Chain React 2017 Recap: The First React Native Conference
The Chain React conference was really well run. You could tell the organizers (Infinite Red), really thought through the attendee experience. The signage was great, the “feel” was awesome, and I didn’t feel out of place.
Update: I added slides and video links if they were available to each talk. There’s even a YouTube playlist.
The good little things about the conference I noticed:
👍 Each talk was 30 minutes
Each talk was only 30 minutes and it provided a few benefits:
- forced the speakers to make their talks more concise, especially if they’re “recycled” talks
- if the talk was bad, it’s only 30 minutes. However, no talk was bad!
- talks left you wanting more, so you were encouraged to talk to speakers afterward
👍 No Q&A on stage after each talk
Big ups for the organizers for not doing Q&A after each talk, and encouraging audience members to talk to the speakers directly during breaks. Mentioning on stage that the audience is encouraged to talk directly to the speakers also set a clear expectation to the speakers and audience that this is OK.
This prevented the usual annoying stuff:
The Commenter: “This isn’t really a question, but more of a comment…”
The Drone: After 5 minutes, the speaker has to interrupt with “What was the question again?”
The Mic Hogger:
*heavy breathing into the mic while the question is being answered*
👍 Code of Conduct covered at the start
Mentioning that there was a Code of Conduct up front set the tone that this was a professional conference and should be treated as such. Huge plus for this.
Good: Only one for the whole conference. Some conferences have way too many. Chain React did well here by only having one.
Good: Panelists were seated at regular height chairs a table. If that doesn’t sound worth mentioning, think about what normally happens: people sitting on tall bar stools. Seeing people on a bar stool up high on a stage legs all spread is just weird.
👍 Coffee was always available
Some conferences only have designated coffee breaks, and they put the (bad) coffee away. Why!
Chain React did well here by just having coffee available ALL THE TIME.
👍 Accessible speakers
I always saw the speakers talking to different attendees and mingling during the breaks. This might have been related to the “there’s no Q&A, go talk to the speakers directly”. It might also have to do w/ the size of the community and the sense that we’re all learning together.
👍 The transitions
The music during breaks, the way one speaker transitioned to another, the conversations while waiting to get coffee, trying to find a seat to eat and having someone point me towards some available benches.
My Talk Ratings ⭐️⭐️⭐️
I gave each talk my own arbitrary rating, between ⭐️ and ⭐️⭐️⭐️. There weren’t any outright bad talks, so even the ones I gave ⭐️ were good. My bar was pretty high.
Things I considered for my ratings
These were really just 10-second ratings that I created all at once at the end of the second day, so I didn’t really sit and consider each talk. They were mostly gut, but if I had to create a rubric for scoring, this is what it would look like.
Delivery of the talk, content, relevance to me. Probably the biggest factor. This is probably closest to “gut”, hah.
My expectations vs. reality
Expectations going in versus whether they met those expectations or not.
This hurt some talks (high expectations), and boosted others (low to no expectations). For the most part, I tried to go in with no expectations for all talks.
Self explanatory. This wasn’t too high on my list, but I considered it.
In some cases, boring topics can be brought to life by entertaining speakers. It’s almost impossible to have good content save a bad speaker, though. That’s why I didn’t really give this too much weight.
The Talks ⭐️⭐️⭐️
The Dark Art of Bundlers
React Native Sandpaper
This talk really hit home for me. Topics like:
- Learning react native the best way (spoiler, there’s no best way yet)
- Learning React Native and having to piece together documentation the same way I piece together my application w/ things like left-pad 😂
This talk was a call to the community to help improve the developer experience by improving official documentation, having better error messages, and being more empathetic.
All open source communities suffer from this, but React Native and the JS community probably suffer from it worse than any I’ve been a part of, hah. Brent’s talk pointed out the bad and called on us to fix it. Instead of complaining, writing tons of medium posts and scattering things everywhere, contribute back to the official docs.
