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Ajax Experience 2008 Summary

October 06, 2008 #webdev #conference

Last week, I attended the Ajax Experience 2008 in Boston.  There were a lot of interesting sessions, and I talked with many of the speakers.  Here is a recap of some of the more exciting things I learned.

I spent Monday morning at the Dojo Developer Day.  I got a free t-shirt.  I even wrote two bugs against dojo:  7764 and 7765.

I updated my Chrome to the dev release and then was able to login to demo, run searches, drag to dock, etc.  I asked Ojan Vafai about the command line debugging pain, and he said they are working on hooking up the WebKit nightly debugger interface (part of the Web Inspector) into the V8 JavaScript engine.  That would be much nicer than typing “continue” and “step” all the time.

I was excited about the jQuery and Microsoft announcement, not because I love jQuery but because I wanted better Intellisense for third-party libraries.  I heard a talk from Omar Khan were I was ready to ask questions about this support, but they were answered in his presentation.  I did talk to him afterward about the stupid reference comment on the first line of the file and gave him some ideas to fix it.  He gave me his card, and I am going to email him.  I also download an Internet Explorer Application Compatibility VPC Image, so I could get IE 8 Beta 2 without breaking my PC/image (IE8B2-XPSP3_VPC.exe contains a Windows XP SP3 with IE8 Beta 2 VHD file).  Their new developer toolbar is a lot like Firebug, which is good.  I also downloaded the Microsoft Visual Web Developer 2008 Express Edition for my host (since I have full Visual Studio on my image).  I was going to see if this would better enable the Java base verticals to debug IE issues until we can move to IE8.

There was a set of lightning talks (5 minutes each) that proved to be a good format.  Steve Souders (Mr. “high-performance web sites”) talked about his Episodes framework for timing web pages.  Stoyan Stefanov and Nicole Sullivan (both from the Yahoo performance team) talked about their Smush It project for optimizing images.  This tool is online now, but I talked to them about not just distributing the PHP code, but also the web tool for intranet usage.

I asked Bill Scott about why Netflix rolled its own library instead of using a framework.  He said it has been in progress for years and is in the progress of being replaced by jQuery.  He told me about the then upcoming Netflix API (which also had a lighting round talk).

I went to a couple good sessions on testing.  Nicholas Zakas talked about YUI test (part of the YUI library download). I asked about test double support (thinking about XHR), and he said that mock object is being looked at for 3.0.  It may work better than JSUnit, but doesn’t have the same style of test runner.  Ted Husted uses the YUI test framework with Selenium to drive the tests.

I did get Douglas Crockford to sign my JavaScript: The Good Parts book during the signing session at the Bookpool table.  It was the only book that was sold out.  I should have been smarter and bought a bunch on day one, and sold them for a premium.

Brian Dillard gave a (kind of boring) talk on Really Simple History, which seems to be the best back button fixing code out there, but has a very out of date wiki.  He claims 0.8 is on his hard drive, waiting to be committed.  Other libraries seem to reuse the RSH code into their own, including a rewrite that runs as a jQuery plugin.  The original author of RHS was Brad Neuberg, who works at Google on the Gears team and gave an interesting talk on dojo and Gears.

On a lighter note - two Europeans, Peter-Paul Koch and Christian Heilmann had the most interesting hairstyles (but their pictures don’t give you the full effect).  Both were really nice guys to talk to.