Monday, September 19, 2011

CapitolJS 2011 [#JSConf East and #capjs]

One attends a JavaScript conference to learn how to use the language better. The conference is not intended to teach the beginner. There are assumptions of a working knowledge of the language, probably extensive experience in coding and an interest in node.js. However, I think there were themes or lessons in the presentations at this conference that would help any JavaScript developer.

The future of the language is amazingly bright. Mike Taylor showed that even though the browser Navigator has very unreliable properties that the future new properties (e.g., online, geolocation, etc.) hold great promise. Pamela Fox had example after example of APIs that JavaScript can access for functionality, public data and user data. And Brendan Eich demonstrated the work that Intel has done to access parallel-processing power with an engine called RiverTrail (on github) [Infoworld article][].

Performance in JavaScript is now in the hands of developers now. Nickolas Zakas promoted the use of both defer and async for script loading. So testing must include performance testing with no action taking longer than 100ms. This is the max for a responsive system. Alex Seston also emphasised the need for non-blocking code while on the topic of third party JS. Alex Russel went deep into working web engines in browsers so coders know what is behind some simple DOM changes.

JS, the programming language of the web, is amazingly rich. Douglas Crockford looked at how we code from the viewpoint of Head and Gut (see book Science of Fear) and how the Gut often gets in the way. Using tools and the good parts of the language (language subsetting) we can use our Head more and produce less errors. "Programming requires more precision than writing in English." Language conventions take time. For example the line breaks and spacing introduced by Medieval manuscript copyists. This language history perspective was echoed in Mike Taylor's talk and emphasized by Brendan Eich in noting how young the language is. It is mindblowing what the JS community can code in 140 bytes on Jed Schmidt's site (

Growth is in mobile and it effects all. Rebecca Murphey showed the new toura mulberry framework for creating content rich mobile apps built atop phonegap. Joe McCann works in the mobile area and provided a comprehensive view of both coding and using node.js with Express, Stylus, Smoosh, and Commander as tools for creating any app. it is clear for the Head to win over Gut that automating tools are needed.

Node.js is still growing. Mikeal Rodgers ran down the most popular packages for node including npm, optimist, request and of course But there is still room for improvement, especially in debugging. And again, node was mentioned by most presenters. Ben Combee showed how to access the node running in webOS and stated that webOS will soon be updated to version 0.4.11. Paolo Fraqomeni talked about how the design of node is especially suited for the enterprise and the event emitter.

As I see them available, I'll link to the decks for each presentation.

Douglas Crockford
Ben Combee
Nicholaz Zakas
Mikael Rogers
Jed Schmidt
Mike Taylor UPDATED
Rebecca Murphey
Alex Sexton
Alex Russell
Joe McCann
Paolo Fragomeni
Pamela Fox
Brendan Eich UPDATED

The conference was terrific not only because of the speakers but thanks to the work of my friends Laura and Chris Williams. Also because of sponsors there was time to network at parties both before and after the event.

Thanks. A wonderful community.

UPDATE: Group Photo

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