else’s laptop to present was also fun, because there were several instances of browser inconsistency bugs in my slides 😌.

Also had some nice conversations with a few designers and developers, and managed to help out someone who was trying to build a music app that displayed chords above song lyrics. Turns out the HTML ruby element could be a potential solution for his use case.

Anyway, it was my last night in Hong Kong, as well as the last night of this whirlwind of a tour. No better way to end the trip than at the tallest sky bar in the world (at least for now), with a great view and even better company 😘.

Quite a view from 490m up
Drinks at Ozone

Wrapping up

So that’s it. 15 exciting days that literally just flew by. It was a super rewarding experience and will definitely be one of the highlights of my 2017. I’m a little bit talked-out for now, but no worries, after a brief hibernation period, I’ll be back at it again with added gusto (because Jeremy thinks I “presented with gusto”) 😆.