Realtime Event Processing, Streaming and Subscription for React Native Using Cloud Services
Richard Threlkeld — @undef_obj
Alt. Title — AWS Cognito talk
This felt like a sponsor talk and I kinda zoned out, but every time I glanced up I learned something from it. Didn’t pay attention enough to give a recommendation for this one.
PayPal Checkout w/ React Native
Poornima Venkatakrishnan — @poorni_venkat
This was a good talk from someone who has been in the trenches and their experience integrating React Native into existing hybrid and native apps. The twist was that these were apps not under her control and her code was being brought in as a third party SDK.
React Native + ES.next
This talk was a great talk that covered all the things you probably use but don’t think about in your React apps.
Ben’s cadence and style of explaining things is A+. This talk crystalized things I already knew, and also shined light on things that were kinda fuzzy.
Mobile Payments + React Native
This talk was exactly opposite of that.
The talk actually reminded me of Cordova/PhoneGap community’s philosophy on building things, because Naoufal talks about building on a common W3C spec.
Animations, transitions, gestures, and making things “buttery” is something I care a huge deal about. I really enjoyed this talk. The content was light and introductory, but it was pretty entertaining.
Rewriting a Large Hybrid App w/ React Native
In this talk, Javier basically told the story of our journey at TripCase:
Huge hybrid app -> React Native
He covers directory structure, redux, redux-saga, and all the things that we chose for TripCase’s new app. Pooja and I both talked to Javier after his talk to share our stories.
Why We Need an App Browser
I didn’t even take notes for this one 😁
Breaking Down React Native Bridging
Coming from Cordova, this was familiar territory for me. Peggy’s overview was pretty good, and I think it’s a good introduction to a scary topic.
From the beginning of this talk, I kept looking at Pooja and saying “hey, you could give this talk!”. She did write a blog post on the topic, but in relation to Cordova.
From RPC to GraphQL: APIs from Past to Present
Eric Baer — @ebaerbaerbaer
This was a really good talk that I’d use as reference on “why you should consider GraphQL” for colleagues or as something to send to other architects who are still trying to shove SOAP down my throat.
Eric goes through the pros/cons of RPC, SOAP, REST and then describes something that sounds like it’s from the future and better than all the things. Surprise! He was describing GraphQL.
Zero to DevOps
Ram Narasimhan — @nparashuram
Alt. Title — Microsoft Mobile Center demo
This was a really entertaining demo of the capabilities of Microsoft’s Mobile Center suite of tools.
React as a Platform: A Path Towards a Truly Cross-Platform UI
If you’ve seen Leland talk about this before, Chain React’s version of this is no different. If you haven’t seen it before, I would recommend watching it. The first time I saw the talk, I think it was a ⭐️⭐️⭐️ because the concept was fresh to me.
I would recommend it, but it’s a recycled talk and there was nothing unique about this talk compared to other similar talks on the same topic by Leland.
Building Serverless Backends with AWS Lambda for React Native Apps
This talk caught me by surprise and was really entertaining. Harry talks about things that would catch a web developer off guard when working w/ native stuff.
The topic of iOS killing your app brought back flashbacks and nightmares of when I worked on the Apple Watch version of TripCase. Everything worked on the simulator, but when we got it on real hardware, nothing worked! Same thing here w/ React Native. Test on device!
Building Stellar User Experiences with React Native
Alex Kotliarskyi — @alex_frantic
Lots of tips in this talk about the little things that matter for a great user experience. I had a lot of “oh that’s cool! I’m gonna use that” moments. I’d recommend this talk.
React Native on the Apple TV Platform
This one was like: “oh wow, I can use React Native on Apple TV? HackDay here I come.”
From Idea to App Store: A Guide to Shipping React Native Apps
Chris Ball — @cball_
This talk covers pretty much all of the stuff you’d have to take care of to take your app to the app store. I will definitely be stealing this checklist, because it included a bunch of stuff I always forget about.
Thanks to the Infinite Red team for organizing, the speakers for giving great talks, and the attendees for being awesome! See you next year.