jQuery UK marked the first conference of the year for myself and it has set the bar unbelievably high for the rest to even attempt to touch. I can usually judge the quality of a conference by how much it inspires me to do more and since this one was over and I made the journey back from Oxford to London, I don’t think I have slept properly. Every single talk left my brain firing on all cylinder and making plans for change. Change in the way I approach project, change in the way I think about code and change in the way I intend to grow as a developer. This conference and its speakers have made an impact on me and left a Chicxulub sized crater in my mind in it’s wake.
The organisers, White October, picked the Saïd Business School which is located adjacent the main rail station in Oxford, and you really couldn’t have asked for a more perfect venue for a tech conference. In the lobby were the various sponsors dishing out not only the usual freebies (Tshirts and Stickers) but also some other great goodies that were up for grabs. I was happy to find out that my fortune cookie led me to win 1 of 100 Blackberry Playbook’s, but the Coffeescript Coffee mug was also a winner. The talks were given in a lecture hall, which meant that each seat had a desk and access to power and an ethernet port, finally the Network cable given to us upon arrival made sense.
Ralph Whitbeck stepped up to give the opening talk, covering the State of the jQuery project. He started off with some figures. 54% of top 17,000 sites now use jQuery whilst Flash is stalled at 47% and has been for some time. He then talked about the team and how it’s currently structured, the idea of transparency within the team and the project (decisions for the project are made in public online) and then briefly talked about how they are outgrowing the SFC quickly and in order not to continue talking up their time, and keep things moving smoothly within the project, they are looking to form their very own NPO organisation to handle everything that the project requires. After going through the changes that the jQuery core went through over the past year, Whitbeck moved onto discussing the future of the project. Performance improvements and slimming down the code is number one on the teams list. There are no new APIs being introduced in the next major release and the idea to Break IE6/7 functionality into a plugin is an IDEA only and nothing is confirmed. The slides are here
Todd Parker was next up to deliver this years keynote and speak about the most talked about part of the jQuery project for the past year, jQuery Mobile. The jQuery mobile framework is built to be mobile first, but works perfectly well on desktop too, much like jQuery UI, and this point was echoed in Todd’s keynote. Progressive enhancement, Responsive web and building on Web Standards were all key parts in making jQuery Mobile what it is. As someone who has been knee deep in mobile development for the past few months and loving everything that jQuery mobile offers to a developer, this was a great talk and I think whilst Todd went through exactly how to set up a project and how everything works, there were certainly other mobile virgins who would have been turned onto using jQuery Mobile as soon as possible. The slides for his presentation can be found here
Dion Almaer & Ben Galbraith
After the first tea break, Dion Almaer and Ben Galbraith took to the stage and delivered a great talk on Native Applications VS Web Applications. I have never seen Dion or Ben talk before, but together they have an amazing energy and clearly know what they are talking about. It flowed well and they jumped from section to section smoothly discussing all the pros and cons. They talked about their experience as developers and the issues that they came across and then like all great developers, they talked about their application framework called Thorax which is a combination of Backbone, Underscore, Zepto, Handlebars, Stylus and optionally Lumbar. Its well worth a look.
Jorn Zaefferer was up next and talking about Pitfalls and opportunities of single page applications. He talked about the importance of not breaking the user experience and the URI. Using the HTML5 history API takes a key role in this, but until there is full support across the board, the use of pollyfills and history libraries is important. He has a github repo here for his examples and resources. He also talked about various different ways of leveraging technologies like Node, to help deliver a better user experience on a single page application.
During the lunchbreak there were wo shorter talks given. I skipped the first one that covered 10 tips when using jQuery due to the fact that it seemed more important to consume Monster Munch in the lobby and talk. I caught the second talk about testing with QUnit. Its was good, brief and to the point, but unfortunately didn’t really cover anything I didn’t already know and I am sure that for anyone who had used it before would be in the same position. The good thing was that Laurent Delcambre did go into some detail into why Test Driven Development is important and hopefully that would get more developers making testing an important part of their process.
“The love for ie6 is bordering on necrophilia at times”
That was a quote from Christian Heilmann who was up next talking about embracing and celebrating redundancy. As always, Heilmann’s strength lies in his convictions. He has absolutely no problem about getting to the point and expressing his opinions on anything and I’ve seen him talk on multiple occasions – each talk ery different, but very relative – and each time he brings something new to the table. It was one of my favourite talks because he discussed the idea of knowledge sharing and making yourself redundant was the best practice, because as a developer you need to grow and continue learning, rather than being stuck doing the same thing, this is certianly an idea and method I try to practice myself. As soon as I learn something and get good at it, I try to pass that knowledge onto other people as quick as possible. He then went onto talk about jQuery and abstraction and how sometimes there can be too much abstraction-come-obstruction and careful planning can lead to better, leaner code. I think its a mix of Christian’s knowledge, experience and sense of humor that makes him one of the most enjoyable speakers to ever see. Thankfully he always records his own talks and uploads them almost immediately, you can check it out here.
Haymo Meran followed up with a talk about Aloha Editor and the problems of implementing contentEditable in the browser, but keeping it accessible. Aloaha Editor is a WYSIWYG editor for editing directly on your site/blog and has some great features, its the next step beyond TinyMCE or or FCK. There wasn’t too much to take away from Haymo’s talk, other than knowing now of another option when a client asks for a editor in their CMS. There’s a WordPress plugin out there too for you WP fans.
Paul Irish was up next, talking about tools and building a good frontend stack. Irish is another one of my favourite talkers at the moment, his energy and passion for development is great and he has such a presence on stage. He began digging into past tools that developers used and quickly moved into the minefield of tools, frameworks, libraries and other such geekiness. He talked about some of the author abstractions that I love to use (SASS, HAML, Markdown, CoffeeScript) and some things I hadn’t heard of (Codekit, Jade) and everything in-between. A quote from his talk –
“Many people are asking for SASS and LESS support in Chrome Developer tools, Including me, so it’s going to happen.”
Doug Neiner was last to take to the stage talking about Contextual jQuery. It was a great talk and I have never seen Neiner talk before, but he was a fast – but clear – speaker. He blazed through demonstations of how many developers build their applications, using examples of things that I have been guilty of in the past, and the began showing us the power that jQuery has and how we can use it in more of a contextual manner. Fewer IDs, better selectors, very little repeated code and virtually nothing on document.ready. His three key points were – and I think that these were great to take away -
Write code like you spend money!
opt to pay a little more later so you don’t risk losing it all on something that never happens
Write code like you buy a car!
always weigh the difference between cost and quality
Write code like you ask for directions or building something!
try to get there on your own first!
You can check our Doug’s slides here.
The day finished and it was off to the after party to mingle and catch up with some of the speakers. I managed to get the chance to speak to Todd Parker about the jQuery Mobile project in some length and Paul Irish about a whole multitude of things, including sharing our love for SASS.
It was really down to the excellent organisation of White October and namely John Wards for arranging such an excellent conference and getting some great speakers. They did mention that they would make it an annual occurrence, so i guess i’ll see you there next year.