jQuery Uk Conference

On Friday, White October hosted the first European jQuery conference, and I managed to convince my employer to buy me a ticket.

The day started off rather well, with the trains running on time for a change and there being a very friendly chap selling very good bacon sandwiches outside the station, and then got better. I was in the lucky third of the attendees and won a brand new Blackberry PlayBook from the nice guys I was chatting to on their stand: it turns out that Blackberry support jQuery and PhoneGap with developer resources & now they want to encourage more developers to use their devices - I've not yet worked out how I'll use mine.

Their other sponsors/exhibitors I spoke to were:

  • Nokia: who had no stand I could find
  • Kendo UI: with a UI framework to rival jQuery Mobile, just with a more restrictive license and the aim to mimic the look of a native app on all platforms inside the browser. I think I'll use jQuery's one instead.
  • Twilio: who do a interesting telephone interface to REST APIs, configured via XML. I'm not sure I need to use it, but it sounds very good.

The organisation of the whole conference was great & Said Business school was ideal as a venue: right next to the station, a good size & with desks, power and working WiFi.

The sessions were filmed, and should be available soon, so I'll just recap the key points here (least I forget them):

Ralph Whitbeck kicked off w/ the State of the jQuery project, which was a good recap of what's happened recently, but contained nothing really new, other than saying that he'd like to make it an annual event.

Todd Parker was next up discussing jQuery Mobile, which he describes as a "Mobile first UI framework" rather than one that is exclusively for mobile - they test in all desktop browsers, but don't yet optimise for large screens. The framework is set up so that it can al be controlled via markup and little JavaScript is needed to control it all. Their testing and development methodologies seem sane as well: test on real devices, stick to standards, progressive enhancements, back button & friendly URLs, Aria support - which gives iOS users voice control - and support for PhoneGap and similar frameworks. It's already a mature usable project and has some good features coming (like better tablet support)

Following Todd were Dion Almaer and Ben Galbraith performing a great double act discussing Web vs Apps from what they put into practice at WalmartLabs. Their opinion is that both are currently required & they find that users in different region have different preferences and that use cases vary, particularly that Native App users already have some company loyalty where as Web App users may well have just followed a link from Google.

Jorn Zaefferer's talk on Single Page Applications wasn't revolutionary, but contained some good tips and he seemed particularly keen on sending client errors back to the server so that they could be used to improve the user experience.

During lunch there as a fairly high level intro to Qunit, which I used at Honda - it doesn't look like it's changed. It's a shame as this talk could have been better aimed at the why and the what of client side testing rather than going over an easy to use framework.

The often sleepy post-lunch spot was given to Christian Heilmann who spent a busy few minutes telling us why jQuery wasn't needed any more: Imagine a world where browsers got better and we hadn't noticed because we'd been using abstraction layers when they weren't always needed.

Next in the spot light was: Aloha Editor. Haymo Meran did a good job of selling this project to us, which encouraged me to spend today looking into it. I think it's not quite mature enough for large scale production use, but I'm impressed by it so far and will keep an eye on it: I think it'll ideal for blog entries and I like the idea of using it for real time collaboration.

Paul Irish tried packing too much into his presentation but managed to give a good overview of abstraction layers like Sass, coffescript, HAML, but failed to convince this skeptic on their necessity. What was really good was the way he showed off Chrome Dev Tools - I'm now making a concerted effort to switch from Firebug.

Addy Osami gave a very good overview of how to architect a large scale Javascript App, again nothing really new, but some good stuff none the less.

Doug Neiner did a good job of explaining why it's not always worth prematurely optimising your code. Write code like you buy a car, he said: weight the speed against the cost. The cost of optimisation may be flexibility down the line. Strive for just in time optimisation.

All in all, it was a very enjoyable day out, with some good pointers for things to check out. I'm looking forward to next year & seeing if there are other conferences I can attend.