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Front Row 2011: Productive JavaScript Workflow

Last week I visited Cracow to speak at Front Row 2011. The conference was a small event with a nice, friendly atmosphere. If you understand Polish (or don’t mind using Google Translate), you can read a summary of the talks on End3r’s blog. My personal favorites were:

  • Wojtek Zając’s presentation on web accessibility, full of practical tips.
  • Zef Hemel’s talk about Cloud9 IDE. I had a chance to talk with Zef in person and I was quite impressed by the technical sophistication of Cloud9.
  • Peter Gasston’s talk about new exciting features from CSS3 and CSS4. While I have heard before about flex box or CSS regions, it was interesting to learn how exactly they work. Peter presented upcoming solutions to problems that CSS currently suffers from, like difficulties with grid layouts.

Jake Archibald closed the conference with one the best talks I’ve heard on any conference. He managed to explain obscure technical issues with web fonts in a hilarious way that kept interested even people who are less-than-thrilled about typography.

In my presentation I shared learnings from working on a large front-end codebase at Nokia. For some time I’ve been obsessed with the problem of scaling up front-end teams, so they could stay effective when dealing with complexity. I didn’t dwell on architecture, but focused on workflow and tools. While preparing the presentation I assumed that some techniques popular among back-end developers, like unit testing or continuous integration, are still not adopted by most JavaScript developers.

I showed how these techniques can be applied to front-end development. I also demonstrated how to use jslint to detect mistakes before they show up in a browser and how to work with team mates to learn from them and improve code quality.

Just prior to the presentation I realized that instead of relying on accidental knowledge and assumptions it would be better to perform a research and verify how popular are these tools among JavaScript programmers. Thus the survey: JavaScript development practices.

I will share more of my own experiences in a future blog post, but I also want to know how much of what I have learned is a common knowledge. The survey will be active for about a week. In November I will publish the results, together with more practical tips on individual techniques covered in my Front Row presentation.

Big thanks to people who gave me feedback after the talk and everybody who has voted already! If you’re a JavaScript developer and haven’t completed the survey yet, please do so – it doesn’t take more than 2 minutes.

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