Taran Bains

Epic Web Conference 2024

Happy birthday to me! Reflecting on Epic Web Conference!

Taran "tearing it up" Bains • April 16, 2024 12 min read
An image of a rocketship taking off!

Yes, it is my birthday 🎈, but anyway this post isn’t about that… or maybe it is? Or maybe it can be…? hahaha no no! It’s about attending conferences! Long story short, if you have the opportunity to attend a conference, do it; don’t think, just do it! This year, I had the privilege of attending Epic Web Conference and it was an amazing experience. From the speakers to the workshops, everything was well planned and executed. I learned so much and met so many great people.

But why’d I go (start with why, right)? Kent made the talks available online for free. I could’ve just watched the conference from the comfort of my own home instead of spending money to travel to beautiful Park City, Utah. Technically true, but there’s something special about being in the same room as the speakers and other attendees. The vibe, undeniably, is different. It’s like the difference between watching a concert on YouTube versus being there in person. The disparity in the energy is incomparable.

Beyond the differences of attending in person versus online, Kent’s my boy and I wanted to support him. I was the first person to buy Epic Web Dev and you can bet your bottom dollar I was the first person to buy a ticket out to Utah! Don’t belive me? Check out this clip from Kent’s office hours 😆!

How I Prepped

Taran, you prepped for a conference that you were attending? Yes, yes I did. I also talk in the third person. Deal with it. I wanted to make the most of my time at the conference, so I did the unthinkable… I planned 😱!

You get out what you put in

Thanks to Kent’s brilliant planning (and probably a handful of other folks from behind the scenes), the conference was single track. I didn’t need to do much prep work to see which sessions I wanted to attend — everyone was attending the same sessions — so I had limited amounts of FOMO (fear of missing out). I loved this single track idea and yeah, sure, I didn’t necessarily need to watch the presenter introductions before the conference… but I did, and let me tell you why: I wanted to know a little bit about the people I was going to meet before I actually met them! Cold approaches suck so anything that can be done to metaphorically warm up the approach is a good idea 😂.

My Goals for the Conference

I was lucky enough to have my employer cover the cost of my ticket for Epic Web Conference and as such, I had added incentive to set up some goals for the conference. Even if my employer didn’t cover the cost, I would’ve set up goals for myself. Here are the goals I came up with… you may notice a trend 🙈:

  1. Talk to Kent C. Dodds
  2. Talk to Madison Kana
  3. Talk to Michael Chan
  4. Talk to Ryan Florence
  5. Talk to Simon Vrachliotis

It’s abundantly clear 😅 that my goals all centered around meeting and talking to people. I had no idea what I was going to say to them, but I knew I wanted to meet them! I wanted to humanize the people I’ve been following on Twitter (technicallly X now) for ages because it’s so easy to forget that there’s a super rad person behind the screen.

Now, despite being dubbed a social butterfly by my friends, and by a new friend I made at the conference (my boy Devin), I was nervous as hell to talk to these rockstars. I mean, they’re like the cool kids in highschool and I’m just a pleb? Right?! Right?!!! Wrong lol.


That gif (and that’s with a hard g) is a pretty accurate representation of how I felt. However, framing meeting people at a conference in this way is a terrible idea; frame better, do better! Thank God for Kent and his “you can sit with us” attitude/t-shirt/sign. Seeing that sign reminded me that these people are actually really sweet and approachable. They’re not the cool kids in highschool, they’re the cool friends on Twitter that you’ve never met in person. Those people and everyone else as the conference were so fetch 😏!

Also, and this is more of a me thing, something that helped me deal with my nerves with being in a new place with new people (in the States where the Second Amendment is a thing), was training some Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. I’m not saying that I was going to use my BJJ skills on anyone at the conference, but getting my sweat on with a BJJ class let me get a feel for the people of Park City. I know this is a cliche, but I believe you really get to know someone after having fought them. I got to kinda know Park City after having a few sparring bouts with my boys from BJJ Revolution Utah.

My Experience

The conference was amazing. I met so many cool people and learned so much. That’s it. That’s the post. Make sure you come in 2025 😆.

Everyone Is a Person

I met some of my heroes and “celebrities” in the web development space: Kent C. Dodds, Una Kravets, Ryan Florence, Michael Chan, Theo. This was hella intimidating at first. They were “somebodies” and I was a “nobody” — or at least that’s what my anxiety had me thinking. But dude, and hear me out here… intimidation is so unnecessary when meeting people in or outside of industry! Despite being “celebrities”, they were all so easy to talk to. Hell, Kent upon seeing me, gave me a big hug; it was so awesome 🙏🏽🤗!

And you might be thinking, “Taran, of course they’re people… everyone is just a person”. But it’s easy to forget that when the person you’re speaking with is influential in your field and whose opinion carries weight in the community. But, again, they’re just people. They’re just like you and me. The things we talked about ranged from thoughts on Design Systems and Storybook’s place in the ecosystem, red flags in dating profiles (you’re not 5’11” Madison), my awesome beard, and how amazing inngest is as a solution for dealing with async jobs and events (Jessy was a major hype man for this… but I don’t have his twitter handle 😕).

