Tara Vancil is a software engineer living in Northern Michigan, where she operates Northwoods Digital, a small software consultancy.
When she's not at her computer, you'll find Tara outside—hunting, fishing, golfing, skiing, or otherwise disconnecting from all things digital.
Born and raised in Northern Michigan, I grew up in a hunting, fishing, and drinking family (emphasis on drinking.) I recently moved back home after spending my twenties in the big city. Classic.
I attended Central Michigan University as a Centralis Scholar, where I studied a lot of things and nothing at all. College was a weird time for me, so I dropped out.
After college I moved to Austin, TX and spent ~a decade building a career as a software engineer. It took just as long to figure out that staring at a computer for forty hours a week makes me want claw out my eyeballs.
Computer BlueAs my gift to myself for my 30th birthday, I quit my job and started my own business, which lets me keep doing the work I love and keep my eyeballs intact.
While I'm not built for the corporate tech industry, I'm proud of the work I did. Some notable things I've helped build:
I'm a staunchly pro-union (What did you expect from a Michigander?) and I was proud to work at Glitch, where my coworkers organized to form a union and ratify the first collective bargaining agreement in the tech industry.
I'm especially proud to have been the co-founder of the Beaker Browser, an experiment to enable independent publishing on the web by putting a peer-to-peer protocol into the browser itself. Think BitTorrent for websites.
The project is no longer under active development, but its principles live on in decentralized social network protocols like Mastodon, Bluesky, and Secure Scuttlebutt.
In my Beaker era, I spoke internationally about Merkle trees, the mission of the peer-to-peer Web, and the push-and-pull dynamic of centralization and decentralization on the Web. I don't do public speaking anymore, but you can view recordings and slides for most of my presentations, or check out some of my favorites here:
JSConf EU / Berlin
Imagine This: A Web without Servers
A vision for enhancing the Web as an open platform for publishing and sharing information.
Peer-to-peer Web LA / Los Angeles, CA
A Brief History of the Web
...and how one architectural choice got us into a very big mess.
!!Con / New York, NY
How Merkle Trees Enable the Decentralized Web
Why the humble Merkle tree is the backbone of decentralized software like Git, BitTorrent, Bitcoin, and more.
These days I spend most of my time outdoors. I hunt, fish, and try to find any excuse to spend time in the woods. Currently I'm busy training my German Wirehaired Pointer puppy for the 2023 woodcock and grouse season.
My other hobbies include golf, cooking, and writing mediocre poems.
Together we'll love through all space and time.