Full Frontal 2013

I have, unfortunately, long been put off by conferences. It’s mostly my fault (if you can blame anyone), but put off I am. However, Full Frontal is about as good as it gets for one-day, high-intensity web events, and one I am glad to be able to take part in.

This largely comes down to the fact that Remy doesn’t put it together to please the crowds, or to tick buzz-word boxes; he invites speakers in to talk about topics he wants to listen to himself. As he said on the day, the audience is really just there to fill the other seats!

ES6 Uncensored

Angus Croll, speaking at Full Frontal 2013
Angus Croll, talking about what we can expect in ES6 1

I’ve been following the developments of ES6 for a while, though clearly not as thoroughly as Angus Croll! He provided a very clear overview of what we can expect as ES6 becomes widely available, and while I didn’t learn much new, it did provide for some good conversations in the break.

I’m still yet to be convinced by fat arrows, which for those of you not following along at home, looks something like this:

var oldFn = function (a, b) { return a + b };
var newFn = (a, b) => a + b;

If I wanted to write CoffeeScript, I would! That said, function and => are not directly equivalent — => is lightweight in more than just syntax — so I’m hoping this will prevent the Internet being entirely overrun! I will certainly welcome the terseness in some instances though, such as the following:

[...].map(word => word.toUpperCase());

By and large though, there’s much to look forward to. I can’t wait for Proxies!

JavaScript in the real world

Andrew Nesbitt, speaking at Full Frontal 2013
Andrew Nesbitt, showing us how to use JavaScript in the real world 1

It’s very easy to forget that JavaScript is not just a programming language for the web, but thankfully Andrew Nesbitt did a very good job of reminding us just how wrong an assumption that is!

From bunny feeders to quadcopters, Andrew ran us through a fun selection of how JavaScript can be applied to hardware. The audience were clearly excited to see lasers — and copters! — flying around the auditorium, even if the Demo Gods did not smile fully on the presentation.

I’m not exactly a hardware geek, so I hadn’t realised quite how much work is being done to get things like Node onto hardware platforms. With all the leg work having been done, it’ll be interesting to see how the wider development community picks up on it. Regardless of my interests though, it is always fun to see technology being put to good use!

Mobile is not a thing: it is everything

Joe McCann, speaking at Full Frontal 2013
Joe McCann, discussing the implications of a mobile future 1

The Mobile Web has become a big thing over the past year or two (it’s great when the Western world catches up to global trends, isn’t it!?), and Joe McCann went to great lengths to show how it’s a lot more than just media queries!

For much of the world, mobile technology is the only access people have to what many of us take for granted, like healthcare and banking. And even within our own contexts, ‘the internet of things’ (otherwise known as The Internet) is changing and shaping how we think about things as varied as politics, transport and our own homes.

While more likely to make me think about how the future might pan out, than change anything on a day-to-day level, a lot of the work I’m doing at Mozilla is going to be applicable the world over, and that is something I’ll be considering more!

Pushing the limits of mobile performance

Andrew Grieve, speaking at Full Frontal 2013
Andrew Grieve, on mobile performance 1

Seemingly tying well into the previous talk, Andrew Grieve actually looked at a much lower level of ‘mobile’, and in a much more technical manner! There were way too many useful bits and pieces to mention here (go look at the slides!), but all-in-all a very thorough presentation.

Even if not entirely applicable to my work, there was still much to take away, particularly about page load and network latency. That, and how much the mobile landscape has change over the past five or so years; rendering is, it would seem, now much more likely to be an issuer than JavaScript performance.

Our web development workflow is broken

Kenneth Auchenberg, speaking at Full Frontal 2013
Kenneth Auchenberg, and his broken development workflow 1

I’m pretty sure Kenneth Auchenberg got the best reception of the day, during his presentation. This is probably in large part due to a well-worked demonstration that was relevant to every single member of the audience!

Ultimately, it boiled down to a sales pitch for RemoteDebug… which is no bad thing! RemoteDebug is an initiative to bring a common remote debugging protocol to today’s browsers, because right now they’re all doing their own thing, making a truly integrated workflow nigh-on impossible.

As Kenneth pointed out, it’s funny how we can all agree on standards for what we make, but not on standards for how we go about making it. That’s not to say we should all be using the same environment (the question was raised about whether we will all eventually be writing code using browser dev tools); agreeing on development standards means we can do quite the opposite, using our preferred set-up in the way we like.

I’m really looking forward to seeing how this works out!

Stunning visuals with maths and… no JavaScript?

Ana Tudor, speaking at Full Frontal 2013
Ana Tudor, leaving JavaScript at the door 1

Judging by the audience reaction, and conversations in the break immediately following, I am — along with Ana Tudor — in a minority when it comes to enjoying and understanding trigonometry! Perhaps it was just the mix of funny numbers, Sass syntax, and CSS transforms, but the apparent overwhelming response was one of bewilderment.

While conferences are not really the place for maths lessons (unless it’s a conference about maths education!), I do wonder if Ana could have spent more time explaining the theory, and less on the Sass that generated the output. But that might just be me!

All in all though, an interesting view into what we can achieve today with CSS, even if by Ana’s own admission using JavaScript to do the same might be a more sensible (and sane) option.

Building web components using X-Tags Brick

Angelina Fabbro, speaking at Full Frontal 2013
Angelina Fabbro, building web components 1

Mozilla’s own Angelina Fabbro did a good job of guiding us through (the now ill-termed) X-Tags, looking at how we can use custom elements in our HTML. The library is now called Brick, and hopefully web components will become reality sooner rather than later!


Jeremy Keith, speaking at Full Frontal 2013
Jeremy Keith, looking at time 1

Last, but by no means least, Jeremy Keith was given the task of wrapping up what had been a fantastic day. Time looked at the (literal) history of time, the permanence of our digital world, and its potential landscape as we move on. The slides don’t really do Jeremy justice on their own, unfortunately, but it was an enjoyable talk, and you should catch the video as and when it gets posted. In the mean time, watch Powers of Ten, around which Jeremy’s talk was framed.

In conclusion

If you want full notes on the day, Orde Saunders did a good job of tracking it all. Otherwise, as with last year, I’m sure videos will appear as soon as they’re available.

Ultimately, it wouldn’t be possible without the hard work of Remy, Julieanne, all the helpers, and of course the speakers, so my thanks for them for putting on such a great day. Just wish I could have stuck around for Side View, which looked equally interesting. There’s always next year!

  1. All photos by the ever fantastic Drew McLellan

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