London

Let’s all go to the pub – to learn about web development – Halfstack 2018 in London, England

Halfstack is a conference that is close to my heart. Because it is in London, because it is in a pub, because it is run by a person who is lovely, ginger and did so, so much for the JavaScript community over decades without having a huge ego or being weird: Dylan Schiemann.

This, in addition to a few other factors, makes Halfstack incredibly affordable, relaxed and at the same time full of great content. That’s why I keep presenting there, even when this time – for the first time – I had to fly to London to participate.

This year had quite an amazing line-up and a lot more talks than the past editions. The average talk length was a lot shorter than in the earlier years. To me, that’s a good thing. Better to make one point really well than treating an audience once again to the history of computing and how that relates to that brand new technology you actually wanted to talk about.

I shot a lot of photos, all of which are in this Google Photos album and here’s a quick recap of the talks.

The talks

Chris Heilmann, Microsoft: “Bringing best practices front and centre”

My opening keynote was about what we consider best practices and how they are often not applicable in context. How we miss out the opportunity of making them a starting point for new developers rather than something they have to learn to value after making the same mistakes we did before. With open and extensible editors like Visual Studio Code and tools to test the quality of our products while we deploy or even create them like webhint, we have a chance to embed our knowledge into the development flow instead of hoping people start caring.

My slides, resources and twitter reactions for ‘Bringing best practices front and centre’ are on notist.

Ada Rose Cannon, Samsung: “The present and future of VR on the Web”

Ada Rose Cannon and Alex Lakaitos

Ada Rose is chock-full of talent, knowledge and does a lot of good work to move the web into the third dimension and beyond. Working for Samsung’s Internet browser has its benefits as you have access to a lot of hardware to test. Ada showed examples from the history of VR/AR and XR and how it applies to web technologies. She ended with a call to action to support the Immersive Web Community Group of the W3C to get this work further along. It is fun to see someone who is so emerged in a topic explaining it in an accessible manner rather than drowning in jargon.

Alex Lakatos, Nexmo: “Building Bots with JavaScript”

Alex Lakatos worked with me at Mozilla, back then as a community member and was one of the first to benefit from their speaker training program. And it shows. In a few minutes he explained the benefits and pitfalls of bots as a platform and communication channel and showed in live demos how to train a bot in JavaScript how to understand humans. Both his slides and his demo code are available.

Alex also runs the developer avocados newsletter, a great resource for Developer Advocacy, call for papers and all that is related to that.

Anna Migas, Lunar Logic: “Fast But Not Furious: Debugging User Interaction Performance Issues”

Anna Migas presenting at halfstackconf

Anna Migas doesn’t only have an incredibly easy to remember Twitter handle (@szynszyliszys), she also has done a lot of homework in the area of web performance when it comes to making interfaces react quickly to the user. There is a truckload of information on the topic out there, and Anna did her best to distill it for the audience into sensible, digestible chunks in this short talk. Well worth a watch and share. Her slides are here to peruse.

Liliana Kastilio, Snyk: “npm install disaster-waiting-to-happen”

Liliana Kastilio presenting

Liliana Kastilio gave her first ever presentation and covered a lot of security ground about what not to do in your JavaScript. I expected a different talk considering the title, but I was not disappointed. A lot of sensible takeaways in a short amount of time.

Andrico Karoulla, Trint: “Enter ES2018

Andrico Karoulla on ES6

Andrico Karoulla is heir to a Fish and Chip shop and thus should already be set for life. However, his passion is telling people about the cool new features of JavaScript and he did so in a short talk. He didn’t only tell us about the features, but also managed to explain why they are important and what real implementation problems they fix. Good show, even when he had a tough time speaking into the mic and coding at the same time. 🙂

Stephen Cook, Onfido: “100% CSS Mario Kart”

CSS trick used to fake interactivity

Stephen Cook delivered the first jaw-dropping talk of the day by creating a CSS Mario Kart game. He applied a few interesting tricks, like a negative delay on CSS animations and using the validity state of the hidden form field to read out keystrokes in CSS. I’ve seen a few demos like that before, but it is pretty impressive to see it done live in such a short amount of time including explanations why some of these tricks work.
Both Stephen’s slides with explanations about the hacks and the demo of the Mario Kart animation are available

Sean McGee, Esri UK: “Buying a House with JavaScript”

Sean McGee presenting

Sean’s talk was a big let-down for anyone who thought they could learn how to afford buying a house in London with JavaScript as your only skill. If you came to learn about creating a clever mash-up of house offers, crime and travel information, you had a great time. Sean explained not only how to scrape the data, but also how to mash it up and display it in an intelligent manner that allowed him to find an affordable place with all the trimmings he wanted. As a former pipes/YQL and maps person, I was very happy.

