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Highlights from the first nz.js(con);

Highlights from SilverStripers who attended the first nz.js(con); — New Zealand's dedicated national JavaScript conference.

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Some SilverStripers attended the first nz.js(con); — New Zealand's dedicated national JavaScript conference on the 9th & 10th of March, 2017 in Wellington, New Zealand. Here are some of the highlights from us.

Garion Herman

  • Mad beats from Matt McKegg: exciting to see the variety of Electron apps being developed now (and super fun to help create music as part of the audience).
  • A rough average of 3 phones dropped per session (plus one speaker's laptop). More research required to find a root cause for these bugs.
  • Stevie Mayhew literally ran through his slides on A-Frame with a PS4 controller.
  • Despite having used it for months now, I was still moderately spooked by Webpack's configuration system before Tanya Gray took us through the basics.
  • I was accepted as a conference speaker for the first time (thanks, team!), and I spoke about Vue, Nuxt and Socket.io, and how together they can help you build engaging server-rendered JavaScript applications with ease.
  • In the final keynote, Alex Gibson gave us some serious homework – contributing more of our time to developing our community, and helping less privileged people enter and succeed in the industry – all in pursuit of growing New Zealand's wealth and improving the prosperity of all its citizens. If you're reading this post, you can probably help, so get involved.
  • Overall, this was a very diverse, smoothly run conference, and I'm excited to see what comes next from those involved. Special thanks to Jen for her tireless work in making it happen.

Igor Nadj

  • A lot of people were doing interesting stuff with JavaScript – creating music, augmented reality, and virtual reality. The big takeaway from these talks was that there’s been a lot of advances in browsers to enable these technologies, and some great libraries are popping up to make it easier. There are issues with performance – JavaScript struggles with real-time processing like this. Look out for more of this in the future.
  • Another theme was “serverless”. Tim Wright talked about “Serverless Applications - behind the hype”, which is a refreshing title for a bleeding-edge concept. Typically you need a server to authenticate against and to host your API. And to run your server, you need to spin up and manage a machine. Tim shows us a solution for moving both of these parts out into hosted services, using AWS as an example. He gives practical advice on when to use this architecture and the considerations you have to make. I will definitely explore this more in my side projects.
  • A very resonating and eye-opening talk was about culture. Robert Pearce in his talk “Behaviour & Your Team” takes a look at a very subtle but insidious thing that is quite likely to be happening at your workplace. It was eye opening because it has been happening at mine, and I unknowingly have been contributing to it. Robert calls it a culture of criticism where we use criticism and negativity to bond, see it as a good thing, and peer pressure others to criticise as well. He then gives really good practical advice on how to address it.

Christopher Joe

  • It was great to meet other like-minded developers and putting faces to names. Great talks all around – the effort put into organising it really shines.
  • We get a glimpse into some very interesting topics, some of which I'm very keen to try out later on and learn from.
  • The diversity of topics was great, and there were many opportunities to learn about something you haven't heard of or had the chance to try out yet.
  • I especially liked the AST and Server-less app presentations.
  • Some important keynotes that resonated with my experiences and I believe many (if not all) developers should watch the presentation for:

The beauty of bad code by Raquel Vélez
Behaviour and your team by Robert Pearce
Open sourcing mental health by a panel of some very brave people
Technology for everyone by PrototypeAlex

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Paul Jayme

    • Great talk on the key principles of how to avoid writing bad code – boiled down to three categories: good code must be functional, readable and maintainable.
    • The flip side is that bad code isn't always 'bad', when someone writes code, it is a reflection of their ability to think and solve problems. We should respect that and learn how their brain works.
    • We shouldn't 'marry' our code – writing bad code should not be a reflection of our personality. Just because we wrote bad code doesn't mean we are terrible at everything in life. It is purely a reflection of the way we think.
  • I play the JavaScript:

    • A demonstration of using JavaScript to conduct a live DJ performance where the JavaScript app would intelligently synchronise the timings of each sample and produce a banging tune on the fly. Each sample was collected from the audience who collectively made sounds such as stomping, yelling and hissing.
    • Great to see the power of JavaScript and how it can replace the physical process of experimenting with electronic modules in a live environment. Insane that it can conduct a live DJ performance like that!
  • Burning out:

    • Interesting talk based on a panel of five people who experienced burnout throughout their careers and how they overcame such situations.
    • You don't have to be physically ill to be unfit for work (i.e. have the flu, cough, cold, etc,). You can be 'mentally ill' and be unfit for work and your employer should be respectful of that.
    • Working when you are burnt out or drained only means that your level of productivity and efficiency won’t be as good, compared to when you are both mentally and physically healthy.
    • It is ok to take time off, we should attempt to do things that are “non-tech-related”. Step away from all the tech and get a breath of fresh air.

Ingo Schommer

  • Jack Skinner talked about server push in HTTP/2: The server can choose to preemptively push additional API responses through a "preload" link tag. Using the network wisely is becoming an increasingly important for mobile data connections and battery constrained devices. HTTP/2 enjoys over 80% adoption in browsers already, which makes these techniques ready for prime time.
  • Stuart Whitehead looked at different approaches to static publishing in Exploring Static Isomorphism. Going beyond the buzzwords, he evaluated against commonly overlooked criteria like "complexity" and "SEO friendliness". The idea is based around building and hosting static HTML with server-rendered JavaScript, and amending those static HTML responses with rich content obtained through dynamic APIs (such as a shopping cart).

Elliot Sawyer

  • Going serverless with Serverless framework and AWS:
    • Using Node.js to operate in-browser applications, and completing microtransactions using AWS Cognito and AWS Lambda in place of a dedicated server.
    • In essence, you pay for the exact calculations you need to operate your website instead of buying out cloudspace by the hour.
  • Desktop all the things: Great talk on using the Electron framework to spin out dedicated operating system apps, instead of hosting them within a browser tab.
  • NodeBots workshop:
    • Building robots using the JohnnyFive JavaScript framework. This enables control of Arduino-based development boards to control things like LEDs and servo motors.
    • Offered a choice between automating a drone and building a “sumo” bot, which was to compete against other themes.
    • We got our sumobot built, but were unable to get the board to communicate with the servos. We ran out of time but narrowed the problem down to the breadboard.
    • Other teams managed to get their sumobot driving, and steerable with a keyboard.
    • One speaker displayed a presentation/game that he wrote entirely in JavaScript, complete with audio, maze-generation, animation effects, and artificial intelligence. It was an incredible presentation and really showcased what JavaScript is capable of after 20+ years of use.

Images by Kristina D.C. Hoeppner.

About the author
Vinh Nguyen

Marketer at SilverStripe. He is the love child of Marketing and Web Technology.

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