And [that’s why] I like large parties. They’re so intimate. At small parties there isn’t any privacy.

-Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

Not only was it dope meeting my heroes, but it was awesome meeting new friends, friends that weren’t “famous”! I can’t list everyone but if you’re not listed here, I think you’re famous 😅! Some awesome folks I met and had great chats with: Devin, Devon, Harmony, Stephanie, Jessy, Brad, and Brendan. Of those folks, I am especially thankful for being able to build up a great rapport with Devin. Over coffee, we got into the thick of things! Beyond just tech and our place in the industry, we discussed things like raising a family, values and morals, and the nature of the human condition; it was one of my favorite conversations during my stay in Utah 😄.


If your budget allows for it, I defnitely suggest that you go and check them out! Thankfully, the one I attended was free so there was no excuse to not attend. I learned about Sanity.io and its combination with Hydrogen for setting up a storefront with Shopify. Don’t expect to pick up everything there is to learn about the technologies during a workshop, but you’ll get some exposure to something you can dig into later!

I never realized how easy it was to get going with Shopify and creating my own e-commerce store prior to this workshop. I’m not saying I’m going to quit my job and start selling beard oil online (my friend Manjot once thought we could do that for a living 😂), but I’m one step closer to being able to do that after that workshop with Simeon and Knut 👀.

BTW, if you want to learn more about Sanity and Hydrogen, check out this learning article created by my friends from Sanity; it may or may not be the same content we went over during the workshop day 🧐.

The Talks

There was not a bad talk among the bunch. The emcees were damn great. Madison and Marc really set the tone and overall vibe for the whole event. The playful banter between Marc and Madison was not only hilarious, but it also helped to establish a totally friendly and welcoming atmosphere. I messed up though and didn’t get a picture with them 😢.

Kent’s keynote set the spirit for the conference: He gave us examples of why the web is great. The web is permissionless (I can deploy stuff anywhere and I don’t need to get “approval” from some governing body), the web doesn’t break (websites from 20 years ago still work 🤯!), and most importantly, the web is you (us); a melting pot of ideas. It doesn’t matter what you’re using… there’s a place for you! Whether you’re a PHP lambo dev or a plebian React dev, the web has a place for you ❤️.

But okay, let’s get into what I learned from the talks (otherwise my employer isn’t going to pay for me to go next year 😭). I’m not going to go into detail about each talk, but I’ll give you a high level overview of what I learned from a few of them!

Css and Html

Una Kravets’ talk on CSS and HTML was super informative. I learned so much about the future (and present day) of CSS and HTML and how great the web platform has gotten. One day in the near future, we’ll be able to ship native select elements that we can easily style (no more having to create div soup to get a nice looking UI for selects)! Another thing from this talk which was dope was scroll driven animations I’m already using it on my site for the progress bar in my blog posts! Moving away from JS driven scroll events to CSS will help unblock the JS thread and improve the performance of our sites! Native popover's have also kinda come our way… so dope; my brain melted.

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  Click me

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    What's up friends!

Hit the `esc` key to close me or click outside.

Accessibility and Web Dev

Another thing that I really enjoyed was Sandrina Pereira’s talk on Accessibility! My big take away from her talk was: Every click is an interaction but not every interaction will be a click.

When it comes to developing for the web, we need to make sure that we’re considering all users; not just the ones who can see or use a mouse. If game devs can make something like The Last of Us accessible to blind players, we can sure as Hell make our websites accessible for everyone 💪🏽 (or we can at least try).

And if you’re thinking “I already know how to make accessbile websites”. Shut up dude. Even Tanner Linsley, the creator of Tanstack {Query,Router,Table}, learned something new from Sandrina’s talk! Namely, that the aria-current attribute can be used to announce the current page in a navigation menu

Local Development

Alex gave a talk on local development and how we can almost sorta kinda but not really have a web app with data colocated with the UI. Honestly, go check out this website for more information on this. I, unashamedly, need to rewatch his talk.

However, I did pick up some wisdom from this man, whilst waiting for our Ubers in the hotel lobby. That is, “there are three elements to a talk; it can inform, it can educate, and it can entertain; in [Alex’s] experience, the most entertaining talks are the most important”. I’m gonna have to agree with him here because some of the most talked about talks (try saying that 5 times fast) were Ryan Florence’s talk on let vs const and Jacob’s talk on High Performance CRUD apps. I seriously recommend that you go check them out (as well as the other talks from the conf), once the recordings are avaialble.

The Afterparty

Don’t skip the mother trucking after party! It’s so much fun and it’ll help solidify some of the relationships you helped create earlier on in the day. It’s super low pressure, everyone’s just happy to be there, and if you’re lucky, there’s fun games and karaoke!

I regret leaving as early as I did from the after party. Yes I was tired. Yes, my social battery was running on empty. Yes, I missed home… but also, when is the next time I’m gonna be in the same room as those wonderful folks again? Probably not until next year… 😢.

Closing Thoughts

My time in web dev is up in the air. AI might take over, I might switch out of the industry, I might open up a hot dog stand? Who knows! However, I won’t forget the fun times I had at Epic Web Conf. I truly hope I get to go back next year.

Discord screenshot of people saying they miss the conference