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Respond 2014

Last week, I attended Respond 2014 in Sydney.

This one-day conference was organised by the super-awesome folks from Web Directions and was described as “a festival of Responsive Web Design for designers and developers of the multi-device Web”. It featured a number of prominent folks from the RWD community from Australia and overseas, including Ethan Marcotte and Jason Grigsby.

 Left-to-Right: Jason Grigsby, Ethan Marcotte, John Allsopp

Left-to-Right: Jason Grigsby, Ethan Marcotte, John Allsopp

Even though I have a vast experience with RWD, I felt like somewhat of an imposter. It had been a while since I had hacked against media queries, fumbled with grids, or dabbled with responsive images. Compounding this problem was the fact that this was my first time attending a conference dedicated entirely to RWD.

Despite all of this, I felt right at home at this conference. The speakers did an amazing job bringing folks along with the materials and concepts presented. Furthermore, I learned quite a number of new things along the way.

 Jason Grigsby (@grigs) at Respond 2014  Photo credit: https://twitter.com/StamfordUX/status/430835933487693824

Jason Grigsby (@grigs) at Respond 2014

Photo credit: https://twitter.com/StamfordUX/status/430835933487693824

One of my favourite presentations was by Jason Grigsby who spoke about responsive mobile-first design.

I think Jason provided a lot of solid advice when it comes to tackling responsive mobile-first design. Of particular interest to me was his insights on the state of responsive images. Of the many solutions available, I found Picturefill - a polyfill for the picture element - to be the most practical for helping to address responsive images.

Polyfills: is there anything thing they can't do?

A little later in the day, John Allsopp delivered a presentation entitled, Well, How Did We Get Here? which I found particularly interesting. John invoked nostalgia by taking the audience on a trip through the world of Web development in the 1990s. I remember those days quite well. So many hacks.

 John Allsopp laments about the past

John Allsopp laments about the past

John's presentation was excellent because it provided some context around the theme of the day; responsive web design.

I will admit that I started to feel bad for John after 20 minutes into his presentation. He's seen far too many things in the Web development days of old. Naturally, this prompted me to quip the following on Twitter:

Rounding out the day was Ethen Marcotte's presentation entitled, The Map and The Territory. He delivered an interesting presentation that talked about RWD and the future challenges we face globally as more and more third-world countries come online.

All in all, I had a great time at Respond 2014. I learned a great deal and would be very tempted to attend the conference if held next year!

SydJS - January 2014

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On Wednesday, I travelled to Sydney to speak at the January meeting for SydJS, Sydney's super-awesome group for JavaScript developers. SydJS is organised by some really great folks and it was quite humbling to be amongst the other speakers scheduled for the night.

First up was Hourann Bosci who spoke about a number of mapping solutions for developers. These ranged from Google Maps to Bing Maps and others. His personal preference was to leverage Leaflet, which is "a modern open-source JavaScript library for mobile-friendly interactive maps."

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From the Leaflet website:

Leaflet is designed with simplicity, performance and usability in mind. It works efficiently across all major desktop and mobile platforms out of the box, taking advantage of HTML5 and CSS3 on modern browsers while still being accessible on older ones. It can be extended with a huge amount of plugins, has a beautiful, easy to use and well-documented API and a simple, readable source code that is a joy to contribute to.

Hourann demonstrated how to integrate data into Leaflet through the use of layers that leverage D3.js for SVG. He did this by superimposing word clouds with data from the SydJS website on to a map of the Sydney CBD.

Next up was Tom Walker who blew up my brain with his project, Cognizance, which is currently unavailable but it slated to be released very soon. It's a combination of an event-driven backend that powers a sexy dashboard front-end that has a number of widgets from a variety of data sources including Trello, GitHub, and others. The UX is really nice; it's motivated by split-flap displays you see at airport terminals or railway stations.

Much like the matrix, you cannot be told what Cognizance is... you have to see it for yourself. Let me put it this way: this was my reaction:

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Dashboards can be wonderful at conveying information quickly. And while many of the solutions I've built or seen often suck in the UI/UX department, Cognizance certainly does not.

I found the backend architecture and eventing strategy that underpinned Cognizance quite interesting. Due to time constraints, Tom wasn't able to go into great detail about it. From what I gathered, Tom has devoted a considerable amount of thinking into the performance and scalability of his solution - particularly for mobile.

I am eager to learn more. That's for sure.

 Photo credit: https://twitter.com/nolim1t/status/423382160439926784

Photo credit: https://twitter.com/nolim1t/status/423382160439926784

The weirdest point of the night came about when Joseph Gentle did a lightning talk on a project they've been hacking on that provides the ability to create virtual circuits. It's called boilerplate and is described as "a multiplayer steam-based CPU simulator". While the idea of a CPU simulator isn't particular out of the ordinary, the use of steam power to simulator one certainly is.

boilerplate is difficult to describe. Essentially, they use a 2D canvas to position elements that exhibit fluid mechanical properties. (I know, I know. Bare with me.) By placing these elements on the canvas, they are able to construct primatives such as OR and AND operation gates. Composing these primatives together, they were able to build some rudimentary circuits.

If anything, the presentation provided some comic relief. A few jokes were thrown out by the audience. Being no stranger to making a jackass of myself, I shouted out that they were missing a turbo button.

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My presentation covered Polymer, a framework for building Web Components through a set of polyfills for specifications like Shadow DOM, HTML Imports, HTML Templates, and Custom Elements. I felt like I did a reasonable job covering the motivations behind Web Components and how Polymer is striving to bring them to evergreen browsers today.

For my demo, I decided to get away from the high-level messaging of Polymer and to work simply within the confines of JSBin. I demonstrated how to create a custom element from scratch. From there, I showed how features like data-binding and events operate in Polymer.

Eric Bidelman is a Developer Advocate for Google who's been championing the project for a while now and he's posted a number of excellent presentations to YouTube. He's also posted a number of great presentations to html5-demos.appspot.com. They are well worth your time to check them out if you're wanting to hear more about the future of front-end web development through Web Components (and Polymer).

To me, Web Components (and Polymer) are great steps towards getting some control over our front-end development because - let's face it - it's a bit of a mess at the moment. That stated, I did openly share some questions I have considering things like the metadata story, the security model, the overall performance, etc. Nevertheless, it is exciting to see where all of this stuff is going.

Another month, another great meeting of SydJS. If you find yourself in Sydney and you're looking for something to do on a Wednesday night, why not make the effort to hang out with some of your fellow JavaScript developers? They're a friendly bunch of folks. If anything, the free beer and pizza are reason enough to go!

Scott Hanselman at YOW! Brisbane and Brisbane .NET/Azure User Group

Earlier this week, I was fortunate enough to see Scott Hanselman during his visit to Australia. Scott is currently down under as part of the YOW!, one of the better developer conferences we have here in Australia.

 Scott Hanselman at YOW! 2013 (Brisbane)  Photo credit: https://twitter.com/pbouwer/status/409972933365227520

Scott Hanselman at YOW! 2013 (Brisbane)

Photo credit: https://twitter.com/pbouwer/status/409972933365227520

Scott's a great speaker and his presentations are well worth your time. Before the conference, I quipped on Twitter that his presentations have the potential to expand your mental abilities:

Scott's presentation featured the dynamic duo of web development today:

 "Wonder twin powers, activate!"  Photo credit: https://twitter.com/mdjnewman/status/409985380234969088

"Wonder twin powers, activate!"

Photo credit: https://twitter.com/mdjnewman/status/409985380234969088

In case you've been living under a rock for the past 3 years, the cloud and browser are eating the world right now.

Scott used a number of analogies that resonated with me during his talk.

For starters, Scott started off by sharing his experience with his attempts to teach an industry veteran of low-level programming the fundamentals of "the Internet". He employed the analogy of the building blocks of a modern operating system to the building blocks of modern web development. (Truth be told, I've done the same in the past. When teaching, I find it's useful to connect the dots with something folks know already.)

Another analogy made by Scott is the idea that a virtual machine is much like a hotel room; it's a temporary place that you're free to trash with the expectation that everything will return to normal upon your return. Here, with the cloud, you can commit apocalyptic-style operations against a virtual machine, all with the experience that the state of the world can be returned to normal. Or, easily replicated to service the business requirements of an organisation. Here, Scott made reference to the door you're find in hotel rooms that join the adjacent room. With sufficient funds, you can have both rooms to scale out, much like with the cloud running on Windows Azure.

I liked this one a lot.

 Scott Hanselman at Brisbane Azure/.NET User Groups  Photo credit: https://twitter.com/TeamMexia/status/410162647855034368

Scott Hanselman at Brisbane Azure/.NET User Groups

Photo credit: https://twitter.com/TeamMexia/status/410162647855034368

 Scott Hanselman at Brisbane Azure/.NET User Groups  Photo credit: https://twitter.com/pbouwer/status/410189587651125248

Scott Hanselman at Brisbane Azure/.NET User Groups

Photo credit: https://twitter.com/pbouwer/status/410189587651125248

The following day, Scott delivered another presenation. This time, to the fine folks at the Brisbane Azure User Group and the Brisbane .NET User Group.

Telerik was proud to help sponsor this event. It's rare that we get folks like Scott down here. That's why we felt it was a good event for us to support for the Brisbane community.

HTML5 and Web Bloat on Yet Another Podcast

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Yet Another Podcast is co-hosted by Jesse Liberty and Jon Galloway – two well-known developers in the .NET community. To date, the podcast has published 99 episodes and shows no signs of slowing down.

A few weeks ago, I was invited on the podcast to chat about HTML5 and web bloat – two areas in which I've been spending a great deal of time. You can listen to the podcast here.

I spoke at-length about the current state of HTML5 and the optimism I (and others) share in its long-term success as a specification. I have no doubt that we are (finally) getting to a good place as an industry where web developers can bet big – in terms of investing skills and resources – on its long-term success.

The other topic we spoke about was web performance. Specifically, the webpage obesity problem that we are seeing on the Internet today. For instance, did you know that the average webpage is over 1.4MB in size? It's crazy. And, even worse, it has consequences to a company's bottom line. I've spoken about this before so I thought it would be fun to discuss it a little on the podcast. I also spent some time sharing a number of practicial tips, tricks, and tools to help developers "trim the fat" of their webpages.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy it! I know I had a blast chatting with Jesse and Jon. I hope to speak with them again soon.

Coworking at Silicon Lakes (Gold Coast)

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Recently, I've started away from the home office in a new coworking space called Silicon Lakes. Situated in the heart of Robina Town Centre, it's a quick 10-minute bike ride away from my house. It's a perfect place for me to go when things get a little crazy (read "young children at home").

Silicon Lakes coworking space

I've been working out of Silicon Lakes for the past two weeks. So far, I'm really enjoying it. The venue is comfortable and laid-back. The Internet connection is fast and reliable. The facilities (i.e. washrooms, kitchen, etc.) are clean and modern. It's everything you'd want in a professional environment.

Coworking setup at Silicon Lakes

Silicon Lakes is located in the Robina Community Centre, which features a number of meeting rooms, which can be reserved at very good rates. On a side note, I love the choice of colour! (Telerik green anyone?)

Telerik green? I like it!

If you're looking for a great coworking space, Silicon Lakes ticks all the boxes:

  • Close to public transport (Robina train station)
  • Close to shops (Robina Town Centre)
  • Fast Internet access
  • Great facilities
  • Networking opportunties galore
  • Quiet

Lockers are available for permanent coworkers

If you plan to make Silicon Lakes your coworking space, drop by my desk and say "hello"! I hope to see you there.

Kitchen at Robina Community Centre

MelbJS and Web Directions Code 2013

Last week, I had the distinct pleasure of returning back to Batmania (Melbourne) for MelbJS and Web Directions Code 2013. Both events were fantastic and I had a wonderful time connecting with attendees, chatting with them about Kendo UI.

tl/dr: Two awesome events where we (Cameron Marsland and I) were able to connect with the web developer community. Lots of interest around Kendo UI. Great times all around

MelbJS

MelbJS is a prominent user group for JavaScript developers in Melbourne. It features presentations on a monthly basis from local speakers, highlighting a number of topics as they relate to JavaScript and web developer in-general.

The evening's event featured a number of talks by speakers at Web Directions Code. With 100+ attendees, it was a huge turnout for MelbJS and it was great to see!

While at MelbJS, I got a chance to speak to a number of developers about Kendo UI. There were a lot of questions to answer. In particular, I fielded a lot of questions about Kendo UI DataViz, our visualization library for SVG-based charts and graphs.

All in all, I had a great time. I (heart) MelbJS.

Like most house parties, the most popular room was the kitchen

Web Directions Code 2013

As the conference states, Web Directions Code is "for web professionals like you who care about code two days of intense learning, connecting and geeking out". In short, a web developer love-fest.

Web Code Directions 2013

For this year's event, 300 web developers were in attendance from across Australia; 20% higher attendance than Web Directions Code 2012. (Well done, Web Directions organisers!)

Web Directions Code 2013 at Melbourne City Hall

Web Directions Code 2013 featured many prominent speakers from Australia and overseas as evidenced by the conference schedule. If you were unable to attend, you can check out the presentations:

The presentation that stole the show was Steven Wittens' talk entitled, "Making Things With Maths". So impressed I was with his delivery and timing, I tweeted the following:

You can check out Steven's slides (linked above) but to appreciate the epicness of his presentation, you should check out a recording of his talk from Full Frontal 2012:

It was good to be back in Melbourne, my former hometown from 1999-2002. The sights, the smells, the colours. All of it combines into this magical city. Of course, some sights are more interesting than others:

Meanwhile, at the same venue at Web Directions Code 2013...

Being in Melbourne with my colleague (Cameron Marsland) did give me the opportunity to show him around. One of my favourite spots for a bite to eat is Supper Inn in Chinatown:

Supper Inn, Chinatown Melbourne

Which, in turn, led to this at Berlin Bar:

Drinks at Berlin Bar (Melbourne)

Good times all around.

To the next adventure!

Back to Batmania for MelbJS and Web Directions Code

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Next month kicks off with a visit to Melbourne for MelbJS and Web Directions Code 2013. If you happen to be in the area, I'd recommend joining us for these great events.

As far as JavaScript groups go, MelbJS is pretty awesome. They have a great group of organisers and have consistently greatly talks.

This will be my second time at Web Directions Code (May 2-3). This conference features some of the top minds in the web development space from around the world. It's a treat for us here in Australia to have some wonderful talent visiting our shores.

Back in Perth-fection for Edge of the Web

Ah, back to Perth we go!

Another early morning wake-up. Haven't I been here before? Truth be told, I'm a sleep camel and can easily tolerate it. I probably would have been quite successful in the military. All that jogging and early mornings. Child's play if you ask me.

I kid, I kid.

This week, I'm in Perth for Edge of the Web, a conference for web developers and designers around Australia. I'll be speaking to attendees about web performance, which has always interested me since I started hacking on angle brackets back in the '90s. Things have certainly changed since then.

Anyway, if you're attending Edge of the Web and feel like listening to me rant and rave about web performance then I'd suggest you drop by.

AppFest Sydney, Day 1

There must be something special about an event that compels me to wake up at 3:45 AM.

I asked myself this question more than once as I made my way through the dewy confines of a Melbourne morning to Tullamarine Airport. Yet, a quick flight to Sydney and a short taxi ride afterward, I found myself bleary-eyed at the footsteps of University of New South Wales in Sydney.

 The University of New South Wales (Sydney)

The University of New South Wales (Sydney)

I was here to attend a developer event called AppFest - an event organized by the Developer and Platform Evangelism (DPE) team at Microsoft Australia. Its purpose was to provide a venue for developers to meet, discuss, and hack against a wide range of Microsoft technologies and products, including Windows 8, Windows Phone, and Windows Azure.

 The calm before the storm

The calm before the storm

My purpose for being here was simple; to hear more about Microsoft's latest offerings, to discuss them with fellow attendees, and to demonstrate the tools we have at Telerik to assist developers targeting the Microsoft stack.

 My (new) Surface RT device, sitting very nicely on a tray table.

My (new) Surface RT device, sitting very nicely on a tray table.

A side benefit of this trip was to test-drive my new Surface RT device in a real world setting; onboard an airplane. To push the matter further, I decided to book myself in the worst seat on the plane: the last row on a Boeing 737-800 (on Virgin Australia). Anyway, my overall experience was pretty awesome. The form factor of the Surface RT is perfectly suited for a standard airline seat. Everything from the angle of the screen to the surface area covered on the tray table was perfect. In fact, I cranked out a number of paragraphs of this article on the flight over to Sydney without a hitch. Other features like the ambient light sensor worked very well when the cabin lights were dimmed. Overall, I came away with the feeling that this little device is deserving of a lot more of my attention.

