Monday 19 November
Keynote presentation: “The State Of Ajax” by Dion Almaer and Ben Galbraith
(Note to self: get more familiar with Tamarin, ScreamingMonkey, Google Gears, AIR, HTML5, Dojo, Caja.)
“But I’m A Bloody Designer!” by Mike Stenhouse
Mike talked about how in modern web development, the traditional barriers between designers and developers are breaking down. Designers need to be aware of the consequences of their choices, and how things like latency and concurrency will influence a feature. Developers need to increase their awareness of interaction design. This led to a discussion of how he feels thatBehavior-driven development has made him a better designer (and developer). He mentioned WebDriver for writing and executing BDD test cases, but the demo code he showed looked more like Ruby… I think I missed something there. Good tools and techniques to explore, though.
“Real World Accessibility for Ajax-enhanced Web Apps” by Derek Featherstone
Providing good accessibility for web content is hard enough; once you start building dynamic web apps, you’re practically off the map. Derek took the zoom/move control in Google Maps as an example of bad practice, showing how difficult it is for someone with only a voice interface to use. He walked through some more examples, with useful advice on how to make improvements in each case.
One of the toughest problems for Ajax applications is how to inform screen readers that a part of the screen has been updated. Derek noted Gez Lemon and Steve Faulkner’s technique for using the Virtual Buffer as being one of the best options for tackling this right now. Another cool technique that I hadn’t seen before was updating an input field’s
<label> element with error information when the form is validated (so that a screen reader is made aware of the change), but then using CSS positioning to display the error information where a sighted user would expect to see it–possibly on the other side of the field than the label itself. Very clever.
I’m also going to have to familiarise myself with the ARIA (Accessible Rich Internet Applications) work coming out of the WAI: ARIA proposes to extend (X)HTML with additional semantics that would allow web applications to tap into the accessibility APIs of the underlying Operating System.
After lunch, Stuart Langridge put on his Master of EVIL hat, and tried to coax us to join him on the Dark Side by teaching us about all the things we can do to make a user’s experience on this hyperweb thingy as shitty and 1998-like as possible. Remember: if your app doesn’t use up all of a user’s bandwidth, they’ll only use it for downloading…well, something else. (“Horse porn” sounds so prejudicial.)
(Stuart’s slides lose a certain something when taken out of context.)
(Note to self: make more use of the BUILD PROCESS.)
“Ajax A Work: A Case Study” by Peter-Paul Koch
PPK wrapped up the day with a case study of a genealogy/family tree application he is building. He walked through the decision processes behind:
- building the app as an Ajax app in the first place
- choosing XML instead of JSON (or HTML or CSV) for its data format on the wire
- deciding on an optimal loading strategy to ensure a highly responsive user experience
Tuesday 20 November
I’m not going to run through the technical guts of all the things going into the JS2 spec–there are just too many of them. Take a look at Brendan’s roadmap blog to get pointers to what’s going on.
“Building Interactive Prototypes with jQuery” by John Resig
(See the slides for the presentation on Dan’s site.)
“Dojo 1.0: Great Experiences for Everyone” by Alex Russell
It appears that no @media conference is complete without a doppelgänger. I hope I’m not the only one who sees the obvious resemblance between Alex Russell and Ryan Reynolds. (Photo of Ryan Reynolds shamelessly lifted from Tharpo on Flickr.)
Alex is the lead developer for the Dojo toolkit. He talks really fast on stage! He is full of energy and seemed eager to share his insights with the audience, even though some of those insights paint a rather depressing picture of the state of the web. Personally, I lapped it up. I think it was the best presentation of the conference. Rather than talking just about Dojo, he discussed among other things:
- the burden of bringing new semantics to the web
- how the lack of progress and competition is putting the whole open web in jeopardy
You can get the slides for the presentation on Alex’s blog, but without his lively and passionate narrative, they lose a lot of their power. Although he also talked about the technical capabilities of Dojo itself (powerful internationalization features, accessibility already built in to all its widgets, all built on top of a tiny core), it’s the strategic positioning of the toolkit that is going to make me download it and try it out.
eval, etc.). ADSafe is a static checker: you run it to verify the code before you allow the code to appear on a page. If it isn’t safe, you don’t let it run. Google’s Caja works in a different way: it takes untrusted code and transforms it into safe code. To understand the use of these tools, consider Google’s iGoogle home page, where you can have widgets from a variety of sources all running on the same page. Without some kind of safety container, these scripts would have access to each other’s code and capabilities — very dangerous.
(The slides Douglas has on his blog are not quite those he used for this presentation, but they’re close enough.)
Wrap-up panel discussion with Brendan Eich, Stuart Langridge, Alex Russell, Douglas Crockford, and moderated by Jeremy Keith
Jeremy tried to keep this light-hearted, but there was clearly some tension between the panellists. I was pretty tired by this point, though, and the thing I remember most is Alex berating Yahoo! (Douglas) for not open-sourcing the YUI framework and coming together with other toolkit developers to present a unified front to browser vendors. Other subjects that came up included Google Gears (again), how badly CSS sucks (I see their point, but I still like it anyway), and capability-based security (see also The Confused Deputy).
(Jeremy’s has write-ups day 1 and day 2 on the DOM Scripting blog.)
The most important things I took on board:
- Make more use of the build process
- Investigate Google Gears – there is a lot of interesting stuff going on there, and it will start making its way into browser implementations soon
- …probably jQuery…
- …but Dojo looks REALLY interesting