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Full Frontal Conf 2015

For a second year I’ve been fortunate enough to attend the Full Frontal conference, last year was fantastic and this year didn’t disappoint either. Although it was my first visit to Brighton that wasn’t sunny, so the day was tinged ever so slightly with the dispelling of the myth that it’s always sunny in Brighton.

What I love about ffconf, in a similar way to responsive day out is that the talks are all curated by the host, in this case Mr Remy Sharp, which means you’re guaranteed insight and a great diversity of topics, below are some of my highlights from a fantastic day in no particular order.

SVG in motion – Sara Soueidan

SVG in general has been a source of reluctant learning for me. In itself it’s a deep topic and I’ve generally got by learning the bear minimum, dreading the day I have to actually understand what viewbox actually does. Sara’s talk was quite literally everything I wanted to know about SVG but hadn’t taken the time to learn myself. A comprehensive run down of use cases and implementation techniques (using  <object> is her preferred for fallbacks ). Sara gave us a great introduction and tips for animation with SVG, I’d never heard of the steps function in css which was an eye opener, nor the GSAP library (http://greensock.com/svg-tips) which looks amazing. There was a lot covered and I think I actually know what viewbox does now so thank you Sara.

How to win at mobile accessibility – Marcy Sutton

A fantastic reminder that, as web consumption on mobile devices increases, accessibility on the mobile web has never been more important. Marcy has made it her mission to advocate on behalf of, and improve the state of accessibility on the mobile web, which lacks some of the OS support offered to native applications. The technical concerns of implementing accessibility were at the forefront of our minds when building the voteforpolicies.org.uk website and I wished I’d seen this talk prior to that. Marcy doesn’t need to convince me for the case for accessibility but she demonstrated some of the complications screen readers face with gestures and popular libraries we use. Take aways were the reminder that your UI is competing with the browsers’ ‘reader view’ and some nice resources to aid with automation and accessibility inspiration/guidelines:

You should use the <insert library/framework>, it’s the bestestest – Paul Lewis

I was particularly looking forward to this talk as I try to follow a lot of Paul’s work on performance and I’ve taken his course on Udacity which I can’t recommend enough. My write up will lack the entertaining delivery of his talk but it was a great insight into the cost of using frameworks, from a performance and developer cost perspective. There was breakdown of React’s claim that the DOM is always the bottleneck in performance and gave a great comparison of the performance of popular frameworks vs using ‘vanilla’ JavaScript.

My main takeaway here is that collectively frameworks are trying to solve the same problem but all have slightly different approaches which require investment in learning, often as developers we may spend more time learning a framework than the underlying language which, with proper linting and style guides may be a more performant and safer longer term approach. Whilst I agree in principle, the pragmatist in me sees the standardisation and abstraction that popular frameworks can be a big safety net if you don’t have the resources to ‘roll your own’, but this is a huge topic of debate with no correct answer so I won’t dwell on it here. Paul also introduced ‘Big Rig’; a tool for profiling performance which is definitely worth checking out (https://aerotwist.com/blog/bigrig/).

A talk about everything – Lena Reinhard

I almost don’t want to write anything about this talk as I simply can’t do the subject matter any justice. Lena gave a brave and direct talk on the subject of diversity and abject state of it in the tech industry. We all have a responsibility to recognise our own privilege and to encourage and enable diversity in an industry that’s currently failing to do so. The debate may not be pretty but this is almost required viewing for any one in our industry.

As usual, trying to write highlights almost turns into a summary of every talk and I’ve had to stop myself writing about some others, I took a few tips away from ‘JavaScript that doesn’t hurt your feelings’ and ‘Operations: a developer’s guide’,but was nice to see we’re already using a lot of this stuff in our production work. From an entertainment point of view ‘code calligrams’ by Martin Klleppe was actually mind blowing and if John K. Paul ever starts doing documentary on language then I’ll be one of the first to watch.

Thats all the talks, I did say it was a great day.

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