Reasons why ffconf 2016 was a successful tech conference

Last Thursday, I attended ffconf in Brighton and here I would like to share my feelings about the conference. While it was aimed mostly on front-end web development, talks touched other areas too. There was a lot to take away, nice atmosphere and time well-spent. Organizers and speakers did a really good job and here are my reasons why it was a successful conference.

Brighton

The conference took place in a city on the UK’s south coast, quite popular in summer. Before I bought a ticket I was thinking: “Oh, Brighton!? Why is it not going to be in London!?” As, I couldn’t find any better conference in London this autumn I bought a ticket to ffconf.

Looking back, I really liked the fact it was outside of London. It made us all to have a small trip, to have a nice day out. After all, train connections were good and the journey was not very long. Brighton was only 1 hour from London by train, which surprised me.

Venue —a cinema

Every year, organizers want to stick with the same venue, which is — a cinema. Duke of York’s Picture House was a glamorous venue for a tech conference. Random fact from Wikipedia says that in 2012 it was voted best Cinema in the UK. It offered comfortable seats, good audio system and even though there was not much space in the hallway during the breaks, it was more less enough for the amount of attendees. Hence, it was a nice place.

Diversity

It was obvious that the organizers put special effort into diversity. I appreciate that. 5 out of 8 speakers were women and the topics had a very broad reach. From CSS to Docker, from technology to philosophy, from accessibility to emoji, from continuous deployment to art. And even the fact that the conference took place in Brighton and not in London embraced diversity.

Talks

Obviously, a tech conference wouldn’t be successful without interesting talks. And ffconf had a lot to offer in one day. Here is just a short summary of my takeaways from all the talks.

#1 — Next Level CSS

by Rachel Andrew

The conference started with a talk about CSS. I’ve learnt more new features coming up in CSS during that talk than in months. Rachel explained there is no CSS 4 or similar, but there will be only specification levels for certain features— think of it as new modules gradually added to CSS.

Big chunk of her talk was devoted to Grid layout, of which Rachel’s is a big evangelist. She explained that it is a 2 dimensional layout as opposed to 1-dimensional Flexbox. Both Grid and Flexbox greatly simplify designing page layouts in CSS.

She mentioned other notable new features:

It was interesting to see that there are features being added to CSS to help create common UI patterns which were possible only with JavaScript until now.

CSS feature queries are one of the biggest takeaways for me and this tweet expresses my feelings:

You can also check slides or other resources.

#2 — Progressive Web

by Ada Rose Edwards

The second talk was more about philosophy, about how we should create web apps these days.

“Progressive, fast, for everyone, build the web that will last.”

The biggest takeaway for me was definitely a Space Jam website from 1996, that still works today: http://www.warnerbros.com/archive/spacejam/movie/jam.htm

#3 — Accessibility Remix

by Léonie Watson

This woman knew what she was talking about. Talk about accessibility by one of its consumers. It was the best talk about accessibility I’ve heard. I’ve learnt that browsers have a separate accessibility tree along with the DOM tree and how DOM order is important for accessibility.

She also touched upon:

The biggest takeaway for me was the conclusion at the end:

#4 — All Things Continuous

by Andrew Martin

One of the most technical talks at the ffconf was about continuous integration and continuous deployment. A lot of tools for automation were mentioned, some of the were new to me. Here is a list of Andrew’s recommendations:

Our goal should be to automate everything in the integration/deployment process. He also touched upon interesting practices like pair programming, which can be used instead of pull-request workflows and can serve as instant code reviews.

The test pyramid was nothing new, but it’s always good to remind why testing is important.

#5 — Power of Emoji

by Mariko Kosaka

Lunch break was followed with a relaxing walkthrough the history of emojis from the beginnings in the late 90s in the Japanese mobile networks to use in smartphones to emojis’ inclusion into Unicode. Biggest takeaway was that compatibility used to be a big issue. It could happen that you sent 🎵 and your friend saw 💩.

#6 — Optimise your Web Development Workflow

by Umar Hansa

If there is somebody who should speak about DevTools tips and tricks then it is Umar Hansa. Being a subscriber of his Newsletter of tips & tricks in Chrome DevTools, I knew it was going to be very useful talk. But it was even better than I had expected.

Umar showed us color pickers, bezier curve editors, profiling tools, request blocking, CPU throttling and much more. Even OS Terminal —running inside Chrome DevTools. I couldn’t believe my eyes :D I think Chrome DevTools are soon to turn into a standalone IDE.

I advise you to browse through the tips in his newsletter.

#7 — A Brief History and Mishistory of Modularity

by ashley williams

Ashley Williams from npm gave an interesting look into modularity, why we write modular code, what it gives us and why we should be doing it. She mentioned some counter-arguments like what is the cost of small modules. But the quote I remember well is:

“Write code that is easy to delete, not easy to extend.

Obviously Ashley tried to promote modularity, which is at the heart of npm. But pretty impressive to publish slides through npm as well :D

She also touched upon left-pad, 11 lines long module that broke npm ecosystem after unpublishing — a dark day for npm.

#8 — Art.js

by Mathieu Henri

The last part of the program was an outstanding live coding session by Mathiew Henri. He performed art with JavaScript in browser. He showed how to use music and canvas to create unbelievable performance with JavaScript code. And without any frameworks, just by using basics of audio and graphics. OK, it’s not for everybody, but the show was amazing. See it yourself:

https://twitter.com/kitsonk/status/796771282889097216

After party

After the day full of talks, it was a time to hang out. I was astonished when I realized the afterparty was at the waterfront. Nice job, organizers! And a really good way how to show Brighton so that attendees had a nice walk throughout the city to get to the beach.

There were drinks and food available, plenty of people to chat with, nice place and good atmosphere.

Conclusion

To sum up, ffconf 2016 was a wonderful tech conference, with great speakers, a lot of fantastic ideas to pick up, many useful tips and tricks, glamorous venue, and impressive spot for afterparty.

I look forward to the next year’s episode.


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