Friday, April 6, 2012

JSConf 2012 Notes


JSConf has a pretty great reputation. Node.js, Phonegap and other huge projects were announced in JSConf's past. There are legendary parties and fantastic speakers. This year was no exception. As such, the 250 conference tickets sold out in less than 5 minutes. We dressed up like cowboys, rode a mechanical bull and even had shoot-outs. It was a pretty awesome adventure. 


I try to look for themes in the talks that I saw to figure out what's going on in the community right now. Other than the cowboy theme there were a couple of ideas I heard repeated more than once:
  1. Experimentation / play leads to great ideas.
  2. Everyone is working really hard to make JS faster.
  3. We need more women/diversity in JS.
  4. Build tools / dependencies let us do cooler things.

My Talk

I gave a quick talk about some things I think are important to the JS community.
  1. Open Source
  2. Respecting Diversity
  3. Helping New People
  4. Startup/DIY Culture
You can see the slides here: JavaScript as a Subculture

While no one mentioned it directly, this popular tweet was in response to my talk: Talk about JS culture: "we hated ie, we hated tables,.. What's the new enemy? Someone answers: the threat of native" good answer @jsconf. I'm famous!

Big Announcements

People look to JSConf for big announcements. There were a few of those. It usually takes a few years though to see which ones actually end up panning out.
  1. Project Bikeshed client/server-side flash -> js converter by UXEBU
  2. Grunt ant/rake for JS, by Ben Alman
  3. Everyone got Mozilla B2G Phones for hacking. Sooo cool.
  4. Joyent's node.js PaaS is being phased out and moved to Nodejitsu.
  5. The Chrome team introduced Source Maps for debugging minified code.

Best Talks

I obviously couldn't see all of the talks, so I may have missed a few things, but here were some of the top talks I saw at least in relation to front-end development, which is what I do at my day job. Many other amazing talks were also given about improving JS Performance in the browser, other programming languages and politics.

Jeff Archibald: AppCache is a Douchebag

Summary: AppCache is not progressive enhancement, it completely changes how the browser handles your site.

This talk laid out basically all of the flaws and awkward parts of using HTML5 AppCache and how to use localStorage, iframes and other hacks to get it to behave properly. He made a separation between "get stuff" sites like blogs and wikipedia, and "do stuff" sites like drawing apps and games. It was really entertaining, but ultimately a depressing talk, because of how hard it is to get the AppCache to work properly :(

Remy Sharp: Build Anything

Use HTML5's JS APIs to progressively enhance your site.

A good reminder of the latest crop of fairly well supported HTML5/JS APIs. We're already using most of these at oDesk, but some that we are not yet using include the HTML5 Drag'n'Drop API to handle file uploading, HTML5 input types, HTML5 History/PushState API, and EventSource (Server sent events).

Paul Irish: Tools

There are a lot of great tools out there to help web development. Embrace these dependencies.

Paul Irish laid out every testing framework, css pre-processor, debug tool, and CI Server you could use to maintain your site. He also talked about source maps and some mobile web tools. He mentioned Jenkins and Travis as decent CI Servers.

Jacob Thornton: Brûlons les musées

We can make things better by starting over, but we need to have clear specs/tests to make sure our new thing still works the same.

The creator of Twitter Bootstrap and ender.js took us for a journey through Dada-ism and french futurism, finally landing on a quote by a famous futurist which translates to "burn the libraries". Jacob tried doing that with ender.js and it ended up being kind of awesome, but quickly people realized small differences with jQuery made it really hard to use. He took a similar approach at re-writing mustache.js in a project called Hogan, which ended up being really successful, because mustache.js had unit tests that could be used to ensure it was perfectly compatible. His approach ended up being significantly faster than the original and eventually was accepted into the mustache.js core. Super funny talk. Final quote "Burn all the libraries without tests".

New Friends

  1. I briefly talked to Nicole Sullivan, who was nice nice nice and seemed pleased as punch we were doing OOCSS at oDesk. She gave me some tips on grids and HTML5, which I'll share with my teams.
  2. I spoke with @substack who made browserling/testling who said we could get it to work behind our VPN if we opened up an SSH Tunnel somehow.
  3. I spoke with Devrim Yasar from Koding about his in-browser IDE. It's very similar to Cloud9, but it's more friendly to non-js environments. I'd really love to give something like this a try, but it will take some work to tweak our dev infrastructure.
  4. Ben Alman from Bocoup showed me his command-line tool Grunt, which is similar to my odesklint tool. It has built-in jshint, minification, and can run qUnit on the server-side with PhantonJS out-of-the box (almost). Grunt has a plugin architecture and may be a good starting point for future tools. I'm going to try and get the unit testing thing working and integrated with a CI server. :)
  5. I talked to the guys from Twillio, who make a really easy to use API for building SMS sender/receivers. Think user-verification and other use-cases. Fantastic stuff.
  6. John David Dalton had some ideas about how to speed up ES5 shims for things like Array.forEach. Really smart guy!
  7. I had a two total fanboy moments when I got to meet Rebecca Murphey and Remy Sharp, but you know everyone has their favorites. I met a bunch of other cool people too. Yay for talking to people. It can be so hard!