Christian Heilmann

Full Frontal 2011 – some notes

Tuesday, November 15th, 2011 at 3:18 pm

Last Friday I attended Full Frontal without speaking, which was a welcome change in my schedule. Originally I didn’t mean to go at all but some people dropping out meant that I had to go. Seeing that I love Brighton and have truckloads of respect for Remy and Julie I went down there and I can only say I would have kicked myself if I hadn’t.

Full frontal was a pretty amazing conference with inspiring talks, good info and a quick flow that meant the day was over before I realised it.

Here are my impressions of the talks in succession:

Jeremy Ashkenas kicked off with “CoffeeScript Design Decisions” – an introduction to coffeescript and how it is not Ruby although the syntax looks eerily similar. Mike Davies has a detailed write up on this one and I liked the way Jeremy showed the benefits of Coffeescript without being pushy about it. I can see CS being used and with good debugging tools like SourceMapping this can be quite a boost for developers to build JavaScript without having to juggle its “special cases”

Phil Hawksworth followed up with “Excessive Enhancement – Are we taking proper care of the Web?” – a call to arms to stop us from using new technology in an obstructing and excessive fashion. His whipping boy example was which is HTML5/CSS3 and all the other goodies but also clocks in at 11MB of data in hundreds of HTTP requests. In essence Phil repeated a lot of the things that I have been banging on about – that HTML5 is currently mostly used in brochureware sites that can put “skip intro” Flash solutions to shame in their lack of accessibility and responsiveness. Ubelly have a nice write-up of Phil’s talk and you can check the slides here. All in all I was very impressed with the talk. The presentation was very funny, at times it got a bit ranty, but that shows passion. I was very reminded of talks by Jake Archibald and seeing they worked together, that might not be coincidence. Phil also mentioned a lot of tricks how to fix the issues he complained about, which is exactly the right way to deal with this.

Marijn Haverbeke of Eloquent JavaScript fame gave a good round-up of text editors in the browser with “Respectable code-editing in the browser”. The main focus was on Code Mirror and Marijn brought the message across that in-browser editing is not an easy feat but something that needs to be done.

Talking about development in the browser and the cloud: Rik Arends of Cloud 9 was next with “How we Architected Cloud9 IDE for scale on NodeJS” and basically blew me away showing off the new features that make Cloud9 a really interesting choice for collaborative editing in the browser.

After Lunch, Nicholas Zakas did a re-run of his “Scalable JavaScript Application Architecture” talk given some two years ago at another conference. That said, a lot of the talk still rings very much true and Nicolas changed a lot of it to be agnostic of the environment and libraries in use. If you are looking for information to get you on the way to build huge JavaScript solutions, this is a good piece of advice.

Local linked data and open format overlord Glenn Jones was next with “Beyond the page” – a good talk on how new features in HTML5 like drag and drop, File API and post messages allow us to build incredibly rich and web-enabled applications. Glenn showed off all the things that also get me very excited these days about the web, including web intents. A great and inspiring talk with lots of code and ideas to play with now. You could see Glenn’s passion for the topic – especially when he showed how to allow users do drag and drop an image from a browser to the desktop using JavaScript (forgetting that this is possible in browsers without any interfering on our part). The difference though is that you can convert the image while you drag it and automatically rename or pack it, too.

A very charming speaker, Brendan Dawes was next with “Beyond The Planet Of The Geeks” showing us just how much of a geek he is (collecting pencils and paper clips) and how his company and products moved from wild demos and experiments with interaction on a screen to useful and engaging products. To a degree what was shown does not quite meet that yet as the interface at the end was shiny and amazing and looked like Flash but used new technology. It failed to deliver the basic principles mentioned in Phil’s talk of bookmarkability and real links though. I talked with Brendan afterwards and we’ll work on getting the history API and local storage in there to make it beautiful, engaging and a good web citizen.

My absolute highlight of the day was Marcin Wichary with “You gotta do what you gotta do” – a talk about Google doodles and the work that went into them. Marcin was amazing – baffling interactive slides, a very humble demeanour and great information on the tricks that had to be applied to make doodles perform and be small. I was very much reminded on the things we had to do in the demo scene on C64 and Amiga. A great insight into just how much work goes into a thing that is seen for 24 hours and then vanishes. That said, I pestered Marcin afterwards if they are willing to show some of the cool stuff he explained in a blog and he said they would.

All in all it was an incredible day and well worth the money (had I paid for it). The only thing I am really sad about is that there was no recording or filming. Especially Marcin’s talk is something that needs to be archived for people to see.

Update : as Remy just pointed out on Twitter there are audio recordings of the talks available and will be published soon. They are also considering video recordings for the next year.

Tags: , ,

Share on Mastodon (needs instance)

Share on Twitter

My other work: