Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Smashingconf Oxford 2015

My company was gracious enough to send me to my third SmashingConf March 17-18, 2015 - this is a my second time to the Oxford version of SmashingConf.

As with years past, my mind was opened, and shown new ways of thinking, and of doing things.  The speaking schedule is gruelling and sometimes down right overwhelming, it takes 2-3 weeks to fully digest all I learned/heard/watched.

My Day 1: March 16th - Flexbox Explained!

I participated in a workshop prior to the main event, with Zoe Mickley Gillenwater.  She is a wonderful teacher, and workshop presenter.  The format she used was excellent.  She would introduce a concept, and make us all do an exercise to utilise that concept.  Also, the concepts she chose were very realistic and have real life applications.  I plan to run my team through the same exercises, so they too can learn flexbox.

Zoe also presented it as a progressive enhancement, so it is not a all-or-nothing type deal.  Build you page the way you normally do, then make it better with Flexbox for the browsers that support it.  Being CSS only solution Flexbox is very easy, inexpensive progressive enhancement and your website will work and look better for it.

I was lucky I was able to have dinner with Zoe, at Eagle and Child Pub (trivia: the very same pub where Tolkien came to drink) the following day, and really enjoyed comparing notes on working abroad, and raising a family.

My Day 2: March 17th - Brain Overload Begins

Day 1 of SmashingConf
Everyone of these talks were Smashing! The following were the real highlights for me, however the slides and eventually the videos will be available here: http://lanyrd.com/2015/smashing-conference-oxford/coverage/

Christopher Murphy's kickoff talk was really good - he is a very dynamic speaker! His talking about being a good writer makes you a good thinker, actually inspired me to start writing this blog.  With profound quotes such as "Writing rewires your brain.", and "...writing as a process, a process through which new ideas are developed, challenged and tested..." - I just had to start to write.  Stay tuned.

"...writing as a process, a process through which new ideas are developed, challenged and tested..."  - Christopher Murphy

Yoav Weiss' talk about responsive images really gave me a lot to think about.  This new tags surrounding the <picture> tag and the new attributes for the <img> tag were a bit confusing at first, but it will be really interesting to see how the browsers start to implement this.

Day 2 of SmashingConf
Bruce Lawson's talk on browsers, specifically Blink based browsers (Chrome, and Opera) was a cautionary tale about history repeating itself.  Back in the early 2000s IE6 enjoyed a 80% market share, and as much as it kills me to say it, IE6 was lightyears better than the competition (Netscape).  Because of this many developers, including myself, targeted that 80%.  As Chrome continues to grow to dominate the browser market we are in danger of the doing the very same thing.

Didn't get much time to digest it all, after dinner headed over networking event/part at Freud.  I packed it in early, didn't want to kill too many brain cells :-)

My Day 3: Brain Overload Continues

The mystery speaker was Christian Heilmann! He gave a fantastic talk about the web and how we are screwing it up and making it difficult for new developers to get in on the action.  Many people in the industry are saying you need to know certain frameworks or user certain productivity boosters.  That is just not true, the web is still HTML, CSS and a little JS.  Productivity boosters like Grunt, and SASS are great tools but bottomline beginners need to begin with the basics.

Christian Heilmann also moved from Mozilla to Microsoft, and there were some hints about Spartan and some of the cool things they are working.  My company's creative director, Dom, and I got to chat with him one-on-one during a break, I was able to ask some questions I have been dying to know.   Is Spartan or whatever they end up calling it really an all new engine or is it a reskinned Internet Explorer?  Christian told me that it is an all new HTML5 rendering engine.   Also, he mentioned how the Google, Microsoft, Opera and Mozilla guys are actually talking to one another, the future for our browsers it definitely bright.

Paul Lewis and Jake Archibald both talked about some really cool JavaScript stuff improving the performance and making content available offline.  I really need to get into their ideas more, see how I can use it to make the websites I make better, and faster.   I think some of their idea are especially helpful when you think about hybrid apps for mobile and the desktop.

Remember all the slide decks are available here: http://lanyrd.com/2015/smashing-conference-oxford/coverage/

My Day 4: All Things Responsive Design Workshop

This workshop was intense we covered so much material - I could barely absorb it all.  Vitaly Friedman, editor-in-chief of SmashingMagazine was awesome and worked hard to cover all the topics he wanted to share with us.  The workshop broke down into sections.  The first section was about his design process - get to high fidelity design in 2-3 weeks - this is because he is an consultant so he is only onsite with a client for a short period of time.  The second section about what I really cared about - responsive site performance.

He gave a slide deck with 1000+ pages - obviously he hit only the highlights, but I am looking forward to breaking down the deck into more chewable pieces and sharing that with my team.

All-in-all a very worthwhile trip to Oxford and to see the folks at SmashingMagazine.  If you are a web developer or web designer, this is definitely a worthwhile conference to attend, they hold SmashingConf at a variety of places all over the globe.  Check it out at: http://www.smashingconf.com.