Jonathan Fielding, Snyk: “Home Automation with JavaScript”

Jonathan Fielding is another person who spoke at a few Halfstack events and this time he covered the topic of home automation. It is a great topic and a market that needs cracking open as there are not many standards available. Instead you need to do a lot of reverse engineering and tinkering and Jonathan explained in an accessible fashion how to do this. Amongst other things, Jonathan lit and changed the colour of light bulbs on stage and deactivated his home security system – as you do.

Rob Bateman, The Away Foundation: “Reanimating the Web”

Rob Bateman with his TypeScript joke

Rob gave a similar talk at the warm-up of Beyond Tellerand Duesseldorf earlier this year, so you see the high quality and lots of work that went into this. He covered the history of animation on the web and went deep down into the nitty gritty on how we can ensure both that animations are buttery smooth and comparatively fast to native solutions doing the same things. A good reminder that we had a lot of innovation in the Flash space, and we now need to catch up again – both in tooling and in our approach to write animations.

Carolyn Stransky, Blacklane “The Most Important UI: You”

Carolyn on Self Care

Carolyn Stransky was the second “wow” moment for me this time. Her talk (slides are available here was about self care, how to be good to yourself and how to ensure we are not creating a horrible work environment. I’ve seen a few of these talks, but often they are high-level and “why aren’t we all better at this” finger pointing. Carolyn did a great job showing a truckload of resources you can use to make your life a bit easier and better and explained how to use them instead.

If you’re a conference organizer, contact her. This was absolutely lovely.

Tom Dye, SitePen and Dylan Schiemann, SitePen: “Cats vs. Dogs”

Tom and Dylan mostly did this talk to play out their fetish of wearing rubber animal masks:

Rubber cat and dog masks

Other than that kinky interlude, the talk was about all the weird little discussions and endless threads we have as a community about pointless things like tabs vs. spaces.

Cats vs. Dogs

The real important part here was though that they build a PWA that allowed the audience to vote for cats or dogs and control the speed of their tails wagging. You could also make them miaow or bark. ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?

Cameron Diverand and Theodor Gherzan of Balena: “JavaScript at the edge”

Controlling a board of LEDs in JavaScript

Cameron and Theodor showed how to control a board of LEDs in JavaScript with sound coming from the audience. They didn’t talk about the Edge browser, which – to me – was disappointing. If you like the sort of thing of doing crazy hardware things in JavaScript, though, this was a lot of fun.

Jani Eväkallio, Formidable: “This Talk Is About You”

Jani did a poetry reading at the last Halfstack. This time he went further and did a visual storytelling kind of presentation reminding us that we’re not victims of the market we are in but should be much more in control over the quality of and the impact our code has on the world. This is tough to explain, it may make more sense to wait for Halfstack to release the video, as it was thoroughly enjoyable.

Jani does a lot of performing and is a joy to see present. Check it out. The keynote file of his talk is here. He also organises a technology comedy night called Component did Smoosh and the next one is 30th of November in Berlin.

Tony Edwards, Software Cornwall: “Beats, Rhymes & Unit Tests”

Tony Edwards is an incredibly passionate person about the web and organiser of the FutureSync conference, where he was crazynice enough to invite me to speak. In this session he covered the experimental web speech to text API and tried it on different rap lyrics with not much success. He then proceeded to do a live rapping session expecting the (mostly) British audience to go wild like a rap battle in Detroit or LA. It worked to a degree though, and his rap was much better converted by the API. All in all a thoroughly enjoyable talk by a multi-talented, nice bloke.

As a side node, using a full fledged deep learning API would give you much better results. The big thing about text recognition isn’t the interface to the browser, but the quality of the trained model. And they don’t come cheap which is why Mozilla tries to open-source that idea with their Common Voice project.

Professional detection software also started mixing audio recognition with lip-reading, which is incredibly exciting and yields much better results.

