Full Frontal Conference: A day out with JavaScript

Back in May, I wrote a two-part tutorial for beginners about JavaScript and jQuery, in which I said that “along with HTML and CSS, knowledge of JavaScript is a key skill that anyone involved in building websites should acquire”. I haven’t always been of that opinion, but the more I learn about HTML5, the more convinced I am that without JavaScript skills, you can no longer really call yourself a web professional. That goes for designers as well as developers.

I have to admit that I’m far from being an expert in JavaScript. I’ve used it for about eight years, but it’s never come as easy to me as PHP. So, earlier this month, I headed down to Brighton for the third Full Frontal JavaScript Conference organized by JavaScript whiz kid, Remy Sharp. I had attended Remy’s Node.js workshop in London in May, and realized he was not only knowledgeable, but also well organized. That gave me high hopes for the conference, although I was a little concerned about immersing myself for a full day in a series of talks about different aspects of JavaScript. Unlike a dedicated workshop, you can’t raise your hand and get the speaker to go over a point you didn’t quite understand. Well, you could, if you wanted to make a fool of yourself in front of 300 people, most of whom were likely to be pretty hot on JavaScript.

I needn’t have worried. Remy had invited an excellent mix of speakers, and each talk was limited to 40 minutes. As a result, even the technical presentations by Jeremy Ashkenas (about CoffeeScript) and Marijn Haverbeke (about code editing in the browser with Code Mirror) served more to inspire than to fill me with dread. In fact, that’s the main thing I took away from the conference—inspiration at the incredible ways you can use JavaScript. Glenn Jones demonstrated some really cool uses of the new drag and drop API in HTML5. Nicholas Zakas’s talk was more theoretical, emphasizing the value of building applications in loose coupled modules—something that applies to most programming languages.

Two of the most inspiring talks came from Brendan Dawes and Marcin Wichary. Brendan presented a witty tour-de-force that somehow got from his obsession with pencils to a fascinating series of demonstrations of visual navigation systems that encourage exploration. With a background in Flash development, Brendan’s showing that—with skill and imagination—you can do visually amazing things with JavaScript. Equally amazing things are done by Marcin Wichary, who unveiled some of the secrets of Google doodles. What really impressed me was the length he goes to in order to ensure that even users of older browsers get a similar, if not equal experience.

JavaScript is becoming easier thanks to libraries such as jQuery and Microsoft’s decision to follow the World Wide Web Consortium’s Document Object Model (W3C DOM) since Internet Explorer 8. The HTML5-related APIs are also adding lots of new functionality to browsers, but there’s a danger of slipping back to the days of animated GIFs if designers/developers add new bells and whistles to their sites “just because they can”. So, Phil Hawksworth’s witty presentation was timely, warning against shizzle for the sake of shizzle.

All in all, a good day out. Any regrets? Yes, Brighton is only an hour’s train ride from London, so I decided to make it a day trip. But I had to get up so early to make it to the venue in time that I was dog tired and began nodding off in the afternoon. I was also too tired to go to the after-conference party—and missed all the free beer! Next time, I’ll book myself into a local hotel.


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2 Responses to Full Frontal Conference: A day out with JavaScript

  1. Mohd.Kashif says:

    Dear David,

    I am a fresher in designing and i really dont know how to operate javascript function, In your Spry post : Opening Specific Tabs and Panels from Another Page. i just want to do it with all closed panel and for this i am using

    var Accordion1 = new Spry.Widget.Accordion("Accordion1", {useFixedPanelHeights:false, defaultPanel:-1});
    var CollapsiblePanel1 = new Spry.Widget.CollapsiblePanel("CollapsiblePanel1", {contentIsOpen: params.col1 ? true : false});

    But it is not working . Please help me . as soon as possible.
    Contact me on my mail id : mohd.kashif19@gmail.com

  2. I have want to build my site with java script, ajax and php, I need help because i am new.