 Get excited, dammit!

Get excited, dammit!

The idea of an AppFest isn't new. These sorts of events have been around for a long time - with names like hack-a-thon and code camp. Their purpose is to spark a developer's natural tendency, which is building software. Developers come in all different metaphorical shapes and sizes. However, the one thing that we are share is the feeling we get from the creative process. That is why events like these are awesome; they kick-start the "I want to build epic shit" engine dwelling inside the developers who attend them.

AppFest featured two concurrent tracks - one for developers and one for designers. Leading the developer track - which I attended - was Nick Hodge, a Developer Evangelist for Microsoft Australia.

 Nick Hodge (@NickHodgeMSFT) showing off his "Metro-ness"

Nick Hodge (@NickHodgeMSFT) showing off his "Metro-ness"

Nick spent the first hour providing a high-level technical overview of Windows 8, showcasing a number of sample applications and the code that underpins them. Next, he walked us through a number of aspects of Windows Azure, Microsoft's cloud platform. One of the more interesting aspects of Nick's presentation was his overview of Windows Azure Mobile Services. Essentially, it provides the ability to automatically generate CRUD operations for mobile applications against a SQL Azure-based database. It supports Windows Phone 8, Windows 8, and iOS (quite surprisingly). Note to self: Spend more time checking out Windows Azure Mobile Services.

Before lunch, Nick spent some time walking the audience through the process of managing your applications for the Windows Store. This, of course, is a critically important aspect of developing for Windows 8 and Windows Phone.

 Nick Hodge (@NickHodgeMSFT) running the show. Photo attribution: Code Red Paul (Flickr)

Nick Hodge (@NickHodgeMSFT) running the show. Photo attribution: Code Red Paul (Flickr)

After lunch, Nick gave me an opportunity to demonstrate RadControls for Windows 8, along with a couple of Windows 8 apps - AppMock, and Tasks. (All of these are available in the Windows Store.) If you haven't seen these yet then I would strongly encourage you to check them out. Afterward, I shared some information about our newly announced Virtual Accelerator for Windows 8. This program gives you the opportunity to receive $30,000 in funding, a week in Hong Kong to attend a mentor-led boot camp, and three months in virtual acceleration program.

 Telerik Virtual Accelerator for Windows 8

Telerik Virtual Accelerator for Windows 8

During the afternoon, Nick switched gears by turning attention to the Windows Phone platform. I'll admit that I was surprised by some of the things that Nick shared. It's been a long time since I've used a Windows Phone device and I was impressed by all the improvements that have gone into Windows Phone 8. Even though end user adoption isn't great, the platform is certainly capable.

Overall, I had a blast at the AppFest. Microsoft Australia did an excellent job organizing the first day of this event. My thanks goes to Lachlan Hardy and Nick Hodge of Microsoft Australia for having me at the event. Unfortunately, I cannot attend the remaining days over the weekend. However, if today is was any measure then the attendees are in for a wild weekend of technical awesomeness.

Current Status: TechEd New Zealand 2012

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Greetings from Auckland! I am in town for the next few days for TechEd New Zealand 2012. This will be my second time visiting Auckland, also known as the City of Sails. The last time I was here was about 12 years ago. To give you some perspective: at that time, .NET had not been announced; COM components were all the rage. But, I digress.

As part of Telerik's long-term commitment of supporting and connecting with the developer community, we have an exhibitor booth all decked out with jealousy-inducing swag and awe-inspiring demos. If you've got questions then we've got answers. Why not swing by for a chat? We'd love to connect with you, even if only to "kia ora".

I'll also be delivering a presentation entitled, "Create Your Own Lego: Building Custom Controls for Windows 8 Apps". Here's the abstract:

Windows 8 provides a platform for you to create touch-based, immersive applications for consumers and business users alike. For developers, the building blocks of these applications are controls. Controls form the building blocks of applications. Much like Lego blocks, these controls are adaptable and reusable; facilitating a consistent look and feel across applications. In this presentation, you’ll learn how to create custom controls for Metro style apps with HTML and XAML. Along the way, you’ll discover many of the mechanisms available to controls including data binding, event handling, and designer integration. My main objective: Help developers to level up and be awesome on Windows 8.

The session will start at 10:40 AM in the Marlborough Room on Friday, September 7th. I hope to see you there!