Joe Hart, Blend Media: Alpha, Beta, Gamer: Dev Mode

Competitive Tetris

Joe Hart’s talk was a splendid end of the evening. He covered oddities in the history of computer gaming and had a lot of interactive games with the audience. A Flappy Bird clone that worked by shouting at it, a Tetris clone where one player painted impossible Tetronimos and the other had to fit them in and other cruel measures to make the audience have fun and participate. Joe Hart is a Fringe presenter, so there is no question about the quality. This was fun from start to end.

Summary

Pub Quiz

Yes, Halfstack is different and the quality of the projector was questionable. The food was lovely though and having it in a pub means speakers are much more relaxed and lapses in their presentations much easier forgiven by the audience. Dylan and team are trying to take this concept on the road and for the first time plan to do a Vienna and NYC edition of the conference. I am really looking forward to seeing this succeed. I’ll be back and I’ll be having a great time again. Halfstack is an easy-going, yet valuable and highly diverse event, and well worth the money.

View full post on Christian Heilmann

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0.0/10 (0 votes cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)

ChakraCore and Node musings at NodeConf London

Yesterday morning I dragged myself to present at NodeConf London in the Barbican to present. Dragged not because I didn’t want to, but because I had 3 hours sleep coming back from Beyond Tellerand the day before.

Presenting at NodeConfLondon
Photo by Adrian Alexa

I didn’t quite have time to prepare my talk, and I ended up finishing my slides 5 minutes before it. That’s why I was, to use a simple term, shit scared of my talk. I’m not that involved in the goings on in Node, and the impostor in me assumed the whole audience to be all experts and me making an utter berk of myself. However, this being a good starting point I just went with it and used the opportunity to speak to an audience that much in the know about something I want Node to be.

I see the Node environment and ecosystem as an excellent opportunity to test out new JavaScript features and ideas without the issue of browser interoperability and incompatibility.

The thing I never was at ease about it though is that *everything is based on on one JS engine&. This is not how you define and test out a standard. You need to have several runtimes to execute your code. Much like a browser monoculture was a terrible thing and gave us thousands of now unmaintainable and hard to use web sites, not opening ourselves to various engines can lead to terrible scripts and apps based on Node.

The talk video is already live and you can also see all the other talks in this playlist:

The slides are on Slideshare:

A screencast recording of the talk is on YouTube.

Resources I mentioned:

I was very happy to get amazing feedback from everyone I met, and that people thoroughly enjoyed my presentation. Goes to show that the voice in your head telling you that you’re not good enough often is just being a a dick.

View full post on Christian Heilmann

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0.0/10 (0 votes cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)

Meetup in London: why is Windows not your platform of choice

This Thursday, my colleague Mike Harsh and Keith Rowe (@krow) from Microsoft’s Windows and Devices Group invite you to the Square Pig in London for some drinks and a chat. These two program managers are leading efforts to make Windows-based machines a better place for web development.

I’ve put up a small web site with the info of the meetup and there’s also a Lanyrd page. Many thanks also to London Webstandards for banging the drum.

Whilst I am not affiliated with this group and I can’t be there as I am on my way to JSConf Asia to present, I’d love to see a lot of people go and talk to them. This is a genuine offer to improve what Windows has for web developers and I already gave them quite a bit of feedback on the matter (I am a Mac user…).

I’ve been worried about our Mac fixation as web developers for a while. We preach about supporting all platforms as “it is the web” but a lot of our tooling and best practices are very Mac/Command Line centric.

I know this is a bit last minute, but as it is with London Pubs, you have to spring a grand to get the room for the evening, so please show up and at least make sure this expense ends in the form of food and drinks inside people who Microsoft can learn from.

View full post on Christian Heilmann

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0.0/10 (0 votes cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)

Open Web Apps – a talk at State of the Browser in London

state of the browser panel

On my birthday, 26th of April 2014, I was lucky enough to once again be part of the State of the Browser conference. I gave the closing talk. In it I tried to wrap up what has been said before and remind people about what apps are. I ended with an analysis of how web technologies as we have them now are good enough already or on the way there.

The slides are available on Slideshare:

The video recording of the talk features the amazing outfit I wore, as originally Daniel Appelquist said he’ll be the best dressed speaker at the event.

Open web apps – going beyond the desktop from London Web Standards on Vimeo.

In essence, I talked about apps meaning four things:

  • focused: fullscreen with a simple interface
  • mobile: works offline
  • contained: deleting the icon deletes the app
  • integrated: works with the OS and has hardware access
    responsive and fast: runs smooth, can be killed without taking down the rest of the OS

The resources I talked about are:

Make sure to also watch the other talks given at State of the Browser – there was some great information given for free. Thanks for having me, London Web Standards team!

