One of the big themes that ran through JSConf this year was one of play. This idea that a lot of what we achieve as developers happens when we think outside the box – both in terms of how we write software and in terms of the software we deliver to end users (in some cases those end users may well be other developers utilizing your library or API).
Probably the best talk on that concept was by Dan Ingalls (one of the pioneers of object oriented programming and one of the inventors of Smalltalk). He was there to demo the Lively Kernel – a new approach to web programming that’s almost a web development version of Fabrik, the visual programming development environment designed by Ingalls at Apple Computer in the mid-1980s. Essentially it’s a drag-and-drop development environment built entirely in the web browser. Everything you do (whether it’s connecting to a web service or animating graphics) can be manipulated in real-time. It’s really quite amazing and has to be seen to be believed. I doubt it will have usefulness in general web development – but for teaching the possibilities of the web to younger developers it could be very powerful.
My other favorite talk was by Jake Archibald from Lanyrd. He gave an amazing presentation on the pitfalls of using the browser application cache. It’s a fairly dry subject – but one that’s important for any web developer thinking about offline support. Not only was his talk excellent but his slides were a master-class in HTML5-based presentations – combining a beautiful mixture of HTML, SVG & CSS3 transitions and transforms. He writes about building the slides here. I urge anyone interested in the bleeding edge of web development to take a look.
The whole conference ended with something a little different. Rick Falkvinge, the founder of the first (Swedish) Pirate Party, was invited to speak on how he founded the party and what political activism really means. His message was about the power of the vote – even taking a few percentage points can upset the balance of power and make the larger parties take notice. It was an inspiring talk – however I believe a lot of the power in the vote that he talks about has more impact in a proportional representation system (like in Sweden) than it does in the US (where there is a distinct, two-party system).
To be honest I could probably write a synopsis for every talk I went too – the conference was that good! Thanks again to Chris Williams and the JSConf team. Can’t wait for next year!
Oh – and JSConf isn’t just for the US. JSConf EU will be on October 6/7th, JSConf Argentina May 19/20 and for those of you downunder JSConf is coming to Australia! There aren’t a lot of details yet – but it shouldn’t be missed!