JSConf Retrospective

Guest blogpost by Brian LeRoux (@brianleroux, Nitobi Software)

Such a fantastic conference is hard to bottle up into text and static images. To get a real sense you had to be there, however, in lieu of time travel, I invite you to grab a cold brew, spicy empanada and start trolling through the blog posts, slides on Slideshare and various imagery available on Flickr.

I am one of the PhoneGap guys from Nitobi software so it wouldn't be fair to give all the love to PhoneGap. (Though PhoneGap is awesome and everyone loves the mobile web.) I am also a Canadian and as such I love hockey. It's not a stereotype, in fact, it's essential for our national identity. Part of the hockey tradition is to name the three stars of the game. Here's my three stars:

Third Star: CouchDB

I opted out of Couch on a project that dates just about a year ago but after Chris Anderson and Jan Lehnardt's talk I'm stoked. CouchDB and esp Couch-App are simply incredible. CouchDB is a RESTful document-centric database. Couch-App is a JavaScript-friendly way of distributed synchronization of not only your data using CouchDB but the JavaScript application itself. Gnarly suff. This is the future. Of course my next question is: can we get CouchDB onto the phones? After talking to the guys it seems this may be possible in the future.

Second Star: Titanium

Building applications for the desktop with web technology on the open source Titanium looks dead simple. Titanium is shaping up to be a real AIR contender. Way better memory footprint. Super powerful. Way more powerful than AIR. Importing Ruby and/or Python with JavaScript is a huge win for libraries. Think of the functionality. Its not quite stable yet but keep your eyes open for this one!

First Star: Joyent's Cloud

The new Joyent JavaScript cloud stuff is amazing awesome. The stack comes with its own web framework but written in JavaScript called Sammy (for Sammy Davis Jr. as a nod to Ruby's Sinatra framework). Deploy with git push. HUGE concurrency and speed. Completely open source. James Duncan, "We want to compete on service not code..."; how cool is that?! Can't wait for this stack. We build a whole lot of tiny glue services using Sinatra at Nitobi and this system coupled with Git-based deployment would be a huge win for us.

Noteworthy technology and interesting gossip:

YQL

YQL is something like a headless Yahoo! Pipe which means YQL is brilliant. Instead of using a proxy server for fetching data from remote services you can write 100% clientside JavaScript apps via YQL. This has a number of advantages: Yahoo's servers are faster than yours. It respects cache headers. And now that YQL supports JavaScript callbacks you can retrieve the data the way you want it. Tom Hughes-Croucher is a fantastic character, really knows his stuff and brings a heavy dose of pragmatism to a room. He also really enjoyed interviewing DC residents for their opinion about Canadians in my presence which provided for some rather hilarious perspective. The verdict? Americans are indifferent to Canada... but the British! Oh they looove the British. There is no emoticon to express quiet rage.

Mobile jQuery

Unfortunately John Resig was effectively surrounded by admirers the entire conference so we didn't get much of a chance to talk but here's a gem: jQuery has started work on a mobile version! He is looking forward to using PhoneGap which is great. In the meantime feel free to use jQuery inspired XUI built by the PhoneGap team.

Mobile Dojo

Its been five years since Dojo was released and if has been about that long since you lasted checked it out then Dojo deserves another look. Its build system is rather interesting. And recently Dojo has a mobile version (Webkit version). The dependencies system is very reminiscent of YUI and Peter's talk about the various patterns you can employ was very informative. Charts look awesome. Reads a lot like jQuery now. Also, the rumors are true, Peter Higgins is funny as hell organizing a regular beer track. Portland: a tiny slice of Canada at home in America.

PhoneGap

Ok, I had to mention that my PhoneGap talk was really well received. I think in part was due to code-heavy and intellectually hardcore sessions that preceded me. Everyone was rather serious prior to my session and so my lack of public speaking capability was overshadowed by having funny slides. I knew surfing the internet for ironic images would pay off eventually. ;)

XKCD Comic
Image credit: xkcd.com

Summary

JavaScript is entering a new golden age breaking out of the browser and onto the desktop, servers and of course in your pocket --- on your phone! I had a fantastic time and can't wait for next year.

Editors note: this post was delayed by my very silly travel schedule. It's still a great read though!