View full post on Christian Heilmann

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0.0/10 (0 votes cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)

Quick review: Reasons to be Appy in London

Two days ago I did something new: for the first time ever I cycled to the place I was to give a talk. Two reasons: one of them was that the yellow thing that hates gingers was in the sky and the second was that Reasons to be appy took place in the LSO at St.Luke’s, which is 25 minutes by bike away from my place.

reasons to be appy audience

Reasons to be appy was a very packed one day conference about web apps and web development. It featured lots of great speakers and spanned quite a range of topics from typography, design and UX decisions up to debugging on mobiles. Each talk was 45 minutes with 10 minute breaks in between and a longer lunch break. All in all the format worked out pretty fine although I wondered if it wouldn’t be too much for the audience. There was no catered lunch, but it was simple for the attendees to go to the nearby market and grab something to eat.

My own talk, Moving your app-mind to the web (slides) revolved around the battle of native apps vs. web apps and some misconceptions we have about that clash. The screencast is available on vid.ly.

Here are my quick notes on the other talks, to see what you missed. Sadly enough there was no filming, but there are some slide decks available on lanyrd.

  • Peter Gregson’s “Playing the Cello game” was an inspired keynote talking about his goPlay app that allows musicians to have much less hardware on stage to create the new kind of chamber music for the now. Great stuff and I thought it was a clever idea to start with a classical musician in a location like the LSO
  • My talk was next – I hated that guy. So predictable to me
  • Microsoft’s Andrew Spooner was next with “We, human” – a roundup of connected devices throughout history and what interaction with day to day objects and the web can look like right now – I missed half of that as I normally need a break after my talks
  • Remy Sharp’s “Mobile Debugging” showed a lot of tools and ideas how to build and debug on various devices and was full of great “traps to avoid” information. It ended with Remy previewing the next generation of JSBin which allows remote execution of code on several devices
  • Tim Ahrens’ “New Font Technologies for New Media” was an in-depth talk about web fonts, font formats and rendering issues across various devices, platforms and browsers. It was very technical and detailed but interesting. Together with Jake Archibalds’ In your @font-face this can help people a lot doing the right thing when using fonts on the web (hint: include the bold font if you use bold text. Faux bolding is awful)
  • James Alliban and Keiichi Matsuda’s “Cell, Revealing the Digital Aura” was a talk about the Cell art installation at the Alphaville art festival which used a few kinnects and projection to show an “aura of tags” around people in the room symbolising their online identities. The project is pretty amazing and both Hames and Keiichi are veterans of visualisation and augmented reality. The talk was well structured and showed both their relationship in building the exhibit and the craft that went into it. The project is still going on and you can have it at your festival, too
  • Mark Boulton’s “When there’s Muck, there’s Brass” was a talk about patina in digital products. Mark called out for products to be more honest in what they are instead of trying to be something else. Fake wood, leather and textures in interfaces on a screen don’t make them more natural, they actually promise a tactile experience that is not there. Mark’s presentation style is absolutely lovely, he just rants about things and reminds himself and us of good stories leading to the conclusion he wants to bring across. Always good value.
  • Seb Lee Delisle’s “Pixelphones” is an experiment to turn all the phones of members of the audience into pixels and show animations and play games with the audience. Inspired by the Junkyard Jumbotron and of course the classic Blinkenlights it was once again a great example of how fearless Seb is when it comes to creating complex live code and push boundaries of audience interaction. Entertaining and fun. Now we need the source 🙂
  • “Escaping Flatland” by Brendan Dawes had a bit of Mark’s talk in it as Brendan explained the joy that was physical objects with flaws and how we could bring the same imperfection into the digital world instead of making things perfect all the time. He also reminded us that to build future product we have to stop the fake nostalgia about old ones. Things weren’t better in the past – we just want to remember what was good about them

All in all I liked all the talks and got some nice inspiration for some upcoming projects. There was not much about apps per se in any of them (except for mine and even there I didn’t show any code) but the idea was to show what is possible with the new tech we have right now and apps as the new consumer products. I liked just how approachable all of it was – there was no stargazing or blue sky thinking but instead a lot of “this was great, let’s do that again” and a copious amount of swearing on stage.

With Microsoft/Ubelly being one of the sponsors there were all in all 50 phones given out to the audience and there was a lot of hugging on stage. It was also impressive to see how the ubelly team built and dismantled a whole living room setting with kinnects, touch tables and windows8 showcases over the course of a day. It reminded me a bit of the house-elves in Harry Potter.

