Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Full Brighton

And actually, this blog *should* be about how to avoid common pitfalls when using Dojo widgets inside hidden ContentPanes (as when using Stack- or TabContainers), but I have a huge queue of, oh, two or so posts to go before that.

Todays topic is of course the unreasonably nice JavaScript conference in Brighton recently - Full Frontal.

I have never been to Brighton before, and one of the experience was walking about the city itself.

Which despite the pedestrian nature of above statement is not particularly easy, even if it's nice (sharing properties with several other activities I could think of..).

The reason for the lack of simplicity is that the city is actually at least two cities, which don't like each other very much and have crashed into one another in a desperate struggle to the very end, throwing streets and towers as you please, leaving the unwary resident in crossing with no less than three busy streets, often multiples of that, where two or more have steel railings to avoid being crossed in reasonable manners.

I had managed to hitch a ride out of the airport with @icaaq, or actually @icaaq's cousin, who was living with her family in Brighton since years back. After a quick freshening up in the Hotel room I managed to get to something I believe is the west end of Brighton which is chock-full of pubs, of which me and a motley crew of web developers, media folks, CEOs, CSS gurus and JavaScript madmen went to at least three (or so they say).

The evening was punctuated by Christian Heilman was nice enough to lead the way to the actual beach (at 2am) to see a work of art of some sort, where I managed to take a photo of him and Lieke Arendts of and Javelin fame (uppermost above).

The conference was set in a beautiful fin-de-last-but-last-again-ciecle cinema named Duke of York Cinema. You know what? All conferences should be in cinemas. Problem with ventilation? Nope. Too hot or cold? No way. A cinema is made for large number of people sitting for a long time looking at whatever's up on the stage. Perfect!

And was it great! One of the best things was that I wasn't even speaking. I had no last-minutes slides to perfect, no slow parts of my talk to worry about - nothing. I could just sit down and enjoy the show.

But even though wins due to the sheer amount of good content, Full Frontal still manage to out-wattage on the mere fact that it was *so* right in just one day, managing by luck or engineering to get almost every speaker not only be the right kind but sort of building upon each others talks.

Everything was good, but the absolute highlights for me was Jake Archibalds talk on JavaScript optimization. Not only for the hard data on what to do and not to do - between different browser, but he had a stunning presentation technique. First of all his slides were top-notch (can he possible be that skilled? Or do he have some secret connections in the Beeb's media departments?), and secondly he had a comic timing that made his talk the most fun-packed of the day.

He had this slide of a He-man doll, which he referred to as the power of the JavaScript VMs of the moderns browsers , but crossed with terminator (next slides showing he-man with Borg eye), and a crustacean forming a battlecrab! (bext slides showing a cyborged he-man doll with a large crab-like derierre), and so on. I don't make him credit, but it was really great.

The next best part was the closing act, where Simon Willison had ditched his prepared talk (something about web APIs) after seeing the presentations on JSConf the week earlier, and promptly slammed together his own talk on node.js, using fluffy rabbits, cute hamsters and octopuses (OK, just one octpus), to describe the difference between threaded event handling and event-callbacks.

The talk had just the same effect on Full Frontal. people whooped and became generally agitated about the idea to use their front-end kung-fu to start building heavy-hitting serve-side stuff as well. No new idea (and the Javelin guys were quietly commenting on their own KLOCs of C++ to make their own SSJS platform one of the speediest, doing essentially the same - and more), but the magic bullet here is one of perceived complexity; Noone in the room thought that they would have a hard time picking up node.js and try something out with it. Just as with CouchDB, it simple to explain and simple to use. Well, OK, I'll shut up about it for now, but expect me to be back on the topic!

Anyhoo.. the after-party was nice, full of back-clapping and camaraderie,and just the right size too. I think that the superpower of the current JavaScript movement that's building is twofold; people are super-amateurish and quirky, and also nice. Really, really nice.

Amateurism in really bright people means playfulness and a lowering of barriers, so that using hamsters for request is seen as OK - not very academical, but fun and getting the point across.

I'll definitely be back next year (there too :)


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