#ReactConf2016: A Reactrospective

I went there.

I had the extraordinary good fortune to be one of ~400 react.js buffs lucky enough to get a big ticket to ReactConf on February 22–23. My employer was also magnanimous enough to slingshot me through the sky from icy London, Ca (Nada) to sunny San Francisco Ca (Lifornia).

Though it was this prole’s first ‘BIG’ conference, it was undeniably double plus good.

It was run super-well, MCed with perfect dryness and hilarity by Brett Vatne, and I had so many amazing conversations with people from all over about work culture, development strategies, and why I was wearing shorts when the Hawaiians found it so chilly.

I conducted an informal survey of attendees and found that 100% of code doctors recommend React.js for your next project!

There is quite a community growing around React and the React ecosystem. As I pointed out in my political endorsement of the framework, it is an open community that grows strong by constantly embracing outside ideas. It also just feels… nice. And like it’s about to soar ever higher.

React.js stained glass from the ‘Fervor’ section of Nick Schrock’s keynote.

The conference actually had relatively little to do with React itself (and not even much about Redux except to acknowledge it as the de facto champion of the 2015 Flux Wars). It had a lot more to do with ReactNative and the extended React ecosystem (GraphQL, Relay) etc.

React is growing assuredly into something much beyond a javascript view library, and morphing into a whole ecosystem and a paradigm that rethinks all practices with a focus on modularization, performance and reuse.

Personally, as a much less experienced React convert with no direct present use for React Native, this focus was not quite what I was hoping for. But it felt sort of like they got that all figured out? We can always reference the talks from the 2015 conference or React Rally or React Europe. Plus, GraphQL sounds REALLY sweet.

There was no “We made a thing that compiles React javascript to native Objective C” level crazy announcement this year. It was basically a lot of devs doing really cool things and a lot to learn. I’m going to highlight some of the talks I got the most out of (for myriad reasons), but I want to keep it relatively short and there’s not really any clunkers in the bunch so check ’em all out !


Main Takeaways

  • React Native is a stunningly compelling solution for cross-platform mobile apps with a truly native look and feel; but it may be less like ‘web React’ than you expect. You’ll still have 2 code bases but you’ll likely be able to share 80%+ of your code between iOS and Android. It is also being used in production by many despite some rough edges.
  • The React paradigm makes all sorts of things possible and maybe easier to reason about than ever before. New things and old things. Really, any things: Virtual Reality, OpenGL, Static Site Generation, HTML Emails, etc.
  • React is not just a view library. It’s something much bigger than that. It’s a community. It’s a state of mind. That sounds silly, but… it’s true. The paradigms pushed by the React ecosystem change a lot about web development and for the better. “rethinking best practices” as they say.
  • React borrows heavily from functional programming paradigms and exploring other languages and frameworks like Elm, Haskell, Rx, Cycle.js etc is one of the things that lead to React growing into such a unique ecosystem.
  • Facebook is invested in React but not just the view library: they have dedicated teams working full-time on React, React Native, Flow, GraphQL, Relay and Nuclide (a react focused developer extension for Atom)
  • I missed out on digging into what GraphQL and Relay were before the conference and, holy crap! As transformative to the idea of fetching server data, as React is to programming web views. GraphQL is an incredibly readable query language where you basically send out an empty JSON object and the server gives it back filled up. But it also caches and merges and is performant as hell and could make REST look like the old hat it honestly kinda… is. (Relay hooks React up to a GraphQL endpoint)
  • The biggest challenge for the community this year is is marrying all the ways of handling data (state, redux, relay) together into a polygamous orgy of predictable state. I, for one, welcome this promised land.

Also check out:

Thanks

  • Brent and Christopher and etc for putting on a spectacular conference
  • All the wonderful people I met! You are all beautiful!
  • The React community in general for seriously helping to renew my love of programming
  • My team at [REDACTED] for making coming back to work way better than it might have been.
  • NOT Air Canada. Those people can just mumble mumble hurl champagne glass.
  • The academy.
  • Gush Gush. Music starts. Gush. Shush SHUSH. The End.
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