The next conference of the same organisers will be Reasons to be creative, both in New York and Brighton.


View full post on Christian Heilmann

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0.0/10 (0 votes cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)

MDN hack day tomorrow in the #mozldn space in London, England

We cleared the aftermath of yesterday’s epic Geek Quiz (photo proof here) but there is no rest for the wicked in the London Mozilla Space. Tomorrow (yes, that day after this one) we’ll run an MDN hack day here in 101 St. Martin’s Lane, London (5 minute footwalk from Leicester Square or 10 from Charing Cross).

If you have no idea what hack day in MDN means, check out Tristan Nitot’s introductory post.

MDN hack day

There are still tickets available, so go to http://mdn-hackday-london.eventbrite.com/ and sign up if you haven’t yet.

There’ll be food (well, Pizza, we thought Fondue would be too much of a mess) and drink (the non-fermented and fermented kind, we don’t discriminate), lots of experts from Mozilla to pester about your wishes for our products and to learn all about what we are doing in London, a few Boot to Gecko phones to play with and quite a few talks to give you inspiration to hack:

Schedule (subject to change slightly but you get the idea of who is speaking):

8:30 Registration & Light Breakfast
9:00 Welcome Remarks Christian Heilmann
9:15 Christian Heilmann – The New Web Challenge
9:45 Rob Hawkes – B2G
10:15 Chloe Varelidi – Catch Them Young – Meet the Web Arcade
10:45 Brad Lassey – Fennec Goes Native
11:15 Break
11:30 Heather Arthur – Firefox DevTools
12:00 Jean Yves Perrier – BrowserID
12:30 Rob Hawkes – Games
1:00 Paul Lewis – WebGL Live Demos
1:30 Lunch (Lightening Talk/Discussion Group Sign Up)
2:30 Hacking
5:15 Presentations and Lightning Talks
5:30 Refreshments

The hashtag to use is #mdnhackday, the wireless is open, the Fox is out there, let’s do this!

View full post on Mozilla Hacks – the Web developer blog

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0.0/10 (0 votes cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)

State of the browser in London, England

Last Saturday in London, England the State of the browser conference brought together developer advocates from almost all browser vendors to give the audience an overview of what is going on in the world of browsers.

Browser panel

Browser panel with Bruce Lawson (Opera), Chris Heilmann (Mozilla), Martin Beeby (Microsoft) and Paul Kinlan (Google)

My involvement was to talk about the state of HTML5 when seen from a native market’s perspective, show some cool new technologies that need our input and take part in the browser panel to discuss current issues. Here are the talks and screencasts. Videos recorded by the organisers should follow soon.

Talk “Broken HTML5 promises – are we ‘appy?”

The main Mozilla presentation was about feedback on HTML5 we got at Mobile World Congress from mobile developers, how we as an HTML5 community fail to answer their questions and get tangled up in petty bickering over details instead and what Mozilla does to make HTML5 work across the board.

The slides with notes are available here and the screencast (with bad audio, sorry) is on vid.ly.

Breakout session: “The bleeding edge of HTML needs blood donors”

The breakout session (which was repeated twice) was much less of a “talk” but more of a show and tell in a smaller room. Therefore the screencast is a bit more raw but shows what you can do right now.

The slides with notes are available here and the screencast is on vid.ly.

The conference

All in all the conference was great value for money. All the speakers had great information to give and there was no “marketing talk” promising things that don’t work outside lab environments.

  • Michael Mahemoff did a great job introducing the day with a “native vs. web knockout” talk.
  • Paul Kinlan showed what is coming in Chrome and how Web Intents can change the way we solve app communication over the web
  • Martin Beeby gave a glimpse of how the web can merge with newer devices and UX needs of users

Seb Lee-Delisle took all the browsers to the performance test to end all performance tests by animating millions of 3D particles and seeing which browser would be the one that can show the most without slowing down. In the end Firefox was the winner with 3695244 particles at 10FPS. Of course this is not a real measure (especially seeing IE10 was run in a VM) but it is always fun to see Seb code live.
Particles competition results

I guess my favourite piece about the conference was that the browser panel was very much about answering people’s questions instead of trying to beat each other in being the browser that people should use. British understatement at its best.

View full post on Mozilla Hacks – the Web developer blog

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0.0/10 (0 votes cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)