Full Frontal conference in Brighton, England

The success of a conference these days seem to be dependent on two things: the passion of the organizers and if it manages to focus on the subject. The first Full Frontal conference in Brighton, England had both of these and therefore turned out to be a massive success.

Hell is other browsers, respect the JavaScript! by  psd.

The organizer, Remy Sharp, approached me about a year ago and asked what I thought about a JavaScript-only conference. Being a JavaScript fan, he was annoyed that there are many Ajax conferences but not one that focuses on the language itself. I liked his idea and with the help of his wife - an event organizer - Remy managed to rally a lot of great JavaScript experts to fill a one-day conference located in Britain's oldest Cinema. The low price of the conference was another factor for it to sell out.

The keynote

I was the first speaker of the day and took the opportunity to introduce the concepts of the day, hinting at what the other speakers would talk about. I gave an introduction to the notion of JavaScript as a useful tool if we stop to measure its quality by its implementation in browsers. I covered the idea of Caja and how Yahoo uses it in the Yahoo Application Platform (YAP) and ended by reminding people that knowing JavaScript is a great opportunity these days if you want to help to build the web of the future. My slides are available on SlideShare and the notes and audio recording are on the blog. There was also some live blogging on Ajaxian.

Robert Nyman on JavaScript: from birth to closure

Robert gave a detailed presentation on the JavaScript language itself and was a bit worried he'd be preaching to the choir in doing so. He wasn't and instead delivered a very informative talk that covered the whole spectrum of JavaScript syntax, closures up to sugar and currying. I was reminded of Douglas Crockford's advanced JavaScript talks and Dan Webb's talk about metaprogramming at last year's @mediaAjax - with a lot of added humour and very dry jokes. Good work, Robert. Again, Michael of Ajaxian blogged Robert's talk.

Peter-Paul Koch on The Mobile Web

Peter-Paul Koch, better known as ppk and for his Quirksmode.org web site gave a talk about the Mobile Web or "the masochist's guide to self-flagellation". I had seen this talk before at ppk's own conference, Fronteers two weeks ago, but he tweaked it a bit to shine a bigger light on the JavaScript aspect of mobile web development. Peter-Paul had spent the larger part of last year testing all kind of mobile devices and how they show web pages; his talk reflected a lot of the thorough research he has done. JavaScript testing on mobile devices is in its infancy and we will have to do a lot of work to see where we're at. All in all, Peter-Paul managed to give people a good overview of what the mobile web is about and rallied them to support the idea of W3C widgets as a cross-platform way of building mobile applications using only HTML, CSS and JavaScript. More live blogging of this is available.

Stuart Langridge on new things that HTML5 provides to JavaScript hackers

Stuart's a man who has been instrumental to the practical implementation of JavaScript over the years, without reaping many of the rewards. As a Canonical employee working on Ubuntu he has a lot of passion for open source and subsequently the open web and this what was his talk was about. Stuart explained how different browser vendors come up with great solutions and how some of them get put into HTML5, but how there is still a general annoying disconnect. He also mentioned that technologies like Flash and Silverlight with their own agenda of improving the web are hard to battle when you don't find a consensus in what you want to achieve. Again, there is more detailed information on Ajaxian. Stuart is always a very entertaining presenter and his no-nonsense attitude mixed with harsh but dry humour and good information makes for 45 minutes well spent.

Todd Kloots on More accessible user interfaces with ARIA

Todd is a member of the YUI team and our resident expert on ARIA. The talk - again live blogged - gave an introduction to the concepts of ARIA as a way to make our rich interaction applications accessible to assistive technology and showed techniques how to make widgets keyboard accessible. Todd has in-depth knowledge and great practical tips on the subject but sadly enough ran out of time with his talk before he managed to hammer the message home that our main job is to make our systems accessible but also make people aware of the improvements we added. A lot of the lack of evolution in accessibility is because end users have been disappointed so many times that they don't expect an easier way to be available. Todd had given the talk a day before at the YDN Tuesday and the video should be available soon.

Jake Archibald on Optimising where it hurts

Jake Archibald of the BBC JavaScript library Glow easily delivered the most entertaining talk of the day. As the live transcript shows, Jake did a great job debunking some myths of JavaScript optimisation best practices. The research he based his talk on is available and you cannot fault his results - JavaScript optimisation articles and "best practices" far too often are based on edge case research rather than things that really make a difference for the web products we build. If you haven't seen Jake speak yet, try to get to it soon (with him speaking once a year this is not too easy though). The sheer energy and humour he emits makes it a great experience.

Simon Willison on Server-Side JavaScript and Node.js

Talking about fast-speaking people full of energy, the day ended with Simon Willison of the Guardian who managed to bring up the heart rate of the organisers by changing his talk topic in the last minute. His talk (yeah, yeah, live blogged on Ajaxian) didn't really have any slides but instead consisted of live code demos using node.js to build Comet servers, HTTP servers and other great server technology in pure JavaScript. It was a perfect ending of a day of great "today" technology showing us what the future might hold for people with the skills of writing JavaScript.

General impressions

All in all I am very happy that Julie told Remy to "stop complaining and just do it" as the conference was a massive success. The location probably had the most comfortable seats ever at a conference, the PA system was exactly what we needed, the temperature was adequate, and there was coffee and tea. Lunch was not provided and there was no (stable) wireless which kept the price of the conference down. Brighton is full of great and (compared to London) cheap restaurants and finding lunch with a small group of people you wanted to chat with was very easy. As Remy managed to sell out the conference, not only did he organise an after party at a sea-side bar, but also managed to cover the first two rounds. All in all, it was a great experience and I'll be happy to come back next year.

Christian Heilmann
Yahoo Developer Network