jQ UK 2015

Getting up early for a conference in another city is always an unwelcome jolt, though a train ride through a crisp early morning can be a nice novelty. Besides Oxford was lovely once I got there; the jQuery UK Conference I was there for hidden down a pretty canal. It’s got to be one of the largest I’ve been to too, with two tracks to choose between, and far from centring on the specifics of jQ the talks ran the gamut from ES6 to CSS, and those were just the first two!

Dave Methvin: ES6 is the answer! What was the problem?

I saw a very similar talk at jQuery 2013 by Brendan Eich and couldn’t follow any of it so it was very encouraging that I not only followed this time, but got pretty excited about ES6’s forthcoming features. The main take home was swap out all VARs for LETs and CONSTs, use a transpiler to let you use lots of nifty shorthand, and stroke your beard and talk about the Temporal Dead Zone because it’s an actual thing. I’d reccomend watching the video!

Mark Otto: Modular css

It’s really interesting seeing the high-flying careers of CSS specialists; Mark works at github, used to work at twitter and doesn’t know any JS or jQ! He had a lot of tips for architecting the front end of large systems, and though most of it wasn’t new as I’d seen a couple of talks by Harry Roberts lately, it was still a good refresher. Some examples included keep a simple class structure (no ids!), use a block-element-modifier naming convention, don’t chain and my personal favourite: Don’t mimic the html structure in classes.

I didn’t agree with all of it but he had some very interesting things to say about reporting on CSS with Parker or CSS Stats, and has some great front end resources like Code Guide, WTFHTMLCSS and others.

Bodil Stokke: Reactive game development

Bodil pretty much just live-coded Robot Unicorn Attack right in front of us, except with a My Little Pony collecting coins and avoiding haters. It was using ready made assets and some frameworks but still very cool!

Rosie Campbell: Designing for displays that don’t exist yet

From the BBC’s R&D department Rosie gave some great insights into their work on a more connected world, the web of things we’re always hearing so much about. She took us from where we’ve been to where we are, and to what’s next, screens so huge they cover the wall; smart wallpaper! The ultimate embodiment of the connected home. Her tips on this kind of blue sky thinking: design for UX rather than technology, use constraints, stay device-agnostic, and watch a lot of sci-fi.

Alice Bartlet: Bin your <select>

I love the work of gov.uk with accessibility, pragmatism and having a real-world impact so it was a treat to see Alice take us through some of their processes and user research. Long story short a surprisingly large minority can’t use select boxes at all simply because there’s no analogue on paper forms. It’s a great study on challenging a pointless anti-pattern, as simple text fields hooked up to a date parser are much more usable to every level of computer literacy. Talk recommended!

Andy Hume: Resilient front ends

We put a lot of time and effort into the known qualities of 404’s, but there’s another outage that happens just as much, one due to an unreliable connection, particularly on mobile. Andy’s solution is a resilient web. Nobody has JS when it’s loading, so does it catastrophically break or fall back gracefully? The classic real-word example is when an escalator breaks, it automagically becomes stairs!

Philip Roberts: What the heck is the event loop anyway?

My favourite talk of the day, on the mechanics of what’s actually happening in the JavaScript underneath all that pesky code. A bunch of points that had come up at work recently were all explained and I was so transfixed I didn’t even take notes. Talk recommended!

Rich Harris: Dismantling the barriers to entry

Very interesting talk about how coding can affect the world, from a journalist that learnt to code in order to do his job better. Rich spoke about how the web isn’t democratic because everything is too hard, so he’s building a framework called Ractive that’s incredibly easy to use, and might put us all out of a job. Hurrah! Seriously though a humbling and thought-provoking talk.

Alex Sexton: Hacking front end apps

This was the second talk in a month I’ve seen about how horrifically insecure everything is. It makes me want to give up banking online all together. Alex basically blamed web developers, because we should be secure, but it’s hard. Eesh. From content injection to ridiculously simple css-based timing attacks it’s pretty scary. The solution, apparently, is to black-list everything and work from there? Be closed by default instead of open. Sad times.

Ben Foxall: Real world jQuery

The talk title was totally inappropriate as this was all about the standard Foxall live-demo magic, achieved via a webpage that the audience were invited to visit on their phones. Basically Ben performed a bunch of tricks using the collective phone APIs which was totally neato! …But you might have had to be there.

The videos are online!

I’ve already linked to my favourite talks but the rest of them are online too, including the seven more from the other track that I didn’t see, and will be catching up on soon. Many thanks to the people at White October for putting on such a show, this one’s going in the calender for next year!